So how’s life and money treating you, since we last talked?
When we’re first asked to think about where we are and where we want to be in terms of our personal finances… The first image that pops to mind is likely a long and bumpy road stretching between the two extremes of Brokeness and Richdom. And somewhere in between these two extremes is You – probably confused and unsure, and stumbling (hopefully) in the general intended direction of Richdom.
Definition: By “Rich” I mean a comfortable place of financially stability and security – not specifically dolla dolla billz make it raiiin millionaire status.
What does this road to stability look like, exactly?
The conventional view is that it’s the long, upward climb of a stable career, with good prospects of salary increments, naik gaji, bonuses, benefits, and promotions. Every year you clock at work, your income bumps up a little bit… And eventually, maybe, you’ll get to Richdom — where the people with five-figure monthly salaries live a comfortable and worry-free life… ahh the ultimate dream.
Oh if only it were that straightforward. Unfortunately, we already spoke about the plague of Lifestyle Inflation and how it can easily eat away at whatever extra earnings you rake in, inadvertently cancelling out all your efforts and keeping you closer to Broke.
Remember, wealth is measured by what you have and KEEP, not by what you spend, and it is certainly not based on the size of your income alone!
And when I say it’s measured by the stuff that you have, I mean true wealth assets – the most common in Brunei being ca$h and real estate properties (e.g. land, a house). So please don’t buy into the myth of “investing” through buying stuff, because I’m not talking about material pleasures like collector’s baubles, limited edition fashion goods, or suped-up steroid cars – these generally don’t count as assets and “investing” in these are usually just meek attempts at justifying expensive purchases.
To drill that point in a little deeper, the world’s richest people are measured according to their net worth – that’s how much they have (a.k.a. assets) minus how much they owe (a.k.a. liabilities). You never see lists of people who’ve spent the most money, except in the pages of cheap tabloid magazines (“celebrity buys other celebrity XX million dollar diamond necklace!”) and that’s never written in a flattering light.
So we need to wake up and smell the freshly roasted coffee beans! In a world where we’re encouraged to spend, spend, spend, and throw our hard-earned work-money into the pockets of ingenious businessmen who sell you things and other things to put your things in…
Here’s a phone ($1000+), and some flimsy plastic screen protectors for the front and back ($30). Now here’s a phone casing ($60), and a zip-up pouch ($15 to $200++ if named after an Italian guy) to put your phone and phone casing into! Do you want a separate wristlet strap ($30) to go with it too??
… how do we avoid falling into the rabbit hole and down the vortex of financial ruin?
Is there a yellow brick road which we can follow to the land of responsible spending? Are we able to walk the fine line of occasionally rewarding ourselves (for all your hard work, of course) or will we invariably plunge downwards into a crevasse of insatiable material cravings and completely pour our life’s earnings down the consumerist drain?
To achieve balanced financial habits, we need to mitigate against reckless Lifestyle Inflation and avoid becoming irresponsible shopaholics, while at the same time we shouldn’t mindlessly hoard money at the expense of our comfort and happiness, reluctant to spend even a single cent.
Exactly where and exactly how to achieve this elusive Golden balance differs from person to person, obviously – and it’s up to you to feel around and find out where your G-spot is.
One thing I can tell you is that it lies somewhere in the general region of spending enough on what makes life better, happier, more comfortable, and more fulfilling while not spending more than you earn, and certainly not at the expense of your overall financial stability.
“Argh this sounds SO COMPLICATED, there are just too many variables and balances and ladders and tightropes and…. You’re not helping!!”
Every self-proclaimed personal finance adviser, writer, blogger, aficionado will have their own quick-fix recipe of financial stability and success – their own versions and lists of the top “five habits that will make you rich” or “ten things that separates millionaires from everyone else”.
Lemme break it down for you in true Myn style.
Just listen to Mama Myn.
There are only THREE controls on your financial dashboard.
THREE pedals in your car.
Not five, not ten, not twenty five habits of financially effective people… Just THREE.
Imagine you’re in a car driving from Brokeness to Richdom. You’ve got your three pedals, right? Accelerator, brake, and clutch, which control the car and get you moving. (Let’s assume you’re driving a manual ok? C’mon, you’re broke you can’t afford an automatic yet.)
How do you get the car moving?
Slamming your foot on the brake, consistent pressure on the clutch, light tapping on the accelerator? What about consistent accelerator, slamming your foot on the clutch, but frequently tapping on the brake? Yes? No? You know how to drive a car or do you find yourself trying to restart a stalled engine every few seconds?
Here are your controls:
Your accelerator will get you to where you want to be. That’s your assets.
Your brake pedal will slow you down and stop you, but life is full of bumps and traffic – so sometimes you have to use it. But use it too much and you’ll never get to where you want to be. That’s your debt.
Your clutch is there when you need to adjust your speed. Speeding up, slowing down, you’ve got to shift gears and jiggle your foot around a bit. That’s your spending.
SO! Chances are you can drive, and how to get the car moving is a no-brainer, right? Foot pressed firmly downwards on the accelerator, brake only when necessary, control the clutch only when you’ve gotta change gears to adjust acceleration. Simple riiight?
When you’re trying to accelerate and speed up (build assets), you’ll initially have to keep shifting gears and pressing on the clutch (adjust spending), but once you’re cruising down the highway, BAM you’re good to go – wind in your hair, sunshine in your face, life is good. But as soon as you start braking – and if you brake hard enough (big debt)– beep boop blumpa blumpa bump, you’ve got to shift your gears down and suddenly you’re back at Gear 1, crawling along the tarmac like a snail. And it’s going to take a lot of inertia and effort, shifting gears and jiggling your clutch, to get up to high speed again.
If you don’t know how to drive a car, let me illustrate this one other way JUST FOR YOU:
Now update yo’ settings!
Myn’s Three Golden Sliding Controls to fix your money woes:
RULE NUMBER ONE: ↑↑↑ Grow your assets ↑↑↑
RULE NUMBER TWO: ↓↓↓ Shrink your debts ↓↓↓
RULE NUMBER THREE: ←→ Spend less than you earn ←→
And here are all three rules smacked together so you can print it out and stick it in your wallet so you don’t forget.
U unnestan oredi? One final time:
- Foot on the accelerator – GROW your assets.
- Brake only when necessary and, if possible, not at all – SHRINK, minimize and aim to eliminate debt
- Clutch to shift gears – ADJUST spending as needed; but always less than what you earn
Don’t mix it up or your car will stall.
[In the next episode of Myn Schools You, we can talk about how, on a practical level, to do it. How do you grow your assets? How do I get round to shrinking my massive debts, they’re insurmountable! What do you mean by adjusting spending?]