How to Cook a Frog and Build Wealth

You better have a plan to cook the frog before you catch the frog

I grew up on a dirt road with woods, fields and ponds surrounding my house. Some people might call where I grew up “a little country.” On summer evenings, I could be found catching huge bullfrogs in the pond behind our house. 

My grandma lived around the corner. She grew up on a farm in North Dakota during the Great Depression as one of 11 siblings. Her hardships and long life led to great knowledge. She shared this wisdom with her grandchildren. As a child, when she gave me advice, I listened.  One evening, when I was about 10-years-old, I showed my grandma one of the frogs I caught. She said to me, “Kevin, the best way to cook a frog is to gently place it in warm water and turn up the heat.  As the frog gets comfortable in the warm water, it will be too late to jump out by the time it realizes the water is boiling. If you throw a frog in boiling water, the frog will jump out.” I must have been a combination of fascinated and horrified by this piece of knowledge because I still remember her advice over three decades later. To this day, I don’t know if my grandma used to cook frogs on the farm when she was a child or if she was providing me with a little bit of sage generational wisdom.

As I was thinking about my grandma the other day, this memory crossed my mind. At that moment, I realized, cooking a frog is like building wealth.

Building Wealth

The energy, money and resources people use to try to find a quick fix and create instant wealth often find the elusive wealth has jumped out of the cooking pot. People who work hard, save and make good decisions over a period of time find that they achieve wealth. They slowly cooked the frog. This is a hard concept in an instant gratification society.

Of course, there are exceptions – winning the lottery comes to mind. 

I also know as you read this article, you’re thinking of a friend or family member who seemed to get rich quick. If you peel back the curtain and look at the source of the wealth, you find the true story. 

I have a client who just sold his business for several million dollars. I am sure many of his friends, family and colleagues looking at the situation from the outside believe he became instantly wealthy. What they don’t see is the risk and struggle he endured to start his business, hours of work put in, and hard decisions he had to make over the last 20 years to build a successful business. 

Another client inherited a large sum of money in a retirement account. The story is of her father — a blue-collar employee who went to work every day at a factory with the wisdom to start saving a small amount monthly into a retirement plan. After 40 years of saving whatever he could, he retired a wealthy man. Upon his death, he passed that wealth to his daughter.

Have a Plan

Being persistent over a long period of time is a large part of creating wealth, but there is another important component. Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” With the same theme, you better have a plan to cook the frog before you catch the frog. Wealth is built over time with a plan in place. For the business owner, it was an efficient process to grow his business with a well thought out succession plan. In the case of the blue-collar father, it was saving consistently over a long period of time with an appropriate asset allocation. Wealth can be stumbled on over time, but without a plan, there is almost always an opportunity cost lost.

Cook the Frog

While instant wealth is fun to think about, it is elusive.  Wealth looks like it was created overnight when it was actually created through years of hard work. Wealth has no limits to those who are willing to work hard and take a long-term approach.  Once this mindset is established, a plan is needed.  In the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

Wealth is like cooking the frog.  Create wealth consistently over time with a plan or it might just jump away.

Kevin McNab is the founder and president of ACE Wealth Partners.  Kevin has a Masters of Finance from the University of Colorado Denver and the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) certification.  ACE Wealth Partners is an independent, fee-only comprehensive financial planning, asset and wealth management firm.  Information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered investment advice or recommendations. Advice may only be provided after entering into an advisory agreement with ACE. 

For more information, please go to  Kevin can be contacted at or at (303) 301-2632

Categories: Finance