Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Why I'm not a millionaire

Jeffrey Strain has an interesting take on why most people never become millionaires from The Street: 10 Reasons You're Not Rich. I'll summarize:

1) You care what your neighbors think. This really is one reason I'm not rich, but not for the reason the article suggests. The article says too many people acquire too many possessions and too big a house, competing with the neighbors, rather than amassing personal wealth. To me, the critical issue is wanting to be held in some esteem by my neighbors for being a decent human being. Lately I've been hit over the head with the realization that one path to wealth requires that you don't care what anyone thinks of you--and that includes not just your neighbors but your friends, family, and people who worked their hearts out for you to reach your level of wealth. When you can sell every one of them down the river, you get rich.

2) You aren't patient. The article talks about get-rich-quick schemes that don't work. I'm actually very patient at working to achieve my goals. It took three years of research and hard work to finish 101 Ways to Help Birds. But at this point, that book has barely made me a thousandaire. Was it time wasted? Not according to my lights and my goals. I'd rather be held in the esteem of one ten-year-old than have a million dollars. Really.

3) You have bad habits. I don't smoke or gamble, and drink very little, so I'm not wasting potential wealth on these things.

4) You have no goals. Actually, I have plenty of goals, I work hard to achieve them, and I have an excellent track record for success. But my goals involve making the world a better place for human beings and birds, not acquiring personal wealth.

5) You haven't prepared. "Bad things happen to the best of people from time to time, and if you haven't prepared for such a thing to happen to you through insurance, any wealth that you might have built can be gone in an instant." Well, I'm pretty well insured, but hang that. Overall I'm far more focused on bad things that could happen and already are happening to the natural world, and trying to insure that we do something about them before it's too late. Oddly, the reason my efforts have so little effect is directly related to the ways other people become millionaires. Go figure.

6) You try to make a quick buck. That's not me at all.

7) You rely on others to take care of your money. Well, yes, I put what little I have in the bank. I refuse to put another penny in the stock market, ever. Too much of America's real wealth, our human and natural resources, has been squandered for the short-term profits of shareholders and the excessive salaries and bonuses of CEOs.

8) You invest in things you don't understand. Well, no one fully understands all the complexities of the natural world, but I do as well as I can.

9) You're financially afraid. Nope, not me. I'm like a chickadee--I work hard and trust that I have the skills and cleverness and will to be able to eke out an existence somehow as long as I live, and when I no longer can, I'll die. It's only fearful people who spend their lives amassing wealth they cannot enjoy against some dark, ominous future.

10) You ignore your finances. Well, yes. As long as millionaires are ignoring the natural world, which holds far more real wealth and importance than money, I've got way higher priorities than mere finances.