The Nine Pillars of Financial Success
This is my secret recipe for success. The label says, “financial success,” but the reason to have that is to enjoy success in other areas of your life, so what we’re really talking about is life success. It’s up to you to decide what that looks like. It may be having the money to support causes you believe in or providing for your family off one income so the other spouse can stay at home to raise the little ones.
Whatever success is to you, it will be much harder to obtain without doing these nine things. For each of them, I’m sure you can think of examples of people who were successful without them. The more of them that you leave out or try to shortcut though, the longer and rockier your road will be. And, like a recipe, it’s a starting point for you. Season to taste as you go.
Find Your Purpose
Life is about more than working, paying bills, and turning food into fertilizer. Everyone has a purpose that they are on this Earth to fulfill. There are plenty of broken things out there that need to be fixed and, guess what, you are the person to fix at least one of them. The problem, though, is that you can’t focus on your purpose if you aren’t financially free.
More on that at the end. For now, the important thing is finding your purpose. How do you do that?
The good news is you don’t have to do any soul searching or jump though a bunch of hoops to find it. You probably see it almost every day. Whenever you run into something in the world that makes you really angry, you’re getting a clue as to what your purpose is. When you catch yourself saying, “Somebody ought to do something about that!” You are the somebody. Then, when you can find a way to monetize your passion, you can devote your life to it.
If you want to be successful in life, you absolutely must get your mind right. Some of that comes from book smarts, some of it from emotional maturity, and some from wisdom. Out of all the mental muscles to build up, gratitude is, by far, the most important. With gratitude, you will be happy, honest, and humble. Without it, you will be angry and entitled.
I know that it’s hard to do. There are times when it feels like the whole world is against you. In my life, I’ve been lied to, cheated on, and stole from more times than I can count. I’ve been stabbed in the back enough that my scars have scars. Those are the times when you are really going to want to have that muscle built up. And it is something that you have to develop over time. Maybe you’re that one person in ten thousand who is naturally like that, but for the rest of us, it is a skill that we have to work on every day. In the end, it’s worth it. You will be a kinder, more generous person.
Have a Solid Financial Foundation
Robert Kiyosaki points out that when most people begin to build their financial empire, they rush right past the foundation. Then, when the first storm comes along, the results are predictable. Their empire crumbles and they have to start over. Don’t be that person.
Take the time to position yourself properly. Avoid debt. Have a reserve of money set aside for emergencies. The hard part about personal finance is how unsexy most of it is. In fact, a good indication that you’re doing it right is when your financial life is boring. But hey, I’ll take boring and wealthy over exciting and poor every time.
Earn 1099 Income, Not W-2 Income
This is where things start to get sexy. If you aren’t a resident of the United States of America, it means earn your money like a business instead of like an employee. The difference between the two is striking and cuts through every aspect of your life. If you want to have more time and keep more of your money, this is essential.
When you own a business (whether you have employees or not), you are building an asset that has the potential to generate passive income. Like Warren Buffet says, “Someone is sitting in the shade today because of a tree they planted 10 years ago.” Not only that, but taxes are also very different for employees and businesses.
Pay as Little as Possible in Taxes, But Pay Everything You Owe
There are two sides to this coin. First, when it comes to paying taxes, don’t get cute. No matter what country you live in, the government has a lot of ways to make your life miserable. When all the numbers have been crunched, pay everything you owe and, generally, it’s better to pay sooner rather than later.
Second, take advantage of every aspect of the tax code. This is especially true when you own a business. When it comes to taxes, you don’t get any bonus points for leaving money on the table. It is almost always worth it to hire a professional in this area. One reason is because they find deductions you didn’t know about. Also, the headache they can take off your plate so that you can concentrate on your business makes it a good investment.
As the Scottish economist, Mark Blyth, points out, the spectacular advances in technology over the past few decades haven’t translated into monetary gains for middle-class workers. If a factory replaces a worker with a robot, that worker doesn’t keep earning his wage while he goes fishing. He has to find a new job, often making less than he did before.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though, particularly when you are building a business. There are a million and one technological tools out there to help you every step of the way. Even if you aren’t building a business, there is an array of financial technology tools to help you start and maintain a budget or track your investments.
The idea of having mentors seems to have developed a negative connotation and I’m not sure why. It may be because of the YouTube snake-oil salesmen out there offering to be your personal mentor to teach you the secret to becoming a millionaire overnight. I’ve seen it suggested that if someone tells you that you need a mentor, you should run the other way. Clearly, that isn’t what we’re talking about here.
A mentor is someone you know and trust. While I suppose it is possible, it is hard for me to imagine it being someone you haven’t met face to face and spent time around. There needs to be a bond between the mentor and the mentee. Some tough communication is going to travel between the two and without that bond, it will be hard for the relationship to endure.
Mentors come in many flavors. You might want a spiritual mentor, a relationship mentor, a business mentor, or all three. The important thing is that they are where you want to get to within that category. They know, first hand, what it takes to get where you’re trying to get to. They know how to tackle the problems that you’re facing now, and they know about the problems you don’t see coming yet.
Stay Within Your Circle of Competence
This is another gem from Warren Buffet. A great way to throw away money is by speculating in areas you don’t have any expertise in. There can be a place in your portfolio for high-risk, high-reward ventures but they are far down the road and you need to be honest with yourself that that is what they are.
Early in your journey, it is critical to your success to stick with what you know. If you don’t have a professional background in the stock market, you aren’t going to get rich overnight by trading options like your coworker says. Likewise, if you don’t have an extensive background in real estate, buying an investment property will probably end up being more trouble than it’s worth.
On the other hand, if you are an auto mechanic, making the move from being an employee to owning your own shop would probably be a much shorter path to success. Then again, the area that you’re in might be saturated by repair shops but you might see a need for a parts distribution business. Whatever the case may be, sticking with what you know almost always works out better than chasing the latest shiny object that you heard about on television.
Live Your Purpose
Well, here we are at last. The other points aren’t in any particular order but this one is at the end for a reason. The goal of all this is to be at peace, be financially secure, and to have the time and money to fulfill your purpose.
Many people start with big plans to change the world. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, no plan survives contact with the enemy. Things get in the way. There is work to be done, bills to pay, and food to be turned into fertilizer. The next thing you know, ten years has gone by and you haven’t even gotten started yet. Then another ten years has gone by and you wonder what happened.
It doesn’t have to be that way though. All the information you need is out there. Embrace the principles of success listed here. As you go through life, build up your financial empire and get yourself free. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to really get to work. By this point, though, not only will you know what to do, you’ll know how. You will have self-discipline, focus, and clarity of purpose. Remember, your children and grandchildren have to live in the world that you leave behind.