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Become a Great Wonder!

April 4, 2010

Ever since I took my first class in World History I was always amazed by the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World.  This list included the Great Pyramid of Giza, Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, Mausoleum of Maussollos at Halicarnassus, Colossus of Rhodes, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria.  I was amazed that over 2,000 years ago there were projects that lasted for generations that left a lasting impression so great they were considered the greatest projects of their time.  The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus took 120 years to build, while the Hanging Gardens of Babylon reached over 70 feet into the sky complete with an irrigation system, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria stood around 400 ft tall.

Even though these were amazing structures, only one remains today.  Earthquakes and fire destroyed six of the seven great wonders.  The one you can still see today is the Great Pyramid of Giza which was built between 2584 and 2571 BC.  It was the world’s tallest structure for over 3,800 years.  When constructed each base side was just about 756 feet in length and was built with such precision that the average error of length in each side was only 58 millimeters (imagine each side being the length of 2 and a half football fields with only about 2 inches difference between each).  The pyramid also contains over 2.3 million limestone blocks.

Today, I am more fascinated by personal finance and the power of the individual than I am the ancient wonders, but I think it is possible to learn something about our finances from the ancient wonders.

The first lesson is it takes a solid base to achieve long-term success.

The detailed construction of the Great Pyramid has helped it last and amaze for over 4,500 years.  If there wasn’t the same attention to detail then there would be no way it would have been able to survive centuries of erosion and earthquakes.  This solid base allows everything on top to stay in place.

When it comes to your personal finances do you have a solid base?  Do you have a plan in place to get ahead?  You need a plan if you want to achieve financial greatness.  One major part of this plan is to develop a budget so you are telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went at the end of the month.  Before you develop your budget you do need to be aware of your current situation.  The first step to doing this is to track your spending.  A very eye-opening exercise for most people is to just keep track of your expenses for an entire month.  This can be as complex as using an Excel spreadsheet or another computer program such as Microsoft Money or Quicken.  It can also be as easy as carrying around a couple of notecards and writing down every purchase you make on the card.  At the end of the month, put your expenses into categories and see where your money goes every month.

You may be surprised to see how you spend your money.  A dollar here and there doesn’t seem like much, but if you add it up for a year it can make a huge difference.  Personal finance author David Bach emphasizes this point when he talks about the latte factor.  If a person who buys a $3 cup a coffee a day, stops buying this and invests it and earns a 10% annual return that $3 a day will be over $500,000 in 40 years.

Is it worth it to take a little extra time to track finances?  If you are in a situation where you feel burdened by the debt you have or are worried how you are going to make it to your next paycheck you need to start somewhere.  If you are doing alright, but wonder why you don’t feel like you’re getting any traction on paying off debts or saving for retirement it can provide a boost.  There are many people who have been in your same situation and decided to make a change.  Think about how your life would be different if you didn’t have to worry about debt or money on a daily basis.  Think about how you would feel if you were confident in your plan to save for retirement.  If this is the situation you find yourself in, it’s time to come up with a plan.  Assess your situation by starting to track your expenses today!

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