Not a day goes by when I don’t see at least one ad for an ‘easy system’ which allows a stay at home mum of 2 small kids to make £3000 every day from the comfort of her own home whilst looking after her family.
I am father to
one small child two small children. I can’t even get around to washing the dishes when I’m looking after her them. These money making systems must be pretty efficient to cram such productivity in between naps, cleaning up spills and dealing with tantrums.
Obviously, the only way you can get rich using these get rich quick schemes is by selling them to other people.
Perhaps I’m being too cynical and the world is awash with people who magically make money using these ‘proven systems’. Either way, it looks like at least the concept of getting rich is attractive to a lot of people, otherwise the
scammers marketers wouldn’t put so much effort into promoting them.
So, lots of people want to be rich. And it appears that the commonly accepted meaning of that word is centred around the concept of acquiring (and usually spending) a lot of money.
I agree that being rich is desirable. However, I disagree with the definition of the word used by (it would seem) the majority of people.
A common mistake
This is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. I won’t reproduce the Wikipedia page here, but I suggest that you have a quick read around the concept to better understand what I’m about to say.
It is a model which describes how humans are driven to satisfy more basic needs before attempting to fulfill their higher-level requirements. For example, if you’re currently unable to breathe, you won’t be thinking too much about where you’re going to sleep tonight. If you haven’t eaten for two days, it’s unlikely that you’ll be thinking about what your ideal career looks like.
The mistake I see so many comfortably-off middle-class people make is to get stuck at the Esteem layer. They kill themselves working at soul-crushing jobs just so they can keep buying things to feel good. It doesn’t seem to work very well as most of them are still chasing the rainbow!
If your working life provides you with purpose and allows you to self-actualise, that’s fantastic news. However, if you only plug away every day so you can carry on owning an Audi and a big house because you think that these things give you self-worth, you may have inadvertently fallen into a trap.
You can be forgiven. Many of the brightest minds in the world make very good money working out how to keep people like you in the trap.
A good way of working out if you’re stuck trying to increase your self-esteem and social standing by earning and spending a lot of money is to try to finish the following sentence.
I think I would feel truly fulfilled if I spent most of my days…
If, for instance, you’re a private practice solicitor and you said
I think I would feel truly fulfilled if I spent most of my days chasing billable hours
then you might be on to something.
If, however, the sentence ends with something about
- creating things
- making something better
- learning about yourself
or similar (and you don’t currently fulfill this desire at work), perhaps you’re not spending the majority of your time in a way that aligns with your life purpose.
In my opinion spending your entire life making as much money as possible is not the route to being rich.
Being rich is being in a position to do those things which will allow you to self-actualise.
Maybe this will involve making shedloads of money, but maybe not.
The New Rich
Members of The New Rich agree with me.
Those of you who have read The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss, will notice that I’ve completely ripped off his terminology here. In that book, Tim describes a model for making a living which focuses on generating enough income to take care of the first 4 levels of Maslow’s hierarchy but leaving plenty of room in your life to break through to level 5 and self-actualise too. He describes people who set their lives up in this way as New Rich.
If somebody asks you
Do you want to be a millionaire?
You might say ‘yes’. But really, you probably just want to be able to do what millionaires can do, for instance working on a hobby on a Wednesday morning rather than being at the job you hate.
The path to being rich then is conceptually quite simple. You need to work out what it would take for you to self-actualise and then build a life which allows you to achieve it.
I am New Rich. I don’t have to work full-time to remain very comfortably off. When I do work for money, the work gives me lots of non-monetary rewards too. Most importantly, I have enough spare time to fit in lots of other things which don’t make any money, but do allow me to self-actualise.
For example, I write music and play in a band. Geffen Records won’t be calling to sign us any day soon but that doesn’t matter. I do it because I love it. If it ever paid a single penny, that would only be icing on the cake.
You can’t have everything though. Because I have discovered that chasing self-actualisation is the most effective way to live a rich life, I’ve also (happily) accepted that I’m unlikely to drive a BMW in the near future. We don’t own a big impressive house and you won’t recognise any of my clothes from the catwalks of Paris or Milan.
So, if not mindless consumption, what is money actually ‘for’.
What money will buy
This has all been a bit philosophical so far and I’m more of an actionable steps kind of guy so let’s talk about how to get rich. The sooner you internalise this one lesson, the sooner you will be rich:
Money is not for buying ‘stuff’. Money is for buying freedom.
I would add a further point from one of my favourite bloggers – Ermine over at Simple Living in Suffolk, that, in order to live a rich life, you need to consider the freedom that money can buy as ‘freedom to’ not ‘freedom from’. Rather than
I don’t have to have a job any more
Now I have time to work on my passion projects
Now, I’ve already argued that living a rich life isn’t all about the money. However, I also believe that money is the number one most powerful tool for building a life which satisfies your needs all the way up Maslow’s pyramid. You just need to learn how to use it appropriately.
This is easier said than done in the modern world for many reasons.
The majority of people follow certain money patterns. They have a job. They are paid roughly the same amount every month. They spend it all so they always have to go back to the daily grind to get some more. They have been convinced to get stuck at the Esteem layer.
A pay-rise is always seen as an opportunity for a bigger house or a nicer car but never for an increase in freedom to pursue what is important. If you don’t think like this, congratulations. You and I are part of a tiny minority who nobody ever listens to!
If you weren’t already persuaded to stick to the work-earn-spend-repeat cycle by the massive weight of everybody else’s opinion, you’d still have to compete with the billions of pounds worth of advertising floating around forcing home the message.
I mean, who wouldn’t want to be the attractive 30-something in the advert, driving the gun metal grey Mercedes around the (suspiciously quiet) streets of London as a symbol of her success and the ‘freedom’ it has afforded her?
Wake up. Now! Work out what your ideal life looks like and then take responsibility for building it.
Learn to use money properly. Learn to earn it flexibly, efficiently and on your own terms. Get some in the bank to catch you in case you fall. Save and invest enough to make sure that one day, you’ll never have to earn another penny. And, above all, use your mastery of money to break free and do what will really make you happy.
Remember, if you don’t put some effort into building a life around your own sense of purpose, somebody else will always be there to direct your efforts towards helping them to achieve theirs.
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[Images “Bentley Mark Vi ” courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net, “Cartoon Character Hamster Exercise” courtesy of saphatthachat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net]