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How to Instantly Add 8.2 Years and $133,369 to Your Life

Welcome MSN, Bankrate, and Seattle Times readers! There are a whole lot of new riskologists around today. I’m so happy to have you in the club.

It’s pretty amazing how much difference one little change can make in your life when you commit and stick to it. Just like tucking a little money away each month when you’re young can leave you with a small fortune at retirement that you hardly had to work for, the compound interest from other little life changes can reap similar benefits.

This is something I learned from JD Roth, who I consider a personal finance hero, when he pointed out in his book that “the small things matter, too.”

Of course, this philosophy comes with it’s share of naysayers, often smart folks themselves. Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You to Be Rich is practically famous for telling people to quit worrying about saving on the small stuff and focus on the big things that matter.

I can respect that, but have you ever heard the story about American Airlines saving $40,000 a year just by putting one less olive on their first class salads? And that was back in 1987.

That’s a huge difference for what amounts to a very small change. Those are the kinds of changes that really excite me.

That’s the kind of little thing I’m going to tell you about right now.

It’s not the easiest change you’ll ever make, in fact, for some people it’s as hard as quitting smoking, drinking, or even heroin, but nonetheless, it’s a decision that takes literally seconds to make and can add 8 active years to your life and over $130,000 to your bank account.

No joke. That’s something I’m willing to take a risk on. Are you ready to hear what it is?

Cancel your cable and kill your TV.

Yep. That’s all there is to it. No complicated 12 step plan or other mess. Just give your TV to Goodwill (or better yet, smash it to bits), then call your cable company and say you’re done with their extortion. You should actually use that phrasing, but make sure you clarify that you want to cancel your service because the operator is probably too brainwashed to know what you mean.

At this point, you’re probably pretty skeptical about that claim I just made. I admit, it sounds pretty outrageous and I was skeptical too when I first started working out the numbers. But it’s actually true.

In fact, I hate outlandish claims so much that I was ultraconservative when I did my calculations. I’ll quickly explain them right now, so if you’re not a numbers person, just skip down to the next section where I explain why you should cancel your cable even though your initial reaction is probably, “Yeah, no thanks.”

Still with me?

Okay, here’s my super conservative breakdown of how I got to 8.2 years and $133,369:

The average American watches 5 hours of TV every day. I’ve assumed 4 because Riskology.co readers are too busy kicking ass to watch 5 hours a day. That works out to 28 hours a week, 120 hours a month, and 1,460 hours every  year. That’s over 60 days – 2 months – of your life, every year, watching a box of colored light.

Ok, got that? Let’s move on.

The average American lives to be 78 years old. I’ve assumed a conservative 75 just in case a few of us step on a land mine, fall off a cliff, or eat too many Happy Meals. If you’re 25 like me (and like most readers here), then that gives you 50 years without TV if you turn it off today.

At 60 days a year, that’s more than 8 years of your life that you can spend doing something more productive than watching sit coms. You can add 8 active years to your life just by making one tiny decision today.

I think it’s worth it just for that, but lets move on to the money:

The average monthly cable bill in the U.S. is $75. I’ve assumed $70 because, well, $75 just seems too expensive. If you’re 25 and cancel your cable today, that’s $42,000 over your life for 2 minutes of your time.

Now, take that $70/month and put it in an investment account that averages 7% each year in interest (reasonable estimation), subtract 3% for pesky inflation for a real return of 4%, and that’s $133,369 fifty years later. Amazing, huh?

But I like TV! <–Math haters start reading again here–>

Of course you like TV. I like it, too. It’s a distraction that creates a fantasy world you can live in, even if for just a little bit. It takes you to a place where dreams can seem real and all our problems go away.

Unfortunately, though, just like cigarettes and heroin – things I’m sure I’d enjoy if I used them – the escape they provide is temporary and when you’re finally forced to turn off the TV, real life is right there waiting to confront you again.

It’s not that TV isn’t fun, it’s that life itself can be a lot more fun. I don’t mean to sound like one of those new age hippies that’s all “high on life” or some BS, but it’s true.

Life can be so much more enjoyable when you kill your TV. I’ve been without one for almost a year and can say it’s made a huge difference in my life. I’ve quit my old career and started a popular new website. I’ve turned my health around and gotten back in great shape. I’ve even gotten out of the house and met all kinds of new, amazing people that I’d have never met otherwise.

Let’s cut to the chase, though. TV is fun because it lets us imagine what the perfect life could be like, but you can’t actually achieve that life as long as you’re watching it.

Just think of the things you could accomplish in your life if you had 8 extra years and $42,000 or even $133,000 or more to make it happen. You could:

  • Start and even self fund the next Google or Netflix. How many chances could you give yourself to succeed if you knew you had time and money on your side?
  • Climb Mt. Everest. Very few people will ever stand, quite literally, on the top of the world because that’s about how much time and money it takes to do it these days. If you gave up TV, you could be one of the few.
  • See more than half of the world. My friend, Chris Guillebeau, did the math and realized if he gave up the idea of a $30,000 SUV, he could afford to visit 65 countries. Then he decided to visit every one in the world. He’s given himself 5 years to do it. You’ve got 8.
  • Give an entire village clean drinking water. Charity: Water drills wells in Africa & beyond to provide the impoverished with clean water that fuels better health, longer life, and even helps build healthy economies. Kill your TV and you could donate enough to provide 1,400 people with clean water for their entire lives.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, too. Here’s a list of things I’m working on.

So here’s what I want you to do:

First, I want you to call your cable company right now, cancel your account, and tell me in the comments what you could do with an extra 8 years and $133,000 tacked onto your life.

Then, if you enjoyed reading this, share it on Twitter, Facebook, or anywhere else you might hang out.

Finally, if you want more info like this, go sign up to get free updates and my 5 Risks That Made History email series.


Bonus Lesson: This is a persuasive article. If you read it, you probably got the feeling that I really wanted you to take action by killing your TV and doing something more productive. There are a lot of ways I could go about this, but I used two tactics that make this piece more compelling:

1) I used a positive argument instead of a negative one by telling you what you could gain from giving up TV instead of what you’re already losing. When you want someone to listen to you and change the way they act, you’ll be far more effective by appealing to hope than fear. Empowerment beats guilt every single time.

2) I used specific figures and showed proof. I showed you the exact math I used to build my argument and explained how I went about it. It would have been easier to just say, “You can add 8 years and $100,000 to your life. Just trust me.” but that wouldn’t have been very believable. Also, I gave the people who did want to just believe me a way to skip over the details.

3) I made a strong call to action. Once I was done explaining my point, I said, “Okay, here’s what I want you to do now.” It might seem obvious to you what you want them to do, but when you end an argument by actually asking for a specific action, you’re far more likely to get it.

Image by: hellabella