Make Your Own Luck: 16 Ways To Win In Finances And Life

An ancient philosopher from Rome, Seneca, posited, “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

There’s also the common phrase, “the harder I practice, the luckier I get” – apparently most people think Arnold Palmer, the professional championship-level golfer, used it most, but it’s been attributed to others.

In both of these quotes, the concept that one can make their own luck is present.

But is this possible in the realm of finance as well?

Five Year FIRE Escape takes a look.

 

 

As someone who puts their finances out into the world for others to see, there is one massive piece of feedback I always get. I’m just lucky and my tips don’t apply to anyone else. Well, I have a pretty strong belief that you need to make your own luck.

Sure, some people start off a little better in life than others, but if you aren’t putting yourself into a good position to take advantage of opportunities that pop up, you can’t be lucky no matter how much luck smacks you in the face.

So today let’s figure out how to create your own luck. 

A Personal Story

If you’re new to my site, you’ll know that I’m all about saving and investing. But my real secret sauce was real estate, and I started all of that ten years ago. Do I think I’m some smarty-pants who had some trade secrets and made the best financial moves? Not at all.

I just did some research, put myself out there, and took a chance. Lucky for me, it worked out well. Let me share how it all started and how I make my own luck.

Ten years ago I had $60,000 saved up for a downpayment for our first home. (I know, I know, 2012 was a different time.) But after substantial research, I really wanted to get into real estate investing instead.

By most people’s standards, buying a rental when I didn’t own my house was a risky move. (Okay, they used the word dumb.) But there were some SUPER depressed housing prices in states I’ve never even visited and my down payment could buy a rental house outright. No mortgage.

I could have ignored it, but I put in the work to figure out how to make it work. I invested pretty much every dime I owned into a rental house that was too far to even drive to see.

Most people I knew thought I was nuts, but the numbers seemed good, and the project matched my future plans.

Long story short, I did buy a rental property, and then more rental properties after that. I could have used that money to just pay down my mortgage but I believed in what I was doing and really went all in.

Now, ten years later, I bought seven houses, and collectively they’re worth $1.8M with $400,000 of mortgage debt. That is about double the net worth I would have had if I had just kept my head down and never made my first move.

The point isn’t just that housing is great (it is, though!), or that I’m a smarty pants who made a smart move. I put myself in a situation where, if housing prices rose, I would do well. If housing prices went poorly, I would be ok with just my rental income.

That’s how you make your own luck.

You keep taking risks that won’t crush you if they flop.

 

Assessing the Risks

 

I chose a risk that wouldn’t crush me if it went downhill.

  • If the home value didn’t rise, I still get rental income. Win.
  • If I lose a tenant and get no rent, I can cover my mortgage with my job income. Win.
  • If I hated it and wanted out, I could sell the house. Win.

Now, what if I bought that house, got a mortgage, and relied on the rent payments to cover it with no backup plan – and then the tenants didn’t pay on time? Or what if my only investment objective was the appreciation – and then we hit a housing market crash?

That would be bad luck.

So risk is okay, as long as the downside doesn’t literally crush you.

That’s the key to how I make my own luck. Research, prepare, and then go for it and put yourself out there. (More on that below.) But first…

 

The Science Behind Luck

 

Luck has been studied and some people have gotten this down to a science. Just ask Richard Wiseman, a professor who studies luck and its creation.

 

Extroversion

He has studied self-proclaimed lucky and unlucky people to figure out what made them tick. Go figure: people who don’t trust easily and don’t go out on a limb are twice as likely to be “unlucky,” and conversely outgoing people are twice as likely to describe themselves as lucky.

If you talk to everyone you meet and luckily find your soul mate along the way, was that luck or just extroversion? (Hint: it’s extroversion.)

 

Luck School

To take it to the extreme, Wiseman even made a luck school for his participants. 80% of people coming out the other end were self-proclaimed as luckier than they were before. In the luck school, Wiseman just taught the students to be open-minded, be positive about the possible outcomes, and take some leaps of faith every once in a while.

It worked! It’s simple!

 

16 Ways to Make Your Own Luck

 

Here are 16 ways you can try to make your own luck.

 

1. Ask a successful person out for coffee

You might think that ultra-successful entrepreneurs, investors, and authors wouldn’t give you the time of day. You’d be surprised. When people have made it, they often actually want a chance to help someone out by bouncing ideas around and answering questions. They also want to make their own luck by putting themselves out there, too, so this is a win-win.

A coffee with an ultra-successful person would also help you realize that these people are just like you. They just took the “you make your own luck” motto and went with it.

The key is, they usually want to talk to someone who is positive and ready to take action. Not someone who’s just going to poo-poo all of their suggestions or make excuses. Then it really is a waste of their time.

 

2. Ask someone on a date

The best example of how to create your own luck is to ask someone out. The downside of rejection is quite trivial, even though it feels different at the time, and the upside is that you find your perfect partner for life. Nothing could be better. Being willing to ask people out frequently helps you make your own luck.

 

3. Apply for a job

Applying for a job is about the same as asking for a date. Even if you like your job, there are very few downsides to taking an interview. Maybe you luck out and find a perfect match, or walk yourself into a competitive offer-based pay raise. Both are good.

A possible downside, losing an hour. No biggy.

I've got my 2 acres of non-leveraged, crop-producing, cashflowing farmland via AcreTrader. Get yours.

 

4. Put yourself out there

When you have a goal in life, it’s possible for other people to help you. But no one can help you if no one knows you’re doing it. Talking about your goals opens up that chance at the low, low price of hearing a few scoffs. But those people probably suck anyways, so they can just scoff away.

 

5. Go with it

There are often times when my urban untrusting self takes over and says nah-ah but if I only listened to it I would have missed out on many of my life’s biggest events. Thankfully, I make my own luck and I push myself to go with it.

Meeting my now-wife is a great example. I had a friend give a less-than-impressive blind date pitch to me. (For some reason he sent me a picture of a can of beans too.) But he thought she was cool, and that was reason enough to follow through. Now we are married.

So when something weird pops up and you have no good reason to say no, say yes and go with it. 

 

6. Have some cool stories

A major factor in how I make my own luck is through my relationships with people. But I do get that some people struggle with being chatty with randos, thereby perpetuating the belief that you can’t make your own luck.

If you take a moment to recollect some funny or cool stories, you’ll have something interesting to add in. Talking to new people will be much easier, thereby increasing your chances of making your own luck.

I’m sure you’re overflowing with interesting stuff that has happened to you if you make a little effort to recollect it.

 

7. Make a WIN list

While you’re creating your list of cool stories, make another list of your wins. These could be goals that you’ve achieved, but also could be times when you’ve been lucky – times when something good came out of an unexpected situation, like changing your mind at the last minute about what college you’ll go to, and then meeting your partner there. That sort of stuff.

If you make a list like that, you’ll prove to your brain that yes, you make your own luck, and you’ll be more likely to notice other cool opportunities that pop up.

 

8. Be open-minded

Okay, I’ll admit it. With enough experience, being open-minded can actually be tough. (Especially when it comes to investing.) It’s much easier to be stuck in a rut of “I already know everything” or “this is probably bad.” (Well, I guess there are enough bad actors out there to justify a cold shoulder.)

However, if you go into conversations and investment opportunities thinking negatively, then you will likely find all the reasons not to follow through. Having an open mind gives you a chance to see why something is worth it.

 

9. Challenge yourself

Routines are good. But allowing yourself to step outside what feels normal allows for changes that you wouldn’t have seen before.

Give yourself little challenges, bets, and dares like I challenge myself to make a new meal every night or I challenge myself to learn how to design a website and see where that takes you. It might take you on a much brighter path than the one you’re on now.

 

10. Be positive

Try to crank up that positivity. Over time, we get used to complaining or seeing the bad side of things (or at least the annoying side.) Give yourself a shake-up.

When you’re about to complain, say something positive instead. If you’re about to say no, try saying yes. The more positive you are about your circumstances, the more you’ll notice positive circumstances and make your own luck. You can also start by reading some positive inspirational quotes and go from there.

 

11. Be ahead of schedule

I actually struggle with this. I take on way too much and finish in the nick of time. Even as I write this, I can see my family playing outside in the yard, and I’m really wishing I finished this ahead of schedule so I could go have fun too.

In school, I remember seeing kids parked by a submission dropbox for assignments, looking for help. They weren’t great students. but they had the forethought to sit there to make their lives easier.

By not procrastinating and leaving everything to the last minute, you’ll have more time to make your own luck.

 

12. Save up

Pulling this back to finances, saving is another way to make your own luck. When you save, you have money, and when you have money, you can take on opportunities. Remember earlier when I told you about buying an investment property? I was able to jump on that opportunity because I was saving up.

Just last week, I was interested in a house for sale nearby but was $20,000 short on the cash for a downpayment, so I decided it wasn’t for me. A week later, it sold for less than I would have offered. If I had saved a little harder, I would be up a house right now.

It’s much easier to make your own luck when you have cash saved up.

 

13. Have an emergency fund

Every personal finance expert will tell you that you need an emergency fund in case you lose your job. But I have a better reason. You should do it to get rid of stress. Stress and luck don’t exactly go together. Knowing you have enough money in the bank in case you have a rough spell will let you be more daring in your career and finances.

 

14. Ask for a raise.

Asking for a raise is more than just about getting a raise. It’s about being the kind of person who goes for what they want. 

If you don’t ask for a raise at work, you almost certainly won’t get one. If you haven’t asked for a raise for years, you are guaranteed to be behind. Asking for a raise, or even just asking for a planned path to work towards a new title, can go wrong in very few ways, and go right in many.

 

15. Invest your money

Are you afraid of investing because of bad luck? The thing is, markets have ups and downs, but on average they grow over the long term. So make your own luck by investing your money.

The same way I invested in housing and made off quite well I think applies to all responsible investing practices. If your money is in the market, it could go up or down, yes but on average it will rise quite a bit.

Sitting out for fear of a down makes sure you miss those ups.

 

16. Be rich

This might seem like annoying advice at first, but being rich is more about keeping your money than having more money. This means saving what you earn, and investing what you save.

Along the same lines as having an emergency fund and being ahead of schedule, being rich is like being ahead of schedule on your money. If you don’t have money worries, you can take shots you wouldn’t normally have taken.

It’s the real way that the rich get richer. They know how to invest usually and have money to follow through when the time is right.

 

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