The real measure of your wealth is how much you’d be worth if you lost all your money. ~Author Unknown
As I wrote about the fundamentals of personal finance success – and the fundamental truth of saving more than you spend to reach wealth, it’s important to recognize what that exactly means.
You can save all your money, live in your car until your debts are paid off, live at home and mooch – basically you can spend as little as possible now so you can have a lot of money in ten to twenty years, sleeping on a couch, eating ramen, and walking everywhere.
Or you can buy a car, live in an apartment, make your own lunch, buy used, and spend less than you earn. You can still have an occasional night out, party on occasion, go to Europe – it just means being mindful with your money. But how can you do this on a limited income?
Very easily. Cut out the unnecessary expenses. No cable, no memberships, no magazines. Okay, you want cable? Get basic. Skip the DVR package and the “VOD – only $10/month!” ‘deals.’ Go to the library. Read more. Go to the park to jog. Pick up some used weights on ebay or craigslist. The point is – be frugal not cheap. You don’t need a huge house that you can’t afford – I don’t care if you think you can afford it in a few more years, that’s moronic. If you knew tomorrow you were winning the jackpot billionaire lottery – but only made $26,000 a year now, and you were thinking of getting a new car/house/xbox/whatever – treat it as if you only had the $26,000. Oddly enough, I heard someone talking to a friend at an old apartment (back when I made $11/hour as a trainer):
You do not go out and buy a Bentley because you think you deserve one. You do not buy one because you think you can afford it in a year. The car does not make the player! When you are set, you will know you can buy the Bentley outright because you can get it if you want it, not because you need it.
There be wisdom in these walls! The guy who said it made a decent living in a factory, drove a convertible, and lived in off-campus housing. Cheap housing that allowed him to buy the material possessions he wanted. Not necessarily the best move financially, but wiser than buying a bentley, a mansion, and maxing out credit cards to give the illusion of wealth. You earn your lifestyle, you don’t choose it.
No doubt everyone’s heard of the guy who tried to flip houses by lying on his credit applications saying he made more money (which they made no effort to check or clarify, either). Here’s a stripper in 24 million debt because she wanted to quit her life and find a new way – and instead of researching she signed her life away, ruining her credit while the brokerage got to inflate housing prices. Do not be duped by easy money. There is no such thing.
Let’s look at it this way – you want to retire rich? Then set aside some money now.CNNMoney has a useful retirement calculator to help figure out how much money you want to live on and when you want to retire. There are a lot of factors involved, and it’s something you should always be working towards – so don’t think your plan is set from day one – it’ll need constant nurturing, but as you watch your retirement fund grow, you’ll realize it’s worth it. Just don’t put off your life until then – I’ve met many an old couple that says they wished they spent more money when they were younger to travel and do the things they can’t do because of their age – and seldom have I met an old couple that regrets traveling or managing their money for trips.
Just remember – manage your debt, spend less than you make, and focus on your long-term goals while keeping yourself satisfied and happy in the present. A delicate balance, but one that you (your loved ones) will enjoy!
(Read more stories of how other people paid off debt at Chris Pirillo’s blog)