Is Your Thinking Keeping You Poor? Article 59: The one mistake no amount of income can solve
by Douglas Kruger
The one mindset that money can’t change
Generating new wealth can solve many problems. But there is one problem that more money will never solve – in fact, more money could make it worse.
Simon’s career path is on an upward trajectory. He started off as an electrician – an ‘appie’ – working for the owner of a business. His starting salary was humble, at less than R10 000 per month before tax. After receiving his first pay cheque, he spends a little more than he has earned. He argues that he needs good work clothes, so he buys them on credit, knowing that he can pay the account off the following month.
The following month, he organises satellite television. It costs a little more than he’s earning, but he can pay it off next month. It’s only about five per cent more than he’s earning, so it’s not a big deal.
A year down the line, Simon has been consistently spending five per cent more than he earns every month. Every instance of spending was justifiable at the time, but his debt has mounted quickly.
It’s not a problem, though. Simon gets an increase! His salary goes up to R12 000. He immediately realises that he can, and should, get some better clothes, on credit, as he is now advancing in his career. He continues to spend just a little more than he earns – only five per cent – but he’s offered more credit, so it’s not a problem.
Soon, Simon gets a big promotion. His salary doubles. He has developed a lifestyle habit of consistently living beyond his means. Never by a lot; just by five per cent.
He continues to live this pattern. But, whereas before, five per cent of R10 000 was just R500 (which created R11 000 of debt for Simon in the course of a year), five per cent of R20 000 is R1 000 per month (which creates additional debt of R22 000 per year).
Simon only has one small, simple, mindset problem: he lives a little beyond his means. But his problem is amplified by his growing wealth. The more income he receives, the greater the debt he creates for himself.
In short, more money makes Simon consistently poorer.
He doesn’t have an income problem. He has an outflow problem. Add three or four significant salary raises into the equation, and allow this pattern to run its course over, say, ten years, and Simon will find himself buckling under a mountain of debt. He will wonder how he ever got into this situation. And he will hope and pray for ‘just a little more income’ to solve the problem.
Income is not the solution. Income, funnelled through this mindset, makes things worse. Outflow is the problem. No amount of extra money will help Simon.
But what if you earn obscene amounts?
The result will be obscene amounts of debt.
Michael Jackson fell prey to this mindset. Despite Forbes’ estimate that he earned $1.1 billion during his lifetime, when he died in 2009, he left over $500 million in debt. He earned massive amounts, but consistently spent more than he earned. If you earned over a billion US dollars, would you ever believe you could run out of money?
Jackson earned money on a scale that mere mortals find difficult to comprehend. But he also spent on the same scale. At one stage, he was unable to service a $25-million loan on his Neverland ranch. (Interestingly, he has ‘earned’ over $2 billion since his death).
If you don’t grasp this one brutally simple principle, more money will only ever make you poorer: you must live below your means.
Get it wrong, and greater income only ever equals amplified debt. Michael Jackson levels of debt.
Poverty mindset: I can afford more now.
Wealth mindset: If I can afford more, but I’m not tempted by it. I can genuinely improve my life.
Douglas Kruger is a business author and professional speaker. See him in action, or read his articles, at www.douglaskruger.co.za. Douglas’s books, including ‘Is Your Thinking Keeping You Poor? 50 Ways the Rich Think Differently,’ are available at Exclusive Books, Estoril, CNA, and as ebooks from Amazon.com