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How old will you be 10 years from now? 30? 40? 50? Let’s say 10 years from now you’ll be 50. That would mean you’re 40 now – 40 and poor and struggling to make money the same way you were struggling to make money at 30, the same way you were struggling to make money at 20. Doesn’t feel like decades have passed without bull returns? It doesn’t usually feel like much time is passing when you’re stuck in a rut. When things aren’t changing much it’s harder to appreciate the reality that time doesn’t stay unchanged along with your circumstances.
So here you are at 40 having the same financial picture as when you were 20, still wishing you had money, still wondering how to turn a few dollars into a few thousand dollars and starting to feel hopeless. But let’s imagine for the sake of making a point that when you were 20 you started saving a dollar per day. A dollar is not a lot of money. As poor as you and I are we can probably find a dollar lying around somewhere every day if we needed to find one. There are times while doing laundry that as many as $30 get retrieved from pockets, but that’s for another post about lacking respect for money. The point here is, most of us can afford to put away a dollar per day. “Put away” doesn’t mean put it in a lock box where you can access it when you’re short of cigarette money, although you could certainly do that, but you won’t be growing your money in the sense of multiplying what you put away. You’ll just be saving it in a lock box in your house and accumulating more of it as you save. By “put away” what is meant is to put your money in an account where it earns a monetary return.
So imagine if you were putting away a dollar per day every day since you were 20. By age 30 you would have $3,650 in an account somewhere collecting interest. By age 40 you would have $7,300 collecting interest. Without doing more than saving a dollar per day you could have made your money grow. And even if you were saving your money in a lock box under your bed and not touching it, your $7,300 could have served as a down-payment on investment property or a home for yourself if you didn’t own a home and were looking to buy one.
Most of us spend more than $1 per day on things we don’t need that fill a momentary impulse. If you kept tabs on the money you spend every day, at the end of the year you’d probably be shocked to realize you’re spending $500 – $1000 per year on things you didn’t need to buy. At $1000 per year, you’d have $20,000 in your lock box by now, or better yet in an account that is collecting interest. $20,000 is not a lot of money, admittedly, but it’s surely a whole lot more money than $0.
So what are you waiting for? Think it’s too late because you’re 40 already and 20 years from now you’ll be 60? Well 20 years from now you might find yourself age 60 right where you are now at age 40, where you were at age 30 and 20. Why is it impossible? Look at you now? Did you think 40 was going to find you still struggling financially, still with no money on the bank?
There are two things you should tell yourself right now:
1. There’s no time like the present
2. It’s better late than never
It’s time to stop being nonchalant and irresponsible with your money. To grow anything you first need to plant a seed. So let’s plant a seed and start growing some money the sure way.
During a recent discussion with a group of struggling entrepreneurs, the question “What is money?” came up. It was asked by a gentleman who was on the verge of quitting on his entrepreneurial ambitions. “All of this stress isn’t worth any amount of money,” he commented, then none too calmly asked, “What the hell is money anyhow?”
The interesting point of note was that no one at the conference table could provide more than a basic definition in trying to answer the question: what is money?
This particular group of business men and women was comprised of every day folks who are trying to do their own thing. No one was a student of economics per se; just a bunch of folks who didn’t want to keep working for someone else’s benefit and so started their own home-based business.
Everyone knows that money is what we use to trade goods and services. Someone has something you want, you give them money to get it. Once upon a time you might have given them something else you owned that they wanted badly enough to trade your item for their item; but these days money is the currency used in trading worldwide.
The word currency and the word money are not interchangeable. Money is an example of currency; but money isn’t the only type of currency, so you’re not necessarily only talking about money when you talk about currency. Currency is anything that is circulated as a medium of exchange, and money is circulated as a medium of exchange, therefore money can be categorized as currency the same way an apple can be categorized as a fruit.
The value of money is in the value of the goods that money is used to obtain. In her book “The Fountainhead” Ayn Rand’s character Francisco D’Anconia comments to a group of people who are arguing that money is the root of all evil, that money is a tool of exchange that can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them.
Money is just the thing you give to get the thing you want. If you want nothing then having no money won’t affect you except insofar as you need money to eat and you need money for shelter and clothing and other necessities. If you’re creative enough to manage to obtain food and shelter and any other necessity without needing money, then you can survive and be quite content without money.
No one needs money to be happy. Life is not more meaningful the more money you have. If that was the case there would never be a instance of a rich person committing suicide; but rich people kill themselves often enough to prove that having money doesn’t give life more meaning. Life might be more bountiful when you have money, but inanimate objects cannot evoke joy except where an individual has lost touch with reality. Money can enhance life, make your living circumstances more comfortable, where lack of it can make your living circumstances less comfortable; and in that way seeking to have more money makes sense if you seek to have a comfortable life and you define comfort in terms of expensive “things”.
But the value of money is in the “things” it affords, and the value of things often doesn’t amount to more than the money spent to obtain them. Indeed not all of the things having money affords are frivolous and materialistic. You can’t see a doctor without money for example. There are times when having money or not having money makes the difference between life and death; so money is without question important.
But the true value of money isn’t in the money itself. As D’Anconia puts it in “The Fountainhead”:
“…money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish but it will not replace you as the driver. It will give you the means for the satisfaction of your desires, but it will not provide you with desires.”
Did you spend money today on things you didn’t need? Maybe you’re addicted to cigarettes and bought a pack of cigarettes? You’d have to put that under things you don’t need because you don’t need the cigarettes technically. Your life won’t end if you don’t smoke. Far from it smoking can lead to your early demise. So maybe you bought a pack of cigarettes for $3.00. Then maybe you bought a pack of gum for $1.99, a bottle of soda for $1.00, a snickers bar for $1.00, another soda for another $1.00. You get the picture. Money adds up. $10 dollars wasted per day at 365 days is $3650.
Even if you have an issue with saving for the proverbial rainy day, lets say you’ve been wanting to buy a big screen TV for a good few years but you just can’t ever seem to find an extra $1500. Saving up for a TV for an entire year might seem like an eternal age of saving to you, but if you look at it like this, you’ve been wanting the TV for a few years but still don’t have it because the money just isn’t falling from the sky no matter how long you wait. If you’d been saving just half of the $10 you spend every day on things you didn’t need to buy, you could have already purchased the television set. Of course it’s just a TV and could also be classified under spending money on things you don’t need; but the point is, you’d have had the option to buy the TV if you’d forgone the chewing gum, the snickers bar and the two sodas.
When you spend your money on unneeded things, like snacks bought not because you’re hungry but because you were walking pass a vending machine and saw the snacks and figured “why not?”, you’re pretty much just going over to the company you’re buying from and putting your money in their pocket as if to say you know they love money and you don’t have any use for money so they can have yours and you’ll just take the snickers bar. What can you do with a snickers bar other than eat it and then expel the residue as waste?
Low income and poor people don’t tend to think of money in terms of saving and stretching and growing. When they get their hands on money they tend to spend it. They live with so much deprivation that any extra money they get their hands on goes to buy things they had to do without while they didn’t have the money. It’s the reason so many of the poor people who win the lottery, for example, end up poor again. They don’t really understand the value of money, not because they’re a bunch of fools, but because no one goes into poor communities to educate the poor about the value of money. For some reason, it’s thought that only people who have money need information on how to manage money and how to make money multiply. It’s assumed poor people are poor because they’re stupid. Being uninformed doesn’t make you stupid. One isn’t stupid who doesn’t understand what someone is saying who is speaking in a language with which they are not familiar. One simply doesn’t understand and would need to learn the language or else the speaker needs to speak in a language the listener understands.
While he did not elaborate I’ve been assured by Stanford graduate and co-founder & VP of Marketing for PBwiki, Ramit Sethi who maintains an excellent blog titled ‘I Will Teach You To Be Rich” which you can find at iwillteachyoutoberich.com that 50 is not too late to open an IRA. Sethi is quite well respected in his field and speaks at companies and schools on personal finance and entrepreneurship.
I will continue to dig to find out what someone who starts an Individual Retirement Account plan at or over age 50 can expect. I definitely think that low income people need to get more involved in managing their money and exploring options for growing their money because even they have options. They just don’t know they have options.
Poverty is only a trap because of lack of knowledge about options. Poor people aren’t talking about money except to complain about not having any because they don’t really understand any aspect of money other than how much of it they need to pay their bills and what’s going to happen if they don’t come up with what they need to pay their bills. They go along with the agreement that financial intelligence requires a college degree. In reality you really don’t need to go to college to acquire knowledge in any area. A degree proves you went to a university. It doesn’t prove you know anything. Poor and uneducated people buy into the mentality that knowledge is out of their reach unless they go to school which for one reason or another they cannot/will not do. Knowledge is all around and often free for the taking. You just need to want it. Knowledge is not for some but not for others. Knowledge isn’t something you have a right to because you’re special. Everyone is equally entitled.
The problem is, even in a formal school setting, information is not being delivered on a level that people can truly comprehend. Particularly with regard to the subject of money, in my own efforts to self-educate, what I find is that things aren’t being explained clearly enough for those of us who aren’t versed in the subject of economics to understand well enough to consider ourselves armed with valuable information. There’s an assumption that the subject of money is basic common sense, but when you start talking in economics terminology even college educated folks who didn’t specialize in economics or other finance related subject get headaches.
People aren’t interested in things they can’t understand. The more students grasp concepts the more interested they become in learning. We’re all students of life, and money is a big part of life for all of us. We should all understand how money works not just as far as knowing how much we need to come up with to pay our bills, or how much change we’re owed, or how many hours we’ll have to work to accumulate a certain amount.
We all need to understand from the earliest age possible that one of these days we’re going to have to take care of ourselves and we’re going to need money to do it and that things will come up in our lives, including a point when we’ll be too old to work, but we’ll still be responsible for ourselves financially, and if we don’t have any money we’ll end up living under a bridge somewhere. Because everything is controlled by money and the quality of the life we live from birth to demise is affected in some way by having or lacking money. And it’s in our older ages when we’re most vulnerable because no one is going to take care of us. Even nursing homes cost money; so it’s important to be prepared because everybody gets old, unless they die young.