“Congratulations! You play fantastic offense” This was said sarcastically by Thomas J Stanley in his famous book, The Millionaire Next Door. I have not read or listened to this book in more than eight years, but I still remember this phrase. That one, and the millionaire saying, “I drink two types or beer. Budweiser and Free.”
The message in his book is that you need to watch your spending with more tenacity than to increase your income. Obviously, it is a combination of income and spending that creates wealth, but controlled spending is far more important. As long as you spend less than your income, you will be moving forward, and consistent progress will make you rich! The problem I often see is that people spend what they make, or worse, spend more than they make. In either of these scenarios, you are at best staying even, but most likely going backwards. Many want to be investors and entrepreneurs, drink the get rich Kool-Aid and focus all their energy on increasing income. That is what sells coaching programs, mentor-ships and advertising on TV shows. With energy and focus comes success, so many of these entrepreneurs and investors see results. And with the positive results of higher earnings comes… higher spending!
I am fortunate enough to live in a great neighborhood. Most people in the neighborhood are high income earners, but several of them live above their means. It is not uncommon for me to see neighbors move out of the area because they can no longer afford to stay. They are the same ones with the new cars and the extravagant parties. It is a look at me attitude and peers feed on the pressure to keep up. This creates a little spiral of friends living outside their means. But hey, at least they are all moving backwards together.
The ones that live below their means feel pressure to spend or get left behind. And on the surface, many of them do. One challenge about living below your means is it takes years before you realize the benefit. During those years it seems as though you are missing out. I see it so clearly and understand the pressure, but I also see a high percentage of our aging population that should be retired, working their asses off. They are stressed and busy and churning to get by.
If you have not yet, you owe it to yourself to read The Millionaire Next Door. This book really sank in for me on the power of financial defense. Of limiting spending and protecting your earnings. I am able to live in my neighborhood, provide for my family, enjoy my time away from the office, and many other benefits because of the control I had with spending as my income was increasing. As you invest earnings for income, instead of spending it, you will witness exponential growth of income.
If I recall correctly, the quote from the book “Congratulations! You play fantastic offense” was referring to a broke high earner. He made more than his peers but would miss a mortgage payment if his income stopped. That is not a comfortable life, yet he was proud of it. If I could help one piece of financial advice sink in, it would be to focus on defense before offense.
Travis and I both recently read the book, Set for Life, by Scott Trench. This is another fantastic book focusing on the correct way to build wealth and retire early. It is a simple formula. Spend less than you make and invest the difference.