“How do I get rich?”
This was the question posed to me by Mike the chef and impresario at B&H Deli, East Village, New York City.
Yes, I am in New York. Please allow me one smug mention of the fact.
So, Mike is part chef, part performer and part host. He welcomed me back since my last visit (a few years ago) as though I’d only been away for a quick holiday.
He asked me what I’m doing now (good question, Mike – what am I doing?) and I told him I write about money.
Which leads back to his question. How does one get rich?
I countered with my own question: how do you make the perfect omelette?
His answer? Love.
Unfortunately I have no such heart-warming answers for the rich question.
No secrets, hacks or shortcuts.
But isn’t that great? There is literally no secret to getting rich.
All the information is out there. It’s in books, on blogs, in newspapers. It’s as simple – and as difficult – as this:
- Spend less than you earn
- Invest the rest
What does ‘rich’ mean anyway?
Now, let’s take a moment to interrogate the word ‘rich’. It’s a very slippery one. Does it mean spending summers on private yachts in Europe? Buying the fancy moisturiser instead of the cheap one? Sending your kids to private school? Having a gun that shoots dollar bills like Cardi B?
Or does it mean having the ability to leave a situation – a relationship, a job, a home – that is no longer good for you?
Obviously it could be all of these things. I don’t really like the word myself. I think we can be rich in blessings, friends, family, opportunities and the like. But rich with money seems a little superior – too much hubris.
I prefer to talk about wealth. It speaks to resources – having the things you need to lead the life you want. To make decisions that make you happy. To have a safety net if things go wrong. That’s way more important than the ability to buy ‘stuff’.
Don’t get me wrong, I like stuff, I just don’t think it’s the most important part of the money conversation.
Anyway, back to the two steps to wealth. The Dickens fans among us* will know the famous Micawber principle. Back when being in debt got you arrested (true story), Mr Micawber was always in and out of debtors’ jail.
He would tell young David Copperfield: “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”
The thing is, Mr Micawber knew how it worked. He was aware of the perils of spending more money than you earn. And yet he did it anyway. He seemed constitutionally unable to live within his means, causing all sorts of trouble for him and his family.
If you have a touch of Micawber in you, you’ll know it can be hard to match intention with behaviour.
If you have bought one more thing because you could just Afterpay it; if you have maxed out a credit card without quite knowing how; if you have come back from holiday with a credit card hangover; you’re not alone.
There are sophisticated companies out there, doing everything they can to part us from our money. They have algorithms and data and shiny sales and targeted campaigns and behavioural tracking and a whole bunch of dark arts to make us do exactly what Mr Micawber warned us against.
The Tricky Part
I wish I could tell you there’s an easy way to fight this. But there’s not.
It’s the hard stuff – inner work stuff.
Finding out what emotions, fears or insecurities make you spend more than you plan to.
Identifying your bad habits, spending traps and weak points.
Staying close to your bank statements so you see where money is going out the door.
It’s another mental load, I’m sorry to say. Part of the hundreds or micro-decisions we make every day.
I see a lot of parallels between money and food. We live in a world where delicious, calorie-dense food and drink is all around us, all the time. It’s quick, cheap and easy. And so much harder to shop, cook and clean up in the kitchen. It’s so much mental energy to say ‘no’ to yummy food all the time.
But it’s a muscle. It responds to repetition. It gets better when you practise.
And it needs a reason to stay on track – a goal that is clear and specific enough for you to say ‘put that donut down’ or ‘abandon that shopping cart’.
If you’re interested in goal setting, and want an impassioned reason why it matters, check out this post.
If you’re thinking about some of the emotional stuff underlying your relationship to money, read this one.
If you are totally fine with your money mindset and just want the 411 on how to invest, go straight here!
I want to explore these issues more going forward, because I think it’s really important to educate women about how to invest, but it’s also critical to examine our relationship with money.
In the meantime, as we get ready for a new year and a new decade (WTF), I’d encourage you to spend a bit of time thinking about how you want to evolve your relationship with money. And guess what, I’ll be here to help!
*Side story for Dickens tragics: I went to trivia in Louisville, Kentucky recently, and one of the questions asked about an American novel published in serialised form in the mid-18th century. I was lost, because my American literature knowledge is patchy at best. Finally, they read out the answer and it’s David Copperfield! WTAF? Americans, stealing Dickens from Great Britain! Obviously some of us protested to the quiz master, but he seemed unmoved.
So I approached him and explained it could have been a mistake since Dickens was very popular in the US and used to go on reading tours here. Old mate was totally not listening to me because he was on Wikipedia, scrolling through the Dickens page, TO CHECK IF DICKENS WAS AMERICAN! Ok I have already ranted about this throughout this great land of America, but I’m glad to have another chance here.