As a kid I was always told; “Look after the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.”
I always scoffed at that saying, content in the knowledge that pennies can never add up to anything substantial. I missed the whole point. Today I can clearly see the wisdom in those words. What they’re really saying is this; "get your mindset in order."
If you learn to develop a money consciousness, you will have money. If you don’t, you won’t. Simple and immutable.
Most people have a slight misalignment when it comes to matching their material desires with their ability to pay for them. Desires are a good thing. Man is the only creature that can consciously set a goal, achieve it, and then set another. When we acquire something we desire, it doesn’t take long before we set our sights higher and want to acquire something greater. Some people may label this as avarice or greed. Karl Marx preached along those lines and the results of his theory speak for themselves. Frank Zappa said it perfectly; “Communism doesn’t work because people like to own stuff.”
Goals and desires are beautiful. It’s what separates us from all other creatures. Without our constant striving for more and better things we would spiral back to the dark ages, and beyond with catastrophic speed. If you desire a castle, two homes, or a fleet of exotic cars, there is nothing wrong with that. If you go into serious debt to acquire your desires then you have a problem, and that problem is going to get exponentially worse.
Many people think to themselves; “If I could only get out of debt then I would be happy and I would never get myself into that mess again.” Other people might say; “If I only had a million dollars then I would be set for life.” Still others think; “If I had my house paid for and zero debt, then I would really begin to manage my money.”
It’s an absolute fact that the above statements would all prove to be false for people who cannot presently manage their money. It won’t matter how much money you come by, if you don’t know how to manage it wisely, it will magically and unerringly slip through your fingers, and leave you scratching your head in puzzlement.
Coming into a lot of money without the ability to handle it is like trying to sail a yacht when you don’t know how to sail! Many people think; “No way, I’m different. I really am different. If I could just get out of debt I would then begin to manage my money.” There have been numerous case studies and hundreds of people who win millions of dollars in lotteries, only to be penniless within a few short years. It happens time and time again. If you can’t sail a dingy, you can’t sail a yacht.
Here's a real life example:
Imagine a boy born in rural Pennsylvania in 1862, to parents of modest means. As a young man he went to work as a common laborer in the steel mills. Now suppose you were to pluck this boy from the mills and say to him; “The year is 1879. If I give you ten million dollars today, would you be able to make it last for the rest of your life?”
What do you think his answer would be?
Suppose someone gave you that offer. Do you think that you could answer yes? Would you be able to say that you would live comfortably on that amount of money for the rest of your life? After all, ten million dollars back then would be closer to a billion today. Do you think you could manage to make ends meet? It seems like a ridiculous question doesn’t it? Who on earth couldn’t have all they desired and then some with nearly a billion dollars?
I’ll tell you the answer; someone who doesn’t know how to manage money. Someone who isn’t capable of aligning their wants with their ability to pay.
Charles Schwab was born in Williamsburg, Pennsylvania, and began work in 1879 as a stake driver at Andrew Carnegie’s Steel Works. By 1889, Schwab had became the mill superintendent and, in 1892, Carnegie appointed him to supervise the Steel Works.
In 1901, Schwab convinced J.P. Morgan to supply capital for a holding company known as U.S. Steel, which controlled 213 steel mills and transportation companies. In 1904, Schwab incorporated the existing Bethlehem Steel Company (in which he had a controlling interest) to form the Bethlehem Steel Corporation and he became its first president. The company quickly became the world’s second-largest steel producer. Bethlehem Steel gained enormous profits from the war effort and Schwab’s personal holdings soared into the millions.
Schwab was a man who said, “I disagreed with Carnegie’s ideas of how best to distribute wealth. I spent mine.” He built an enormous estate in Loretto, Pa., with a waterfall at the entrance and a nine-hole golf course. He built a 75-room mansion in New York City. He indulged in mistresses and gambling junkets to Europe, while keeping down the wages of the men in the mills. Schwab had accumulated a personal fortune of nearly $50 million.
Charles Schwab spent the last years of his life on retainer from Bethlehem Steel, but his spending caught up with him. By 1936, his finances were so desperate that he tried to sell his mansion in New York. He lived his last years on borrowed money, however, and left behind an insolvent estate with debts and obligations amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars. When he died, on September 19, 1939, his debts far exceeded his assets. He had, in fact, gone bust.
Charles Schwab was a brilliant man, but Charles Schwab never learned the basic principles of managing money.
The story of Charles Schwab is a true and tragic story of greed, carelessness and an innate inability to handle money.
My problem lies in reconciling my gross habits with my net income.
~ Errol Flynn ~
If one can learn to manage a little, one can learn to manage a lot. It’s the exact same formula but just on a grander scale.
If you’re not presently satisfied with your financial station in life, you may want to take a closer look at your ability to manage your finances. It’s a very simple evaluation. If your outgo is larger than your income, you are not managing well. If you’re debt free, but you haven’t accumulated any savings, you’re still not managing well.
Learn to manage your money, and you will be amazed at how quickly you will actually have something to manage. It’s another one of those immutable laws of nature.
Richard Fast is the author of 29 DAYS ... to save money and achieve financial independence. You can learn more at http://www.29daysto.com