“Money is neither my god nor my devil. It is a form of energy that tends to make us more of who we already are, whether it’s greedy or loving.” — Dan Millman
I really enjoy quotes because they are often from wise men and women who can pack the meaning of complex thoughts into one or two simple sentences. In the above quote, Dan Millman shows us exactly why adding more income will never solve your financial problems. Because I am not wise enough to condense these complex issues into one sentence, let me expand on Mr. Millman’s quote in my own words.
Money is the Fuel, Not the Steering Wheel
Money/capital is simply fuel to the engine that is already running. Adding more fuel to an engine gives it the ability to run faster and longer, but it won’t change the direction you’re driving. Similarly, adding more money to your lifestyle will only amplify your speed down the current path you are on. In our analogy of the engine, money equals fuel, while I will add that the steering wheel equals your mindset on money or your financial education level. The steering wheel is what will control the direction of the energy that the fuel will produce.
If you want to solve your financial problems, first focus on the steering wheel before you even think of adding more fuel to the engine. Pumping an engine full of fuel to run faster and harder before you have a firm grasp on and full control of the steering wheel will likely leave you stuck in a ditch — or worse, wrapped around a tree.
So many people believe “if I just made just a few thousand more, I wouldn’t have these issues” or “if I made double what I do now, I would be living the good life.” Many set their sights on the always-seductive million-dollar mark. “If I were a millionaire, my family and I would be set for life!” These statements can be correct if you have financial intelligence and know how to control the flow of energy that money will produce.
Address Financial Literacy First
Unfortunately, what happens more often when people make more — double their income or even become millionaires — is that they never even think of the steering wheel. They never address their financial education and financial literacy. This results in the same things that created the financial issues in the first place. The issues are simply bigger now than they were in the past.
- According to a 2009 Sports Illustrated article, “The average professional athlete in the U.S. will make more in one season than most us earn in our entire lives….[yet,] despite those staggering salaries, 78% of NFL players, 60% of NBA players and a very large percentage of MLB players file bankruptcy within five years of retirement.”
- American households earning at least $75,000 annually are bringing in 42% more than the country’s median household income. According to a 2015 survey by SunTrust that was conducted by Harris Poll, 33% of those $75k households are living pay check to pay check and in the houses earning $100k or more 1 in 4 live pay period to pay period.
- In 2013, the Federal Reserve Board conducted a survey to “monitor the financial and economic status of all types of American consumers.” In one of the questions, the Fed asked respondents how they would pay for a $400 emergency. The answer: forty-seven percent of respondents said that either they would cover the expense by borrowing or selling something or that they would not be able to come up with the $400 at all.
These few basic real-world examples highlight the argument that adding money will not fix the problem; it will only expand the issue that exists. This is the point Mr. Millman pointed out in his quote at the top of the article.
Put bluntly, more money will only make you more of what you already are. If you are greedy, you will become more greedy; if you are loving, you will become more loving. If you overspend, you will continue to overspend; if you multiply your money, you will continue to multiply your money. What Mr. Millman does not include in his quote that I adamantly believe in is this: If you take the time to gain financial education, if you learn about how the flow of energy from capital works, you can not only control it, but you can harness it to do even more good in the world. Focusing on the steering wheel before the fuel is the way we do this.
The most difficult question to answer is how do we focus on the steering wheel? Financial education and financial literacy are not only subjects never taught in our school system, but they are also rarely discussed in the average adults peer groups, often a taboo subject in social settings. Even if you are one of the few who despite those hurdles seek out the education, it is hard to know where to look and whom to trust. Because of all these factors, few subjects have more ignorance around them than financial education. Unfortunately, this attracts scummy con artists who prey on the masses of ignorant people looking to improve their lives.
It’s Possible to Learn & Change Your Ways
All that sounds pretty doom and gloom, but I am an optimist. I believe now more than ever, people have access to more free, unconventional education. For example, if your eyes have made it to this part of my article, you are already on the right path. This article (and no other article, for that matter) will be able to lay out the exact path for you to understand your steering wheel and know how to control it. Every person’s story is different, so every person’s education will be different. It works on a case-by-case basis, but if there is one thing I am sure of, 50 percent if not more of the battle is simply understanding that the solution to your or anyone else’s financial problems lies in the steering wheel, not in the fuel.
Once you have made that determination, your mindset will begin to expose how to use the energy of money to do more good, be more loving, grow your wealth exponentially, teach others to do the same, and eliminate the negativity that comes from financial burdens. I write this and all my other articles not to give you the solution, but to get you thinking so you can find the solution on your own. If you take the time to break the chains of ignorance, you can begin to share your wisdom with others, with your family, and with your children. I hope and believe this article will have a ripple effect through all those who read it. Share it and expand on it. Its content will spread through peer groups and through generations. I write it so the information so many seek can be exposed, pursued, and shared. If you join me in that pursuit we can and will change the world.
What do YOU think? Why do so many people earn high incomes and then go bankrupt?
Weigh in with a comment!