7 Questions to Get You Thinking
Bottom Line Up Front: One of the Four Privileges of being a man is being a Provider. It is exhilarating to know you are being the best Provider you can be. Ask yourself, “Should I stay where I am while the world changes around me, or take action and adapt?” Adapting can lead to freedom, but it means learning new skills and setting ambitious goals. You can do it, but start now by rocking yourself out of your comfort zone. Ask yourself these 7 simple questions.
Start with your character, for character is destiny. The Ancients—the Greeks and Romans—knew a man’s character determined his destiny. Whether he’d succeed or fail hinged on him managing his appetites, persevering and confronting difficulty gracefully. The framework to guide him was The Virtues: Prudence, Justice, Temperance, Courage, Faith, Hope and Charity. Those first four are called Cardinal Virtues. Cardinal originally meant hinge. Prudence, Justice, Temperance and Courage were considered so important everything else hinged on them. Faith, Hope and Charity were added later.
Wealth Creation: Where the practical and the ethical intersect.
In his excellent book, “The Millionaire Mind”, Dr. Tom Stanley makes a close study of American millionaires. It’s fascinating and full of surprises. One of the most reassuring surprises is what a consistent role virtue plays in the lives of American millionaires. Make no mistake: to create wealth in any meaningful way, it’s important to be virtuous.
Deserve victory for your grandchildren and ask yourself the right questions.
Deserve to win. If you don’t think you deserve to win, you won’t win, so decide now. Do you believe you deserve victory? The prize is freedom for yourself, but more, freedom for your grandchildren. There are practical as well as virtuous reasons to build for grandchildren. For instance, when it comes to wealth creation it pays to think long-term. Grandchildren are long-term, so think grandchildren, and you’re thinking long-term.
Now we have to ask the right questions. Ask the right questions, you get the right answers.
Question #1. How much freedom do you deserve?
Many of us will say as much freedom as we want. The problem with that answer is that it’s emotional. You may want a lot of freedom now but once the fight gets tough or once you get that freedom you may find it destroys you. This gets tricky fast, so AM’s suggested working answer to that first question is: “As much freedom as I am willing to work hard to deserve and responsibly manage.” We all know the sad stories of unprepared men who win the lottery. It ruins their lives. Someone once quipped that if you win a million dollars you’d better learn how to be a millionaire quickly or you’ll lose it all. There is even an illness called Sudden Wealth Syndrome. Others have observed that if you took all the money from all around the world and distributed it evenly to all people around the world it would end up back in its original holders’ hands relatively quickly. Financial freedom isn’t achieved by those who want it, it is achieved by those who deserve it. It doesn’t stay with someone who doesn’t keep earning the right to exercise it.
Question #2. Why financial freedom?
We could start many places, but we choose to talk about (virtuous) financial freedom. Here’s why: money is easy to measure, money gives you options (freedom means having more choices) and because if you weave virtue into how you acquire money it’s more likely you’ll create long-term wealth.
Question #3. Do you own your money or does your money own you?
One of the first wealthy men I ever met had saved and invested wisely in the stock market since he was a child. I met him in his mid-30s. On a series of very meagre salaries he had accumulated around $500,000 through savings and investing, and this was in the 1990s. I was very impressed. He was industrious, disciplined, organized and diligent.
One day he we were talking and he told me his marriage was crumbling. I told him, “Take your wife to the Bahamas. Maureen and I will watch your girls. Get away and strengthen your marriage.”
He said, “I can’t.”
I asked, “Why not?”
He said, “Can’t afford it.”
I paused and asked, “Do you own your money or does your money own you?”
His response was devastating. He said, “No question. My money owns me.”
Good servant, bad master.
Either money will serve you or you will serve money. Be clear about the role money plays in your life. Money, like technology, is as good a servant as you are a good master. Money requires a respectful, disciplined master who keeps an eye on it. If you let money get the upper hand it will ruin your life and either destroy your life completely or make it a living misery. So remember—money can be a great servant but it’s a ruthless master. We are going to learn how to be its master. To do that we have to have a Philosophy of Money.
So, one of the things we are going to cover is how to formulate your own Philosophy of Money. Each man’s Philosophy of Money will be slightly different, but successful ones share a few key concepts. What’s essential is that we are not casual about this. Your freedom needs a foundation. That foundation is made up of values. Be clear about those values so the foundation is strong and stable. Our Philosophy of Money is the foundation on which we build our financial freedom.
Question #4. What financial framework should we use?
This is an important question because we need a framework that we can fill out and use for many different examples. The absolute best framework I have ever seen is found in Robert Kiyosaki’s book “Cash Flow Quadrant”. In “Cash Flow Quadrant” Kiyosaki lays out the four different ways you can make money and does so clearly and logically. We recommend you buy both “Cash Flow Quadrant” and Kiyosaki’s first book, “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”.
These two books will help you learn to ask your own right questions and start you on a journey of changing the way you think but also of learning that you must commit to a lifetime of learning, which is also essential to creating long-term wealth.
A word about Mr. Kiyosaki. Be a critical thinker and a critical reader, but don’t buy into the criticism he has endured. As you learn more you will see why so much of that criticism is undeserved. Withhold judgment—he skewered a lot of sacred cows and broke a lot of glass, so he made some enemies.
If you do find yourself wanting to criticize him, ask yourself why. If we’re careful students we learn that our desire to criticize someone says more about us than it does about them.
We will look at Mr. Kiyosaki in greater detail later.
Question #5. As a practical matter, what freedoms should we pursue?
This is a tough question and we need to stay as simple as possible, so we are going to focus on The Four Freedoms made famous by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt on January 6, 1941. Many people think of these as American freedoms, but they are good models and are universal. In an address known as The Four Freedoms Speech, Roosevelt proposed four fundamental freedoms that people everywhere in the world ought to enjoy: Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.
We may think money only affects freedom from want, but that’s not true. Even if we wish it were not so, in an unjust society (and increasingly our society is not just), financial freedom strengthens and may guarantee all of The Four Freedoms.
If you don’t have financial freedom, each of these freedoms can be forfeit. We are not saying that money should be the ultimate goal for every action, but as men, we owe it to our wives, our children and ourselves not to surrender ourselves to circumstance. Don’t put yourself in a position of weakness where you have no options.
Question #6. What rules should we follow on this journey to financial freedom?
The rules we recommend following are an adherence to Prudence, Justice, Temperance and Courage plus the three theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity. We do this because the journey to financial freedom isn’t about achieving the money, it’s about who you become in the process. The money’s a by-product.
Finally, for today’s purposes, the last question:
Question #7. Is a hammer a weapon or a tool?
No doubt about it, money is controversial. Many people have so much emotional conflict about money that it immobilizes them. So we at AM have a suggestion. The best way to think of money is to think of it as a tool, a means to an end, a source of options. The more money you have, the more choices you have. Money itself is morally neutral; it is the man who controls the money that determines whether it is used morally or not. Just as a hammer can be used to build houses or break windows, what you do with the objects at your disposal determines whether they are tools or weapons. Money is a man-made concept and object that can be either.
So, yet another benefit of becoming a virtuous man.
Call to Action. First, research Robert Kiyosaki and Tom Stanley and find three positive and three negative reviews of their work. Second, invest in yourself by purchasing Kiyosaki’s books “Cash Flow Quadrant” and “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”, but don’t make any financial decisions yet based on what you read in them. Third, find a copy of Tom Stanley’s book, “The Millionaire Mind”.
Browse through it, consider buying it. It’s a good investment, too.