The Get Rich Quick Fallacy
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Readers, today’s guest post is written by Elsie Brown at GundoMoney. Elsie is a student, blogger, and all around cheapskate (Edit: Elsie is a cheapskate, not a cheapstake. Who else loves getting used to a new keyboard?) who writes about how we can all live better on less. She hails from the Los Angeles area, and you can find her on Twitter.
Some of her recent posts include:
Onward to today’s post!
The Fallacy of Get Rich Quick
We’ve all seen those infomercials that come on tv around 4am that say just buy my book or learn real estate investing and you could get rich too!
I don’t think that logic really fools us but there is an inherent bias in our culture that implies rich is better. If you’re rich you’ll have a better life. If you’re rich you’ll be happy. If you’re rich you’ll be more accepted, more loved, and more at peace. I could keep going but I think you already see the faulty logic.
The get rich quick scheme is pretty sleazy but is there something about it we like? Is there some part of getting rich that we want?
Well, you’re reading a personal finance blog so some part of you wants more money. “That’s a dumb question Elsie everyone wants to be rich.” I can hear my readers lamenting already. Still, I think we know on some level that wanting to be rich is shallow.
Money as a Destination
I see evidence constantly of the fact that when we get money we always want more. Imagine a multi-millionaire getting that most recent bonus check and saying, “ok I’m good now.” That never happens and the reason is we’re never really satisfied with any amount of money. When money itself is the destination we are always two steps behind the goal.
Rich is no more a destination than perfect health or complete knowledge. Embarking on the path to riches is a relinquishment of your own personal power in favor of the idea that status and wealth will make you a better person.
David Walters at Esquire wrote an article this year in which he interviewed different people at vastly different income levels. He asked each one the same questions about their money. Among the questions was “what’s one thing your family needs but can’t afford?” The top earners answered that there was nothing they couldn’t afford. But when Walters asked “how much money do you need to live the life you want?” Those same people said they needed more money.
The pursuit of money for money’s sake is a never ending process; a path shaped like an infinity sign. It just goes around and around and around.
Money and Freedom
This is all starting to sound like a bit of personal finance blasphemy! No, I don’t want you to sell all your possessions or take a vow of poverty. It’s ok to want more money. But hear this: money will not make you feel better. I write about this all the time but I’ll go ahead and say it again, money won’t give you belonging, happiness, love, peace, or any of the other emotions we associate with being a fulfilled human.
The purpose of money is not to give you happiness, it is to give you the freedom to be happy.
Here in the personal finance blogosphere you’ll hear us talk about money in a very different way than you will in, say, The Wall Street Journal or The Economist. The mainstream personal finance world hasn’t quite caught up with the underbelly of wisdom you’ll find on smaller, more personal saving communities.
Our purpose is to get out of debt, learn to live without the ridiculous conveniences and luxuries afforded to us, and thus save most of the money we make. In whatever capacity you do this in, be it riding a bike to work instead of driving the SUV, or making meals for yourself at home, you’re way ahead of your fellows.
I read the other day that the average American household has $15,000 in consumer debt. They all seem so happy and fulfilled, don’t they? Right.
Rich Living vs. Living Richly
If you just do these five things you will be rich and have an awesome life like me! Sound familiar?
I can’t stand the taglines I see around the web that perpetuate the idea of getting rich. It especially irks me when I see those lines on websites that position themselves as helping people get out of debt and save money. They’ll say things like you don’t have to give up your extravagant lifestyle to save money, just do everything I say and you’ll get rich like me. Rich living is certainly very convenient and comfortable but it follows the same logic that got us into debt. Namely, buying stuff, living above our means, and not paying attention to money at all.
On the contrary, getting on track with finances is all about how you live, think, and feel.
If you live below your means you’ll always have more than you need. If you harbor a mindset of less is more, you will always be provided for. If you feel ok without a lot of wealth or material things money will only enhance your life.
If Gundomoney had an infomercial it would say “get money and live richly.” Not as catchy, I know.
Hard working people, including myself, tend to come at well-being from the wrong angle. We think that once all the outside stuff is ok (the job, the appearance, the money) that the inside will feel better. Living richly is realizing that the insides need to be ok before money will fix anything.
I personally hate the word rich. It’s a word of separation. It implies that some people are worth more than others. Without realizing it, we attach more personal value to those with high net worths.
I think the personal finance community needs to invent a word to describe the kind of rich we’re searching for. It’s the kind of rich that builds up slowly over years, through careful planning and hard work. Our kind of rich sets us free, allows us to work doing what we love or quit working altogether. So try to live your life as richly as possible. Pay attention to finances but don’t make money God. Enjoy possessions but don’t make your joy about having them. One day you may wake up to find your financial life has changed.
If I had $1 million I wouldn’t buy a helicopter for easier commuting to work. I’d get those I love out of debt and spend my time teaching people about money for free. What would you do with it?
Readers, what does “rich” mean to you? Do we need a new word to describe the free act of choosing to do work that we love?