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This is part 2 of a 3 part series of posts called “The Exceptional Adult” where I break down my framework for personal development.

If you are starting here, I recommend going to part 1 and reading through it so you understand the foundational habits, which I will reference quite often in this article.

Read “How to be an Exceptional Adult by strengthening your mind, body, and bank account – Part 1”.

Have you started to sleep better, exercise more, eat healthier, and meditate?

The answer is yes. If the answer is not yes, go back to the first section and click on the link to re-read part one.

At this point, you have started building your Exceptional Adult foundation, which is great, because you will need the extra willpower to tackle what I cover in this article. 🙂

Here is a Table of Contents of Part 2:

  • The Exceptional Adult Guide to Money
    • Understand your financial situation
    • Reduce your expenses
    • Make more money
    • Pay off your debts
    • Invest what is left
  • Improve yourself as an Exceptional Adult
    • Don’t get rich if you can’t stay rich
    • Why learning new skills will keep you rich
    • Learn any new skill in 20 hours
    • What would an Exceptional Adult Learn First

The Exceptional Adult Guide to Money

Across my social media accounts, there is a phrase that covers all of my cover image areas. It is “Acquire knowledge and Improve.” This is a mantra that I live by.

In any area of your life that you need to turn around, all you have to do is acquire knowledge and take action on that knowledge to improve your situation.

That’s what we will be doing with your money.

Question – How much money do you spend each month? The exact amount.

Don’t worry; I’ll wait, but I’d bet you cannot answer that question off the top of your head. Bad news my friend. How can you hope to get rich when you have no idea where all of your money is going?

Exceptional Adults know exactly what they spend their money on, and why. This is the first step. It is time to acquire knowledge.

Get rich by understanding your financial situation

It is painful to go through all of your credit card statements and see just how much money we are spending. It is tough to stare at debt in the face. This is precisely why this section is on the second level of The Exceptional Adult Hierarchy of Habits. This is the big leagues.

If facing your money troubles is too much to deal with, you need to go back to Part 1 and work on the foundational habits. An adult that consistently gets enough sleep, exercises, eats healthy, and meditates is more than ready to tackle their financial situation.

If you aren’t there yet, you better get there.

A good place to start corralling all of your money information is to use an online aggregator like Mint.

I LOVE Mint. I use it several times a week to track how much money I am spending on everything. I have all of my pertinent financial information linked, so I can see the entire financial picture at once.

You need to do the same. You can do this by individually going through your bank statements, or by using another tool to track everything. All that matters is that you know how much money you’re spending each month, and what you’re spending your money on.

How much money are you spending in the areas below each month?

  • Mortgage or Rent
  • Student Loans
  • Utilities (Electricity and Water)
  • Cable and Internet
  • Food (Groceries, dining out, coffee shops, bars)
  • Transportation (car payments, car insurance, metro card)
  • Entertainment (Netflix, Movies, Concerts)
  • Shopping
  • Home Services (Lawn care, cleaning services, etc.)

We spend money on a lot of stuff! Losing track is easy. That is why I use Mint to track it all for me. I go in every week and look at all of my transactions, and make sure that Mint is categorizing everything correctly. I do this because it is essential that I know where my hard earned dollars are going.

Once you have an idea of how much money you are spending each month, we can now take a look at where you are overspending. This is where it gets fun.

Get rich by spending less

I live in Austin, Texas. My city is known for many things, including great food. So, it is not out of the ordinary that I have overspent on eating out more months than I care to remember. It was a serious problem for my waistline, and bank account.

All of us have areas like this in our spending habits. Places where we can cut back without affecting our overall quality of life.

Get Rich Ben Franklin

It’s so true. Getting rich starts with controlling what we spend money on. You can make 25 million dollars a year, and still be broke if you spend 25 million dollars a year. Humans have a bad habit of spending as much or more than we make each month, regardless of how much money we are making.

When I lived in college, I worked minimum wage, and somehow I made that work. I can remember eating nothing but bread, peanut butter, and eggs for months. These foods were dirt cheap, and I did not have to drive my car to get them once I’d been to the grocery store once.

This is an extreme example, but if I still forced myself to live that way now, I would be keeping several hundred dollars in my bank account each month.

If you aren’t rich, cut out the nonessentials

Ask yourself the following questions.

  • Do you need to go out and drop $25-$100 at bars and clubs each week? Nope.
  • Do you need to spend $50-$300 on clothes and shoes each month? Nope. Even if you think, you do.
  • Do you need to spend $120 a month on cable? Hell no. Don’t you already have Netflix and every other streaming service?
  • Do you need to eat out every day for lunch? Nope. That’s $50-$100 a week you get to save.
  • Do you need to drive a super nice car? Nope. Not unless you are rich. Even then it’s still nope.

I think you get the idea. I could write an entire blog post about how to cut expenses across your whole life. For now, focus on one critical area, like eating out less often, or canceling your cable TV. Over time refer to this list to cut out more expenses.

Get rich by making more money

This is probably the section most of you can relate to. This section is worthless if you don’t control your spending, though, so please take the time to reduce your spending before you do anything else.

Alright, so you want to make more money eh? Of course, you do.

Question: How many streams of income do you have?

Rephrased Question: How many different people pay you each month?

If you have one job and one paycheck, that just won’t cut it. Sure you could get raise, or sell more stuff to increase your commissions, but you are still relying on one source of money. That doesn’t scale.

My first piece of advice is to make money from more than one source. Ideally many, many sources. I will give you an example.

Hypothetical sources of income for Garrett:

  • Normal paycheck from job
  • Rent payments from roommates
  • Paycheck from consulting work done on-the-side
  • Online book sales
  • Affiliate income for recommending books and services to people

In the above scenario, I have five different revenue streams. If I get fired from my job or need to quit, I don’t get hit hard financially, because I still have four other paychecks coming in.

This should be your primary goal. Find another way to make some money each month. One of the easiest ways to do this is to offer up a skill you have as a service that other people might need.


  • Writing, blogging
  • Website development
  • Video Editing
  • Photography, photo editing
  • Driving people around (Uber, Lyft)
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Email Marketing

The list is endless. You could offer the same services you do at work to other people even, assuming you aren’t under contract at your job.

No excuses about not having any of the aforementioned skills. The second half of this blog is devoted towards learning and acquiring new skills. Use that section to learn a skill other people need and start charging them for it.

Sites to get you started selling you skills and services

Get rich by reducing your debt

At this stage, you have hypothetically reduced the money you spend each month while increasing the amount of money you make each month

Now your finances look like this

  • Expenses – $2000
  • Income – $3000
  • Left over – $1000 (well done :P)

Look at you being a badass. What are you going to spend that money on? Shoes? A new phone?

NO! You’re not a mediocre adult anymore. You’re on the path of the Exceptional Adult, and you know better. Exceptional Adults hate being in debt, even more than the mediocre adults. So an Exceptional Adult is going to use their surplus cash to pay off any and all debts they owe.

If you owe debt on any of the following:

  • Student Loans
  • Credit Cards
  • Mortgage
  • Car Loan

Then you are in debt, and you should stop that.

But hey, you have $1000 each month to tackle that debt with now so where should you start?

You are going to start by paying off the debt with the highest interest rate. Then you will move on to the next highest interest rate debt. Then so on, and so forth. Doing this drastically reduces the amount of money you will spend over time.

This example also assumes that the minimum payments on all of your debt were covered in the $2000 of expenses mentioned above.

Decrease costs. Increase income. Eliminate debt.
You are getting closer and closer to becoming rich.

But wait, there’s more!

Having cash laying around will not do you much good, especially when that money could be growing non-stop.

Get rich by investing

In all honesty, this is the only real way to become rich. I fooled you all.

Reducing expenses, increasing income, and eliminating debt were just the ways to stop being broke. For most of us, that IS being rich.

Once you aren’t broke anymore, the next step is to avoid being broke ever again. To do that we need to take the extra money we have left over each month and invest it, so the money starts working for us and grows.

I have written an entire blog post about investing, so I won’t rewrite the post. The article is a beginner’s guide to smart investing and should be learned by everyone reading these words.

The Exceptional Adult Guide to Learning

The first half of this post is about how to improve your financial situation. This half of the post is about how to expand your knowledge and skills. This is a section where you learn to invest in yourself :D.

Why is this so important? Because learning creates growth, and growth begets happiness. It’s also important because it reduces the chance that you will ever be without the skills needed to earn a living.

Even if you become a billionaire, one of the only ways you can maintain happiness is through growth. Growth has no limit, so no matter how much you accomplish in life, you can always grow as a person, a friend, a lover, a spouse, a business person.

In a less philosophical context, the more you know, the more value you can add to others, and the more ways you can make money. The world is always changing, and the demands of the consumer are always changing. If you build a habit of learning and acquiring new skills, you will never be left without the knowledge or skills to earn a living. Exceptional Adults relish the idea that they can reduce their risk of going broke to almost zero.

“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest” – Benjamin Franklin

Learn any new skill in 20 hours

That’s right, in the same time you’d spend working a part time job each week, you could also thoroughly learn a new skill that could make you money.

I’m sure you have heard of the 10,000-hour rule, popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, where he states that true mastery of a skill takes 10,000 hours.

This is technically true but grossly misunderstood. See, what happens after 10,000 dedicated hours at a skill, is that you becomes one of the best in the world. Total mastery. This is most commonly on display with master musicians or professional athletes.

But to truly learn a skill well enough to know it better than most people? That just 20 hours of dedicated time. You see in our day and age we can skip much of the learning process by taking Smartcuts or learning from the masters themselves.

Don’t you think you could learn how to write great stories much faster if you learned from great Authors like Stephen King or James Patterson? Damn right you could. Well, Stephen King wrote a book On Writing, and James Patterson teaches a Masterclass course on the subject.

There are resources out there to put you on the fast track of learning ANY new skill. Thank you, the Internet.

Breaking down the 20 hours

This is a system I first learned from an author named Josh Kaufman. 

1. Deconstruct the skill


What this means, is you need to take some time to understand what the skill entails. For web development, that means you will need to learn HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. HTML and CSS are structural languages that are traditional very easy to learn. They are also used very closely in conjunction with one another.

To break this down further, there are HTML tags and CSS elements that are used far more commonly than other tags/elements. Focusing on learning these most commonly used tags/elements will drastically improve how effective you can be as a new web developer.

Another example, which Josh Kaufman uses, is playing the ukulele. He points out that a vast majority of songs can be played on the same four chords, so focusing on learning those four chords can allow you to play a huge number of songs very quickly.

A final example: languages. For most languages, 20% of the words are used in 80-90% of all conversations. The same can be said for the most common of phrases in any language. Learning these words, and the phrases most closely associated with them can take you a VERY long way towards becoming conversational in a language. Powerful stuff.


2. Learn enough to self-correct


A common mistake many people make when trying to learn something is to load up on courses and books on the skill. Then they commit to taking all of the courses and reading all of the books before actually doing anything. This is procrastination. You’re over planning and putting a lot of “learning” between you and taking action.

It is far more efficient to put into practice what you learn immediately so that you can self-correct as you continue to learn. Solving problems in a new skill area will further cement that skill into your brain, further decreasing the time it will take to be proficient.


3. Remove practice barriers


I am referring to your cell phone, your television, and the people in your life. Properly learning a new skill requires focused attention or the material will never sink in. Practice barriers like your phone are the primary reason you don’t remember the coursework you took in high-school or college.

You were probably using your phone to continuously change the focus of your brain. This can’t happen if you want to learn the skills needed to stay rich. Exceptional Adults at this stage have acquired the willpower required to sit down and focus on learning

If you can’t concentrate, I suggest sitting down and meditating for 5-10 minutes and directing your meditative thoughts towards the learning you need to do. This works for me. Otherwise go back to Part 1 and work on these four habits once more. Grow that willpower!


4. Practice for at least 20 hours


Just like the header says. If you follow steps 1-3 for twenty quality hours, you will be astounded at the progress you make. I certainly have been.

Twenty hours equates to

  • 45 minutes a day for a month
  • 5 hours a weekend for a month
  • 5 hours a day for a week

Find the time frame that works for you.

What would an Exceptional Adult learn first?

Every Exceptional Adult is different. Remember, an Exceptional Adult is not exceptional because she is better than he peers. She is exceptional because she has chosen to improve her mind, body, finances, and skill sets in a way that would not have been possible before now.

That means that what skills you should learn are unique to you. The final tier of The Exceptional Adult Hierarchy of Habits is Self-awareness and will be covered next week in the final installment of this 3 part series.

There are, however, certain knowledge and skill areas that are quickly becoming universally useful. So I will list them out below.

Acquiring knowledge, skills, and experience in any or all of the following areas will significantly impact your financial well-being ;).

  • Interpersonal Communication – Devastatingly important for all human interaction
  • Personal Finance – Conveniently covered in the first half of this blog, the basics anyway 😛
  • Writing – All forms from copywriting to long-form prose. See a list of my favorite books on writing
  • Web design – The ability to make a website look pretty
  • Web development – The ability to make that pretty website function properly
  • Digital Marketing – Selling valuable stuff to people on the internet


The end of Part 2, and the start of Part 3

If you’ve made it this far, you are very close to being a truly Exceptional Adult. Someone that has strengthened their body, mind, and bank account on their journey of self-improvement.

These life-saving systems and habits will become your most valuable tools. Use them day in and day out to dramatically alter your life’s trajectory from the mediocre to the exceptional.

Tools, by themselves, are not enough, though; tools need to be used to build great things. Tools need YOU to put them to work. To create the Exceptional Life that I know you deserve. The question is…
What does that life look like for you?

This is where Part 3 comes in – Self-awareness.

Once again, I will be sending out Part 3 in one week and will be distributing it to my email subscribers before anyone else, so if you want the final article in this series before anyone else, please subscribe below.

Thank you for reading, and please share this with any friends or family you think would benefit.


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