I’ve been playing a lot of Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls lately. One feature that helps you collect better items for your character is being able to change the difficulty. The game boils down to killing monsters so that they’ll drop items for you to use to better kill more monsters. By increasing the difficulty from “normal” to “hard” (and ultimately “Torment”), the monsters become much more difficult to kill, but they also are more likely to drop high quality items.
I can’t help but see the parallels to investing part of your income. “How?” you ask? Let me explain.
Sadly, your day job probably doesn’t involve killing demons (or luckily, depending on how you see it). However, you do have monthly challenges to overcome: bills. Every month, you need to use your hard earned cash to pay for life’s comforts: food, shelter, transportation, and fun. On the easiest difficulty setting, you spend all of your extra money on fun after the other 3 more important categories. This doesn’t get you any closer to financial independence or retirement, but it’s a lot easier to enjoy that instant gratification. If you instead save some of that extra money and invest, life in the short-term is more difficult to enjoy, but you’ll reap long-term rewards.
The best items in Diablo 3 are called “Legendary” items. As you increase the difficulty, these are more likely to drop. However, it can still take a fair amount of playtime in that harsher difficulty before you see your reward.
Your difficulty setting is basically how much of your income you choose to save. If you can save 5% of your paychecks each month, life shouldn’t be too much more difficult, and you’ll be investing toward a stronger financial future. However, if you can save 50% of your paycheck, things get a lot harder, but you’re going to be working toward that “Epic Win” at a much faster rate.
Let me create a scale based on Diablo 3 difficulties to give you an idea.
Normal – 5% saved
Hard – 15% saved
Expert – 20% saved
Master – 30% saved
Torment 1 – 40% saved
Torment 2 – 50% saved
Torment 3 – 55% saved
Torment 4 – 60% saved
Torment 5 – 65% saved
Torment 6 – 70%+ saved
Just like in Diablo 3, it’s about finding the difficulty setting that is the most rewarding while still being comfortable. If you’re dying too much in Torment 3, then maybe it’s best drop it down to Torment 2. Similarly, if you’re getting too unhappy saving 40% of your income and wish you could spend some of that money on movie tickets or video games, maybe you’d be better off aiming to save 30% and treating yourself to some fun right now. Just remember, by reaching for that long-term gratification, you’ll be thanking yourself later in life.
The good news is that it gets easier the longer you play. As you get better items in Diablo 3, you may find that you’re capable of taking on the next difficulty level. When it comes to investing, each dividend stock you buy increases your income, so after a few months of saving 30% of your income, you might start making enough to keep the same standard of living while saving 40% of your income.
Right now, I’m probably closer to Master difficulty than Torment 1, but by the end of the year, I’m hoping to be able to reach that 40% savings rate.
How about you, what difficulty setting are you taking on in investing?