Every story needs a hero.
One of the commencement speakers when I received a master’s degree in accounting from Brigham Young University in 2001 was entrepreneur, businessman, educator, and religious leader James W. Ritchie. I still remember a story he told that day.
The story occurred when he was supervising a church youth activity. They were taking the kids to a mountain lake for some summer fun. As they approached the lake the road was very steep and winding and the driver of the bus they had rented suddenly lost control.
With everyone inside frozen by fear the bus skidded sideways before miraculously coming to rest with the front of the bus only inches from the edge of a cliff and the rear of the bus only inches from the mountainside.
They unloaded everyone while they decided what to do next. It quickly became apparent that the bus driver, badly shaken by the near-disaster, was not in any condition to rescue the bus from its precarious perch and drive it safely to their destination.
At this point one of the other adult leaders, Ray, who moments before had been relaxing in the back of the bus, stepped forward to save the day. Ray stated that he had some experience driving large vehicles and he was confident that he could maneuver the bus back into its lane and drive it safely to the lake.
With everyone nervously watching Ray inched the bus forward and back, turning it slightly as he went. In a couple of minutes the bus was back in its lane. The passengers then re-boarded and Ray delivered his precious cargo safely to the lake.
Ray quickly went from being a passenger to a reluctant and unlikely hero. Ray stepped forward because he realized that he not only had the skill, but that he cared more about the safety of the kids on the bus than the hired driver did. Ray knew and loved these kids. He wasn’t just performing a job, he was protecting the safety of kids who had been placed under his responsibility.
You Have to Drive Your Own Financial Bus
We will all be called on to drive many different buses during our lives, but one bus that everyone has to learn to drive, simply because of the times in which we live, is our own financial bus. Richard B. Wagner identified money competency as a “21st century survival skill.” I believe he is right. In many ways financial competency is as important to us today as the skills of hunting and gathering or farming were in prior periods of history.
As William Bernstein stated:
“Whether you like it or not, you are a money manager.”
You can choose whether or not you want to learn how to be a safe and skillful driver – the kind that can drive your financial bus safely even on the steep, winding, mountain roads that you are sure to encounter – or an untrained and dangerous driver, but you have to drive your financial bus. You really don’t have a choice.
If you try to avoid this responsibility and let someone else drive the result is likely to be financial disaster. Why? Because no one cares about the safety of your financial bus as much as you. In fact, many of the people you might consider turning the keys of your bus over to have an interest in putting you in dangerous financial circumstances to enrich themselves.
The road ahead is perilous, and there will undoubtedly be some anxious moments, but the skills you need to get safely through are not too difficult to learn. My goal is to teach you these 21st century survival skills so that when road conditions get treacherous you will be prepared. Every story needs a hero, and the hero of your financial story can only be you. You can’t afford to relax in the back of the bus. The time has come for you to step forward and take the wheel.