In our daily readings, musings and ponderings there is no shortage of material to talk about. In fact, it’s just the opposite. So much is going on all the time that sometimes it’s hard to distill it down to a few nuggets to offer. We don’t need to grab the headlines. You can do that easily enough through the plethora of news sites. No, our job is to try to make you think. We look for nuggets that might cause you to consider the implications of the society, economy and other areas of life in order to bring the truth to greater light. Sometimes we offer an angle on a current event. Sometimes we just ponder a thought. Always we’re trying to tie it to something someone has written recently, as to offer greater relevance. And, after looking at the particular topic of discussion for the day in an effort to understand it rightly, we strive to make sure we’re keeping it in a biblical perspective. It can probably be safely assumed that this is what makes us unique, at least as far as we know.
One challenge that we all face is related to how we spend the rest of our lives. I say this as a middle-aged man who has done many things very well, but still realizes there is much he could have done better. And, in looking to our future, with the small savings we have and a very mediocre income, we have to wonder what the future looks like. Work is harder to come by than it once was. There was a time when a man with basic skills could get his name out and make a pretty decent living. But specialization has changed a lot of that. And with the challenges of our economy the competition has risen as the pay has either remained flat or decreased. With rising costs of living (inflation – a topic for another day), this means that the ability for the average middle-class man to increase his holdings is diminishing in the U.S. Just “doing it” has become much more difficult than it once was. Generally speaking, it takes more creativity today to break out and excel in the marketplace.
Another Joe has pondered these things a great deal in recent days. His current employment looks like it’s likely going to end in the near future. And, though effort has been made, there are no clear leads to what’s next. In fact, to be transparent, that is part of the reason we’ve launched this blog. We want to share our struggles. We want to share our insights. We want to share our experiences. Some can identify. And, through it all, we want to strive to keep a proper perspective on life, even through the trials and challenges we face. And, as many of you know, it is possible to draw some income off of blogs if you can gain enough readership. While we don’t expect to pay the bills doing this, we do hope to bring in a little to help offset living expenses. And, regardless, if we can get people reading perhaps we can help others with perspective and to view life from a better angle. If we can influence people in this way then our efforts are not in vain.
I was reading a recent Daily Wealth posting about striving for financial independence. Mark Ford, editor of The Palm Beach Letter, offered some good advice. His advice was aimed at us, middle-aged men who wonder what their future will provide; and often wonder how they will provide in the near future. Here’s his introduction:
You are middle aged. Your net worth is meager. Your income is barely sufficient to meet expenses… And those expenses are going up. The Great Recession is looming. Economists are predicting things will get worse. What can you do?
Rather than continue by giving some sort of formula to getting rich, such as subscribing to his newsletter, he offers some very excellent advice. In fact, this one paragraph is worth reading the article. It may be one of the most important paragraphs ever written in a newsletter. Others say it in different ways and offer the same advice. The fact is, regardless of your circumstances, your responsibility for how you face the future is on your shoulders. It’s your load to bear. We’ve talked about this a little before, but today we desire to offer hope from a different angle. Consider Mr. Ford’s comments.
The first thing you must do is accept the fact that you are solely and completely responsible for your current financial situation. Before you react defensively, read that sentence again… I didn’t say you are the cause of your situation. I said you are responsible for it.By taking responsibility for your current condition, you also assume responsibility for your future. Nobody can change your fortune but you. And nobody else will. The sooner you accept that reality, the sooner you will shed the anger and blame and begin to feel financially powerful.
Okay, that was two paragraphs. Both help us to consider ourselves rightly and take responsibility for our own lives, both today and for tomorrow. It’s not the responsibility of the government. It’s not the responsibility of your neighbors. It’s not your boss’. It’s not even your family’s or church’s. It’s yours, and yours alone. Life might bring some pretty crummy challenges. But it’s still your responsibility to deal with them. It may be that family, friends, neighbors and your church will help you get on your feet. But it’s still your responsiblity to get moving and do something.
If you’re looking to get rich quick and side-step the process of providing for yourself and your family, it’s most likely you’ll be disappointed. There are those who beat the overwhelming odds. Some win the lottery. Some start some program that promises quick success and it actually works for them. But they’re the exception, not the rule. The rule is, we must work hard in order to gain. That doesn’t mean that there’s no room for investment or speculation. It does mean that we can’t count on speculation or gambling to make us rich, so we need to invest wisely in order to preserve and increase whatever resources we are able to accumulate.
Let’s be real. If you make $25,000 a year it’s tough to get ahead. If you’re spending $100 a month of that on lottery tickets it’s even harder. If you’re eating fast food you’re accomplishing at least two more things, besides padding someone else’s pockets. You’re eating food that is generally unhealthy and you’re paying far too much for it. It’s much cheaper to eat at home. Cutting expenses such as soda, chips and most snack foods, that aren’t good for you anyways, can go amazingly far in stretching dollars. Then you can take the $100 a month, plus whatever you save on these other luxuries, and begin building a nestegg. Do so carefully. Don’t buy into a get-rich-quick scheme. You could buy metals. Another Joe talks about this. But study the market first. Understand the fundamentals of why you’d be investing in metals and what you want.
We don’t talk about stocks much here. There’s a simple reason for this. We don’t really understand stocks particularly well. We’re not in the financial advice business. But Mark offers some advice that we we think makes a lot of sense. One of his points is to make sure your investment is safe. It’s better to gain 10-15% a year safely than try for 50-90% and lose it all. As he states, “Warren Buffett – the most successful investor of all time and the third-richest person on the planet – has averaged 19% on his investments over his entire career.”
Listen, we can’t increase our holdings by spending. We can only do it by saving and investing wisely. As a reminder, keeping your holdings in dollars is a position. It’s investment in dollars. So, strive to find where you want your holdings to sit and grow accordingly. This requires due diligence and saving. If you can only buy a couple of shares of stock at a time, then so be it. If you can only afford one ounce of silver at a time, then that’s one ounce you own and can build upon. Regardless of where you decide to put your efforts, know what you want to invest in and why; then do it with diligence, taking control of your future as best you can.
Really, I’m just adding an angle to what Mark already states in his article. I’ll let him add some thoughts for our consideration.
Make an honest count of the number of hours each month you devote to television and other non-productive activities. Devote them to wealth-building instead. Cast aside the comfortable shoes of victimization. Put on the working boots of a financial hero.It’s not fun to realize, in the midst of your life, that you haven’t acquired the wealth you want. But the good news is your past doesn’t have to be a prologue… unless you allow it to. You can change your fortunes today by doing the four things I’ve just told you to do.You are only 47, not 87. You have plenty of time to increase your income and grow your net worth. Why do you assume all is lost when – as any 87-year-old will tell you – you have a whole wonderful life ahead of you… a life that can be rich in 100 ways?
While the focus of this article has been on money, the message is not. It’s about taking responsibility for our own lives. It’s about grasping the reins and kicking the horse in the sides in order to strive to get where we want to go. We are responsible to do this in every area of our lives.
Earthly riches are rather amoral. They’re neither good nor evil. They offer comfort in a worldly sense, but can ruin a man who does not have the character to handle them. This is not so in regard to eternal riches. The treasure we have in Christ always matures us and helps us to be better people, both now and for eternity. And your condition in regard to your relationship to Jesus is your responsibility. Take this bull by the horns as well, because the riches you have in Christ can’t be taken by any thief or calamity. They’re secured by the strength of God almighty.