Monday, August 07, 2006

Get Rich Slow

I've been reading The Millionaire Next Door. Despite the alluring title, it's an unnervingly practical book. The authors, Thomas J. Stanley, Ph.D. and William D. Danko, Ph.D., have been studying millionaires for over 20 years, and they make a compelling case for getting rich slowly.

Although it's easy to dream of winning the lottery, inheriting a million dollars, or otherwise getting rich without effort, Stanley and Danko make it clear that there are few shortcuts to wealth. Among their more interesting findings:

-Most of America's millionaires don't flaunt their wealth.
-They live in working-class neighborhoods.
-They drive moderately-priced cars, often purchased used.
-They are more likely to shop at JC Penney or Sears than at Saks.
-Many millionaires are entrepreneurs.
-Many do not have college degrees.

People who become the millionaire next door tend to:
-Have a budget.
-Spend less than they earn.
-Track their expenditures.
-Have concrete goals for the future.

Stay with me now-- do you, or do you not, want to retire comfortably? If not, then you're on the wrong blog. If you do want to retire without the spectres of diminishing Social Security and disappearing pensions clouding your last days, read on.

Look back at the characteristics of The Millionaire Next Door as outlined above. Not very exciting, eh? Obviously, these wealthy people are not the Gucci-wearing, leased-Jaguar-driving, champagne-swilling crowd. They probably eat their Brie-- if they've ever heard of it-- on a plain old Saltine cracker. Yet according to Stanley and Danko, these sensible people don't have a lot of worries.

Compared to the high-consumption crowd, the millionaires don't spend much time worrying over shrinking social welfare programs or how to make ends meet. They've chosen a lifestyle that allows them to live comfortably, and retire with all the money they'll ever need. Rather than keeping up with the Jones's, they've focused on keeping up their bank accounts. The wise millionaires know it's hard to enjoy life when you can't make ends meet.

I recommend reading The Millionaire Next Door. It may change your life, or it may just let you know what you're doing right. Either way, it's worth reading.

Get a Grip!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

So It's Ben & Jerry's Fault?

I'm always astonished when I read a headline such as "Ice Cream Moguls Add to Obesity Problem." This particular gem happened to refer to a letter to the editor in our local paper.

The writer was carping about Ben and Jerry's new campaign to redirect spending from war to children's health insurance. He adopts a ironic tone to note that "the two aging hippies seem not to understand that...American children are suffering from an obesity problem."

If you're groping for a connection between the two ideas, you're not alone. He's right that kids are fat, but how is that B&J's fault? I seriously doubt that most kids got fat on premium ice cream-- it's more likely a combination of fast food and little exercise.

Does the writer believe that premium ice cream should be banned? His last sentence suggests his point of view- "How about throwing in a pack of Lucky Strikes with every order of Chunky Monkey?" By coupling ice cream with cigarettes, he attempts to suggest a parity in potential harm. Sigh....

This is another instance where someone needs to step back, take a deep breath, and GET A GRIP! It is possible to eat Ben and Jerry's every week, and not get fat. It's even possible to eat it and not get coronary artery disease (the writer's other bugaboo).

How? How can you consume a high-fat, high-sugar product without harmful side effects? Moderation!

If (and it's a big IF) you habitually eat a well-balanced diet, you can indulge in all sorts of wonderful treats-- a bite or two at a time. When I eat Ben and Jerry's (my favorite was Totally Nuts, until it disappeared; now I eat Coffee Heath Bar), I scoop 1/4 cup into a juice glass; put the rest back in the freezer, and enjoy my treat, a small spoonful at a time. It's enough.

Learning to stop at 'enough' is a small thing, but it has big rewards. Instead of blaming ice-cream makers for obesity and heart disease, and suggesting that the product is somehow illegitimate or flawed, I think the letter-writer might stop to consider that the responsibility for weight management lies a lot closer to home than the wilds of Vermont.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

First Post, What Else?

I have to start somewhere, and at risk of evoking The Sound of Music, I guess I'll start at the very beginning.

What's the point of this blog?
I'm want to focus on getting a grip-- staying at the steering wheel of life's basic functions: time, money, weight, and all that fundamental stuff that needs to be managed so that you can live freely.

Do I have a grip on everything? Weight, yes. The other stuff? Sometimes. Sometimes not.

But I'm writing to remind myself as well as anyone else who'd like to think about this kind of thing.

Getting a grip is really all about doing some very simple things consistently. We'll see how it goes!

Do or do not. There is no try. (From a fortune cookie.)