All The Steps Ahead

Independent financial professionals have the power to exert a far greater impact on other people’s lives than any smartphone App or any device for the wrist. We shall soon see how.
Where my wife and I live there is a narrow mountain chain called “Big Ridge” that is part of the Appalachian Ridge and Valley range of East Tennessee. My morning routine involves a brisk walk up the ridge to about 160 feet below the top of the tallest kuppen. Now that we have brought new Fitbit accessories from sites like Mobile Mob to go with our Fitbit watches, we thought we might as well start using it properly this time and try and lead healthier lives.

From my driveway, which sits at approximately 1040 feet above sea level, the course takes me to an elevation of nearly 1340 feet. This is the equivalent of climbing the stairs of a 27-story building. Given that stairs usually are built for each step equaling 6.85 inches at the riser, and assuming 10 feet per floor, it takes me approximately 1850 steps to reach my goal. (Then, of course, there is the walk back down.)

You may know that the world’s longest stairway runs alongside the Niesen mountain railway in Switzerland. According to (, “There are 11,674 steps in all, and it’s only possible to hike them one day a year during the Niesen Run. It’s only a two-mile run but there’s 5,475 feet of altitude to climb!”

My simple exercise course is miniscule compared with that!

10,000 Step Craze
People all around me continue to look at their wrists to see what their device records as their daily progress toward 10,000 steps.

In Japan, in 1965, an inventor created a pedometer called a “manpo-kei.” The Japanese word means “10,000 steps meter.” The 10,000-step count caught on and these days everyone is talking about getting in 10,000 steps daily.

According to (, “Fitbit starts everyone off with a 10,000-step goal, and here’s why: It adds up to about five miles each day for most people, which includes about 30 minutes of daily exercise—satisfying the Center for Disease Control’s recommendation of at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.”

There Are Many Benefits of Taking 10,000 Steps a Day

  • Improved heart efficiency and aerobic capacity
  • Less fat accumulates
  • Lowers the blood glucose and insulin response after every meal
  • Better brain health
  • Improved discipline helps to form better habits
  • Reduced stress
  • Better sleep
  • Improved balance
  • Increased endurance

Steps to Financial Fitness
Question: Is it possible that something like 10,000 steps per day can be applied to a person’s finances to create a successful future?

Answer: Yes, there are simple strategies that will achieve positive results. Like 10,000 daily steps, the financial strategies that achieve predictable success all depend on the same principle: The cumulative effect of little things over a long period of time. This law, this universal principle, applies to all areas of life including physical, relational and even financial health.

For clients: Everybody needs to pay attention to universal principles. People need to know how to leverage the law of the cumulative effect of little things over a long period of time for their retirement planning, college planning and other financial goals.

For independent financial professionals: Properly presented, universal principles cause clients to make wise financial decisions. You need to help your clients make use of this law and, in so doing, build your success as they build theirs.

Step #1: Capture the power of time. Time is one tool most people neglect to use. When does it make sense to start a child’s college fund? At birth! When does it make sense to start saving for retirement? When earning the very first paycheck.

Example: Person A and Person B
Person A is 21 and starting her first job. She begins contributing $2,000 annually to a retirement fund. She does this for the next 40 years, never missing an annual contribution and makes a modest four percent rate of return over her working life until she turns 61. After 40 years, she has a tidy sum of $190,051.

Person B, also 21, delays setting aside money for old age until he turns 41. Knowing he needs to make up for lost years, he contributes $4,000 per year. After 20 years, again without skipping a year, and assuming a four percent return, he builds a retirement fund by age 61 equal to $119,112.

They each contributed $80,000 into their retirement accounts. What caused the $70,000 difference? It comes from starting early. The average person needs an independent financial professional to get them started before they feel the pinch.

Step #2: Leverage the power of the aggregation of marginal gains. I enjoy the writing and thought leadership of James Clear. His recent book, Atomic Habits, is something I would recommend to everyone to read, especially anyone who wants to make improvements in every aspect of his/her life.

Mr. Clear wrote:
“In 2010, Dave Brailsford faced a tough job. No British cyclist had ever won the Tour de France, but as the new General Manager and Performance Director for Team Sky (Great Britain’s professional cycling team), that’s what Brailsford was asked to do. His approach was simple: Brailsford believed in a concept that he referred to as the ‘aggregation of marginal gains.’

He explained it as the ‘one percent margin for improvement in everything you do.’ His belief was that if you improved every area related to cycling by just one percent, then those small gains would add up to remarkable improvement. They started by optimizing the things you might expect: The nutrition of riders, their weekly training program, the ergonomics of the bike seat, and the weight of the tires.”

If you are an independent financial professional, how can you put this concept to work for your clients?

  1. Encourage clients to slightly increase the principal in every monthly payment they make on their mortgage. This will save future interest payments and shorten the term of the loan. Assume you have a client who asks, “What if I pay $100 extra on my 30-year mortgage beginning with the first payment?” Assume a mortgage of $200,000, a loan rate of 3.5 percent and an extra $100 each month. The client will reduce the payments by 58 months and save $22,368 in interest.
  2. Help clients achieve slightly greater returns on their savings. Consider the difference that one percent can make:
    • A lump sum of $10,000 earning four percent over 40 years yields $48,010.21.
    • A lump sum of $10,000 earning five percent over 40 years yields $70,399.89.
  3. The timing of taxation can make a huge difference. Help clients take advantage of tax-deferral as one tool for bolstering returns. For example, if your client contributed $2,000 to a traditional IRA each year for 30 years and averaged a seven percent annual rate of return, assuming a 25 percent income tax rate, their traditional IRA would be worth $244,692 versus just $183,519 if the same amount was taxed along the way. (Of course, since a traditional IRA was used, your client will eventually pay taxes on the income deferred.) Tax-deferral and compound interest work magic over time.
  4. Show clients how to eliminate the down years (those years when their accounts actually lose money). By utilizing indexed life insurance and indexed annuity products, independent financial professionals help their clients discover the value of missing the worst-performing days in the markets. True, these same clients will also miss the best-performing days. The trouble is, a worst-performing day that yields a 50 percent loss requires a best-performing day of 100 percent gain just to get back to even. There is comfort in knowing that the negative days can be eliminated altogether!

The average person needs an independent financial professional to leverage the aggregation of marginal gains.

People are attracted by the idea of improving their overall health by taking 10,000 steps per day. By keeping active, do you know what will happen? They will extend their lives.

Question: How are they going to afford all the steps ahead?

People seek these outcomes in their financial futures:

  • Financial self-sufficiency
  • Never running out of money
  • Effective loan strategies
  • Greater returns on savings
  • Tax-advantaged growth
  • Security
  • Predictability

As an independent financial professional you can help your clients take advantage of core principles in order to make sound financial plans for their future. This includes capturing the power of time and leveraging the power of the aggregation of marginal gains.

Without your influence and coaching most people will not take these wise actions. Without you they will lack a proper plan, be less prepared, and may not be positioned to afford all the steps ahead.

You very well may prove to be more valuable to your clients than a device on their wrists!

Next steps:
Identify three clients you know who are not making use of the law of the cumulative effect of little things over a long period of time for their financial planning. Tell them you have been thinking about them, have a concern you want to address with them and need only 30 minutes of their time. Meet with those three, put the above concepts to work for them and then ask them to help identify three more people who are similarly ill-prepared for all the steps ahead.

CLU, ChFC, FLMI, ia a director, vice president, team leader, speaker and mentor for Global Leadership Partners.

For nearly four decades Murphy worked in the financial services industry, and has held positions in sales, marketing, product development, training and development, distribution, agency management, and recruiting. In his latest role he was responsible for managing National Account relationships. In this role he shared business leadership and practice management concepts with business owners, marketing organizations and independent financial professionals. He is a frequent contributor to industry trade journals and a keynote speaker at industry events.

After 37 wonderful years in financial services, it was time for Murphy to give back, to share with others the training, development and experiences he enjoyed by God’s grace, and encourage others who are just starting out or seeking to grow.

Global Leadership Partners identifies, equips and sends business leaders to speak at leadership seminars in partnership with organizations primarily in Eastern Europe, but eventually, around the world. The intent is to foster development of foreign leaders who will courageously stand for strong values and a high ethical standard. This work is based on the belief that the world will be a better place when filled with leaders who lead according to proven values and bedrock principles.

Murphy is a frequent contributor to industry trade journals and is available as a keynote speaker for life insurance industry meetings and training events. He can be reached by telephone at: 312-859-3064. Email: Twitter: