I was browsing reddit, when I saw the following post:
My reaction when my 16-year-old-neighbor gets a new car from daddy for her birthday, and I’m driving a 20-year-old beater:
Feathering the Nest
I’ve been thinking about money recently. Not because I have a lot of it, but because I want to. At my age, with a wife and two kids, I find myself thinking about sending the kids to college, and being able to live when I can’t work anymore. To do these things, I need money.
So I’ve started investing, setting up my emergency fund, contributing to my IRA, and so forth. I’ve learned a lot. I recently talked with a close friend about the preparations I was making, and my friend shook his head
“You can’t forget to live your life man,” he said. He went on to explain that all the saving I was doing was robbing myself (and my poor wife) of now-pleasures. He hinted that my saving borders on extreme, that I might even be neglecting my family.
Of course, this isn’t true. We all eat three square meals a day and have health insurance. We live in a house that is big enough, and I’ve never missed a utility payment. I just don’t buy things that I think I don’t need–things like new wardrobes, bed sheets, furniture, and so forth. I get all my furniture (when I can) second-hand on Craigslist. (Some older furniture is better quality than the Ikea particle- and press-board, and far cheaper). By not buying things that make me momentarily happy now, I’m robbing my future-self of happiness. So went the logic of my friend.
After having this conversation, months passed. I began to notice that my friend was treating me different. He began to treat me as if I were greedy. As if saving was akin to a dragon hoarding his gold–not because the dragon was wise, but because he coveted money. I got the distinct impression that unless I spent money as freely as he did, then I must have some character taint.
A Human Flaw
I’m starting to notice something uncomfortable. I notice that people with money are always vilified. Always. There is this cultural current of reasoning that believes that if you have money, you have a character flaw. If you have money, you did something bad to get it. You don’t deserve it. You squashed the little guy to get where you are.
The twin reasoning that always accompanies this, is that poor people are victims. They are poor because of something outside of their control. A boss that takes advantage of them. A culture that disenfranchises them. A family member who robbed them blind. In short, I believe our society suffers from Robin Hood syndrome: People who have money have it because they took it. People who don’t were robbed.
I don’t think this is right. Instead, I think we’re all envious, and we have been since forever. This isn’t anything new. In the image at the top, the man is clearly indignant that someone he knows got something that he doesn’t have. It doesn’t matter to him how the girl got the car. How her father might have saved for years to afford it. Or how she might have earned it by getting good grades, doing chores, or getting a scholarship. All that matters to him is that he doesn’t have one.
What’s Yours is Mine
I listen to David Ramsey on the radio every now and again. I was on my way to get coffee this morning when Ramsey took a call from a 65-year-old man with a gravelly voice. The man had a question about long-term care insurance. Over the course of the conversation, Ramsey discovered that the man had $1.8 million in net worth. Shocked, Ramsey asked how he got it.
“I saved it,” said the man. Turns out that the man worked a blue-collar job for 40 years, averaging only $60,000 a year. He is a millionaire because he saved money from every paycheck instead of spending it.
I think about this man, and I get angry. I get angry that a man like this, who didn’t inherit a dime, would be seen as greedy or covetous by many. I get angry that this man, who worked hard for every nickel he owns, will be judged by people who have less. People who will conclude that he has some character taint which led to his wealth. If given the opportunity, they would tell him what to do with his money. Where to spend it. Where to give it. They would distribute it for him, because they know better than him–even though he is the one who earned it.
We live in a time where people feel entitled to each other’s wealth. Any wealth you gain is not yours. No, it’s because you were born into a certain class, or race, or nation, that you have wealth. Its because you took advantage of public infrastructure that you have wealth.
This philosophy is contributing to the acceptance of outright theft. Right now, there are riots going on in Baltimore. They all started because the public believes police shot a man unjustly. But the protests devolved into mass looting and property destruction. Here is a video of hundreds of rioters breaking into a store and robbing it. The store had nothing to do with the death of the man. These people are robbing the store because they think they deserve some swag.
Our media and pundits denounce this behavior. But they also push the ideology of wealth distribution. This philosophy hinges on the presupposition that people who have wealth don’t deserve it. That those who don’t have wealth deserve more. Once you accept this philosophy, it’s a short step to using action to take what you have been told is yours all along.
And this scares me. I’m scared that I may work hard from this point on to save, and that someday someone will just take it from me. They’ll pass some law that skims from my bank account, or say that no one can have more than $X in their bank account at one time. I’m scared that my family will sacrifice now-pleasures to build wealth and have it stolen while others consume every dime they have, and when they run out, they take my dimes. After all, we already live in the world that practices eminent domain.
Private property was the original source of freedom. It still is its main bulwark. – Walter Lippmann
Who Will You Be?
When I was in school, there was this kid who always wore his cell phone on his hip. My friends and I would snicker and mock him behind his back. “There he goes, with his fancy cell phone!” we would say. It’s ridiculous now, but back then, cell phones were expensive, and not everyone had them. This was the pager era, after all.
I think about that time, and I get embarrassed. I don’t want to be that guy. I don’t want to envy people enjoying the wealth that they worked for. Why can’t we be happy for people who have made it? Why can’t we see their beautiful home and their nice cars and think, “Wow, that guy really made it. I’m so happy for him and his family.” Why must we try mock him? Why must we envy him?
As part of my manlifesto, I want to use my money wisely so I can build wealth and better my future. I also want to encourage others to do the same, and celebrate when I see someone who has made it, not try to tear him down because I’m not there yet.
These are the blogs I read to help inspire me to save and invest wisely.
- Mr. Money Mustache
- Reddit: Personal Finance
- Reddit: Financial Independence
- Reddit: Investing
- Reddit: Financial Portfolios (Help with choosing mutual funds)
- Reddit: Frugal
- Reddit: Thrifty
- Reddit: Why to Choose Vanguard
- Reddit: Lazy Portfolios (these are what I use–specifically, the “Core Four” portfolios)