Earlier today, I wrote about Brett Wilder's The Quiet Millionaire. It's different than most personal finance books I've read. It's targeted at those who are further along their financial journeys rather than at those just starting out. Still, there are bits and pieces in The Quiet Millionaire that are applicable to everyone.
I particularly liked Wilder's list of the seven enemies to financial success (which is my phrase, not his). Over the past few weeks, I've found myself thinking of this notion again and again. He writes:
If you want to become and stay the quiet millionaire, you must plan and manage your financial way of life…You must be proactive in order to obtain the financial life you want. By doing this, you will overcome the seven major obstacles to financial success.
Wilder is saying that we know there are certain common barriers to wealth. These obstacles arise for everyone. Because of this, it's possible to plan in advance to cope with them. First, however, we have to be able to name these enemies so that we can prepare the proper weapons to fight them.
According to Wilder, the seven enemies of financial success are:
- Lack of discipline. Without discipline, it's difficult to build wealth. In fact, it's impossible to get rich — slowly or otherwise — if you spend more than you earn. The math just doesn't work. Wilder also warns against compulsive spending, and he urges readers to track where their money is going.
- Materialism. Stuff will not enrich your life. It's so very easy to find yourself “keeping up with the Joneses”, succumbing to lifestyle inflation. But materialism breeds discontent. Instead, Wilder says, focus on intellectual and spiritual pursuits to obtain fulfillment.
- Debt. Not all debt is bad, of course. A reasonable mortgage on a sensible home is fine. But consumer debt — or a bad mortgage on a big house — is an enemy to financial success. In fact, bad debt may be the biggest enemy to financial success.
- Taxes. It's our responsibility to pay the taxes we owe, but we're under no obligation to pay more than that. “It is not unpatriotic to reduce paying your taxes,” Wilder writes. We should instead actively work to keep our tax burden as low as possible.
- Inflation. Inflation is wealth's silent enemy. It will not destroy you all at once. But it's always there, nibbling at the corners of your life, consuming a little cash every year. It's impossible to keep inflation completely at bay, but you can learn to mitigate its effects.
- Investment mistakes. As many investors learned last year, poorly structured investment portfolios can be a killer. This enemy is fought through education, through an understanding of diversification and asset allocation, by taking the emotion out of investing.
- Emergencies. The final enemy to financial success is the unexpected: unemployment, death, illness, and legal complications. Without a plan for emergencies, you leave yourself at the mercy of the fickle fates. Carry adequate insurance and maintain an emergency fund!
I'd argue that there's at least one additional enemy to financial success: lack of purpose. If you don't know why you're saving and investing, you have no reason to do so. Without a destination in mind, you cannot set a course. The road to wealth is paved with goals.
Note that some of these financial enemies are external and that some are internal. Some of these enemies come from inside of us.
I've fought all of these enemies at one time or another. I seem to have vanquished my internal foes — at least temporarily. But to ward against the external foes requires constant vigilance. And there's always the chance that an internal enemy can rear its ugly head again.
Which of these foes is your greatest nemesis and why? How do you fight it?