Each week, I and my colleagues at BLACK ENTERPRISE get e-mails and letters from people who tell me they are determined to get out of debt and begin to build wealth for themselves and their families. This is especially true at the beginning of the year, between January (New Year resolutions) and April (Financial Literacy Month). I get many of these questions in response to my syndicated radio feature Money Matters, or through my presence on social media sites including Twitter, Facebook and BEInsider. Most of those who reach out to us are sincere about their desire to change their financial futures.
However, others are just giving lip-service to the BLACK ENTERPRISE Wealth for Life mission. They want financial freedom—as long as they don’t actually have to make changes in their lifestyles to do it. They know they need to live within their means. They’re just not trying to hear it. They know they’re living dirty when it comes to their finances—but they’re still fly!
My message this morning is for those of you who are part of the latter group of people, those who want to talk the talk, but will not walk the walk. My question to you: How badly do you want it? Do you want to build wealth and gain financial empowerment badly enough to:
Read at least one book on money and finances each month?
Stop pleading ignorance about financial matters and commit to your own financial literacy?
Stop ignoring sound advice from financial experts?
Drive your two-year-old car for five more years, rather than trading up to a brand new model—again?
Forego buying new clothes or shoes for a year?
Prepare all meals at home, brown-bagging your meals for work each day?
Stay on top of your credit reports and scores?
Care for your own nails and do your own hair?
Take in a trusted friend, relative or boarder, sharing household expenses and applying the savings to paying down debt and building up savings?
Lock away your credit cards for a year, living only on the money you actually have and cutting expenses rather than going deeper into debt? In other words, stop using credit to buy things you don’t have the cash for?
Save for what you want, instead of buying it on credit?
Stop shopping based on what you think you deserve, and focus on what you can actually afford? (Cultivating an exaggerated sense of entitlement and deprivation is the goal of most advertising. Stop falling for it!)
Put together a household budget—and stick to it?
Too many of the people who contact me for advice say no to these questions, and to anything that calls for them to make the sacrifices and change the lifestyles that brought them to their financial difficulties. Often, they are spending to win or keep the approval and acceptance of others (even though the “Joneses” they’re trying to hang with are likely just as broke as they are). They’re so focused on looking rich that it’s impossible for them to build wealth.
Well I’ve got news for you: Freedom (especially financial freedom) ain’t free. You can’t build wealth for the future, if you refuse to make sacrifices today. You don’t have to sacrifice everything, but you have to sacrifice something. Those of you looking for a pain-free, short-cut to financial empowerment and freedom will only find disappointment, frustration and ultimately, financial ruin.
The definitions of poverty and wealth do not change:
Wealth is spending less money than you make, saving and investing the difference in things that increase in value and/or pay you interest, thereby increasing your assets and net worth.
Poverty is spending more money than you make, spending on things that decrease in value and borrowing to cover the difference, paying interest to others, thereby increasing your liabilities and decreasing your net worth.
These are not just financial conditions; they are lifestyles. Which lifestyle you choose is entirely up to you. It doesn’t matter what you say; your daily decisions and actions reveal the truth. Financial freedom is far from easy to attain, especially at first. However, it can be achieved—and maintained. How badly do you want it?