Money Rules I Learned by Accident – Choices Matter

Money Rules I Learned By Accident

“How much was that hamburger?” my co-worker asked.

“Uh…$7 dollars maybe.” I was totally guessing.

I had been buying my lunch in the work cafeteria for almost a full year, but I honestly never paid that much attention to how much it cost.

$5 dollars? $7 dollars? $10 dollars?

Who cared?

That was chump change compared to the massive new $34,000 salary I was making. I was rolling so large I could buy two lunches a day and not even think about it.

“I wonder how much that hamburger is really costing you?” my co-worker continued.

“Uh…maybe $8 dollars? Not much more than that I’m sure.”

I couldn’t see why he was so passionate about my burger. Was he struggling with money and trying to figure out if he could afford one?

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“Well, let’s see. If you brought your lunch to work, let’s say that would cost $2 a day. That would save you $6 every day on buying a lunch.”

He whipped out his fancy calculator with all those fancy financial buttons I never understood.

“$6 a day times 5 days a week times 50 weeks a year. Looks like that’s one-thousand-five-hundred dollars a year.”

Cough WHAT?

My hamburger was costing me over a thousand dollars a year? This guy’s little lunch-calculator party trick sucked. I need to find some new co-workers to sit with.

This hamburger tastes like carpet.

But it was about to get worse.

“That’s a lot of money for a hamburger,” he continued. “Now let’s say you took that $1,500 every year and you invested it in a mutual fund for the next 20 years. I wonder how much money you would have then?”

Ok, this is weird, but I let calculator boy have his fun.

“That would be $163,543 dollars. Looks like that’s a pretty expensive hamburger.”

“Cough, cough, cough, What the? This stupid hamburger that tastes like carpet could be earning me over $100,000?”

My hamburger was costing me over a thousand dollars a year? This guy's little lunch-calculator party trick sucked. I need to find some new co-workers to sit with.Click To Tweet

“Could be,” my co-worker replied gently eyeing his home-brought Jello snack.

At the time, over $100,000 might as well have been freakin’ Bill Gates money. I could fly my private jet to my private airport on my private island just to frolic in the surf during my lunch break.

I didn’t immediately start bringing my lunch to work, but the seed was planted.

I discovered that tiny numbers can equal bigger numbers, and bigger numbers could blow my tiny little mind.

Cars rushing by on a freeway at night.

Our choices follow us like so many light trails in the night.

I would say within 3 months I was starting to make my lunch at home and bring it to work. I wasn’t investing the difference, but that wasn’t the point.

Money Rule #2: My money choices have long-term consequences.

Some consequences I might like. (Getting the company match in my 401k.) Others I might not. (Eating my retirement in carpet burgers.)

But I had to be thinking about those long-term realities instead of just floating through life feeling like everything was working out just fine.

In part 3 I’ll share my last, but possibly most mind blowing money rule I learned from my early years in the workforce.


Do you remember how you learned about compound interest or the long-term value of money in general? Who helped you first discover that your financial choices had long-term consequences? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.

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