Unforced Errors

I was fortunate to grow up in an area with a mother who loved playing tennis.  She taught me to play and helped me understand the nuances of the game.  The goal is to get the ball over the net and land it within the playing area on the other side.  Pretty simple.  Of course simple does not always mean easy, and the mental game is where the battle is won. 

One aspect of the mental game relates to focus, and a negative consequence of when you lose it.  Specifically, unforced errors.  A tennis example would be hitting the ball in the net.  Unforced errors lose points, and potentially games, sets, and matches.  So it’s important to stay focused and keep them in check.

In my other life, I help run a 67 year-old distribution business focused on plumbing and HVAC products.  We have many long-term employees with deep industry knowledge and a love for what they do.  Even with this expertise and passion for our work, we make mistakes.  Today we discovered that we had made what can only be described as an unforced error and, just like in tennis, we suffered a loss.  This particular loss was big enough that it caught my attention and, like all unforced errors, it was driven by a lack of focus. 

I’ll spare you the details of the time and money needed to correct this error, but the short version is that it hurt.  Losing time and money stinks, which is why I’m posting this for you today.  It’s easy to see how we can all lose focus in our world of constant Internet distraction and it’s important to remember that unforced errors are the inevitable result. 

One unforced error that is extremely common in the personal finance world centers around saving.  Specifically, treating saving as the last “bill” you pay each time you are paid.  Simply moving this bill to the top of the list each month eliminates this unforced error in our money management.  Paying yourself first allows you to avoid this unforced error and lay a solid foundation for your future financial growth.

The next tennis Grand Slam is the Australian Open in mid-January.  No need to wait until then to ensure your saving plan is in place.  Financial unforced errors can be more costly than those on the courts in Australia. 


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