why be rich?

Some of the comments on my post on Friday (part 3 of my 31 causes of failure series, from Think and Grow Rich) made me think a little about how others might perceive my take on “getting wealthy.” I think “getting rich” and “getting wealthy” are two different things, but I blur the distinction in my writing. I’m approaching the list of causes of failures more from a goal/life perspective, and that’s the way I chose to interpret the book – but I don’t discount the “rich” part. Hill puts a substantial emphasis on getting rich but the second “rule” of getting rich is this:

“Determine exactly what you intend to give in return for the money you desire. (There is no such reality as “something for nothing.) “

If you get rich without an intention to give something in return then you are just a heartless machine. He even asserts that without a specific purpose built around giving back you won’t manage to become rich in the first place.

Hill and Wallace Wattles (who wrote The Science of Getting Rich, a predecessor of TAGR) both were emphatic that the purpose of wealth was to free up your life to achieve your purpose, and your purpose was to give back to the world in terms of charity or your talents or your knowledge. The failure to emphasize “giving back” is one of the reasons I am not as fond of new Law of Attraction works like The Secret. My idea of getting rich is so that I can become a better person, contribute more to the world and help others with my wealth – all while being happier with myself and a better provider for my family.

I like the idea of thinking as every action I do as something I can win. I can fight the battle to be more intelligent, or smarter about saving money, or become more successful at business, etc. I don’t think it makes me unpleasant – it’s not like I’m challenging people to arm wrestle me all the time!

Getting rich is important. You can do great things without getting rich. Gandhi wasn’t rich. However, for many of us the capacity to do good becomes significantly more pronounced if we do become rich. There are some caveats; you can’t work 18 hours a day and neglect your family to be rich. You can’t be the best stay-at-home parent in history if your spouse stays home, too – somebody has to earn money.

I have several very specific reasons I want to be rich, but one of the first and foremost is that I want to be a full-time dad, or at least one who spends more time parenting than working. Right now I spend more than 50% of my waking hours either working or commuting to work, and I am at the low end of time commitment for my profession since I’m an hourly-paid consultant (which discourages my client from keeping me for overtime). I don’t see any way to change that percentage without getting rich enough to not need to work (a lot). Someone who works a lot is not winning, in my opinion, they are losing. The trick is to work smart, not hard. Bill Gates is a good example – until recently the richest man in the world, he’s given $29 billion to charity, has three kids under 10 years old and is retiring early at the age of 53 later this year. That’s much more effective than someone who works hard, buys a Lexus and retires at 65 once his kids are gone from home. It’s also more effective than someone who drops out of society and lives an ultrafrugal lifestyle. The best way I can serve myself and my family and friends – and hopefully the world at large – will be to amass the resources I am able to and redistribute them in a beneficial way. Nobody will be served by high consumption or ultra-frugality. The best way to give back is to get rich.

So that’s just a small clarification. I don’t want to be rich so I can buy a Porsche. Travel to Italy? Yeah. Stay at home when I don’t want to work? Yeah. Support my extended family? Yeah. Have the means to give back to my community? Yeah. Buy a Wii, as so many of my frugal blogging compatriots aspire to? No. Getting rich is about removing money (or the lack thereof) as a barrier to my REAL goals.

Creative Commons License photo credit: aussiegall