My first introduction to investing was my senior year in high school when my economics teacher gave Dr. Thomas Stanley’s book The Millionaire Next Door as an assignment. The book covers the lifestyles of actual American millionaires and their lives look much different than what may be portrayed by the rich in the media. The big idea of the book is that millionaires have formed the ability to spend less than they make, which has led them to amass a high level of net worth.
You reading this have probably lived by this principle. You make this much, you save this much of it and then spend the rest. The amount you saved was then invested and has grown into something you’re hoping to retire on.
For the most part, I’ve mainly focused on the end result of this equation: the pile of wealth in the end, however large or small. While important, maybe there is something else even more valuable than the dollar signs at the end. I think it’s important for people nearing or in retirement to reflect on this.
Here’s a question I’ll propose: What if living below your monetary abilities means that building wealth is just a byproduct and not the actual goal?
I’m in a unique position as a planner who only works with retirees. By the time that people get to me they’ve already amassed some level of wealth through their careers and businesses. They aren’t necessarily looking for someone to make them more money – they just want what they have to last and to not get slammed in taxes. As a result, I usually get to approach money from a different perspective.
What if living below your means is not only the best way to build wealth, but also (and more importantly) the best way to build faithfulness and contentment?
We typically think of money being used to buy the things we want, but we rarely think about how money has taught us some important attributes about life.
Faithfully putting in an honest day’s work to earn money and faithfully saving a portion so that you can take care of your family are valuable lessons. Living with less means that you don’t buy what you can afford. You learn to find happiness not at the edge of what your dollar can buy, but with what’s already right in front of you. People expect retirement to be a big, life-changing event. It definitely is but it also isn’t because you’ve been preparing for it by your faithfulness and contentment all your life.
So take heart, you who are approaching this next phase of life. You’re better prepared than you realize. You have the largest storehouse already and it has nothing to do with 1’s and 0’s.