Rich or Poor?

by Dennis Bradford

in financial well-being

Do you want to be rich or poor? If you are in the middle class (as I am), there’s no staying the same.

If you are poor and do nothing, you’ll stay poor.

If you are rich, you can probably hire enough experts to help you stay rich.

If you are middle class and do nothing, you’ll soon be poor. The time is ripe to choose.

It’s likely that you are already familiar with the idea of not being able to stay the same.

For example, whenever I played hockey, whether it was a practice or a game, I reminded myself that I’d either come off the ice a slightly better hockey player or a slightly worse hockey player.

If you’ve had similar experiences, you know that it is tempting, sometimes, just to coast. Maybe your team has a big lead in a game and you’re just going through the motions waiting for the final buzzer. Maybe the coach missed practice and, instead of drills, you (and your teammates) decide just to scrimmage because it’s more fun. Those are the times to remind yourself: there’s no staying the same.

Flux is the incessant reality of Becoming.

Why, though, is it now time to choose about being rich or poor if you are middle class? (I’m thinking here of being in the middle class financially – not in terms of culture or anything else.)

There are a host of reasons that I believe that the world is headed for the greatest financial turmoil it has ever experienced.

Please do not take this pessimistically! There will be financial winners as well as financial losers. It will be the greatest transfer of financial wealth the world has ever seen. Do you want it transferred to you or away from you?

It may not matter to you. After all, there are six categories on this blog because there are six kinds of wealth or well-being, namely, (in no particular order) spiritual, emotional, intellectual, physical, moral, and financial.

Let’s suppose that you presently enjoy a satisfactory degree of all six but that your life takes a twist, as life often does, and you have to give up one of the six. Which one would it be?

For me, spiritual well-being is the most important, so it would be the last one I’d choose to give up. Would you give up emotional well-being? If you are troubled emotionally, not much else matters. It’s similar with physical well-being, isn’t it? Would you then let go of your moral well-being, your encounters with others? I know nobody who would want to do that. Would you give up your understanding that has cost you so much effort, failure, and heartache to gain? Probably not.

So, even though you might not want to, you’d probably give up financial well-being. After all, fortunes can not only be lost but gained. Since it’s the easiest kind of wealth to gain again, it might be the best one to give up.

So, you might think, it’s not very important. Well, perhaps not, but perhaps it would be better to think about the fact that, assuming you have been middle class your whole life and would become poor then for the first time, you’d be fully aware of your diminished options.

I’ve heard lots of people who grew up during the Great Depression say that they were poor, but they didn’t realize they were poor at the time because everyone else they knew was also poor.

If, as I have, you have lived your whole life in the middle class and then suddenly spent your last years in poverty, you’d be very keenly aware of the difference.

Here’s the problem:  the middle class in the United States is dissolving.

The process is well underway. In fact, it’s recently become rather obvious.

You may disagree. That’s fine! What, though, if you are wrong? What if you simply aren’t paying close enough attention?

In forthcoming blog posts in this financial well-being section of this blog, I shall cite evidence for my position. It may be that I’m wrong about the future of the middle class. However, if you disagree, wouldn’t it be better to challenge your own judgments? It’s never wise to become stuck to your own opinions.

So I’ll marshal some relevant evidence in forthcoming posts. Let’s for now just assume that it’s true that, sooner rather than later, the middle class is disappearing and that you are a member of the middle class. Here’s your choice:

Do you want to be rich or poor?

Do you want to live for the next years as a member of the upper class or be impoverished?

Before you answer for yourself, consider your loved ones. Are you responsible for anyone else? Are you morally responsible, say, to tend your aging parents? Do you have any young children? Do you have a spouse who may someday need long term medical care? Do you have any friends or relatives who could suffer from a financial emergency?

Even if you don’t have any loved ones, if you become poor, would you be comfortable letting society take care of your medical needs if you should happen to need long term care?

Remind yourself of the world’s needy. Think, for a moment, of all the malnourished, under-educated children. How will you do anything effective to help them if you are broke?

The purpose of becoming rich isn’t to become attached to money. Becoming attached to anything is foolish! The only morally valuable purpose of becoming rich is to use your money to help others.

Again: do you want to be rich or poor?

If I am correct, it’s not a question that you can avoid answering. If you are middle class and don’t decide to answer the rich or poor question, that would be equivalent to answering, “poor.” If you do nothing, you’ll become poor.

It’s already happening!

Here’s just one example: suppose you are a middle class home owner. I heard yesterday on the television news that in the last five years, from 2006 to 2011, house prices have fallen 32%. Many middle class people think their most valuable financial asset is the equity in their homes. If that news report was correct and if you own a home, its financial value has probably declined by about one-third in just the past five years.

The same report stated that about one-quarter of the homes owned in the U.S., about twelve million of them, are underwater in terms of their mortgages.

Here’s what’s worse: house valuations will continue to fall! Nobody knows where the bottom is.

By the way, how are your 401K and IRS investments doing?

Rich or poor?

If you do nothing, the choice will soon be made for you.

I don’t know whether you care. I don’t know whether you should be rich or poor.

What I do think is that, if you are doing nothing financially for yourself except following out dated financial patterns of behavior, you won’t have to worry about whether you should be rich or poor for very much longer because the choice will be made for you.

Please don’t confuse financial realism with pessimism. If you educate yourself and take appropriate action even if you have done nothing yet, there may still be enough time to use your middle class financial status and convert it into real peace-of-mind financial wealth.

Nobody knows if you have 30 minutes or 30 months or, perhaps, even 30 years. (My own guess is 1 to 5 years.) However, I have no (nontheoretical) doubt that a currency collapse will soon be upon us. The failure rate for fiat currencies is 100%. All the forces are lining up.

Even if you become poor, you could still make the rich or poor decision. It’s just that it’s easier to become rich if you are middle class than if you procrastinate and wait until you are poor. When you decide to be either rich or poor matters.

If you don’t do it or at least do your best to do it, might not you seriously regret that decision?

On their deathbeds, more people regret what they failed to do than what they did. There’s a better way.

So, do you want to be rich or poor?

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Mark Keicher December 28, 2011 at 12:13 pm

I think that there are different degrees of “middle class”. To chose between “rich” or “poor” is a much too limited and dualistic way of thinking. Personally, I don’t think this “middle class” couple is going to “dissolve”. If I must oversimplify and choose between the two, I’ll take “poor”. If you’re with the right person, there’s something almost magical about scraping $5 together and creating a lunch for two. But you both have to be there, emotionally. It’s in the eyes and the heart, as you both do it together. I don’t expect the upper class to understand that.

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