Why I’ve never written about how to become a millionaire

 

I don’t like to think about other personal finance experts as competitors. I like to think of them as teammates. My goal is for people to find financial wellness. If they happen to find it through the inspiring words of someone else, cool with me. Why would that bother me? At times I disagree with some of the teachings and ideas of other experts, but I keep those to myself. I know that people disagree with some things I say, but I just chalk it up to different strokes for different folks. There is one topic that most everyone else has weighed in on, except me. That’s the concept/idea of becoming a millionaire. In fact, I don’t think you can find the word millionaire on my website, five years worth of radio shows, or any of my five books.

My aversion to the quest to being a millionaire is certainly conspicuous in its absence, if you follow other personal finance experts too. I don’t talk about being rich. I don’t want to teach you how to be rich. I want to teach you to be resourceful. I believe that wealth is a side effect, not a goal. What good is a big pile of money, if you don’t know how to handle it? Patrick Ewing said it best during an NBA Players Strike back in the day, “we may make a lot of money, but we spend a lot of money too.”

There’s one concept within personal finance that I’m currently obsessed with. I’ve written about it in The Indianapolis Star, discussed on my radio show, and have talked about it to thousands of people that were part of recent live audiences. I believe that we should all be on a lifelong mission to break our dependency on our incomes. If you’ve taken a look at my Four Financial Stages, you’ll see that I want people to save at least 20% of their income as part of the Arriving stage. The reason why, might surprise you. Whereas I obviously want you to accumulate money so that you can fund your eventual, but not guaranteed retirement, the real reason I want you to save at least 20% of your income is much more important. I want you to demonstrate the ability to live on only 80% of your take-home pay. This is all part of a strategy to reduce your dependency on your work income.

If your income consistently rises, and you don’t consistently save your raises, after a certain level of comfort is achieved, then you are creating a nearly insurmountable mountain of dependency. You can accumulate a million dollars, but if you need $100,000 per year in retirement, then you’re going to be in trouble. I believe if you focus on the wealth, then you are focusing on the wrong goal. I believe people act differently when wealth, not resourcefulness, is the goal. I believe greed and emotions can cloud otherwise good judgement.

Think about most of the financial planning commercials you’ve seen. What is the message? In my unabashed opinion, the message is that accumulation is the key. I disagree with this message . You can’t accumulate money without resourcefulness. When wealth is the goal, then the focus turns to assets, not income. This means that people worry more about what their investments choices are, rather than how their income should fund their investments.

Maybe I’m crazy, but dangling wealth in front of people in order to get them to care, doesn’t seem sincere to me.  I think you discredit your audience when you make financial wellness about wealth. In most cases, I believe that behavior is to blame in both success and failure. That’s why I want the discussion to revolve around the behaviors that lead to resourcefulness.

I’m personally striving for a mindset in which money is a byproduct of my work. This doesn’t mean that I’m going to live in a hut in the woods and purify my urine for drinking water. It just means that I’m trying to measure my satisfaction on a non-monetary scale. When wealth is the goal, you will ALWAYS measure satisfaction on a monetary scale.

I don’t believe we sell ourselves short when we strive to be resourceful. Resourcefulness isn’t about being cheap. It’s not about penny-pinching. To me, it all boils down to this very simple idea: a person that isn’t resourceful doesn’t ever have enough resources. Wealth CAN’T be the goal.

Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.

9 thoughts on “Why I’ve never written about how to become a millionaire

  1. Brilliant Pete. You say it often, “The more money you make the bigger trouble you can get into…” That is why resourcefulness to become income independent is a much more worthy goal. Thank you.

  2. Hey Pete,
    Just stumbleupon-ed your site and subsequently this article. After much internal debate, I’ve decided that I object to the obfuscation contained within this article enough to post a, most-likely, un-constructive comment. In fact, if I use my context clues, I think I actually agree with your thesis. The problem lies in the lack of a specific solution. I feel the the repetition of the word “resources,” or “resourcefulness,” to be very vague, and very a much a failure, of an example of a goal one should strive for, as opposed to the popular goal of hitting a monetary metaphor for success (such as a million dollars)… or maybe this kind of thinking is but a byproduct of the introspective effect of the Crown Royal I currently sip.

  3. Hi Pete,

    I could not agree more. Being resourceful to me means finding ways to get the most satisfaction for a dollar spent. To me this has always been sort of a game or challenge. For example, getting movies to rent at the library, parking in a further away (cheaper) parking lot and/or taking the bus. Living below one’s means in creative/resourceful ways while never feeling deprived.

    I believe you are right in focusing your readers on expenses and being resourceful in minimizing them rather than on how to accumulate a million dollars. What works for one person may not work for another, but learning to be resourceful and having that mindset will work in whatever situation one finds oneself. It has always seemed to me that how much I spent was so much more under my control than what I earned. It’s sort of like in basketball where one can always play good defense whether it happens to be a good offensive night for you or not. I like the word resourcefulness as a key to financial and life success because there is no one size fits all solution to each person’s unique situation. The most, it seems to me, that one can hope for is to develop resourcefulness and mindfulness as they relate to financial situations. Keep up the good work. Brad

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *