I work in an industry where currency is central. Whether we are speaking of domestic fiat currency, foreign fiat currency, or the currency of real property and commodities; currency is a critical component to financial services.
Our goal is typically to increase the amount of currency a person holds while reducing the amount of currency a person needs to spend. This ratio (debt to asset) will ultimately determine a person’s net worth and wealth. And while people may not have a particular number in mind for how wealthy they want to be, every person, in general, would like to be wealthy.
Wealth has been defined various ways throughout history. The ancient Aztecs used cocoa beans as currency and considered anyone with an abundance of them as wealthy. The ability to create an endless amount of chocolate certainly fits my definition of wealth. At one time anyone in possession of large quantities of gold was considered wealthy. Land and cattle have also been used to determine the status of one's wealth. At certain periods in history tobacco was a form of currency. Anyone who enjoys a good cigar or pipe would likely agree that tobacco is valuable.
But what is currency? What is wealth? J.R.R. Tolkien once said, “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” It seemed past generations did value non-monetary “currencies” as valuable and sought to build wealth in ways now lost.
In this introductory article I want to consider some uncommon currencies that are often neglected in our pursuit of wealth. In our scramble to attain and accumulate physical wealth we have often neglected the personal wealth of our character. Our own soul has been corrupted in favor of material possessions which leave us wanting more.
What if we focus on key character qualities that, when employed properly, will help us produce both physical wealth and an abundant life that is both fulfilling and satisfying? Could such an endeavor help us achieve a better wealth?
In this first of 5 articles, I want to introduce four unusual types of currency: the currency of contentment, self-control, patience, and priorities. Each subsequent article will highlight one individual “currency quality.”
You may be wondering why I'm calling these character qualities “currencies” and how they could possibly be useful for accumulating wealth. But I think I will show you that it is these qualities that, when employed properly, have the ability to produce wealth.
Consider for a moment the qualities of our world's richest people. Specifically, the qualities that are thrown around on social media and in news media regarding musicians, actors, actresses, athletes, politicians, and business people. We often talk about these people based on their unique skills, their talents. We talk about their ability to play an instrument, catch a ball, govern, or close a deal. But we also talk about these people based on the headlines we see highlighting their bad behavior, bad choices, or even criminal activity.
Some of the world's wealthiest people have little more than money. Sure, they can buy whatever they want, but they are miserable people. They can't stay married, their kids are in therapy, they move from one bad decision to the next while the media shares every detail. And we often refer to them in the common vernacular as “train-wreck” or “hot mess.”
What good is all that money?
There's an ancient saying which asks, “What does it profit a man if he gains the world but loses his own soul?” Quite simply, this refers to the person that has more money than is possible to spend, but lives a miserable life. This wise old saying illustrates many popular and current sayings, such as “money can't buy happiness,” or “money isn't everything.”
How many times have you said (or heard), “If I had just a little more money all my troubles would be gone”? The prevailing notion is that with a little more income we would be in a better position. But what is that number? To some currently making slightly more than minimum wage, that number might be $55,000-$60,000 per year, salaried, with benefits and paid vacation. To others, it's a three-figure salary with stock options, a bonus, and matching 401(k). What we learn is that the number is arbitrary.
Of course, to read the daily headlines one might be tempted to think that money is everything. We no doubt think that if we just had more money all our troubles would in fact disappear. But as someone that spends time with millionaires, I can say from first-hand experience that money doesn't solve all our problems; and it doesn't eliminate bad habits or bad behavior.
I've encountered more than one person making hundreds of thousands of dollars per year carrying massive debt and worried about being able to retire. And I've known people that never made more than $70,000 in a single year but now enjoy retirement with millions in their portfolios. What's the difference?
I would suggest that often the difference is as simple as the successful implementation of contentment, self-control, patience, and priorities into one's life. The ability to be a wise manager of our resources through using traits such as self-control and patience are far more powerful in our effort to accumulate wealth than the amount of money we make.
Keep an eye out for the other articles in this series to learn more about how these character traits can help change your financial position. With a few adjustments in how we think about money and how we manage our resources, we can make a significant impact on our future financial position.