A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to give a talk about managing money to a group of mainly young adults, some of whom are extremely well salaried. As I answered their different questions, I realized once again how poorly our education system trains us to manage this critical resource and I reflected on some of the things I wish I knew about money when I graduated from college.
Critical lesson numero uno: it’s not how much you earn that counts but how much you save. The work of a job is not to make you wealthy. It only provides the raw material for growing and multiplying wealth. It is what you do with the salary you earn from your job that determines if you will grow wealthy or remain poor.
The book of Proverbs tells us that even with their little brains, ants are smart enough to put aside food to ensure they survive future droughts. Years of observation have convinced me that it’s not the people who get big salaries that attain financial security but it is those who learn to live within their means, save something every month and invest when opportunities present themselves.
Speaking of opportunities, the number two critical lesson has to do with the importance of regularly increasing your financial wisdom. This comes through reading books about money management as well as spending time with and asking the right questions to wise investors.
The truth is that money flows from the well salaried to the wise. I have gained amazing insights and opportunities by spending time with people wiser than myself. Here again, the book of Proverbs has something to benefit us when it challenges us to ‘get wisdom at any cost’ and counsels us that wisdom is better than gold and silver.
A third important lesson has to do with understanding the dangers of debt. It’s all the rage nowadays to borrow money, whether it’s to fund your business start up or to buy new furniture. But the wisdom of the Proverbs warns us that ‘the borrower is a slave to the lender’.
I’ve found that for most of us, the easy availability of credit short-circuits the development of creativity and patience, as well as wisdom gained from slow growth. Coupled with which the Swahili saying ‘kukopa harusi, kulipa matanga’ (to borrow is like a wedding, to pay back like a funeral) is extremely true.
Lesson number four is the importance of living for more than money. Money is simply a tool. At the end of the day, the reason you want more is so you can have time to enjoy peace, health and good relationships with the ones you love. What the good book refers to as ‘shallom’. Don’t sacrifice your relationship with your loved ones because of the pursuit of money. That’s putting the cart before the horse!