Well, after being paid the ultimate compliment this week – Mrs Just About Life read the blog (I didn’t ask her to) and sent me an unexpected and wonderful message at work to say how much she loved it – I’m stoked and back as promised with the next of the “mini-series” of articles on the three main themes of this blog.
“Money can’t buy me love” sang the Beatles (they obviously never played Amsterdam). It can buy you all sorts of crap though, or it could be used to get you out of your boring job earlier than expected.
Yep, today we’re talking about a big, ugly subject: Wealth.
Since Mrs JAL liked the 2-step plan from the Introduction to.. Health so much, I’m going to repeat the trick for Wealth, here it comes.
Wealth – the 2-step plan
- Spend less than you earn
- Invest the rest (wisely)
Got that? Sounds simple doesn’t it? And that’s because it is.
If you follow Step 1 and Spend less than you earn, then you will have some left every month.
Which means you can get stuck in to Step 2 and Invest the rest (wisely, of course).
So what does that mean? As with last time, let’s now go into a bit of detail.
Exactly what it says. Every time you get paid, that’s all your money until the next time you get paid. Don’t spend it all. Simple.
But plenty of people don’t do this. Many people just spend without really thinking about it. Some months they get lucky and might not spend what they’ve earned, and some months they definitely do spend more. Over the months and years, things might even just about balance out, but one thing is for sure – those people won’t be getting rich any time soon. (Some people even consistently spend more than they earn, and get into debt. This is a horrible place to be, and something I might look at in a future post.)
So, what can you do to consistently achieve this goal of spending less than you earn? I’m glad you asked. For a start, you could consider making a household budget. I know, I know.. But stay with me! The JAL family started doing this last November, and since then we feel a lot happier, far more in control, and – dare I say it – it’s actually fun and enjoyable to be prepared, to really think about your spending, and to keep track of what’s going on. Not to mention the tremendous feeling at the end of every month when we review and realise we’ve hit our targets again, bringing us one step closer to our goal of financial independence. Yep, budgeting can give you the laser focus that can really ramp up your efforts and get you to financial independence much quicker.
More on budgets in an article soon, because they’re really important! See? I put it in bold and with an exclamation mark to prove just how important they are. But for now you can stop sweating, that’s all on budgets. For now.
Next, you have to change attitudes. Again, in bold. Because attitude is everything. Our society seems to have developed this “I deserve it” mentality – “Hey you! Yes, you there in the smart suit! You’re working hard every day, so you deserve those shoes, that new leather-trimmed executive car, AND that holiday to Barbados!”
And you probably do deserve those things! If that’s what you really want..
But looking at this another way – you buy the shoes, the car, and the holiday now, and you’re effectively robbing your future self. And your future self might not be happy about that. So, how’s about not blowing every last penny every month, and when you’re 60* you’ll be able to stop work, go to Barbados for 2 years if you want, and wear new shoes every night. (Ok, maybe not, but hopefully you get my point. And anyway, by the time you get to 60 I reckon you’ll realise that the shoes don’t make you that happy anyway, and that there’s a lot to be said for walking around barefoot – especially on the beaches of Barbados)
Ok, so you’ve made a budget (or maybe you haven’t… yet) and you’ve got that “bit” of money left over every month, remember? Well, I guess you have several options for what to do with it. For example, you could:
- Go shopping and blow it all on designer gear and expensive coffees, or
- Buy a new flat/round/curvy/voluptuous/whatever television, or
- Invest it (in about a million different ways)
Now, I know that plenty of people will see options 1 and 2 as infinitely more exciting than option 3. But I can tell you that if you choose one of the first two options, you won’t be financially independent any time soon. Like, not in the next 40 years. If you take the 3rd option – and you regularly take the 3rd option (as in “EVERY month” regular) – then you WILL GET RICH. You will get rich slowly, but you WILL GET RICH. Remember – it’s all about attitudes. Change your attitude, change your life.
A reminder here that none of this is financial advice – and the usual disclaimers apply – but as an example of what you could do with your leftover dosh each month, you could probably do worse than opening a stocks and shares ISA with an online platform (investing through an ISA takes advantage of some tax benefits) and setting up a monthly direct debit to invest a regular sum into a low-cost index tracker fund. Let this direct debit carry on automatically and forget about it.
Pay it forward
You could even really commit to this and pay yourself first. Set up your direct debit into your investment account for the next day after your monthly pay day. This way you always get paid. Hopefully, your investments will – over time – just grow and grow, until one day you can just not go into the office any more. Wahey! (How to work out when this day might come? Check back for future articles, I’ve got some ideas on this one and maybe even some useful tools for you!)
The most important thing we’re talking about here is taking control. By budgeting, and socking some dosh away on a regular basis, you’re taking control. You can’t control the stock market, or the housing market, or the job market, or any other market for that matter.. But you CAN control how much YOU SPEND and therefore how much YOU SAVE. And the fact is that people who do this have a much, much, much better chance of achieving their financial goals.
What the Dickens?
So, as a final note then, how does wealth relate to happiness? This is obviously a subject for much debate – money is an extremely emotive subject, and I look forward to writing plenty more about this. But since we’re looking for simple, straight-talking views, look no further than the advice of Charles Dickens, who sent this message to the Victorians of 19th century England via the character Wilkins Micawber** in “David Copperfield“:
Annual income twenty pounds,
Annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six,
Annual income twenty pounds,
Annual expenditure twenty pounds nought and six,
That sounds a lot like “Spend Less Than You Earn” to me…
Cheers Wilko me ole mucker, sound advice!
Until next time – pay yourself first!
* Obviously if you’re aged 58 and reading this, this may not quite be true
** Interesting “back story” on the character of Wilkins Micawber, from Wikipedia, he was:
..modelled on Dickens’s own father, John Dickens, who like Micawber was incarcerated in debtors’ prison (the King’s Bench Prison) after failing to meet his creditors’ demands.
..(later) Micawber is hired as a clerk by the scheming Uriah Heep, who assumes wrongly that Micawber’s debts arise from dishonesty. But working for Heep allows Micawber to expose his boss as a forger and a cheat. To start anew, Micawber and his family emigrate to Australia with Daniel Peggotty and Little Em’ly, where Micawber becomes manager of the Port Middlebay Bank and a successful government magistrate.
I am not a financial expert. I do not work in the financial industry. Nothing on this blog is intended or can be considered to be financial advice, and I cannot accept responsibility for any of your actions. Always do your own research, or seek the help of a professional, and make your own decisions. I am merely expressing an opinion here, based on my own experience.