It's true. I used to be a trophy wife.
I may not have looked like the picture above, with all of modern culture's trappings of wealth, but I had the trendy version: ugg boots, fancy custom home studio with persian rug and plush furnishings, personal growth seminars in resort locations with lots of deep processing about our emotional problems. I invested a lot in "looking good", which included spending lots of money in my business, even if that meant going into debt.
Because I was a trophy wife I didn't HAVE to make money in my business. I wanted to for my own fulfillment, so yes, I did learn to have a decent work ethic and to make a lot of money. But I gave and spent most of it, because I didn't really NEED the money to make a living. My 1st husband and his millionaire family would always send extra cash our way. And I was happy to have my clients pay me with their credit cards, to fuel my out-of-control lifestyle and a business that was also in debt.
Fast forward to 8 years ago: I became a single mother.
That year I made $100,000 but because of my out of control debt load and runaway spending, I could not afford to buy a house for myself and my children in our new town. That was the low point for me, but also one of the best points in my life~when I got real about money. I learned debt can really destabilize working families. When the economy fluctuates, or personal changes & challenges arise, debt keeps marching along, and can be a huge burden.
I learned money is not just for making, it is also for wise giving, saving and spending. Money can be used to feed children, purchase homes, support charities, fund businesses and assets, and build a legacy. With the help of my new fiancee(now husband), working 3 healing businesses, I upped my net worth by $150,000 in 4 years. We purchased a home, and give 10% of our income each month to charities and put 30-50% of our income into investments.
I now feel passionate about helping people build wealth FROM THE GROUND UP!
It may work for someone with a trust fund to take on debt, knowing their half-million dollar home or their investments are ample collateral. For someone like that, big lifestyle is a pleasant perk. More power to them! But debt and big lifestyle are actually DANGEROUS for someone who is just starting to grow their wealth, or is in the middle stages. Debt eats up cash flow, masks your profit, and decreases your net worth. Plus it puts your family at risk of losing what you do have.
Luckily ANYONE can build debt-free wealth if they focus on it
and take these practical steps:
1. Avoid debt like the plague. Pay cash for EVERYTHING! This keeps you honest, and out of the "impressing other people" trap. If your clients don't love you for your primary product or service, all the extra bells and whistles in the world won't convince them anyway. Let them love you for you!
2. Control your spending. Have a way to track your business and household finances, so you can consciously send your dollars where you want them to go. This gives you plenty of "margin" or money leftover. I recommend the 70/30 rule: only spend 30% on business operating expenses, including coaching & training, and only spend 30% on housing. Even if you live in an expensive area, like I do, you don't get a pass on math. Rent out a room, or live in a cheaper area and commute. You can't afford to overspend on housing or it will eat up all your margin for getting ahead.
3. Give a percentage that is appropriate for your income. Giving does open up more good for you, by upping your "deservedness quotient". People who give seem to be more willing and able to receive. The traditional amount for most people is 10%. If you are giving more than that with a low net worth, you are "over-giving".
4. Save. Set aside a percentage of your income every month for developing 2 kinds of savings: "protective savings" such as an emergency fund for your household or retained earnings for your business, and "growth savings" such as investment accounts, properties, and other assets. Since you are controlling your spending this should be easy.
Even now I cringe when I see a trust funder encouraging their clients to go into debt for their products or services. Yes there is value in taking a risk for your business, But not a risk that puts YOU at risk. If you want to pay big money, I recommend you save up and pay cash for their program or service.
When you are thinking of investing with a financial advisor, think carefully.
Remember where your advice is coming from, and ask yourself: "How did my advisor build their wealth? Did they build it from scratch in my type of business? Or did they get an inheritance or backup from another source? What is their bias and their background?" How wonderful for them if they have a high net worth. You can be happy for them. But what is appropriate for them may not be wise and practical for you.
I recently researched a service provider who sells "wealthy lifestyle" coaching. They made it seem they built their wealthy lifestyle as a coach, and that it is possible for others to do so by simply "thinking positive". What I discovered is that this person built a million dollar net worth, and their own wealthy lifestyle, by working 25 years in the stock market! THEN they started charging top dollar as a lifestyle expert using the technique of positive affirmations, and "feeling" your way into wealth. No mention of the stocks or bonds, or the returns they continue to collect.
Needless to say, I passed on that opportunity.
I am proud that since my "low point" I have built my wealth from scratch in the healing arts & consulting, and can advise people who want to do the same. While I have been blessed to have a few windfalls here and there: a tax refund, a small gift from family, etc. most of the income has been under mine and my husband's own steam. We are regular working people.
And so I always have my clients pay cash.
I know what it's like to grow from scratch, and how you have to keep your margin high.
And if they can't afford it....
Well, I give them free resources.
I'd rather do that than put them into debt.
Kathy Kali is a Certified Financial Coach and Business Advisor. Kathy specializes in helping entrepreneurs and working families to build wealth using practical steps. Kathy also founded the Conscious Living Fair, a trade show featuring holistic & healing businesses in Medford, Oregon and Eugene, Oregon.
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Coach. Teacher. Author. Speaker.