There is one simple thing that separates the rich from the poor – this one principal is the reason the rich build more and more wealth, and the poor get even poorer, and traditional streams of education fail to teach our youngsters meaning most are faced with having to figure it out for themselves… and most never do.
But first, let’s look at defining the problem in simple terms so we’re all on the same page – what’s needed is some basic definitions of common terms that are often misunderstood.
One of those big problems we face as a society in this modern age is debt. More specifically – bad debt.
There are two types of debt you can have – good debt and bad debt. The difference? Well, the simple defining difference is that bad debt is credit you obtain and then use to purchase liabilities – or several liabilities. This could be taking out a loan for a new car, or purchasing this years holiday on your credit card. Good debt is credit that you leverage in order to purchase assets – this could be taking out a mortgage to purchase a rental property that’s going to return you a second, almost passive income.
The first thing we should probably clear up is the definition of an asset and a liability – they are not what most people think they are! For example, the house that you own and live in – is it a liability or an asset? Let’s make the assumption that you’ve been lucky to pay off your mortgage and you own it outright – how would you answer that question bearing that in mind?
Most people believe their home is an asset – especially if they have no mortgage on it. How can it be a liability when I haven’t got any credit to support it’s ownership and I have a store of value in the property’s equity? Well, according to Rich Dad Poor Dad, the simple definition of a liability is something that costs you money to own, and an asset is something that you own that provides an income over and above the expenses incurred to own it.
So, in the case of your house, unless you’re renting it out and making a profit, it’s a liability – it costs you money to own it and live there! You pay water and electricity bills to keep it operational, you pay council tax for the pleasure of it existing within a certain jurisdiction, and you probably pay insurance to protect the potential downside. If you’re not charging rent to someone to live there over and above YOUR costs then it’s costing you to own it. It’s worth mentioning also that if you rent it out but don’t make enough from the rent you’re charging to cover the expenses then it’s still a liability – the defining difference is whether it achieves positive cashflow or not.
Hold on, I hear you cry, but I don’t have a mortgage and I can sell my property for hundreds of thousands of pounds if I wanted to so it’s an asset because when I sell it I’ll make lots of money! Erm, not quite. You see, you only realise the paper value stored in a property like that once you sell it… and you can only sell it for what someone is prepared to pay. For example, you might have been unfortunate in a relationship and going through divorce where you need to sell quickly – you’re a highly motivated seller, and there are no buyers in the market for your type of property who are prepared to pay what you want to sell it for. All of a sudden, the value in your assets diminishes considerably simple because of someone else’s perception of value.. which could be drastically different to yours! You only realise the value in an asset like that at the point of sale, and there’s no guarantee you’ll find any buyers at the time you’re looking to sell, and there’s no guarantee that if you find a willing buyer that they’ll want to pay what you think it’s worth. This doesn’t sound like a very reliable asset to me – especially given the potential return can so easily change based on multiple variables that are completely out of your control. Yes – you might sell and make a profit, but you might equally have to sell at a loss, and you won’t know which it’s going to be until the point of sale.
Now that we’ve clearly defined good and bad credit, and the definition of an asset and a liability, let’s have a look at the key problem most people face when it comes to finances – financial education.
The one key difference between the rich and the poor is this; the rich know how to master their money and create assets that provide multiple streams of income – more simply, they understand the art and the science of putting their money to work in a way that means their money makes them more money without the controlling person having to exchange time for more money.
But this is exactly the opposite of what we’re taught in school, where the focus is on finding a skill, becoming qualified, and then finding a position where you can exchange your time for money for the rest of your life.
Okay, but what’s wrong with that?
Well, nothing if that approach aligns with your values and allows you to achieve your goals in life. However, the key limitation with this approach is this – you only have 24 hours in a day like everyone else, so what happens when you reach a point where you’re exchanging all those hours for an hourly wage? Well, when there’s no more hours in the day to exchange, you’re not only burnt out and unfulfilled because you have no time to direct towards the things you love in life (let’s face it, most people are far from doing a job they love), but you have now hit your earnings ceiling. How do you earn more when there’s no more time to exchange? This is the key limiting problem with this approach.
Yes, most of us will have to start with this inefficient exchange in order to generate our first income, but it’s what we do with the fruits of our labour that really defines where we’re going to mature into wealthy people or poor people. For those of us who have been lucky enough to have some financial education, we start to do things with our money that let it grow all on it’s own. For those who don’t, they spend all their spare money on holidays, new gadgets, and toys – aka liabilities!
This behaviour sends us into a downwards spiral that can be extremely difficult to get out of. You earn money, and use that money to buy liabilities. Those liabilities increase your monthly outgoings, meaning you have to exchange more time for money to increase your income so you can continue to service the new liabilities you have purchased. You increase your income further so you again have some surplus (but you’re now working 12 hours days and barely seeing your family), and then you use that surplus to purchase more liabilities… and so the vicious cycle continues. Can you see now why this behaviour is so destructive to people’s finances? Can you see why we have such a problem with bad debt these days? All because financial education is considered unimportant by our educational institutions. This needs to change, and this change starts with you educating yourself, so you can go on to educate others and set the next generation up for greater levels of financial success.
So, how do the wealthy grow their money?
There are multiple strategies people use, but they can all be classed as one form of investment or another. You could invest in stocks and shares that not only appreciate in value but that pay you a dividend throughout the year whilst you own them. You could invest in the wild west market of crypto-currencies and benefit for the massive bullish gains we’ve seen in those markets in recent years (I was trading Bitcoin at $900 at the start of 2017, and it’s now broken right through $10,000 – all in under 12 months). You could put your money into cash-flowing investment properties, or you could either start your own business or invest in one.
There are so many strategies you can employ to make your money work for you, rather than you working for money. All it takes is the commitment to educate yourself in whatever vehicle you choose and get started.
I’ve written several blogs on trading and investing that you can find by searching those tags so please feel free to check those out to get some more information on these strategies – there’s also loads of great resources on-line, but there’s also a lot of shit. Be careful and do thorough research from reputable sources.
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Enjoy! Please drop me a comment if there’s additional content you’d find value in me covering on this subject!