A Few Steps Towards Wealth

Let's face it - if you have embarked in this journey of becoming more of a Money Mensch along with me with the ultimate goal of not necessarily becoming "rich" but building up a fair amount of wealth that we can always fall back on, that is not the journey of a few months or even this year.

This journey entails embracing a new mindset about money, taking some calculated risks, keeping our noses to the grindstones, creating or expanding multiple sources of income and Paying Ourselves First.

If you continue reading my words, taking them to heart and acting upon them, together we can build the foundations that our families' continued well-being can rely upon come Hell or high water.

I had considered a few different titles for this post, so it could have been something along the lines of "Five More Steps Towards a Wealthier You" or "One Step at a Time Towards Wealth."  Both excellent and catchier titles to be sure, but not exactly what I wish to convey.

Becoming wealthy is not necessarily a step-by-step formula that you can follow, so even though I read books with titles and themes along the line of "how to" books about becoming wealthier, it is not such a simple thing that applies universally.  What may be the best way for me to achieve a more solid financial foundation may not be the same best way for you.

Of course, if you come up with the next must-have app or the next Uber or the next crypto currency, no need to follow the Money Mensch blog or read any further.

For most of us middle class guys, we live in the real world, we have real jobs and real families to support.  We have real bills to pay, we have real bosses who tell us what to do and we have real life problems.  Many, if not most, of our problems and challenges could be solved or at least helped with more money.  Of course, wealthy people have plenty of problems, too, as I have heard and witnessed first-hand many a time.  But it sure does make things better.  I could sure solve a lot of my family's problems with an extra fifty or hundred grand right about now.

Another thing is that I never think about "Rich" this or "Rich" that.  I enjoy books like Rich Dad, Poor Dad Think and Grow Rich and How Rich People Think, but I prefer to think about having money as long-term wealth and the accompanying security that it would bring to my family.  I would like to be rich, but I would prefer to be very wealthy.

There are dozens or perhaps hundreds of things that one can do to make oneself wealthier.

Bookshelves are filled with best-selling books on the topic, magazines are filled with articles about it, and there are probably a million blogs on the topic.
Some "How to Become Rich" books at my local library.

What distinguishes Money Mensch and this post from all others is that it is written from the perspective of a Regular Joe, a guy like you who does the best that he can at his job and to provide for my family.  I have not become wildly or even considerably successful, but am starting to take some steps to become more so in my late forties by trying to parlay some of my best talents, i.e., reading, thinking, learning and writing about what I have read, thought and learned for the benefit of others, in an effort to add a little bit of lucre to my overtaxed bank account.

I have read so much on so many topics over the past two months that my head is swimming a bit as I try to digest it all and make sense of it to help myself and you readers.

Below are a few things that I have recently learned and wish to share, to get your brain cells thinking about things a bit and what it means to you.

What Is Wealth?

Before you and I change our attitudes and actions in an effort to amass a greater amount of wealth, perhaps it is worth defining.

If I asked my readers, friends, relatives and colleagues to define what wealth means to them, I would get many different replies, and many would be different than my own.  To some, wealth is having many friends and a lifestyle where they are in control of their own work product and schedule.  To others, it may mean getting a six-figure bonus  at the end of the year after billing the maximum amount of hours.

Someone who has little money, but lives off the land in a beautiful area and can come and go as he or she pleases may feel wealthier than a multi-millionaire trader in the financial district of New York City.  Wealth depends on ones own values and perspective.

One might say that wealth ties in with the notion of abundance, always feeling like you have more than enough to sustain you and yours, and confidence in knowing that you can always obtain more if the need arises.  My brother fits well into this category, hustling up more cases and pushing them harder towards resolution when the need for more income arises, as it always does.

Middle class people like myself and maybe you have been too conditioned to think about moving beyond working for someone else, trying for a raise at work or landing a better job, hoping that the stock we purchased goes up or hoping that someone leaves us some money in their will.

If I calculated how much of my income I would have to save to become a millionaire, which by the way is not the be all and end all like it used to be, I would have to invest every penny that I earn from here to eternity and forsake everything else.  That is obviously not going to happen.

No, to become what I consider wealthy, the stars would have to come into alignment.  I would have to start selling thousands of eBooks per month, expand that success into speaking engagements, newsletters and the like, like the wealthy gurus do.  I am not one of them and will not become one.

I am a middle class man, and my definition of wealth would be to have at least a million clear in the bank, as well as multiple, steady, reliable streams of income.  My home, and a better one than I really have, would be paid off, my children's college educations would be paid in full, and my pension would be fully funded and paid monthly without any drama. Good health for me and mine would be an integral part of what I would consider being wealthy.  Having a lot of money but spending it all on healthcare is not my idea of wealth.

Since I will most likely never get to that point, let me lower my standards by half to a half million clear, but still with multiple, reliable income streams, good health, house paid off and kids sent through college as close to debt-free as humanly possible for a middle class family.

I would not be doing somersaults if I accomplish this definition of wealth at the age of sixty, and no longer had the company of loved ones and relatives.  It would be much nicer if you and I could both attain what we consider a respectable amount of wealth while one or both of our parents were around (my mother is but my father is not), while we are happily married and in good health, and while our children could benefit and enjoy it with us.

Being rich by yourself when you are too old to share and enjoy it would not make you feel especially wealthy.  Maybe rich, but not wealthy.

Make a Plan and Stay Determined

Making a plan and then not carrying through on it is useless.  Why plan at all if you are not going to work toward accomplishing it?

Positive thinking is fine and dandy, but you must then make a plan on how you are going to better yourself and/or become wealthy.  If you are a raging alcoholic, or you have big-time issues with your spouse, or you are not doing your job well, it is better to address those problems first, before you start planning on becoming wealthier.  If any of those issues or others are things that you are dealing with, you know what your biggest problem is and you must face up to that before you start planning and strategizing on how to become more successful.

Something that has hampered me several times in the past is that something that I tried or invested in did not work out as well as planned, so I gave up on it.

I now realize, years later, that some of the same people who were doing about as well as I was at whatever, kept going at it until they became very successful.    You have to have a certain amount of sticktoitiveness to become successful at most things.

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I may be lucky to sell ten copies of my self-published eBooks in a month now, but I have plans to spruce that one up quite a bit this coming year, and put a few more out there.  I am a fairly intelligent person and realize that there are many hundreds of thousands of eBooks and what I call "real" books made out of paper competing for attention.  Mine will be a few more out there, but I plan to stick to it more than previously and have the drive and determination to become more successful.

My eBooks will all be published under a nom de plume, due to the conservative nature of my employer, but I will still have a good feeling knowing that my thoughts and words are reaching, and hopefully helping, others.

Making some extra scratch would be nice, too.


Almost every worthwhile thought, everything that someone has learned and so many creative stories can be found with ease.

Between the hundreds of books that I have purchased in the past few years (it is a problem of mine), the numerous magazines that I subscribe to, the dozens of blogs that I read on a wide variety of topics, and the many books that I have checked out from the library, I have read and absorbed so many ideas on so many topics that it would blow your mind.

Every single day I am reading for a few hours, much more than the spend that I time recording my thoughts on Money Mensch, and could expound at length on topics ranging from the economy to politics to local sports to college funding to developments going on in nearby towns to philosophy.
Yes, I even read some philosophy lately.  I attended synagogue for three hours [re-write] and got my fair share of religion, too.

My home is loaded with books.  My wife and children would call me a book hoarder, and you probably would, too.  I defend myself, noting that my problem is not the number of books in piles that I have all over the place, my problem is that I cannot yet afford a home with a large room of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

If I had such a room, I would instantly go from being perceived as a messy hoarder of books to a well-read and highly literate man.

Maybe someday, but that would follow my earlier thought of what wealth means to me.  Add being able to afford such a home that I could have such a room for my books.  A comfy leather chair next to a fireplace, too.

The point is that you can better yourself in so many ways by reading.  You have discovered my writing and have read this far, so I thank you for that.  But any topic that interests you, from airplanes to zen, can be found in abundance online or in your local library or for cheap on Amazon.
Do not be a person who does not read.  You are better than that.

The Past is in the Past

Is it bad for me to admit that I liked the Disney movie "Frozen" even though I am a middle aged Money Mensch?  If it is bad to admit it, then I won't.

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When Elsa sings "Let it Go" one of the lyrics is "The Past is in the Past."  So simple, yet so true.
I am not saying that anything that you have done in the past, good or bad, terrible or fantastic should be forgotten because it is in the past.

What I am saying is that the past is of no value unless you learn from it.  If you poke yourself with a sharp stick and it hurts, why do it a second time?

The past's value is you apply what you have learned from past successes and failures to make better decisions today and in the future, because you can still right a wrong or correct a mistake as long as you are reading this and not buried six feet under.  I have made my share of poor decisions in the past, but if you care to modify an old saying about fooling someone, "Make a bad decision once, learn something from it  Make the same bad decision again and you're a fool."

No matter how many times you and I wish that you could go back and say or do something differently, we find that we cannot do so. But despair not.

Even though the past is definitely staying in the past, I guarantee you that you will be faced with more tough decisions in the future, and how you choose to respond will have an effect on the future after that.  I will do my best to make better decisions when I am faced with them in the future, relying on my own experiences, experiences of others who have told me, and experiences that I have read about, as the prior section attests to.

Discipline, Dedication and Desire

One of the books that I recently read is Weekend Millionaire Mindset by Mike Summey and Roger Dawson.

They write that motivation is strengthened by the three D's of success: Discipline, Dedication and Desire.

While some motivational speakers preach that enthusiasm and positive thinking is what you need to become successful and wealthy, I agree with Summey and Dawson that discipline, dedication and desire are far more important.

This is really more like three steps, and three long and difficult ones at that.  I cannot in all honesty write that I have had all three of the above D's in my pursuit of self-improvement.  Desire, yes.  But discipline and dedication are still works in progress for Yours Truly Money Mensch.

To be honest, wouldn't you rather pop open a cold one and watch the ballgame or your favorite show than work on something on the path of self-improvement?  I know that I have elected to enjoy a cold one in a hot bath with a good book many a night that may have been better spent trying to become more organized, writing something to self-publish in the future, doing some property maintenance that I have put off or doing something with my wife or kids.

You may have the desire, but until you are ready to do something that takes some effort and may be unpleasant, that nobody but you is making you do, you cannot say that you have the discipline and dedication.  It is not just a one-time shot, either.  Having the dedication to improve yourself or take on a side job or complete an abandoned project or visit someone who you should visit is something that should be done out of habit, not a one-and-done type of deal.  That is what the word "dedication" means to me.

God knows that I seek to improve myself and my family's lot in life and have high hopes to have the discipline and dedication this year to follow through with my desire to be a better and wealthier me.

Set Some Goals

To become wealthy, or at least wealthier than you are now, which is what my goal is, you want to maximize your passive or unearned income.  Although there is not a lot that I view as passive about sitting and writing for hours and hours, selling books or ads on blog posts years after you have written them could be considered passive.

Collecting dividends from investments, pension payments, collecting royalties, collecting proceeds from business or property ownership - these things could be considered passive income.  To be truly wealthy, you would make enough passive income to maintain your lifestyle without working.  I do not harbor any illusions about reaching this state, although some people do and perhaps you are or will become one of them.

For me, I need to set some specific goals when it comes to becoming wealthier.  Some of my goals revolve around my children, and do not necessarily contribute to my own wealth, but my children's future wealth, hoping that they do not spend years or decades paying off student loan debt.  I have saved one hundred thousand for our son, which I am currently using to pay for his college, and have recently achieved the same for our daughter, who is currently in her freshman year of high school.

Back in the eighties, if I had heard that my father saved a hundred thousand dollars for each of us, my mind would have been blown.  Of course, college costs about ten times as much now as it did in the eighties.  There are many reasons for this and many students saddled with nearly insurmountable debt, but I have saved as much as I possibly could in the hopes that my own children would not be starting their adult lives thirty, forty or more thousand dollars in debt.  They still may be, due to attending graduate school or another professional school, but my hope is to get each of them out of their undergraduate years with little or no debt.

When it comes to what we'll call passive or unearned income, I make very little.  I hit just over one thousand dollars last year due to sales of an eBook that I posted about eight years ago under a pseudonym.  It is well-written, but poorly edited, does not have a discernible plot and lacks a captivating cover.  I guess that it sells a bit due to its interesting content, but I do not know how people find it.

So I will cut to the chase and state that it is my goal to make $500 in a month on my writing.  Of course, I would like to make ten times that amount, but know that it is going to take me years of self-publishing to create either enough titles to generate that type of income, or one or two eBooks so well done that they sell very well.
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It is my dream to sell much more than that and, truth be told, I would be happy to make $300 or $400 in a month, but I know that if I do that, I would want it to be $500, and when I finally do make $500, I will still be far from satisfied with myself.  The point is, that I want to make some significant income above and beyond my bi-weekly paycheck.

$500 in a single month from my writing is a well-written objective.  There is no mistaking the number, and that number goes for any month from January through December.  But I certainly can't keep jerking around and not publishing anything worth purchasing.  This post, itself, will likely find its way into an eBook.

But I would not pay good money for this, and would not expect you to, either, unless you feel that you can learn something and gain some amount of motivation, no matter how small.  I hope that it is more than a small amount.

I have many other goals for this year, and will soon begin thinking about some two-year, five-year and ten-year goals, too.
Image result for get your mind outta the gutter

The first thing that you and I need to do is get through the next day, this week and the month.

But we should always keep our longer-term goals and objectives in mind.  I urge you to think of these goals at least once per day, no matter how brief it is.  It can be just a few minutes while going to sleep, like what I do once I get my mind out of the gutter.

One Step at a Time

The ultimate conclusion to this is that success in finances, in your career, and in your life is achieved by taking one step at a time.

Success in your life, in your career and in your finances does not happen over night.  It takes careful planning, execution, dedication and sticktoitiveness.  We cannot allow minor setbacks and roadblocks to stop us, as they have in the past.

Yes, tomorrow morning bright and early I am returning to my stressful job with an inexperienced younger boss who does not quite understand what it is that I do, how it is that I do it, and what the best way to help me get it done is.  But that does not mean that I am going to pack it in, think "woe is me" and give up on my hopes and dreams of being a high-selling author, speaker and motivator of myself and others.

Unlike Tony Robbins, Zig Ziglar, Suze Orman and Steven Covey, I cannot speak to you from a place of great success.  I speak to you as a hard-working, dedicated family man Money Mensch.  There is a place for guys like me and you in the world and, as a matter of fact, we do much of the work in this world.

We may not have come from the same backgrounds and have tales of how we achieved great success to share with others, but with patience, persistence and a plan of action, we can make ourselves better than we are now starting this year and in the years to follow.