7 lessons you could learn from the Wright brothers to help your finances soar

by Team

December 2023 marks 120 years since the Wright brothers made their first flight in a Kitty Hawk in North Carolina. The flight lasted just 12 seconds but proved sustained flight of a heavier-than-air machine was possible and cemented Orville and Wilbur Wright’s names in the history books.

The Wright brothers have become synonymous with aviation and opened the door for modern air travel. While known for their success in flying the world’s first motor-operated plane, their approach could provide some useful financial lessons too.

1. Set your sights on a goal

A goal can provide the motivation you need to be successful, and it certainly drove the Wright brothers to make progress even when they faced setbacks.

In 1899, the Wright brothers started testing flying machines at a time when many people said it would be impossible. In fact, just nine weeks before the historic flight, the New York Times declared it would take between 1 million and 10 million years to develop aeroplanes.

Your goals don’t have to be as lofty as those of the brothers, but setting your sights on a target could help drive your financial plan, whether you want to retire early, be in a position to gift money to loved ones, or launch your own business.

2. Don’t expect overnight success

While the Wright brothers are known for their success, there were plenty of setbacks too.

During their early experiments, they identified three key roadblocks – a lack of a way to control the aircraft, an efficient wing design, and a propulsion system to power the flight. Rather than these challenges knocking them off course, they set about problem-solving.

Whatever your goal, you might face setbacks along the way and a long journey to reach it. Remember, success rarely happens overnight and small steps in the right direction are still progress.

3. Choose a method that’s right for you

The Wright brothers didn’t follow conventions when they were carrying out experiments. While other aviation enthusiasts focused on engine power, they instead prioritised the pilot control system.

While both these components were essential for a successful flight, the different perspective could have been instrumental in their achievement.

It’s a useful reminder that following the crowd doesn’t always deliver the best outcomes. So, next time you’re tempted to use your money in a certain way because everyone else is, ask yourself: “Is this the right option for me?”

4. Track what’s working (and what isn’t)

The Wright brothers tested their designs for plans in a wind tunnel to gather information. To create a design that could fly, they tracked what worked and made adjustments. In 1901, it’s estimated they tested between 100 and 200 wings in the wind tunnel alone, which allowed them to fine-tune their design.

Regular financial reviews could help you track what’s working for you, and where adjustments could be useful.

5. Take measured risks

Becoming the first people to fly certainly comes with risks, not least the chance of crashing. But the Wright brothers carefully analysed risks and didn’t unnecessarily put themselves in danger.

They were disciplined during their early flights. For instance, they limited how high they’d go during their earlier experiments, which were often conducted on the beach to provide a softer landing.

To make the most out of your money, you might benefit from taking risks too, and you could learn from the Wrights’ approach.

Their view of risk was prudent but not overly cautious. They understood the risks associated with flying and took what steps they could to reduce them, but were aware that measured risks were essential if they were to log the hours in the sky they needed to achieve a breakthrough.

Investing could provide you with a way to grow your wealth, but as all investments carry some risk, you need to balance risks and potential rewards – an approach the Wright brothers handled exceptionally well.

6. Government support alone might not be enough to secure your goals

Aviation pioneer Samuel Langley was working on his flying machine at the same time as the Wright brothers, and some believed he would achieve the goal first.

In fact, he received a grant of $50,000 from the War Department based on the success of his models, as well as financial support from the Smithsonian. In contrast, the Wrights self-funded their experiments. Yet, it’s the Wrights whose names are remembered.

While government support can be incredibly useful, it’s not the only ingredient for success. It’s a lesson that rings true when you’re planning for retirement too.

You might be entitled to a State Pension, which could provide you with a reliable income throughout retirement, but it’s unlikely to be enough to secure the lifestyle you want alone. Instead, it will usually need to be combined with other assets.

7. Know when you’d benefit from expert advice

The Wright brothers didn’t work on their projects alone and they didn’t shy away from seeking advice. When they needed it, they asked for help from specialist engineers, weather experts, aeronautic professionals and more.

It’s an approach that helped them hone their knowledge, build new skills, and, ultimately, successfully fly the world’s first motor-operated plane.

The importance of recognising when you’d benefit from expert advice throughout your life could be invaluable too. In terms of finances, an expert could help you identify the tax breaks that are right for you, how to invest with your goals in mind, or how to create long-term financial security that offers peace of mind.

If you’d like to talk about how we could assist you when creating a financial plan that matches your goals, please get in touch.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

The value of your investment can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.