Time will be Your Friend or Your Enemy

Time will be your friend or your enemy

Time will be Your Friend or Your Enemy…

Hello folks! Welcome back and thanks for visiting The Green Swan. How would you like to start your day with a bit of motivation?! No simpler a truth than the title says…time will be your friend or your enemy! And yet it remains so elusive for many to grasp, comprehend, and act upon. Why? I think it comes down to three reasons: lack of awareness, excuses, and a failure to plan.

“Time will be your friend or your enemy; it will promote you or expose you. It depends purely upon which side of this curve you decide to ride. It’s entirely up to you. If you’re doing the simple disciplines, time will promote you. If you’re doing the few simple errors in judgment, time will expose you, no matter how well you appear to be doing right now.”

The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson


As I outlined in my post titled Financial Literacy is my Cash Cow, the lack of awareness and education of basic personal finance is real and scary. However, there is no shortage of resources available to folks. Besides the countless well informed and fantastic personal finance blogs that are out there, a number of financial service companies offer training materials on their sites.

I entered college knowing I was destined for the finance field. Not only was I intrigued by corporate finance, I also had a passion for personal finance. So I was ahead of the curve a bit compared to the average American who’s only interest in personal finance is making sure their bills are paid on time. I read everything I could find on the topic, but one of my favorite resources was the free training and educational materials online at Morningstar. Morningstar is a great educational resource which I also use sparingly to check and monitor my mutual funds.

Our awareness level is all piqued at various stages in life, some as a result of a crisis scenario, and others out of interest and curiosity. But unless you shut yourself off from the world and the news, you should have an awareness of general personal finance topics. That leads us to the next reason, excuses…


As I just mentioned, unless you live under a rock, you should know what personal finance means, you should know that it is important, and you should know that you alone are responsible for your own personal finances.

What are some common excuses…shoot who cares, they are endless, right? Excuses are like belly buttons, we all have one. And on this matter, it may be the one time I ask that you don’t leave a comment, I don’t want to hear your excuses…

Failure to Plan

How about a shout out to Matt at Distilled Dollar…Matt, I’m about to use a Benjamin Franklin quote…

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”

– Benjamin Franklin

Truth. What that means is put some goals together. For instance, set a goal to reduce your spending and contribute a certain amount to retirement accounts every week, month, or year. Map out what retirement means to you and how much that lifestyle will cost. Be ambitious and take action.

What it doesn’t mean is that it has to be right. My plans change every year. I have a master plan which includes my long term goals. To reach those long term goals, I have a set of short and medium term goals. Depending on how life circumstances change (i.e. I get a promotion sooner than expected, emergencies happen) as well as how I do in meeting or exceeding my short term goals, I revise my master plan. I take a look at this at least once a year, perhaps more often as the situation calls for it.

It most certainly is not a set it and forget it proposition! Life is a journey and so is personal finance. As we age, we learn. As we learn, we grow. As we grow, we change. My personal finance views are not the same as they were when I was entering college. Don’t let that scare you into inaction or paralysis by analysis. I’m reminded of a quote by Donald Rumsfeld related to the war in the Middle East.

“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”

– Donald Rumsfeld

Start your journey today, and as you learn and grow, let your strategy and master plan evolve. We can’t expect to know it all. I know that I don’t know it all. And I don’t know what I don’t know. But start now and get the ball rolling. Time is on your side.

(Side Note from Mrs. GS / editor: I know that I have no idea what was just said…)

Finding Your Edge

That brings us back to the original quote from Jeff Olson’s book, The Slight Edge. My edge is simple. I made myself aware of personal finance as a topic and practice. I put my excuses aside and got over them. Just like you, I have a belly button, and just like you, I have a plenty of excuses. Find a way to get by them. And lastly, I have a plan. To learn more about my plan, check out a few of my most popular posts on frugal life lessons, invest to win, and tracking expenses.

“People do not decide their futures. They decide their habits, and their habits decide their future.”

– M. Alexander

What is your edge? And remember, I don’t want to hear your excuses…

Thanks for taking a look!

The Green Swan

Work Harder, Work Smarter, Retire Earlier and Find Your Beach



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  1. Good stuff JW and it couldn’t be more true. Especially in personal finance, time can be your friend or enemy. If you start too late, you may have to take on too much risk to try and reach your goals and go bust. If you start early, then you can take a more conservative and safer approach and better guarantee your financial future.

    I think that too many people come to the personal finance game late. It’s after they’ve already purchased too much house for their income or otherwise locked in an expensive lifestyle that won’t allow them to save enough or at all. Once you’re locked-in, it’s really tough to go back to a more frugal life, I would think.

    This is good motivation and food for thought!

    1. I agree with Jon here about people feeling locked-in. I have a bunch of people at my temporary job who must think I won the lotto. Many live in fancy houses in a development above the lake. I live about a mile from the lake on a quiet dead-end street in a “normal” house. They keep asking me when/if I retired too but most know I am not old enough. Love this quote – “People do not decide their futures. They decide their habits, and their habits decide their future.” My edge has always been patience along with those good habits!

    2. I tend to agree with you there, Jon, it could be too difficult to revert back if one has been focused on keeping up with the Jones too long.

      Thanks for stopping by!

    3. I think Jon brings up a really good point. Being locked into a lifestyle you can’t really afford can really hurt your financial growth. Luckily I haven’t made any purchases like that yet, so I can really be sure to examine that thoroughly when the time comes for me to move to a house. Thanks for the great article JW!

      1. Good for you Gail, take your time and examine those big decisions carefully. I was lucky not to fall into an expensive lifestyle young as well. Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

  2. May I be so impertinent to point out that a typo in the Rumsfield quote dilutes its important nugget of wisdom. I believe the end should be “DONT know that we don’t know”

  3. Personal finance is a weird thing. I think everyone can acknowledge it is important on some level. However, many people have grown up in homes that devalued it or have allowed the constant bombardment of advertising telling them the opposite to take over. Ultimately, your life is what you make of it and it is up to you to work towards crafting the life you want. Nice post!

    Also, The Slight Edge is next on my reading list! Looking forward to it – I have heard a lot of good things about it.

  4. Too many people learn too little about personal finance, often too late, including myself. I wish I had that interest sometime back in college so I could have started my journey to FI earlier.
    The best long term ‘edge’ that I can think of is to keep learning and be willing to change our opinions. I was late in the game of FI (at 33), but when I read those stories only of people retiring in their 30s, I got curious. I could have assumed it was all fiction and denied that it was possible.
    Continuous learning and self-improvement is so important. If you create the right habits (eg. regular reading, continuous education), then time is definitely your best friend.

    1. That’s a fantastic edge, Nick, and very important! Continuous self improvement is key! Good for you for learning and adapting. Thanks for sharing your edge, Nick.

  5. Good stuff Mr Swan, kick those excuses to the curb

    I love The Slight Edge, I was just paging through it last week and looking through my notes from a few years ago.

    After reading/studying for awhile I finally just decided to do something about our situation – one minor change started it all

  6. “People do not decide their futures. They decide their habits, and their habits decide their future.” This is a good reminder. We can’t just wait for a big opportunity to change. We have to create good habits, which will then put us in a position to get the big opportunities.

    I think my slight edge (which is probably common among the FIRE community) is the ability and willingness to challenge conventional wisdom. It has served me well so far, and hopefully will continue to do so.

  7. Those are some great quotes, but I agree with Laurie in that my fav is also the M. Alexander quote. Most people don’t like to feel in control of their lives because then they only have themselves to blame for how it turns out. It’s a lot easier to blame society, the gov’t, parents, whomever for being in the situation they are.

    I didn’t grow up with a great PF background, it was horrid. I didn’t get helped along in much of any aspect of life, but I educated myself and moved forward. Other members of my family choose to look backward and are still stuck back in the apst just blaming everyone else but themselves.

    It just takes a little catalyst for people to decide I don’t want to live this way, but unfortunately, not everyone experiences that. I’m glad I did, and you’re right, time will tell whether you came up a “winner” or not. I also think defining what “winning” is to you is another huge game changer and not going by what you think others may see as “winning” and striving for that.

    1. Very good points SSC, thanks for sharing your story. Your a great example and role model for others. It takes some initiative and drive and others can follow a similar path as you have.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  8. I think our edge is that we have started so young, with a completely blank slate. We have no debt, we don’t have a house, we don’t have a defined career path. We can do whatever we want with our lives from here, we’re building some great foundations and it’s up to us to make the most of it.

    No excuses for us, if we succeed it will be because of us, if we don’t..also our fault.


  9. Planning is so important for the future you.
    And here’s where I’ll use a quote from Maggie at Northern Expenditure.

    “The future you is still YOU.”

    Finding your equilibrium between planning for the future and living for today is where the true joy comes. Many in the financial independence community struggle with this equilibrium and moving it too far in either direction has generally bad consequences. It’s hard work finding it and worth the effort if it can be found early in life.

    1. Great quote, thanks for sharing. It is tough to find that equilibrium, I agree. We follow a simple motto of everything in moderation which helps us.

      Thanks Mr Pie.

  10. Great insight from Jeff Olson and the Benjamin Franklin quote is one of my favorites. The proper management of time opens up additional opportunities to make improvements to fiscal, physical, mental and spiritual fitness, what I call total well-being. Conversely of course, if you fail to manage time efficiently, you find that your fitness in each of those areas is compromised.

    1. I like that message, James, thanks for sharing. That will certainly lead to good life balance and also a long and healthy life.

      Thanks for stopping by, James!

  11. The biggest excuse I hear from people is they don’t have time between work and taking care of kids to think about their financial future or retirement. As a matter of fact I keep hearing excuses revolving around kids, for example excuses like: we need a new or bigger car/SUV to fit all our kid’s stuff for camping or whatever sports they are in, or a bigger house as our current 2000 sq. ft house is too small for our two young kids, we need to take a vacation to Europe so that kids can see the world., the list goes on and on. And the same people complain they can’t save because they have too many bills to pay despite their six figure salaries.

    I try not to argue with people with kids because who knows may be they are right. However, I also see people with kids who are financially responsible and live a frugal but active and happy lifestyle while managing to drive an old mini-van and live in a modest house and taking road trips to state parks for vacation. I never hear such people complain about money, they seem happy and content, their kids seem happy.

    I believe one can live frugally and save money if they really want to regardless if they have kids or not.

    1. I think that is far too common and you listed the excuses spot on. Kids are expensive as you want them to be, or that’s been my experience so far anyway. But don’t let that be a crutch and spoil retirement!

      Thanks for the comment!

  12. Great quotes. Time can really be both your friend or your enemy depending how you utilize it. I think if you start young time can really be a powerful friend on your side.

  13. Hoping time is our friend! So glad I found out about the PF community and blog world when I was 28 years old, rather then 10 years later! Ms. FP knew nothing about personal finance before last year either, so I’m glad that we’re both getting on the same page, especially since we expect to have a high household income. It’d be too easy for us to have got caught with too much student loan debt, too much house, and too much stuff. Thanks for the post GW!

    1. Me too! The PF and FIRE community has been great and I’m lucky I found it a few years ago. Sounds like you folks are doing well! Thanks for sharing TFP.

  14. I love the slight edge. It’s one of the few books that communicates the get rich concept in a very different way that is easy to understand.

    I agree on cutting back the excuses. There’s nothing I hate more than a person who’s lazy or blames everything else but him or herself. It’s all about getting off the couch and making something happen. Sometimes you fail and sometimes you win but it’s so much better not to be stagnant.

    1. Absolutely Finance Solver. It seems like whenever I hear someone complaining or making excuses, I can’t help but think the solution lies within themselves. And that’s what I try to remind myself when I make excuses too.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  15. JW, intriguing article! I believe my edge has been my ability to balance my own happiness with my goals. I feel it’s important to always move forward, but simultaneously enjoy the moments along the way. I don’t know that this can be achieved exactly at the same time, but rather it’s an ebb and flow between the two.

    Finally, the older I get, the more I’m trying to concentrate on being “flexible”. It’s tempting to fall into rigid states because they are comfortable, but that’s dangerous because we begin to miss out on new opportunities.

    BTW, the best thing about building slight edge habits is that success becomes easier and easier to more we practice. The fundamental advantages you get from taking action consistently are huge!

    1. That’s great Michael, having that balance in life is key but can always be a challenging ebb and flow.

      Good point about building sight edge habits, soon enough it seems like success is compounding.

      Thanks for the comment!

  16. I’m one that didn’t take advantage of time. But no excuses here, so my new mantra is ‘better late than never.’

    Ten years from now I can either be financially independent, or not. The choice is mine.

    I’d say my edge is perspective, desire, and patience.

    1. Thanks for sharing Ty! Great edge. Patience has always been a challenge for me, but is certainly necessary to build wealth and reach financial independence.

    2. “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

      I like your attitude! I see people despair that they have started late, and then they compound the mistake by never starting at all!

      I think desire is underrated as well.


  17. I was locked into a lifestyle I could afford without racking up debt, however there was nothing left to save. My edge is my determination. Once I stopped making the excuse I didn’t earn enough to save and took a long hard look at my lifestyle and spending habits – HEY PRESTO – £4,000+ saved in 8 months!

  18. Learning about personal finance at a young age is a very huge edge. I only knew about saving and living frugally when I started and that already gave me a big step up.
    It took me a long time to learn about investing and I wish I knew more when I was 22.
    It’s too bad that it’s all up the family. Many families don’t know how to manage their money well and the problem continues to the next generation.

    1. Yeah I agree with that, it does put a lot of responsibility on the family in most cases. Fortunately there are better and better free resources available online. Thanks for the comment, Joe.

  19. I know that there is still quite a bit for me to learn about personal finance, but understanding this fact was the first step. We’ve come a long way since we put our excuses aside – especially when it comes to spending on frivolous things. I don’t doubt that our plans and priorities will shift over time, but that’s the reason we’re creating a “kaleidoscope,” we’re building a flexible future.

  20. Love the M. Alexander quote here! I think building those habits has been my edge, actually! I learned about personal finance (and frugality – out of necessity) in my mid-20s and, though we aren’t retired yet, everything learned at that time has contributed being consumer debt-free and leading a life we love.

  21. I think a big piece of financial success (and all success, really) is just being open to things generally. Open to opportunities, open to learning (including never assuming that we have something mastered — like the Buddhist idea of “beginner’s mind”), open to ideas. Even if we aren’t the type to make excuses, it’s so easy to get into a rut of doing things a certain way and then not even seeing opportunities that come along. But making an effort to stay open as we get older has paid off big time for us. 🙂

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