There’s been an influx of new readers at Get Rich Slowly lately. To serve as an intro the new folks (and to celebrate the site’s fourth anniversary, and in honor of Financial Literacy Month), today I’m going to review my financial philosophy. Although we covered each of these points in turn last autumn, it’s been a while since I collected these core values in one location.
Based on my research — and my experience with what does and doesn’t work — I’ve compiled a list of fourteen guidelines that form the basis of everything I write. Some of these tenets draw on age-old wisdom: “Saving must be a priority” is just the ancient truth that you’ve got to “pay yourself first”, for example. But other rules — such as “do what works for you” — I came up with based on my own struggles.
Here, then, are the fourteen tenets of the Get Rich Slowly philosophy:
- Money is more about mind than it is about math. That is, financial success is more about mastering the mental game of money than about understanding the numbers. The math of personal finance is simple — spend less than you earn — it’s controlling your habits and emotions that’s difficult.
- The road to wealth is paved with goals. Without financial goals, you have no direction. If you have no direction, it’s easy to spend money on things you’ll regret later. But if you’re saving for a house, your daughter’s college education, or a trip to Europe, your goal will keep you focused, making it easier to spend on what’s important and ignore the things that aren’t.
- To build wealth, you must spend less than you earn. Basic math, yes, but it’s important. Successful personal finance is all about building positive cash flow. By decreasing your spending while increasing your income, you can get out of debt and build wealth.
- Saving must be a priority. Before you pay your bills, before you buy groceries, before you do anything else, you should set aside some part of your income. If you have to start small, start small. Even $25 a month is good. As you earn more and develop better habits, save as much as possible. (My wife saves nearly a third of her paycheck!)
- Small amounts matter. Your everyday habits have a huge impact on your financial success. Frugality and thrift help build good habits, and make a real difference over time. Plus, there are tons of opportunities to flex your frugal muscles.
- Large amounts matter, too. It’s good to clip coupons and to save money on groceries, but it’s even better to save on the big stuff like buying a car or a house. By making smart choices on big-ticket items, you can save thousands of dollars at once.
- Slow and steady wins the race. The most successful folks are those who work longest and hardest at things they love to do. So try to find ways to make frugality fun, and recognize that you’re in this for the long haul. You’re making a lifestyle change, not looking for a quick fix.
- The perfect is the enemy of the good. Too many people never get started putting their finances in order because they don’t know that the “best” first step is. Don’t worry about getting things exactly right — just choose a good option and do something to get started.
- Failure is okay. Everyone makes mistakes — even billionaires like Warren Buffett. Don’t let one slip-up drag you down. One key difference between those who succeed and those who don’t is the ability to recover from a setback and keep marching toward a goal. Use failures to learn what not to do next time.
- Do what works for you. Each of us is different. We have different goals, personalities, and experiences. We each need to find the tools and techniques that are effective for our own situations. There’s no one right way to save, invest, pay off debt, or buy a house — and don’t believe anyone who tells you there is. Experiment until you find methods that are effective for you.
- Financial balance lets you enjoy tomorrow and today. Being smart with money isn’t about giving up your plasma TV or your daily latte. It’s about setting priorities and managing expectations, about choosing to spend only on the things that matter to you, while cutting costs on the things that don’t.
- Action beats inaction. It’s easy to put things off, but the sooner you start moving toward your goals, the easier they’ll be to reach. It’s better to start with small steps today than to wait for that someday when you’ll be able to make great strides. Get moving.
- Nobody cares more about your money than you do. The advice that others give you is almost always in their best interest, which may or may not be the same as your best interest. Don’t do what others tell you just because they hold a position of authority or seem to have a persuasive argument. Do your own research, get advice from a variety of sources, and in the end, make your own decisions based on your own goals and values.
- It’s more important to be happy than it is to be rich. Don’t be obsessed with money — it won’t buy you happiness. Sure, money will give you more options in life, but true wealth is about something more. True wealth is about relationships, good health, and ongoing self-improvement.
The most important of these tenets — and this site’s motto — used to be “do what works for you”. But as I wrote Your Money: The Missing Manual, I realized the book’s theme was “nobody cares more about your money than you do”. And that’s the actual core value here at Get Rich Slowly. My philosophy — on this site and in my book — is all about taking an active role in your financial future, about becoming your own financial guru.
I talk a lot about my financial philosophy, but don’t know if I’ve ever asked about your financial philosophies. So, tell me: What money rules do you live by? What are the fundamental tenets of your fiscal life?