If I were a rich man . . .
Zero Mostel sang an entire song about how life would be soooo much better if he were only rich. Many of us think the exact same thing. We daydream about it. We discuss it with our friends, our family and our coworkers. But, if we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that thought process is a big crock of hooey. Stinky, nasty hooey.
My dad used to say repeatedly that people always live 10% beyond their means. He’d give an example that if a person made $20,000/year, they would spend $22,000. The other thing he said a lot was, “Pull my finger.” Okay, the other thing he said in relation to the topic at hand, is, “It doesn’t matter how rich people get, they still will always live 10% beyond their means.” He’s right, and statistics bear it out. They actually show he was an incredible optimist.
According to the Department of Numbers, the 2015 true median household income in the US was $55,775. Household credit card debt for the same year averaged $15,392. So is everyone just putting it all on the credit card and paying it off monthly? No way that’s possible, because the number goes up every month! What this means is people are living 27.6% beyond their income! Savings averaged a measly 5.3% for the year.
Think about yourself or almost anyone you know. What happens when we get a raise? We spend it. We upgrade our apartment to a bigger apartment, or maybe we finally move into a house. If we already rent a house, maybe we move into a bigger house, or take the plunge and sign a 30 year rental agreement with a bank (mortgage) for which we will pay over 2 1/2 times the current value of the property we are “buying.”
Or we go buy a car with zero down and “low payments” that just happen closely match our raise, if not exceed it. So now we are living just as poor or poorer to have something that loses anywhere from 10–40% of it’s value as soon as it leaves the lot.
Maybe we manage to further our education or stumble into a new job and double our income over what we were previously making. Do we change our habits? Nope! We’re just as broke, but at a higher income. We are still living beyond our means.
Sometimes spending more is justified. Being able to get yourself or your family proper nutrition, a reliable vehicle, shoes without holes, clothes that fit, or other such things are worthy, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about doing that.
So what would I do if I were a rich man?
If I were a rich man, I’d live as if I weren’t so rich. I’d put some money into savings. I’ve had the “privilege” of living through a car wreck and injury that caused me to miss over a year’s worth of work. Because of my employer, I never missed a paycheck, and for that I am eternally grateful. Had I not been with them, we would have lost everything. We lived paycheck to paycheck. Now I’m self-empoyed. If I stop working, it all goes away. Those rainy days really do happen. Having a cushion of savings can help you keep afloat. Many experts recommend having a three to six month cushion for those circumstances.
If I were a rich man, I’d help those less fortunate. There have been times in my life when we took advantage of food pantries and WIC. I grew up in a small town where I would guess more of my classmates qualified for reduced or free lunches than didn’t. There were times my wife chose to miss meals so our children had diapers and formula. It’s hard to keep your head up when you can’t pay your bills on time, let alone put food on the table. I’ve seen too much month at the end of the money first hand. I’m sure we all know someone going through one of these situations right now. A pack of diapers showing up on the porch mysteriously just might be the break they need. I’d do that.
If I were a rich man, I’d live out my dreams. I’d write more, spend more time with my family, and enjoy my blessings. Here’s the secret; I can do all those things at my current state of prosperity. None of those cost money. What they do charge is an altered mindset, a realization that I am rich. I am blessed. My and my family’s needs are met.
If I were a rich man . . . but I am!