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.