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

18 Replies to “why be rich?”

  1. I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

    Stacey Derbinshire

  2. Many people think that having the desire to be rich makes you evil, and I think that’s very unfortunate. Irrational obsession with or abuse of money is bad, yes. But there are many rich role models for us, people who have used their money to make the world a better place. Good luck in being one of them!

    1. @Hunter, @AJC: I think we’re all on the same page, but it never hurts to hear that you aren’t alone in your thought process – thanks!@Matt: Admirable goal – keep me posted. If you know that’s what you want at 26 you’re already ahead of me – I didn’t realize it til I was in my early 30s. But thanks – I sure do hope (and believe) I’ll achieve my goals, too.@WC: I guess I’d argue you’d have the same problem getting poor without any goals. The trick is to have goals – but getting rich makes those goals easier to reach (usually, but not always).@Stacey: Thanks!

  3. Hi BrBl; I agree that “purpose of wealth was to free up your life to achieve your purpose” (whether that’s giving to charity … or just Spitzer-syle whoring for the rest of your life is a personal choice!).

    In fact I would restate this as: “the VERY DEFINITION of wealth is when you have freed up your life to achieve your purpose”.

    Knowing this amount is Step 1 to achieving real wealth … Steps 2+ are a little more complicated!


  4. Excellent article. My line of thought mirrors yours. I’m 26 and my goal is to retire in 5 years. Why? Because I think my talents are wasted doing computer programming for 8 hours of my day. I know I could be doing much more for the world if I could free up those 40 hours per week and invest it into something more valuable.

    I don’t have a family yet but also want to financially free by the time I start one so I can be there for my future children when they’re growing up.

    Good article. I’m sure you’ll achieve your goals.

  5. Your posts always get me thinking~
    I know when I was younger, I was afraid of “getting rich.”
    Especially since my new in laws were rich and they scared the heck out of me. I was afraid hubby and I would end up like them!
    It’s only since my late thirties and now my forties that I’ve realized there is nothing to fear from money. Money is just a tool – a means to an end.
    As long as we balance our quest for financial wealth with our quest for spouse/family/friendship wealth – it’s all good.
    Those of us that do achieve “rich” or even a step further, to “wealth” should feel honor bound to give or serve others. Otherwise it seems like we end up lost – and what good does the financial blessing do?

    1. @Lazy Man: I pick on Wiis because I’m not a gamer. They have almost always bored me – except for Doom. That one game obsessed me. After that, I lost interest in gaming altogether – so it’s easy for me to pick on video games. I have my vices, that’s for sure…

  6. Why not be rich? Here’s an excerpt from the book “Science of Getting Rich” The author says it perfectly:
    “A person’s highest happiness is found in the bestowal of benefits on those he loves; love finds its most natural and spontaneous expression in giving. The individual who has nothing to give cannot fill
    his place as a spouse or parent, as a citizen, or as a human being. It is in the use of material things that a person finds full life for his body, develops his mind, and unfolds his soul. It is therefore of supreme
    importance to each individual to be rich.
    It is perfectly right that you should desire to be rich. If you are a normal man or woman you cannot help doing so. It is perfectly right that you should give your best attention to the science of getting rich,for it is the noblest and most necessary of all studies. If you neglect this study, you are derelict in your duty to yourself, to God and humanity, for you can render to God and humanity no greater service than
    to make the most of yourself. “

  7. I don’t want to be rich so I could buy a Wii either! I want to be rich so I can play real tennis, go bowling, join a softball league, take a boxing class, etc… I want my wealth to improve the adventure in my life.

    But if someone wanted to give me a Wii I wouldn’t mind.

  8. Well said, particularly the last line..

    “Getting rich is about removing money (or the lack thereof) as a barrier to my REAL goals.”

    I couldn’t agree more with that statement. My constant drive to progress in my wealth and that of my family’s wealth is really just an extension of my drive to spend more time with them by eliminating the need to work crazy hours to support us.

    I may be spending more time working (and building our business interests) now, but it’s all to create time for ourselves in the (hopefully) near future.

  9. I like your post. I was with you 100% until you knocked the Wii 😛 I think that for many people that $250 indulgence more than pays for itself in fun. It is very inclusive and promotes group play too.

    Anyway, I want to be rich mostly for the reasons you describe. I’d like to be able to devote my time to the activities that I find most fulfilling: family, friends, and travel. It would be wonderful to be able to wake up in the morning and decide for myself how I will spend every day.

    1. @Adfecto: I just have to knock the Wii – I know everyone loves it, but somehow I just recoil at the idea of Matrix-ish virtual bowling. Go bowl! Go outdoors and throw a real baseball! It just weirds me out. But hey, I like blogging instead of writing on paper with a pen, so who am I to complain. I would pick on xBoxs but Wiis seem to be a particular weakness for personal finance junkies, don’t they?

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