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Monday, August 8, 2011

How To Get Rich Quick!

The statement, "I can make you rich!" seems to be the biggest selling phrase in personal finance in our country.  I hope to reach people and teach them basic, practical personal finance practices so that the amount of debt in this country will eventually go down, but I know that what I'm offering is not what a large majority want.  They want me (or anyone else) to tell them the secret on how to be rich (without much work).  Or come to think of it, the secret to how to be beautiful, famous or fabulously popular to romantic partners.

What most people don't realize is those things are so subjective that most people will probably never realize when they are rich or beautiful.  Because those are things that can always be considered "never quite enough".  In fact, I witnessed one situation where even fame was never quite enough.  You would think that having people frequently ask you in public for your autograph would be a good indicator of fame, but even that was not enough for a friend of mine who was world famous, but apparently not quite as world famous as another friend of ours.  And that really bothered the first friend that he was not the quite as famous as the second friend.  In my opinion striving to be rich, beautiful, famous (or any other nebulous concept that can not directly be defined) is a black hole and once you step onto the event horizon of that being your main goal, you will forever be sucked into a vacuum of it never being enough.

The first secret to being fabulously wealthy is to come from a family that is fabulously wealthy.  The second is to be that rare person who not only has the talent and the drive but the luck and connections to hit the big time with an invention or your band or your book, etc.  Having spent over half my life on the fringes of the literary and music industries I can tell you with confidence that it takes a lot of hard work selling yourself to get to that point, along with a lot of luck and knowing the right people - which is half luck and half fortunate circumstance.  It is not easy and more than not will work very hard and never make it big.  It's the same with wealth.  If being wealthy was so easy that you could encapsulate it in one book or a series of blog posts or a convention or two, being wealthy would not be so rare.

Feeling like you are rich is a totally different story.  For example, if you looked at our finances and you came over to our house and you saw the cars we drive and the clothes we wear (yay for inexpensive stores like Old Navy and Target!) you would definitely not say our family is rich.  But in my opinion we *are* rich.  We have a beautiful house, functioning cars and appropriate clothes for the weather.  We can afford a few toys and to visit our relatives and eventually we'll have saved enough money to take the family to Hawaii someday.  It's all a matter of perspective.

When my daughter was a baby and I was taking time off work I kept up my bookkeeping skills by volunteering on the board of a few non-profits.  For a couple years I was in charge of finances for our neighborhood food bank.  If you don't think having everything you need makes you rich, spend a little time at your neighborhood food bank.  When I made that statement to one of my mom-friends her response was "Well, the people who go to the food bank are either crazy or drug addicts so that's why they're poor."  Actually, a year later the same mom's husband got laid off and couldn't find a job for over a year.  If they hadn't had the mom's huge inheritance to live off of they would've been at the food bank too.

Managing your personal finances is not just about knowing where your money goes and not spending more than you have.  It is also about being realistic about what you have and not constantly wishing for more.  If you have clean water, appropriate clothes, a secure roof over your head and enough to eat then you are so much farther ahead than a lot of people in this world.  And joy can be found wherever you are at financially.  I'm not saying you shouldn't aspire to higher goals, but it is easier to move forward when you are not desperately running away from where you currently are.  It's easier to move forward when you can be calm, have a plan and know that if the things that are out of your control don't go your way this time, you can always try again and it will be ok.

Today's homework is to look around your life and find at least five things in your life you are grateful for.  And when you find yourself feeling sorry for yourself because you can't afford something that you think you will be miserable without,  just remind yourself that is not you talking, that is a society filled with commercials telling you that you aren't enough and you need more.  It's just an illusion.  Try to find peace with who you are right now and where you are right now and then we can move on to higher goals from there.

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