Why Making More Money is NOT the Solution to Your Financial Problems

by | BiggerPockets.com

“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.

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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.

Related: The Top 10 Coolest Gifts Financial Freedom Has Given Me

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.

frugality

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.

tax-changes

Related: How to Teach Your Kids All the Money Lessons They Won’t Learn in School

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!

About Author

Jered Sturm

Jered Sturm is co-founder and director of sales and marketing at SNS Capital Group. Jered began in the real estate industry in 2006, working for a successful real estate investment company as a handyman. From 2009-2012, Jered co-founded the construction company Sturm Properties. Using his background in contracting and construction, he began investing in “Value Add” real estate. Now, after co-founding SNS Capital Group, Jered has conducted over 10 million dollars in real estate transactions. He currently co-owns and operates a portfolio worth over 3.7 million dollars in investment real estate.

10 Comments

  1. Zachary Gwin

    First off, Peaceful Warrior was one of those stepping stone books for me, so when you quoted Dan Millman I was hooked.

    I love the idea of money only making you more of what you already are. So many put there happiness on a price tag only to find that number to grow more and more.

    Thanks for the article, Jered. It’s a talent to be able to put a complex topic into an understandable form for others to gain.

    – Zach

  2. Pierre Armand

    Great article Jered, reminds me of the lessons in the book Rich Dad Poor Dad. More money will often not solve the problem, in fact it may actually accelerate the problem putting the spotlight on what we do not know. Money only accentuates the cash flow pattern running in your head thus the saying “A fool and his money is one big party”

  3. Tim Puffer

    Jered – Solid as always. Financial literacy is a huge problem in our country. People simply are clueless about it! I see it everyday at my day job – people who make less money than I do are buying brand new cars. Or they are talking about buying a personal residence. And you probably wouldn’t be surprised how the conversation goes when you try to offer sound financial literacy haha! It usually turns out that I’M the fool! I guess if having my mortgage AND utilities paid for every month by my duplex makes me a fool then I’ll happily throw on the jester hat!

  4. Ken Oz

    Never let money become a most important thing to you (You will know that, if you find yourself willing to cut ethical corners to achieve financial goals). People develop anxiety or depression when the loss of money (or property) is threatened. Money is a servant. So never become a servant of money.

  5. Demond Hammonds

    Great Article… I explain this to the individuals I mentor in Finance and wealth building. The poor and middle class spend first the wealthy invest and then spend. Pay your self first. ” Money without Financial Intelligence is money soon gone” (RK)

  6. Mark Hutchinson

    Most of my public education exposure to managing finances was “get a government job, because they give you the best benefits”, or “If you get a college degree, you will earn a much higher income and will be able to afford to live in luxury.”
    They didn’t discuss how much the tax man takes away. They didn’t explain that if you buy on credit, you are making someone else rich and spending much more on your goods and services. They didn’t explain that people who earn higher incomes are not necessarily able to survive in their current lifestyle for more than a month or two without another paycheck.

    I think the problem is that our educators lack the financial education to even understand that they are teaching people to fail. We can’t teach what we don’t know ourselves. We often don’t even realize that we don’t know something, because we are doing what we’ve always been told or observed others doing.

    It wasn’t until I had a Civics teacher in 8th grade cover the topic of managing finances that I saw a slight glimmer of understanding finances by a public school teacher. He explained how investing $1,000,000 in tax free municipal bonds at 5% interest could net you $50,000 a year to live on. It sounded great, even though none of us had any idea of how we would suddenly get $1,000,000 in our hands to invest like that. It as least planted some seeds about making money work for us rather than working for money.

    He also covered paying interest, particularly car loans and buying household goods on credit. It was a great introduction to why you can’t just go by the monthly payment to determine whether or not something is affordable.

    Unfortunately, that was about the extent of what we were taught. Nobody took the time to explain the consequences of taxes, inflation, credit scores, types of investments, or the advantages of owning a business. People can’t teach what they don’t know, and I suspect that there is a huge knowledge void in our country when it comes to these topics.

    That’s why I enjoy forums like BP, and all of the input from the people here. There are lots of great sources of information out there. We just have to take it upon ourselves to learn what we need to know. Rich Dad Poor Dad, The Richest Man in Babylon, and The Millionaire Next Door are three of my personal favorites for explaining the ideas of spending and using money as a tool.

    I just wish that we could get more of this teaching into the schools. There is so much opportunity in this country, and most people don’t even realize it.

  7. Sheila F.

    Jered…… This may be one of the most POWERFUL articles that I have read! It’s hard to believe but money problem’s have little to do with money. “Financial Psychology” will always over ride mechanics!!! I highly suggest everyone reading MONEY: MASTER THE GAME By Tony Robbins. It blew my mind!!!!

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