Articles


Financial Stability and Strength

by Nicholas Villar | November 20, 2019

middle of the bench press strength training

I would like to retire at the age of 40, I’m 27 now. I am not an accountant or financial adviser, but I have listened to enough popular opinions, read some articles, and attended a weekend class that gave me a certificate, so I think I’ve figured it out on my own. Every week I’m going to make a deposit into a savings account. The amount I deposit won’t be consistent or planned for, but it will be what I feel like depositing that day or what my buddy and I decide together to put into our respective accounts. I don’t have a goal in mind, I’ve just been told that saving for retirement is a good idea. There will be times that I miss a deposit because I’m living paycheck to paycheck, and some weeks I may make a small withdrawal, but I should be fine since there were other weeks that I deposited some money. I’ve been told this is the best and most effective way to save for retirement. 

Does this ideology make sense on any level? Of course not. If a friend or family member of yours approached you with these thoughts, you’d certainly worry about their financial situation. Then why do ideas like this persist with fitness? 

Everyone knows that to become financially stable you must have a plan and stick to it. It doesn’t even have to be complicated, in fact, the less complicated the better. This is also true for your physical strength. If I want to retire by the age of 40, I need a plan that has consistent and sizable deposits into an interest-bearing account to outpace inflation and build my wealth. It is not efficient or intelligent to only deposit when I feel like it and however much I want. This is still what you will see when you walk into many gyms: an individual is performing random movements, moving from machine to machine or light weight to light weight with no real goal in mind – they’re just checking the box or doing the same thing their buddy is doing. Maybe they’ll skip a day or two thinking they can still improve since they participated other days of the week. Perhaps they just want to “maintain” what they have and not get “bulky.” 

Overlooked 

The individuals that just want to “maintain” what they currently have and not get “bulky” forget about a few factors. After the age of about 40, your physical health starts to decline. It’s almost as if someone decided to permanently switch your savings account to a checking account that’s not interest-bearing. Now you must deal with inflation since your checking account can’t keep pace (I am fully aware that most savings accounts' interest rates don’t keep pace with inflation, but for the sake of simplicity let’s just pretend they do). Now, when you make a deposit without a plan, you fall slowly behind because inflation starts to chip away the value of the dollar amount in your account. When we add a deposit plan to the mix, we can stay ahead of the curve for longer. A well-structured strength training program has the same effect physically and will allow you to stave off sarcopenia and reinforce financial stability, if you will. This is why there is no such thing as “maintenance” – you either get stronger, or you start to die. 

With the Master’s population (over 40) it becomes even more important to make those deposits. Even though the money in the account is no longer gaining interest and inflation is chipping away at the value, if money stops being deposited then basic things cannot be purchased. Small, insignificant things you can’t buy add up over time. It may seem nominal if your checking account can’t afford a full tank of gas, a phone upgrade, or someone to shovel your walk. Eventually this leads to not enough gas to see friends and family, the phone not working because the older model doesn’t have the hardware necessary for advancing technology, and the risk of falling from ice buildup on the driveway. 

Strength training is no different; the older we get, the less effective our muscles become, and they must be trained. Small, seemingly insignificant things add up over time. It’s more difficult to walk around the store for long periods of time, putting a stack of mixing bowls overhead becomes taxing, getting in and out of a car, off the bed and toilet takes more effort. Eventually this leads to limited mobility and loss of independence. The checking account may be losing value in the long run regardless of the deposits made, but a well-structured depositing program will keep the account open longer. 

Maybe they just don’t want to get “bulky.” Our intent is to become stronger and more physically adept, not to “bulk” up, but a little padding in the bank account is always useful. Have you ever heard someone say they don’t want extra money in their bank accounts? Yeah, me neither. But it’s not just about getting bigger physically. If you truly want to bulk up and gain a lot of mass, it takes many more sacrifices than just doing The Program, like gaining a load of wealth. The other part to “bulk” is that the individuals on the cover of those magazines or the athletes that participate in professional sports are genetically gifted, and you and I are not. It’s a tough pill to swallow. Some wealthy people are in the same boat; they were born into it (think the Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Vanderbilt families). 

There are people that have a plan to make consistent deposits and are loyal to the gym. They walk in and follow a “program” that has a variety of exercises and weights with sets and reps that looked like they threw a dart at a board, spun the wheel, and jotted it down in their workout journals. What they fail to understand is they have their money spread into too many accounts with low interest rates in each account. They deposit a little money in this account, then next week they “confuse” their money by depositing it into a different account, and so on and so forth until they deem their money has a “functional” aspect to it. They deem this account best used to pay for food, this one for bills, and that one medical. 

What they fail to understand is they aren’t depositing enough money into any one account for interest to build a sizable return on investment. This is akin to lifting light weights for random movements, thinking that muscles will grow from a variety of exercises. This is neither efficient nor sensible. Training should be general, like one large interest-bearing account and money that can be used to purchase anything. Many little accounts with small deposits have terrible return on investment and are more easily depleted. 

Let’s say you’ve opened a Health Savings Account and you faithfully deposit money into this account. You might say you’re in pretty good shape for whatever comes your way. What happens when your car breaks down? The funds dry up quickly from the “car” account, but you can’t access the money from your health savings because it’s locked up. It doesn’t carry over to what you need it for now, because you spent all that time and money building a specific account. The opposite is true for a large sum of money in a general account: it’s purchasing power is greater than many other smaller specific accounts. 

I can use my general savings to purchase specific things I need. Similarly, with Starting Strength, general strength is acquired through progressively loaded basic human movements, and that general strength can be used to perform specific activities. General strength is gained for the purposes of using it specifically. 

Debt 

What happens when you become ill or physically injured? Bills need to be paid and life goes on. If you have little money in a medical fund because you’ve deemed in necessary to have small, specific accounts dedicated to other expenses, that money will dry up fast and what are you left with is debt. With physical strength, when you get sick or injured your muscle mass is acting as a savings account –  an account with a large amount of money will always last longer than an account with less money. No one will argue this. Yet we hear so often that “I don’t need to lift that heavy” or “Lifting more weight won’t help me in life.” Can you imagine someone telling you similar things about their bank account: “I don’t need to make that big of a deposit” or “More money in the account won’t help me financially.” 

Ludicrous. If you happen to break an arm and can’t perform your job, you’ll be dipping into your savings account to help pay those medical bills, just like your muscles will atrophy from not being adequately stressed. Once you have been released to full activity by your doctor, you’ll start the process of re-accumulating the strength you just lost. The difference is that the individual with a well-structured strength program and more physical strength is far better off starting over than the person that is weaker and doesn’t have a training plan. It will also be easier for the strong person to reach previous levels of strength since they have already done the work of building the muscle mass once, and muscles remember size and strength. 

Fallacies 

Let’s say you know someone or know of someone that is well off financially, and they give these crazy financial tips and tricks, and you think if you follow them closely enough you’ll be just like them. Here’s the harsh truth: you’ll never be like them. Many of those people just happen to stumble into wealth through family money (genetics) or money laundering (steroids), and they’re misleading you (pills and magic supplements). They should not be trusted, because there is no Get-Rich-Quick scheme just like there is no Get-Strong-Quick scheme. There is a very simple process that requires consistency and dedication. There will be times when training sounds like the absolute worst thing, and it’ll be uncomfortable just like there will be times when you think you won’t be able to save money that week, but you must. We don’t train for today – we get stronger for tomorrow. 

Maybe you want to try and gamble your way to wealth via playing the stock market or taking a trip to Vegas, as opposed to hiring a knowledgeable financial adviser. A quick internet search will present at least of handful of such cases where this has worked. In these instances you are being exposed to survivor bias, and you should not forget about the millions of people who have failed for every one having a success story. Not only is this misleading, sometimes intentionally, it’s not reproducible. Reproducibility is one of our greatest allies in barbell training. 

I want to see quantifiable evidence that my wealth is growing. If I tie up some money in the stock market or take it gambling, the volatility is so much that I can’t, nor can anyone else, predict the outcome and guarantee an increase in wealth. Similarly, with a variety of exercises or perceived exertion from a movement pattern, I cannot accurately quantify those values and know that I’m getting stronger. You may have a good guess, but trying to pinpoint it is throwing darts. I want to know exactly how and by how much my wealth is growing. A fixed interval increase is concrete evidence that a savings account works. When a novice adds five pounds to the bar each training session and successfully performs the movements, I have quantifiable evidence that they got stronger. I didn’t even have to ask, “How did those dumbbell lunges with the same weight as last time feel today?” 

Next Steps 

Now you’ve decided to plan and build your wealth because you’ve realized that popular opinion and weekend certificate courses are wrong. You’ve read some material and done some research, it’s a pretty simple process to get there, really. But one of the most overlooked aspects of it all is the financial adviser, or a competent coach. Everyone needs a coach, even coaches. Their role in building your wealth, or strength, is to guide you. They cannot do the work for you – you have to consent to how you use your money, just like you have to perform the strength training. The good news is that coaches are available in many places: Starting Strength Online Coaching, Starting Strength Affiliate Gyms, Starting Strength Franchise Gyms, and other coaches that teach the Starting Strength method are all within reach to many people. It’s no hyperbole that they are the best group of financial advisers to help build your wealth, er, I mean, coaches to build your strength. If getting a coach is not feasible at this time, read the book, starting lifting at a gym that allows deadlifts and chalk, and post your form checks to the forum. 

Notice I didn’t mention “cardio” in this article. Ever been in so much debt that you only make minimum payments?


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