This post is about achieving financial peace, not getting rich. My theory: The former is more important than the latter.
A wise man said the three stages of wealth are:
Stage 1 - Being able to go to the grocery store without being stressed about what each thing costs. Only about half or less of people in America ever reach this point.
Stage 2 - Being able to go out to dinner and order whatever you want without anxiety. That’s a smaller group even than the blissful grocery shoppers.
Stage 3 - Being able to take a vacation without worrying at all about any costs. Very few people are at this point. Maybe 1% of people.
Notice however, that these stages of wealth aren’t expressed in terms of dollars in the bank. Rather, wealth comes from being able to forget about money, and to just enjoy your time and experiences. As silly as these three levels are, there’s something to the idea that wealth isn’t zeros in the bank but rather a feeling of calm. It’s financial peace. Wealth is a feeling to be aspired to, rather than a number.
Peace, Not Riches
Some people’s financial peace of mind can arrive earlier, at a lower number, than other people’s peace. On the other side, there are people who have plenty of money in the bank who can never let go of money anxiety. That’s also not good. If you actually have enough but always look over your shoulder at someone who has a little more? You’re never going to feel wealthy, despite your abundance. Can we do better than this?
If you’ve never felt calm about money, the right thing to do might be to spend a little time figuring out a plan. Your actual plan would be about things like savings, reducing high interest debt, purchasing reasonable insurance policies, paying the right amount for your car, buying a house the right way, and starting or increasing your investments [**each of these phrases should be hyperlinked to the other blog posts that cover these topics**]
One point of the plan is, obviously, to get your finances in order. The second point is to feel calmer. If you have a plan, you’ve done what you can do. String together a series of plans, and pretty soon you’re on a solid journey to financial success.
But can I tell you an important secret to actually feeling wealthy, no matter how early in your journey you are? No matter how much you have in the bank?
Peace Through Philanthropy
Here it is: Find a person, or a group, less fortunate than yourself. Pledge to give a dollar, or an hour of your time. Or obviously more, if you have more to give.
In that act of giving, you will find in some way that you feel wealthier. And more peaceful. If you have a dollar to pledge, you are going to be ok. If you have an hour to give, you are actually one of the fortunate ones.
When the financial anxiety creeps back - and of course it will - remember again...Do you have another dollar or another hour to give?
I don’t know why this works. But it does.
The point is not to have the most money. The point is to feel the best you can about money. It’s to feel calm, have a plan, help others along the way. Exhale the anxiety, feel wealthy through being helpful. You will find peace a lot faster than the one trying to put a big number in the bank.