Liam accepts the under 18 trophy from Fiona Long at Catholic Institute's junior open tennis competition in 1986 with runner up, David Long also pictured
I met with a client recently, so we could catch up on the financial review I completed for her 12 months previously. Back then she had a number of goals like accelerating her mortgage repayment and increasing her pension contributions so she could retire at 58.
The great news was that she followed through on everything I had suggested, and one year on, she was in a great place and is on track to meet all her goals. She feels really happy about what she has achieved, and is very pleased with herself, and well she might.
If you asked her was it hard work, she would tell you it was, but only for a month or two. Once she got used to the overpayment on her mortgage, the extra amount going into her pension plan etc. she simply adjusted her spending, and after a month or two saw no difference to her lifestyle other than she had a plan in place that was going to take around seven years off the term of her mortgage. She knew that in 14 years’ time, she was going to be mortgage-free and could earn €35,000 less every year if she wanted to, now that her mortgage would be paid off.
When I am asked to talk to groups or organisations and their staff about financial matters, one of the interesting things I notice when I share success stories like this woman’s (who earns an average income by the way) is the reaction of those listening.
For some it is an inspiration and a motivating factor; if they can do it, then I can as well.
But there are others who don’t believe it. They don't believe it is possible that most other average people could do the same thing.
The problem with this type of person is not that they don’t want to hear how successful people have become, they just want to hear you talking about the regular person doing regular things yet achieving amazing results. And I’m afraid I don’t have any such stories for them.
When they think something can’t be done, they don’t want to hear how others did it. They close their mind to thinking differently and have only thoughts of “it can’t be done” rather than thinking “how can it be done”.
Being able to clear your mortgage quickly, or saving enough in your pension that you can afford to retire when you want to takes hard work. Strike that - it takes incredibly hard work. For some they sacrifice going on holidays, they take drastic measures with their spending, they work two or even three jobs to earn the income to allow them achieve whatever it is they want to.
There’s really no secret to paying off your mortgage quickly or retiring early. You just have to do something that is extraordinary.
And no matter what it is you want to achieve in life, whether that is excelling at sport, academia or your career, if you want to be the best, do something out of the ordinary.
Some people dismiss being able to pay off debt in a short period of time because they are up to their eyes in debt, and have cut back on everything they can each month, so trying to pay extra is just not feasible.
The problem with this mind-set is that they are focusing on cutting back on monthly expenses as being the only solution to clearing debt off.
It might work for some people but it may not work for you, and if that is the case, don’t just leave it at that.
The first step to paying off debt is to have a decent income. If you owe €15,000 in credit cards, term loans etc. and you earn €30,000 per year, then you are not going to be debt-free any time soon. The numbers just don’t add up. So rather than thinking it’s impossible because you can’t cut back any more each month, start thinking differently and think about how you can earn more rather than spending less.
My point is this: if you really want something badly enough, you can do things out of the ordinary. You can do things that you might not have thought were possible.
I used to play tennis when I was in my teens and I was an OK player. I was reasonably successful but was I more talented than others? Did I have a much better backhand or serve than everyone else? I don’t think so, but what I had more than others was determination and dedication.
I applied myself to becoming the best I could be and my goal was to play for Ireland.
So I trained every day for hours and some people might have thought I was just naturally better than others. But I wasn’t, I just practised more, I hit more tennis balls than they did, and I wanted to win more than they did and nothing was going to get in my way. I remember one rainy Christmas day, when my opponents were probably at home watching TV, but I wasn’t, I was hitting a tennis ball against a wall for two hours, soaked to the skin.
But it paid off when I was picked on the Irish Senior Tennis team to play in the European Cup in Spain in 1985 – I was 15.
I first started playing tennis when I was 12, and three years later I was playing in front of 10,000 people in La Coruna, Northern Spain.
I believe anyone can achieve great things in short periods of time, if they really put their mind to it. And your choices don’t have to last forever either, make a commitment and apply yourself and do it for as long as you need to.
Reject the “it isn’t possible” mentality. Almost anything is possible. It’s the choices we make that determine whether something is possible or not. You can pay off your debt, save for retirement, or run a marathon, but only if you do something to make it happen.
Liam Croke is MD of Harmonics Financial Ltd,
based in Plassey. He can be contacted at email@example.com or www.harmonics.ie