I go to the gym every morning at about eight. There’s a guy who shows up every morning at about nine. He’s huge: big, buff, and tanned. But the thing is, while I’m lifting little tiny weights because I’m just starting out, he lifts little tiny weights because that’s his way of staying big and buff. Like me, he’s getting fit slowly.

Apparently, as I learned this morning, he’s also getting rich slowly. I forgot my iPod today, so I had a chance to hear the banter among the regulars. (It’s odd to think that I’m a regular, too, but I’m a regular who usually is listening to high-intensity dance music on his headphones.)

This man — whom the regulars call Elvis because he’s in a band — was explaining his personal finances. Among other things, Elvis revealed:

  • He doesn’t use credit cards. He only uses cash.
  • He works hard. He’s had eleven days off in the past eighteen months. He works eight hours a day, seven days a week. He’s not interested in working ten hours a day, five days a week. “I can walk all day,” he said, by way of metaphor. “But I don’t like to run.”
  • “Even after paying all my bills,” Elvis said, “I have over $1,000 left at the end of the month.” This, my friends, is positive cash flow, the power of which I’ve recently discovered myself.
  • “I have a slush fund for myself that has over $6,000 in it,” Elvis said. Good thing, too. He explained that he’s had over $10,000 in dental work done the last month, and his insurance only covers about 70%.
  • But Elvis isn’t just squirreling money away. He’s using it for fun, too. “I’ve been restoring an old car,” he said. “I need to get a new exhaust system for that. It costs a lot, but I can afford it.”
  • And, finally, he’s also been able to use the money to pursue a dream. He recently bought a recording studio. (At least, I think that’s what I heard him say.) “My father thinks I’m crazy, but I say ‘no guts, no glory,’” Elvis said. “This is something I’ve always wanted to do.”

I don’t know whether Elvis started working so much to pay off debt, but I do know that he’s making choices now that allow him to live a life he loves. This conversation lasted only a few minutes, and was held between sets of squats and curls. But it was fascinating to hear a complete stranger talk about the rewards of saving.

Just before I left the weight room, Elvis said something else that intrigued me. He was talking about his expensive dental work, and he said something like, “Before I began my transformation three years ago, I used to eat a lot of sugar.” He doesn’t eat as much sugar anymore, and he aims to lose one pound a week. I wonder what Elvis was like three years ago. Was he broke? Was he overweight? Maybe I should leave my iPod at home all the time — I feel like I could learn a lot from Elvis.

(Note: I debated whether to post this anecdote here or at my fitness blog, but ultimately decided it was more about money than muscle.)

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