I want to be rich. There, I said it. Ever since I was a kid, I always knew that I would be wealthy one day, and I’ve been steadily moving in that direction ever since. I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way, learned a lot about myself, and spent a lot of time thinking about why I want to be wealthy. In particular, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about being rich in the context of my faith (I’m a Christian), and in the context of being a good steward of what I’m entrusted with. My good buddy Ben Rasmusen pointed me today to a blog post by John Reel about the lessons learned by getting rich and then losing it all. It got me thinking about this subject, so I’d thought I’d share eight reasons I want to be rich:
Support worthy causes
The way I see it, the more I have, the more I can give away. There are so many organizations and efforts in the world today that need money, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to contribute. I guess when I analyze the rest of the items on this list, many of them are more specific examples of this point.
Give my kids great opportunities
I have been blessed with two wonderful parents who taught me everything I need to know about the things that matter most in life: faith, family, marriage, integrity, etc. However, I don’t come from a wealthy family. My parents are smart people, but neither had the opportunity to go to college, nor did they have the resources to pay my way through college. Thanks to the Navy, I was able to attend a decent school, but I sometimes wonder how things might have turned out differently had I gone to MIT or Stanford out of high school, instead of enlisting in the Navy. I would have had trouble paying for it, and perhaps that’s part of the reason why I didn’t consider those schools to be options. I want my kids to have great opportunities without finances being what’s holding them back. I want to help them pay for school, buy a house, start a business, etc. There’s no guarantee that they’ll have success later, but the least I can do help them take the first step.
Give the underdog a chance
One of my friends just got a job at a company out here in San Francisco and he blogged about their values as a company. One of them is to “help outsiders and underdogs win”, and I can’t stress enough how much I believe in this. I have observed over the last few years that the maxim of “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is very true, at least out here. I’m incredibly grateful that someone at CNET saw my resume on Craigslist and emailed me to offer me a job as a product manager. I was just out of college, had pretty much no experience, no connections, nothing. They took a chance on me, and I hope they would say it was a good choice in the end. Money opens doors, and I hope to use any influence I have to hold the door open for other people who may not have the right background or connections. Someone gave me a chance, and it made all the difference.
Own my time
The most valuable resource that any of us have is time. We only get so much of it (and we don’t even know how much), and there’s only so much you can do to maximize the amount that you get. Even if you eat healthy, exercise, be careful, etc., you’re unlikely to live much longer than a century, at least under current life expectancy (this could change, though). The point is, I hate selling my time. I hate that there are things in life that I need and currently, the only way I can get them is by selling my time in exchange for money. Granted, since I’ve started freelancing, I sell my time for a lot more. And I’ve read about people who sell their time for hundreds or thousands of dollars per hour. But in my mind, that’s still slavery. It’s a much more palatable form of slavery, but slavery nonetheless.
My goal is to reach a point where I can live a comfortable life through passive income sources. I will never have to get a job, take a client, or borrow money unless I want to. I can spend my time pursuing the things in life that matter to me. And as a side note, I’m not entirely sure that kind of financial security can’t be considered happiness that money can buy. John agrees with me.
Explore the world
You know that saying about how the things you own end up owning you? Well, it’s true. If you want proof, just try moving frequently, ideally into gradually smaller and smaller places so you have to get rid of stuff. It’s so liberating to get rid of junk that you don’t need or even want anymore. My wife and I sold both our cars when we moved to San Francisco, and I’m so glad. Is it a pain sometimes? Yes. But aside from the financial benefits (which are huge), just the peace of mind of not having to worry about a car is amazing.
I say all that to say that what I’ve come to value more than stuff are experiences. Stuff doesn’t make you happy. My wife and I were blessed to be able to spend eleven weeks trekking around Asia earlier this year, and it was one of the most amazing, enriching experiences of my life. I think travel is one of those things that just fundamentally shifts your perception of the world the more you do it. I want the opportunity to live in some of the world’s greatest cities, explore the world’s cultures, and broaden my horizons by getting out there and seeing how the other six billion people live.
Create wealth for others
I read this fantastic essay about wealth the other day by Paul Graham, a noted angel investor who has funded dozens (or hundreds) of startups, mostly in the technology space. In the essay, he talks about how many people view the world’s wealth as something that’s fixed, and they accordingly view wealthy people as having taken more than their fair share. But entrepreneurs are not working in a zero-sum world. Entrepreneurs actually create wealth, and when they do, lots of other people get wealthy along the way, from the investors, to the employees, to even the customers. Think about how much richer our lives are thanks to the work of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and the Google guys. They’ve been rewarded with billions for the work they’ve done, but they’ve given the world a lot of wealth, too, both monetary and in terms of technological advances. I want to create wealth for others and help make their dreams come true.
Change the world
This brings me to the next point: entrepreneurs change the world. The innovations that they create make our lives richer in countless ways. I believe that the next few decades will foster in so much innovation that the last couple centuries will pale in comparison. In particular, I believe that advances in artificial intelligence / robotics, genetics, and nanotechnology will change the face of the world beyond recognition. I want to be a part of these paradigm shifts and wealth will give me the opportunity to fund great startups in these and other spaces, as well as start companies of my own.
Finally, one of the best things about getting rich, I’ve heard, is not the destination, but the journey. Becoming a millionaire is something that most people can technically do, but statistically, few of them will. It’s just too hard. Controlling your finances, investing, starting a company, and other paths to wealth are all difficult and require a lot of personal growth and development for most people. One of the best lessons in John’s blog post is the first one: “I can get rich.” Once you’ve done it, it’s much easier to do it again, because you believe in yourself, and because you’ve mastered yourself, at least to some degree.
I’m not waiting until I’m “rich” to do any of these things. I believe that building wealth is a process. There aren’t shortcuts, per se, though there are methods to get there faster and smarter, but they usually require more risk, more dedication, and more time. Regardless of how I get there, I hope that if and when I do, I’m able to keep these things in perspective and be a good steward of what I’ve been blessed with. I’d love to hear your comments on the subject.