Friday, April 25, 2014

Why I'm Not Rich


A friend practically assaulted me recently with his negativity.  Perhaps he was just being friendly and making conversation, but he was discussing the odds of being rich.  According to him, the odds are astronomical due to the top ten percent owning 90% of the wealth in the United States.  Perhaps it’s true.  Every morning I go to work and I see scores of people who are struggling to make ends meet.  I know friends who are struggling as well.  And I’ve been struggling myself.  Still, I don’t believe the reason that I’m having financial difficulties is because the wealth is limited.  It’s not impossible that the majority of wealth is controlled by a minority of people, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t still a lot to go around.
So why aren’t I rich?  Why aren’t more people rich?  All I have are ideas, but I think they are worth considering.  I’m going to use the pronoun “I” but this may be helpful to others.  Here are my theories:
1.      I don’t know how much.  What is rich?  Is it $100,000 or $1,000,000 or $10,000,000?  I read somewhere that people are no happier after making $750,000 than they would be making $1,000,000.  So what amount would make me rich?  I have a certain amount in mind for myself.  Others might want more or less, but I think it’s important to decide on a number.
2.     I don’t know why.  Yes, I’ve heard people say, “If I were rich, I’d retire and sit on the beach for the rest of my life.”  The rest of that life might not be very long, considering the number of people who die shortly after retirement, especially those without a specific purpose.  I want a house on the beach, not so I can retire, but so I can work and so I can spend my life with my Muse.  If I didn’t have to work for a living, I would still work for a living.  I might even do some of the things I’m doing now. But I would also write every day.  I would start my days off in a more leisurely fashion.  Some of my money would go to my daughters’ education, some of it to charities and some of it to sustain a lifestyle that allows me to write every day.  I’m very clear about why.
3.     I don’t know how.  The number of people who win the lottery and then go back to their original income levels (or below) is disturbing.  Many people simply don’t know how to manage wealth.  Even the seemingly largest amounts are finite, as many now-broke lottery winners could say.   Managing wealth is a skill that involves more than spending.  It involves saving and investing.  It is, as I said, a skill, and even those who are born with this skill, have things to learn and can make mistakes. 
4.     I don’t know where.  Actually, I do.  I know exactly where I would live, and where I would travel.  But even that would have parameters.  My primary residence would be my house on the beach.  I would spend as much time there as possible.  From what I’ve read, however, a lot of people assume they need to move into a large house or a mansion and buy other expensive things.  They believe their spending needs to be commensurate with their income.  I don’t.  In The Millionaire Next Door, by Stanley and Danko, the authors’ premise is that many actual millionaires live well below their means and that, according to appearances, they aren’t rich.  I don’t need or want to live in a mansion.  I want my house on the beach.  That’s all.  That’s enough.
5.     I don’t know who.  In order to manage wealth, I need to understand two things – myself and other people.   Who am I?  Money, and how I manage, or mismanage it, says a lot about who I am.  I also need to understand who others are.  I once made some people very close to me angry because they were under the mistaken impression that I had become wealthy and I wasn’t sharing it with them.  Perhaps all of us feel that if someone close to us does well, that they are obligated to share it with us.  This is wishful thinking.  This not only happens with money, but with expertise.  I’m embarrassed when I recall how many published authors I’ve asked to help me, simply assuming they had nothing better to do than help a stranger for free.  Money, like stress, doesn’t change people and it won’t change me.  But it will show who we really are.

So I’m not rich yet, but I’m working on it.  More importantly, I’m working on myself.  I’ve learned to Get Started and to Keep Going, and I’ll keep doing that, even when I’m rich.