The Long & Short of It

I’ve had a handful of great teachers in my life, and not all were school teachers. I met one of my best when I was 19 – Pete, the boyfriend of my older sister. Pete taught me many valuable lessons, but perhaps the most important was his unique view of the world that he called the long line and the short line.

“Some people see colors. I see lines.” This was Pete’s reply when I once told him I was tired of always struggling to make my monthly rent and asked how was it that he never seemed to worry about money.

“At first glance, I don’t notice a person’s race or skin color. I also don’t pay attention to what type of job they have, whether they have a college degree, or the car they drive. I could care less about any of that stuff,” Pete continued. “What I see instead are two types of people standing in two different lines. The first line is dreadfully long. It stretches for miles, twisting and turning, packed with people. For whatever reason, most people are standing in this line and many are frustrated, unfulfilled, or bored because they are stuck waiting. They’re waiting for a paycheck, waiting for a job interview, waiting for a break, or just waiting for a change. You name it and they’re waiting for it. This long line barely moves because of all the people, many of whom will never get what they’re waiting for or, if so, not for a very, very long time.

Waiting in Line — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

“But the other line I see is much shorter and without so many people. It moves quickly with a lot fewer hassles and delays. The people are more relaxed and at ease than the long liners. They’re smiling and in good moods, and some are even laughing. It’s almost as if they are breezing through life. The reason is that these people know how to manage their money better than the people in the long line. They also have a knack for getting around hurdles and avoiding setbacks. Some are born with this knowledge; others develop it over time. But whatever their backgrounds, short liners have the ability to overcome financial challenges. And whether it’s getting a good deal on a car, handling an insurance claim, paying off a loan, or even starting a business, these folks have figured out how to come out on top financially.”

So let me ask you the same question Pete asked me that day: Which line are you in? If you’re like I was, you’re probably waiting in the long line. If so, don’t feel discouraged because my goal is to get you into that short line. It doesn’t matter how much money you have at this moment, what your credit score is, what kind of job you have, or how old you are. It doesn’t matter, because more than anything else, getting ahead financially is about creating an attitude, a mindset that allows you to see opportunities when others see obstacles. I haven’t always been in the short line, but I changed my attitude and learned some skills to get out of the long line, and so can you. In the coming months I’ll answer your questions on a wide range of financial topics and related issues that I think will make you look at the world in a whole new way and get you started on the path to financial wellness.

So ask yourself: Are you ready for the short line?

Ask Dr. Per Cap is a program funded by First Nations Development Institute with assistance from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. This content does not constitute professional and/or financial advice, and Dr. Per Cap is not a licensed investment advisor. To send a question to Dr. Per Cap, email