Where does your money go? That is the big question these days. That was a question I asked my wife, and that was a question I asked myself. And there's a really good answer to it, an accurate answer, and once you understand the answer, you're going to change your money's direction.
If you're like most Americans, you basically don't have a clue where your money goes. It's just kind of leaking out of your life. As long as you can pay your bills each month, you feel as if that's a victory. You think you're in control, but I'm going to suggest other people are in control.
I believe most American workers are little millionaires running around. They're building up their 1, 1.2, 1.5, 2.3, 3 million dollars in their working lives, and the credit companies see all these little millionaires running around out there, and they say to themselves, how can we get most of that money? And you know what? They do. They get a significant chunk of your money because they have some very powerful tools at their disposal.
These companies are the big sponsors, or in many cases, the big owners of media companies and other companies, magazines, TV and radio stations, that control the culture. These are the people who tell you who you should be, how you should act, what you should look like. And of course, all of these things are designed to drive you to the store to buy the next thing that's going to make you look right, act right, do right, be right, be a part of the right crowd. These are the TV, the movies, and of course your peers, because they saw the movies too, and they watch the commercials on the TV, and they know how to act.
So they start acting that way. Now they really feel the pressure because they want to be liked. People just naturally want to be liked. And to be liked, they think they have to be like those around them. So they do what they have to do to conform. You may fall into this trap as well, doing what you have to do to “conform.” But conforming costs money. You wind up having to drive a car like theirs. You have to dress like them. You have to take the same vacations. You have to buy from the same website so you can drop all those dot-com names at work. But keeping up with the Joneses is my definition now of insanity. And given the recent economic conditions, it's gotten worse.
Have you ever gone camping and seen moths fly into the fire or into a bug zapper, and you go, “What in the world are they doing?” But the next one goes right in after them, and they keep going. They're doomed. They're like the Joneses. The Joneses are going broke. They think they're having fun, but they're doomed. They're just following the programming they're being given.
They go to school with student loans, of which many now are coming due, and while they're at school on their student loans, the credit card companies are bombarding them with pre-approved cards, so they take them because, by golly, they've got to have a monster stereo in their dorm room because the guy next door has a monster stereo in his dorm room, and we need that latest electronic gadget, and we've got to have the high-definition TV they're coming out with, everything. So here it goes. They start building up this credit card debt, and they're still in school! They haven't even worked yet. And as I said, those loans all come due one day, and look out!
They get out of school; they get a moderately good job, a starter job; they get married. Now what? Well, you can't sleep on the floor. You can't eat on the floor or the kitchen counter; you've got to have tables and chairs and plants and sofas and beds. And you know what, there's this store down the street, and they've got these easy-payment terms. And here it goes.
Now you're buying all this stuff because you're told to by those media outlets that influence your thinking. And then on the other end, there's somebody there more than willing to sell it to you and, hopefully, I mean, they really do hope, you'll do it with payments because they make more that way.
All right, now you start to have offspring. Offspring need a minivan. You can't just stick a child on the roof! And if you're anybody who's anybody, you have to have the minivan with the TV set in the back and the DVD player for the little children, with the headsets and everything, because that's what you've been told on TV, and that's what your kids have been told on TV, is what you have to have. And of course, when you run down to the dealer, most people don't have that $30,000 in their pocket, so what do they do? They put it on payments. It's all financed.
Then they charge vacations because the TV tells the kids they must go to Disney World or they are not true citizens of the United States. Well, that costs money. They buy their children every fad, designer clothes, all with the credit cards. They move into a bigger house about every seven years as statistics show. They trade cars about every three or four years. They live their lives really owning nothing, while owing everyone. Then we wonder just how everything melted down a few years ago.
So, how do they end up? Living in a small apartment on a fixed income eating cat food and crackers. This is not what they planned! But this is what happens when they allow their pockets to be picked every step along the way in life. They live like that another 20 years.
This is the sad part. Used to be about the time when Social Security was first started by President Roosevelt back in the early '40s, people didn't live that long. So the idea of giving somebody a pension at age 65 didn't seem like a bad deal because they were going to die when they were 66. But, today, you can max out your credit cards, but you don't die. People live to around 80 today. And so they go a long time in that small apartment with the cat food and crackers. It's not fun. I've seen it happen.
After earning more than $2 million over their working lives, they end up poor because they gave it all away to impress their neighbors. They did it, in essence, for pride. And in the Book of Proverbs in the Bible it states, “Pride goes before destruction.” Pride is the route to destruction. Trying to impress other people has a lousy return on investment. Is it worth it?
Here's where you're going to have to reprogram yourselves. The Joneses are following a script written by the businesses who are benefiting from their excessive spending. In the end, those creditors will use the Joneses up, and when they get old and unproductive, those creditors will throw the Joneses away and go find a new young couple to tap into and will suck the financial life out of them during their working years and then throw them away.
Now, I'm not saying the people who work in these credit companies or finance companies are evil people; I'm saying the plan is an evil plan. It is designed to take your money away. And you need to see that before you can change that. Remember, you are responsible for your life. And the Joneses for theirs. Choose your goal, not their goal.
Statistics from our own wonderful government study show that more than 95 percent of Americans fail to achieve a true definition of financial independence, where they are independent of having to work or get charity or help from the government, or help from family members. They're really independent. Less than 5 percent of the people get to a place where they owe no one and own everything.
What does that mean? That means most people, the Joneses, for example, are doing it wrong! In fact, I once heard it said that if you look around you and see what most other people are doing and do exactly the opposite, you have about a 98 percent chance of being right. Wise advice, especially these days.
The first step in the change for you is to admit that you are 100 percent responsible for where you are and where you are going. It is your thinking that will determine your destination. Again, going to Proverbs in the Bible, it says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” It is your thinking that determines who you are. It manifests throughout your life.
Don't fall for those success illusions. The advertisers who are pushing all the success trappings on TV, on websites, in the magazines, and so forth, want you to buy these things before you can even afford them. In fact, in most cases, people never get as rich as they try to act. But they're pushing you to buy these things before you can afford them so that you buy them on credit. They want you to buy them on credit because they realize something very important: When you buy something on credit, you pay more than the price. Think about that. Any time you buy something on credit, you've just agreed to pay more for that item than the price. And that doesn't sound real smart. The Joneses are chasing a barely achievable, unsustainable model of success.
Here's an interesting fact. Auctioneers, as professionals, are disproportionately frugal and affluent. Now I wondered, why, until I heard one of them talk about it. And he said, “Look, I have to sit there and auction off people's belongings. I have to take their lifetime memories and sell them to other people. And then I watch them sit in an old rocking chair or on a bench in their front yard, and they watch people walk away with their stuff, with the things that meant so much to them. And after years of watching that happen to people, because they got into financial trouble, because they were irresponsible with their money, it makes me more responsible with mine, more conservative with mine.” So the auctioneers who get to watch the tragedy of money mismanagement become much more responsible with their own money.
You and I don't get to see it that much. Maybe in our own life, if we're lucky as I was, I went through a crash. It was a good thing for me. I got to see somebody selling his Corvette, and selling his Olds Regency, and selling his airplane. It was me! I got to feel it. It was a life-changing event. I would like to help you avoid that life-changing event. But just take it from me and the auctioneers: It's not fun.
There is an easily achievable and easily sustainable model of success, one that you can craft to fit your life and your desires.
The first step in that model is to stop allowing yourself to be brainwashed by Madison Avenue and Hollywood. True wealth is achieved by the tortoise in the race, not the hare. I fell for the brainwashing with my gold Corvette. That Corvette, when I first got it and I drove around to various family members or to business situations that I went to, the first time that I drove up with that car and somebody I knew saw me in it, they went, “Wow, John, what a great car.” But I noticed that the second time I drove to that same person, they said, “Hi John.” One day it hit me, I was paying $549 a month to get one “wow” out of everybody I knew. This was not a good investment of my money.
So do a little daydreaming; decide what you want for your life in the long run, not the short run. Now you may think that includes gold Corvettes. You may think it includes a yacht and a mansion. But that's usually part of the brainwashing. I have found over the years that I've been doing the seminars and teaching people my system, most people, after thinking for a while, really wouldn't want to live in a big house, because they start thinking, “You know, I'd hate to have to clean that thing, or I'd hate to have to pay the property taxes on that monster.” They wouldn't really want to live that life. That's not the circle they want to navigate in. What they really want is a nice upper-middle-class life with security and sustainability, and I'm here to tell you that that is achievable.
Now let's shut your mouth up so you can save a little money here. Many people blow thousands of retirement dollars just eating out. And they don't think about it; it's just part of their lifestyle. Let's say you spend $100 a week on dinners. Of course there's also latte and cappuccino or whatever your particular weakness happens to be. Just going out to lunch every day from work instead of brown-bagging it could cost you as much as $632,408 in retirement wealth. Now this is based on a $5 lunch every weekday over a normal 40-year working life. A $5 lunch every day instead of bringing a brown bag could cost you more than a half million dollars of retirement wealth, if invested in the right place! Now, if that doesn't stun you, you're in a coma; you need to wake up.
Of course, vacations on your credit cards can wipe out massive chunks of your retirement wealth. And you know, you don't have to fly; you can drive. There are ways to find good places to visit closer to home. There are national parks and state parks and a lot of fun stuff within reach. People get brainwashed again by the advertising. They think they have to go to certain destinations or they're not going to have fun.
When you think about going to the grocery store and dropping down your Visa or MasterCard, or to the local restaurant, think about this. This impacted me. Look at the timelines. How long is that food going to stay with you? Everybody has their natural cycle. And how long will the bill be with you? How long will you be making payments on stuff that's long since gone down the pipe? That's not smart! That is literally flushing away your financial future. Don't do that. Don't ever finance food.
So, if you're not convinced, let me say it again. The credit system is stacked against you. The house always wins. Don't believe me? Step outside; look at your house. Now drive downtown; look at the house Visa lives in, MasterCard lives in, and Discover lives in. Their houses are way bigger than your house, aren't they? Why? Because you've helped them build them, along with millions of other people. When you buy something on credit, you're letting them install a siphon hose in your financial productivity so they can suck the financial life out of you and put another floor on their skyscraper. That's how it works.
Credit card purchases cost more; any kind of financed purchase costs more. I talked about this before, but let's go through it specifically to see how this works. I mean, it's very simple.
Let's say there's a $500 TV set. If you buy it for cash, you pay $500. If you slap down a credit card, you're going to pay more than $500. You may pay $600 over time, depending on how quickly you pay that off. Well, how smart is it to pay $600 for a $500 TV? That does not make sense to me.
If you think about that, if you extend that logic out, then it's obvious I could have a much better lifestyle than you over time, than you can with credit. And see, here's the big lie! The whole idea of credit is that it's there to help you have a better lifestyle, right? Wrong! If you really think about it, this system designed to “Help you have a better lifestyle” simply makes everything cost more. If everything costs more, and you make the same money as I do, I will be able to buy more things than you 'cause I'm paying less. Therefore, I'm having a better lifestyle. You're having a better lifestyle? It is an absolute lie that credit lets you have a better lifestyle. Make the right decision when it comes to credit.