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Wealth Is a Choice.

The following is a guest post by my blogging buddy, Marie Phillips. Marie blogs at Family Money Values and writes for multiple other personal finance sites. She has just authored her newest eBook – Choose Wealth! Be a Millionaire by Midlife – available on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and other eBook online retailers.

Each person chooses their own life’s destiny – either on purpose or accidentally. Every day, you make many small choices which, over your lifetime, add up and cause you to become the person you are. Sometimes the choices are deliberate, other times we choose by not choosing.

Some of us are born to privilege, some to poverty. Some of us are born and live in peace and plenty, others deal with conflict and paucity. Some are born into stable and loving families while others lack such support. Whatever our circumstances, we choose.

We either choose to follow the crowds around us or we learn to choose our own paths. We choose to seek out new conditions or stay with the old. We choose to lean into the wind or be buffeted about by it. We choose the life we lead.

If you want a wealthy life, you need to choose to lead that life. You choose what wealth means to you and you choose your own level of wealth.

Many of us start out thinking that wealth means money, power, and control. But in the end, most folks who achieve monetary wealth understand that real wealth means leading a fulfilling life. Of course, the money and the resulting financial security can certainly help you lead that fulfilling life.

Choose Wealth! Be a Millionaire by Midlife is a book to help you make choices that lead to wealth. In it, Marie lays out her own framework for wealth – the one that helped her start making the right wealth choices – the one that helped her end up with more than a million.

Choose Wealth

Here is an excerpt from this new book that shows the power of choice:

“A story of success….and failure.

Here is a real life story (with names changed) about two couples who ended up on very different sides of financial independence. One couple kept themselves from being midlife millionaires, the others allowed themselves to become rich.

Couple 1:

James and Beth were children of the depression. James came from a large family with 17 children and Beth from a small family of 3 children and two adults. Neither of their birth families had wealth, both grew up poor. Both went to private Catholic schools through high school and lived in the city. They married in the 1940′s and shortly started a family. They moved into a large new ranch home in the suburbs and ended up with 4 kids. James pursued his dream of becoming an architect, attending night school for 10 years while working full time. He worked for multiple firms over the course of his career and tried to start his own firm multiple times without success. He retired at age 65 with a small pension.

Beth stayed home with the kids, but worked part time as a secretary when needed (to help support the family when James was trying to start his own firm). They ended up with only $70,000 (adjusted for inflation) in net worth.

Couple 2:

Henry and Rose were also children of the depression. Henry grew up on a farm along with his two brothers. His parents only made it through the 5th grade, but Henry graduated from public high school and went on to study a trade. Rose’s Dad immigrated from Sweden, coming to America steerage class. Rose graduated from public high school too (as did her   sister), but then also took advantage of the free teachers college available in her city. Henry and Rose also married in the 1940s and moved to the outlying suburbs to a small new 4 room frame house. They had 2 kids.

Henry worked for the same company until death at age 65 and spent evenings and weekends dabbling in other interests – inventions, real estate and the stock market.

Rose stayed home with the kids but taught school as a substitute teacher and led the school PTA. In the 1960′s she went back to college and earned a masters degree. She went back to work full time when the kids were in high school.

They traveled extensively, sent both kids through college and helped them out financially to get started in married life.

Henry and Rose ended up with a net worth of over $1,000,000 (adjusted for inflation).

Why the difference?

How did Henry and Rose end up so much more financially secure? How did they choose wealth?

They controlled expenses. Instead of spending money on private tuition, their kids went to public school.   They limited the number of children they had. They used time instead of money by doing things themselves instead of hiring others. They shopped for bargains and didn’t insist on name brand items.

They maximized income. Instead of buying a large home right away, they started small, then bought a second home at bargain rates while renting out the first one to obtain another income stream.

They maximized each partner’s earning power by adding to Rose’s education and earning power and making sure they utilized that power through her career. They kept secure income producing jobs that provided benefits and pensions. In contrast, James chose a career requiring a college degree that didn’t necessarily provide earning power equivalent to the cost of that degree and Beth’s time was ill spent at low paying jobs. Neither were able to make use of pension or retirement plans to their fullest.

Henry and Rose saved and invested to grow their money.

After meeting basic emergency needs, they put their money to work for them – in real estate and in the stock market. They didn’t leave money in low interest bearing bank accounts as James and Beth did.

They lived off current income.

They did not touch invested principal because their lifestyle and current income matched. They did not try to keep up with the Jones.

Small decisions on how money was spent and how it was earned made a large difference over time in the financial outcomes of these two couples.

Given the choice, would you rather be Henry & Rose or James & Beth? Would you rather end up with a million or more in your middle and elder ages or the $70,000 on which James & Beth struggled to live out their mature years?

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4 comments to Wealth Is a Choice.

  • Love. It’s amazing how little choices, at least they seem little in hindsight, can impact your wealth so much.

  • Everything’s a choice, and the sooner people realize that the better off they’ll be. I’ve known people that complain about being broke, but then have all this stuff they’ve bought laying around. You’re broke because you choose to be. Once you KNOW that you have the choice to have your finances in whatever state you would like, your spending decisions suddenly have a lot more meaning. :)

  • I agree. Everyday we make choices that will either help us have the things we want to deter us from having the things we want. It is our choice.

  • I’m glad you all agree that wealth can be chosen. I tried to put things in the book that show readers ways to make those choices – things like encouraging young folks to look beyond their own environments to see other ways of living that they can pursue.

    Crystal – thanks for hosting this post!