I want to challenge you to rethink your beliefs about money and personal finances. Most people see money as a means of gaining power/influence, or for buying stuff. Politicians and big businesses see it as a means of achieving power or satisfying greed. The everyday consumer might see money as a means of filling the void of unhappiness with shiny objects.
I will say this with the most emphasis as I possibly can – if you want to be financially free, you must change your attitude about money. This is essential for finding happiness and living the life you want to live. For me, money represents… FREEDOM! I see every penny I earn and save as an investment in my freedom to do the things I want to do, and to live the life I want to live.
I want to challenge you to think about money in the same way. Even if only for the sake of applying the tools in this book and seeing for yourself whether they’ll bring you the happiness you’re after.
To start, let me share what the word freedom means to me:
”The ability to live the happiest, and most rewarding life I can, without causing harm or intruding on other people’s ability to pursue their own freedom.”
Pretty straight-forward right? I’m guessing this is a definition of freedom you’re okay with exploring. It kind of runs along the path of “treat others as you wish to be treated.” It’s about getting everything you want out of life without doing anything that keeps someone else from getting what they want. I think we’ll agree that this is VERY different than the competitive view of money most Americans have today. When you look at money this way, your perception of money and its pursuit automatically takes on an altruistic color.
The question is, how do you turn that philosophy into financial independence? We’ll talk about that in a second. First, it’s important to understand why this view of money is so powerful. Because I admit, at first, it sounds a little pie in the sky.
In today’s world, money is the most complicated concept or thing we’ve created that can create happiness or inflict misery. When used incorrectly, it can be a double-edged sword. This is why it is critical that you understand and master the concept of money. This starts with understanding your own motives for wanting money. People often confuse the desire for, and the pursuit of money as a form of greed. I both agree and disagree with this thought process. As I have pointed out, money equals freedom. So you must treat it as a very precious item that needs care and attention. If your primary focus is earning more and more money, at the expense of your aspirations for freedom and happiness, that’s a problem. Unfortunately in today’s world, greed has overrun governments, companies, and even the average Jane and Joe.
Here’s a way to look at money today as it relates to freedom. The more money you have, the more freedom you can have; the more freedom you have, the less money it takes to maintain that freedom. Let me explain…
Let’s say you owe $100,000 in student loan debt. Add this on top of all your other expenses, and you’ll need to earn more money than your expenses/debt to pay down your student loans. This stops you from going on vacations and from paying off other bills, etc. Every dollar you pay towards serving your student loan debt is one less dollar you have to invest in living the life you want to live.
Of course, you could move up in your career, make more money, and pay more towards the debt. After some years of hard work, you could pay off this debt. When this happens you instantly get access to more of your monthly income. This is as good as getting a sudden raise. So now, because you’ve eliminated the debt, you have more money to live your ideal lifestyle. This means more freedom to do the things you want to do. And the more monthly expenses you can eliminate the more available money you will have. When you look at it this way, getting rid of debt is just as good as getting a raise.
The problem is, most people are so saddled with debt and other meaningless expenses, they’re literally too “poor” to live the life they want. Even if they’re making a decent amount of money. So if you feel this way, believe me, you’re not alone. In fact, let’s look at some crucial facts that prove we have lost our way when it comes to how we manage our personal finances:
- Between 1995 and 2015, consumer debt has skyrocketed. From 2000 to 2017 it doubled to $3.7 trillion, which is in the neighborhood of $11,000 for every person in the United States.
- A GoBankingRates survey in 2016, conducted as three Google Consumer Surveys, each targeted one of three age groups: Millennials, Generation Xers, and Baby Boomers and Seniors and found one in three people had $0 saved for retirement and 23% had less than $10,000 saved for retirement. That’s 50% of Americans who have less than $10,000 saved for retirement!
- Another GoBankingRates survey in 2016, found that 69% of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings.
- As of late 2018 the United States Government is over $21 trillion dollars in debt–almost four times what it was in 2000. In case you’re wondering how this affects you, think inflation, cost of living etc.
- According to a 2018 article in Forbes Magazine, Social Security is already paying out more than it takes in and is on pace to run out of money in 16 years.
The above statistics and facts absolutely scare me and they should scare you as well. And if you think this is fear mongering, just look around at the people you know. How many of them are chained to jobs they’d rather quit because of their pressing financial obligations? How many of them are just two or three paychecks away from financial disaster?
It’s also worth mentioning that debt puts time against you. Every year you spend paying down debt is one year less towards saving for your future.
Obviously, we have a severe spending and savings problem in this country—starting from the top down. But don’t worry. This information isn’t meant to incite panic or make you curl up in the corner mumbling incoherently sucking on your thumb. I’m a firm believer in recognizing the problem and putting together a solid plan. But the first step of any clear and practical plan is to define the reality of your situation. Debt is killing us. The solution? Get free from debt, start saving money, and start pursuing freedom!
That said, let’s get a crystal clear look at why most Americans, in spite of living in the world’s richest country, aren’t winning financially…
Identifying The Problem
If you are serious about finding financial freedom and simpler living, you need to seriously analyze your financial obligations. Also, consider how you’re going to become debt-free. I say this because, if you can’t manage your finances now, you won’t be able to do it when living The Simple Life. Even if you get there, it’ll be no more than a mini-vacation, because you’ll be forced out of it by financial problems. This starts with discipline. Just like your health, financial discipline is essential for finding happiness and being truly free.
The negative Ned’s and Nelly’s will fight tooth and nail against this idea. They’ll insist that they don’t have a problem. Just like any addict they’ll make excuses like…
“I don’t need to change. I’m not like the rest of Americans. I’m healthy physically and financially.”
The problem is, most of them are comparing themselves to a nation of people who are sick and broke. That’s a bad standard. But statistics don’t lie. If you’re reading this book I would say with a high level of certainty that you are part of the population who needs to change their life and habits for the better. Comparing yourself to people who are worse off won’t help you do that. You have to set a higher standard, and make that your aim.
This means you need to have an open mind about where you are, and what we’re going to cover next. I know. It’s not all your fault. You and I have both made bad financial decisions. Just like everyone else. We are taught almost from birth to spend, spend and spend! The tools we need to be financially independent are not taught in school, or even higher education, which is ironic considering how expensive college is these days… Is this by design? I would say, to a large extent, yes it is. In fact, I have a saying when it comes to the health industry today…
The same is true for the financial industry. Think about it. What’s the best way to make money in the health industry? To keep us unhealthy and on a never-ending treadmill, chasing something we will never obtain. The whole time spending money we could be spending on other things. Think about the most expensive medical procedures, they’re all designed to diagnose or treat illnesses. Name one expensive procedure, which is designed to make a person (who isn’t already sick) healthier.
The same holds true when it comes to being financially free. The finance, banking, and credit card industry thrive on debt—which I’d equate to a financial illness. So what is there business model? Just like the health industry, they keep you spending, and purchasing things you do not need and cannot afford.
Most of the things we are told we must do in order to be happy today, are keeping is in a lifetime struggle to pay off debt. Thirty-year mortgages, five to seven-year car loans, student loans, credit card debt. It’s all designed to keep you in debt and paying interest so that banks can build bigger and bigger buildings on every other block in your city.
“There is no money in healthy people, nor in financially independent people.”
Healthy, happy and financially free people are, apparently, not the ideal consumer. If they were, we’d see an entirely different line of commercials and advertisements coming from the financial industry and the health industry. This is not to make you think of yourself as a victim. Rather, to show you that the people who you’ve likely been respecting as “financial experts,” aren’t interested in you becoming truly free.
You may be asking yourself, why I’m spending so much time focusing on personal/consumer debt, and not on investing and wealth building. Because I have found the best way to obtain financial freedom and success, is to get rid of debt, and live debt-free.
Have you ever wondered why those financial institutions who have created these tricky loans, also provide investment services? I don’t know about you, but that sounds like the fox guarding the hen house to me.
It’s like when the person at the Drive-Thru asks if you’d like to “Super-Size” your value meal. Believe me, they’re not doing that because they want you to be healthy. They’re trying to add to their “total revenue per customer.” Financial “service” providers want to add confusing investment products on top of their tricky loans for the same reason.
Another reason, I don’t talk about wealth building very often is that there are a ton of books on that subject. Unfortunately, most of them are full of bullshit. I know. I have read more than I can count. But even the good investing books are worthless if you’re too busy servicing debt to invest money. So again, being debt-free is the simpler and more effective solution. Once you have that problem solved, you can take the next step, on growing your wealth. No reason to put the cart before the horse, right?