Financial advice – Get in line and stay in line

I recently heard this financial advice which I thought was ingenious. The advice simply says:

Get in line and stay in line

What does it mean exactly?

The concept is very simple. No matter who we are or how much skills or knowledge we have, we simply can’t do things super fast and expect success.

The faster we try to do something, the easier/faster we will fail. 

Imagine a long line at a cafeteria. Look at the first guy at the front of the line who is about to get his food. He’s first in line now but not long ago he was at the back of the line, wondering when he would get to the front.

Everyone starts at the back of the line at one point.

How often do we wait in line and switch to get in a new line because the original line was taking too long? Once we made the switch, the new line ends up being not much faster than the original line, or maybe slower than the original line. 

Instead of continuing to wait in the new line, we exit the line again and join yet another line. We keep doing this exiting then joining a new line process again and again and we’re constantly stuck at the back of the line, never getting anywhere.

An analogy of this is the “chasing the shiny penny” symptom. We try an idea for a few days or a few months only to find that we’ve lost interest, so we start on a new idea and start a new process. Because we’re always trying something new, we end up achieving absolutely nothing and wasting our time.

So how does this apply to investing and personal finance?

First of all, we can’t become a millionaire overnight. Yes, we can win the lottery and become an instant multi-millionaire, but the odds are stacked against us.

To play the personal finance game right and to be successful, we have to be patient. We need to learn and have all the right tools and strategies.

For example, we need to learn about budgeting so we can control our cash inflow and outflow. We need to learn how to save money once we have budgeting sorted out. We need to learn about insurance so we’re covered when the unthinkable happens.

If you’re just starting a budget system, keep it up for at least a year then review your spending history after 1 year. If you find flaws in the budget system, tweak it and modify it to fit your need. 

If you just started investing, put aside a small amount of money each month and slowly increase your portfolio. Read investment related books to slowly increase your investing knowledge. If you’re investing in dividend growth stocks, set realistic dividend goals accordingly. Don’t start investing in dividend paying stocks the very first year and expect to have the dividend income to cover all your expenses.

Most importantly, we need to learn how to invest our money so they can grow and work hard for us. But we need to be patient.

One of the best ways to be patient when it comes to investing is to time in the market, rather than timing the market. Staying in the market for the long term will allow you to diversify through time. Who cares about the daily ups and downs of the stock market when the market has the tendency to go up by 8% on average in the long term?

Remember, speed kills so learn to get in line and stay in line. You will get somewhere eventually.

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31 thoughts on “Financial advice – Get in line and stay in line”

  1. Hey T!

    Another good write-up. I totally agree with you, you can’t be switching up investment strategies here and there or you’ll find yourself moving sideways or backwards. Looks like the two of us have got a good grip on what we want. We’ll get there, with patience.


  2. Very nice article. You make some relevant points. Nice job. Being patient is so hard for most people.

    Keep cranking,

    Robert the DividendDreamer
    AKA — Seeking Dividends

    Follow me on Twitter– Seeking Dividends@DividendDreamer

  3. This is a great illustration of what we need to do in our finances and with investing. Being patient and focused on one goal at a time, rather than every new and shiny thing that comes along, is necessary to achieve what we want but for some reason as human beings we seem to be wired to go after everything at once…the grass is always greener on the other side. Cultivating patience, as well as gratitude for what we currently have, is not always easy to do but it pays off handsomely.

    • Hi Gary,

      Staying focused on one goal at a time is definitely very important. We should aim for doing very well at one thing at the time rather than doing multiple things all together and being average in all of them.

  4. Great analogy! I think you could also apply this to buy and hold versus day trading. They always say that buy and hold investors almost always beat active traders. Because they get in line and stay in it!

  5. So much of success in personal finance depends on just making good money choices and letting time pass. Lots of folks think they need to hit a money home run to succeed, when really I think we just need to avoid strike outs and keep banging out the base hits and steal a base now and then.

  6. Great post Tawcan, great analogy and relevant to investing and personal finance.

    When I first started investing, I dived straight in, barely skimming all the info available to me because I just wanted fast results. Once I started reading, I changed my portfolio and my strategy and am ready for the slow long haul!

    I have to admit that since starting my blog, it’s hard not to wish for fast and big results, just for something different to post! Fortunately, I know enough to not take silly risks and go for the ‘big win’, which could end up being a ‘big loss’!

    There are whole theories about queues, which is apparently why in most post offices in the UK, it’s one big queue for many desks, which is apparently quicker overall for the people queueing as it takes away their option to switch queues!

    • Hi weenie,

      We definitely learn from our experience and when we look back, we’re always amazed how little we knew back then.

      It’s quite interesting about queues, it seems that Europeans in general like to wait in queues more so than North Americans…but that might be a total generalization.

  7. Not related to finance but every time I get the car washed I try to go to the shortest line and will switch lines if mine isn’t moving fast enough. About 90% of the time the switch backfires and I wait longer than if I would have just stayed there. I suppose the same could be said about finance, just stay the course and wait it out

  8. Awesome analogy Tawcan!

    As a fitness enthusiast, I can say that this analogy applies just as much to transforming your body. People always want immediate results, and as such are always chasing the newest trend, the newest “magic pill” that will get them their ripped abs or big arms or whatever it is they seek. In the end, there are no shortcuts though, and hopping around from program to program and diet to diet every couple of weeks is an excellent way of getting nowhere.

    At the end of the day, building wealth and building muscle is relatively simple; the hard part is having the patience and dedication to stick to the plan for the long-term.

    Great post!

    • Hi Zero to Zeros,

      It’s definitely like fitness. You cannot be buff and muscular by just working out one day. It takes months and years of hard work to get ripped. It’s the same for investing and building wealth. 🙂

  9. Tawcan

    You have hit it really on the head with this one. I am sitting on an account valued at $148K approximately. Did this happen over night? No. Did I use my strategy in one day? No. In one year? No. This has taken multiple years of me learning now only how I like to invest, but also how to budget, save and get into a real rhythm. Like you have said, I once started in the back of the line at an account worth barely $3K and then I started to get a little better with research, studying and practice and I became a little bit better via the same methods. I continue to practice this and patience is a virtue, truthfully. Great post!


    • Hi Lanny,

      If you didn’t wait in line you definitely wouldn’t be where you are today. That just shows how important it is to be patient and let things happen.

  10. Hey Tawcan,

    I couldn’t agree more. A had quite a few mis-starts into the world of investing, and it was because I wanted to know it all straight away. I wanted to sort out my spending, sort out my investment strategy, sort out my brokerage etc all instantly. And with this attitude, after a couple of hours of research, I burnt out. The project was put to the side, to be looked at again in the future.

    What actually gave me the kick up the arse was investing into a company pension scheme, They didn’t have a great admin system and so, despite putting away a fair chunk each month, I largely ignored it. To my delight, a few years later when they fixed the admin system so you could check you investments easily I had a fair whack in there! It seemed that slow, steady and consistent was a good bet after all!

    Have a good weekend. It’s a bank holiday here in the UK, so three days off. Aaahhh, I shall look at it as a taster of what FI will be like.

    Mr Z (firmly in the line 🙂 )

    • Hi Mr Z,

      Nice that you guys have a long weekend in the UK, that must be nice to be able to enjoy the nice weather. Firmly in the line is a great idea. 🙂

  11. Great post! Building wealth is a slow process and there really are no shortcuts outside of persistent and consistent investing. It takes awhile to get the momentum going, but once it’s picked up speed, progress will accelerate greatly. Then you’ll be near the front of the line… but like you said, first you gotta start at the back and pay your dues.

    Take care!

    • Hi FI Fighter,

      It definitely take a few years to get the momentum going. But it’s like rolling a snowball down a giant hill… once it gets going it will only get faster and bigger.

  12. Great advice you received Tawcan and thanks for sharing. Too often I find myself getting impatient with some things in life, not just related to financial matters. Even though I’ve been working on getting better at being patient, impulsive moves are always in the back of my mind. It’s a great test to endure saying no constantly to that voice.

  13. Tawcan,

    Pretty good advice – hadn’t thought of it yet myself.

    Even though we all wished our personal financial situation was strapped to a space rocket, that’s simply not possible. Better to queue up, give it our all, hope for the best, and keep at it. That’s the only way I know how to make good progress over time.


    • Hi NMW,

      Being an instant millionarie is a dream. For those lucky ones that become instant millonaries, they typically they end up back to where they began because they do not have the important money knowledge to make sure they don’t waste all the money. Queue up, give it our all, and keep at it will not only allow you to make progress slowly, it will also allow you to gain important knowlege as you move along the time.

  14. I love your advice to keep a budget for a year! Although many people who are just during our and need to be disciplined might that a bit challenging!

    • Hi M,

      I think keeping a budget for a year and revising it at end of the year is very important. Your spending may go up and down over the year. Having a year worth of data allows you to optimize the budget and see where you can trim.

  15. Staying in line is a very good analogy for starting and following through with your own investing and/or budgeting journeys. Personally, I really enjoy seeing my progress in the last two years. At first seeing my income/expenses start to tip towards the income side, and then my passive income steadily grow with some small spurts as well. To where it is now at a point where my passive income is creating a noticeable difference in my savings rate. Another fun line to watch the world spin in is seeing my blogs view count slowly grow as well 🙂

    All the best!

    • Hi Dividend Wisp,

      Looking back I’m amazed how much progress we’ve accomplished in the last few years. I’m sure things will continue rolling and compounding as time goes by

  16. Thanks for the post Tawcan. I like the analogy of the lineup. 🙂 Life is about patience and discipline. Until we learn how to delay instant gratification, we’ll be better off financially. You can have it all, Just not all at once is what Oprah Winfrey said. Just an awesome quote. Thanks for sharing and have a nice weekend my friend.

    • Hi Dividend Hustler,

      Glad you like the analogy. When I heard the advise I was like “of course, it makes so much sense.”

  17. Tawcan, based on experience, I don’t rush things. It feels great to do it the right way and use the right strategies especially in savings. Though it may take time, it is more secured. All we have to is stay positive and consistent all the time.


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