A couple of readers forwarded Jeffrey Strain’s list of 10 reasons you aren’t rich. It’s a fine piece, though it takes a negative approach. Sometimes we need to hear the negative. Strain’s ten reasons (with my commentary):
- You care what your neighbors think. It’s not a competition. Who cares if your best friend just bought a BMW? What does it matter that your sister dresses her kids in designer clothes? You know what’s best. Live below your means.
- You aren’t patient. “Until the era of credit cards, it was difficult to spend more than you had. That is not the case today.” We’ve also come to love the dream of quick riches. But, as the name of this site implies, if you have patience, you can obtain wealth.
- You have bad habits. Strain notes that vices — smoking, gambling, drinking — have more than just immediate financial costs. There are long-term costs, as well.
- You have no goals. I’ve written extensively about goals lately. They’re important. Without financial goals, you’re traveling the road of life without a map.
- You haven’t prepared. An emergency fund is your own private insurance against life’s hard knocks.
- You try to make a quick buck. “Get rich quick” thinking manifests itself in all sorts of ways. Every time you buy a lottery ticket, every time you try to time a stock, every time you read the latest fad book about getting rich in real estate or precious metals, you’re trying to take a shortcut that doesn’t exist.
- You rely on others to take care of your money. Strain notes that “most people want to make money themselves, and this is their primary objective when they tell you how to invest your money.” His advice is to educate yourself so that you can make your own financial decisions.
- You invest in things you don’t understand. Financial literacy is important (and I plan to push it in April). If you don’t understand how an investment works, you can’t possibly make smart decisions about it. Even an hour or two spent researching can make a huge difference.
- You’re financially afraid. A savings account is not an investment. To earn a decent rate of return, you must be willing to accept some risk.
- You ignore your finances. Some people are so overwhelmed by their financial situation that they just ignore it. But ignoring bills doesn’t make them go away. Take charge of your money. Make it fun. (Or at least interesting.) Ignoring your finances only makes them worse.
I’d actually add an eleventh item to the list: you make poor choices. This is one that I’ve had problems with all my life. I know what I ought to do, but sometimes I sabotage myself. I spend money on some shiny new toy to bring instant gratification when I ought to be paying off debt or saving for the future.
Looking at what you’re doing wrong is useful on occasion, but I prefer to focus on what you might do better. It’s a subtle difference, but an important one. Focusing on the negative can often make things worse. Emphasizing the right steps, though, can lead you away from the negative, and help you achieve your goals.
[TheStreet.com: 10 reasons you aren't rich]