The Greatest Piece of Financial Advice I’ve Ever Received

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So many of us struggle to live within our means. Part of the reason for this is that our checking account balance is lying to us. No, you actually do have that amount in your account, but many of us forget how or more specifically when it got there. 

I used to wonder why I was so slammed up against the wall as I neared the end of a pay period. I would find myself at the grocery store the day before payday, wondering whether or not I should use my credit card or move money from savings into my checking account. 

 How the heck did this happen? Well, it turns out that I was misreading my checking account balance. This was causing me to spend beyond my means quite comfortably the first week or so after being paid—a false assurance. It wasn’t until I received one tip from a financial advisor through my Native American tribe that helped me look at my checking account differently, to live within my means, and start putting savings away. 

The first thing you should do when you get paid is to move everything that had existed in your checking account before payday into savings and act as though it never existed. That will force you to truly live on your salary and not feel like you have more because of what remained from your last pay cycle. 

She was right—I hadn’t been seeing a realistic picture of my means due to the remnants of my last paycheck artificially inflating my checking account balance.

Her advice sounds ridiculously simple, but it worked. If my paycheck hit my account on top of, say, $300 that was in there before, that $300 got thrown into savings. Now, every time I look at my checking account, the only info looking back at me is only what my most recent paycheck had left and the spending since then. This little behavior has forced me to more diligently stick to my budget but also to truly live within my means. No matter how much is left over, it goes to savings. As far as I’m concerned, that money is stowed behind a rock on the moon.

Anyway, I hope this helps someone as much as it helped me. 

The Rich Poor Man: Insatiable Affluence vs Contented Poverty

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What is wealth or richness? These terms vary depending to whom they are referring. To one person, someone rich has a six-figure income. To someone else, six figures are just the beginning. Putting the actual income level aside, what even makes this income appealing? Surely, a briefcase full of cash makes for a decent footrest under your desk, but most would say that the appeal of abundant monetary wealth is the afforded luxury of freedom—of time, actions, resources. They can do whatever they desire. 

Then there is the person that typically makes less than six figures—the office clerk, the teacher, the janitor, the bus driver, the grocery store attendant. Do they have the same desire for freedom as the CEO, the doctor, or lawyer? Undoubtedly. 

Now, let us distill why freedom equals happiness. More often than not, this freedom-thus-happiness comes with a steep cost. For some, many weeks going over evidence and preparing their client for a court case may result in some of that freedom-thus-happiness. For others, bathing an elderly person one morning can result in a bit of that freedom-thus-happiness. 

What if that person bathing the elderly felt indeed contented in their pursuit of freedom-thus-happiness, though the defense attorney utterly hated every moment of their job? What if the fast-food worker sang while cooking food in the back of a hot kitchen while the CEO stared at the ceiling fan all night, wondering what kind of people her children would grow up to be? What is the cost of affluence if someone is routinely required to slowly and systematically crush their own soul in the process?  

The measure of a rich person should not be the digits on their bank statement, but the measure of the void between longing and contentment. By this definition, an elementary school teacher who must purchase her own school supplies may live a life of existential opulence while the gold-cufflinked stockbroker may indeed be spiritually destitute and emotionally famished. 

More often than not, the pursuit of wealth is far more costly and far less gratifying than the pursuit of contentment. 

“It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor. … Do you ask what is the proper limit to wealth? It is, first, to have what is necessary, and, second, to have what is enough.” – Seneca