The Mental Ladder

ECONOMICS & FAMILY

The word “economics” is an ancient Greek term that simply means “the household budget”. I like this definition because it tells us that 2,000 years ago the economy of a nation rose and fell according to the spending patterns and financial mind-sets of its individual families. Not much has changed in that time, with one exception. Due to world trade taking off several centuries ago, we now have an extra dimension to the economy called the corporation. Corporations, however, are staffed by consumers and still exist primarily to make money from consumers, who are still huddled together in humble and increasingly fragile units called households.

The corporate end of town and government spending get all the press these days and we could be mistaken for thinking that they drive the economy. However, the truth is that private consumption dominates the typical western economy at around 70 per cent of all spending. Household spending still makes or breaks both the corporate sector and the government of the day.

In this chapter I want to offer you seven common scenarios so you can find where you sit on the financial ladder. This segmenting of society is not meant to label you or speak down to you, but to show you that your mindsets have created your current situation, and so that you can change your future. Only when you discern why you have come to your present situation can you understand what needs to change in your beliefs and habits in order for the future to be any different. I want you to have a better future but it won’t happen unless you are honest with yourself and make quality decisions for the future. Comfort with the status quo is not an option!

In this chapter I talk about the ladder in term of households instead of individuals because it is common knowledge sooner or later many of us would like to form a family. What is described here equally applies to singles so do not feel left out. It is interesting to note that families are richer than individuals of the same age. The average married woman in Australia is five times wealthier than a single woman of the same age. For men the figure is between two and three times the wealth levels. The reason is at least partly due to marriage and family taking your eyes off yourself and on to the welfare of others. One of the most under-reported benefits of marriage is in the multiplier effect it has on wealth. The Jubilee Centre’s research study titled Cohabitation in the 21st Century neatly sums up this huge trend in the western world toward single living and non-marriage partnering and its impact on children, stability, emotional security and financial wealth.

But marriage can be a double-edged sword. Like forces attract each other. If you are of poor character, the chances of you marrying or partnering with someone of the same character are extremely high. If you are a “slave” or a “struggler”, or even an “incredible” then the chances of marrying someone of the same mindset is quite high. Financial destiny tracks ethics and character as well as marriage.

So what does your economy, your household budget look like? We will now peek inside seven household/family budgets and put them on a financial ladder. The further up this ladder you find yourself, the more financial freedom you will experience. See if you can find your household somewhere on the financial ladder below. I have created the fictitious names simply to portray the financial ladder in more familiar human terms than abstract categories found in economics texts:

7. Ed & Francis Incredible
6. Bruce & Alison Determined
5. Tony & Dawn Dabbler
4. Stuart & Cathy Comfortable
3. Troy & Samantha Saver
2. Allan & Sue Struggler
1. Jim & Betty Slave

When you have identified yourself by reading the summaries below, remember that change begins in the mind, so get along to a good bookshop and begin to read the books mentioned throughout these essays. Over many years of reading I have found them all to be treasure chests of wisdom for the mind that is willing to learn. Get on the internet and learn from strugglers who became high achievers. Go to the library and get inspired by the great investors of generations past. Importantly, set binding financial goals that you will stick to through thick and thin. Very importantly, don’t try to short-circuit the learning process and make a quick buck. Most people who try to get ahead financially without a quality learning curve will fall foul of sleazy fast-talking financial swindlers.

FINANCIAL LEVEL 1:

JIM AND BETTY SLAVE

In times past, when slavery was common, those unfortunate souls who had to endure this form of economic servitude actually had some benefits we observers from the modern era often overlook. The slave was housed and fed at the expense of their master. Their master, in exchange for their forced labour provided them food, shelter, clothing and perhaps a few other necessities for life. In our freedom-loving modern society we also have economic slavery but these days it is self-inflicted instead of forced.

Anyone who lives week to week or day to day on welfare handouts, or who goes to work each week and blows everything they earn on the cost of shelter, food, drink and the other necessities of life is, in fact, a modern slave. So our first couple, Jim and Betty, represent those of us who are little better off financially than an ancient slave. If there is no money left over from the budget month after month then who are they working for? Who are they bound to? You are working for your boss and you are bound to your job or welfare check. If your wallet and bank accounts are always empty then you too are a slave.

Jim and Betty could be on low income, or on a very high income, it doesn’t matter, it is the 100 per cent spending of income that matters. If this is where you are at then you need to do some radical surgery on your thinking patterns. You will have to examine your financial mindset and find out where this compulsion to spend everything came from. Then you will have to motivate yourself to make the hard decisions to change your spending and that is what this essay is all about

Before the Jim and Betty “Slaves” of the world react to the above, I would like to point out that some time in our lives nearly all of us will find ourselves on this rung of the financial ladder. Some are there by choice, after making stupid decisions that were high risk. I was one of these. I was a financial slave for a season. In addition, a lot of people are there through no fault of their own. With nearly 40 per cent of marriages ending in divorce, far too many women find themselves breadwinners for a struggling young family with little support from ex-husbands. In fact divorce is the number one cause of poverty in most western countries. Others, like several people I know, have suffered sexual abuse as children and this has resulted in a tragic life of substance abuse or lack of hope. Still others have grown up in welfare dependant households and have never been taught the skills needed to function as financially independent adults. These people must be shown compassion by the rest of us and should never be condemned by smug middle class minds.

At other times a stint at this level of the financial ladder is deliberately chosen. Men and women who re-train in mid-life will often put their families through several years on this rung of the ladder. The important difference between these two examples is the loss of hope in the future. The “Slave” family has no hope for escaping their situation. They have lost any belief of ever improving their future. Are you a Jim and Betty “Slave”? Or do they live in a house near you?

Jim’s brother, Frank is also a “Slave” by name and character, but outwardly he doesn’t look like one. Frank tries to hide his family name behind an image. Frank lives in flash waterfront house and he drives the latest car. He has to have all the latest gadgets and the best fashion brands. But he lives week to week on credit cards and the amount of debt he lives under would crush a house, and it eventually will crush his! It is for good reason that the ancient Jews said that a borrower becomes a slave to their lender (Proverbs 22:7). In fact the very word “mortgage” comes from the root word “mort”, and it means “bound till death”. This is Frank’s lot in life. One tiny financial hic-up and his delicate house of cards will collapse. Frank is financially illiterate so he buys material possessions that pamper his ego and which usually drop in value as they wear out. Do you know anyone who lives the lifestyle of Frank “Slave”?

Jim, Betty and Frank are slaves in their mind only. They have wired their brain to get a pleasure kick from the act of spending money to consume material goods. They are like the rat in the science experiment who knows that when it pushes the button it gets food. It is all in the way they, or their parents, have conditioned their nervous system. All humans seek pleasure and avoid pain. When we have wired our brain to get our pleasure hits from retail and restaurant therapy then we have some serious retraining to do if we are to escape a dead-end life. Jim and Betty have also lost hope in a better future and this is extremely self-destructive. The secret of happiness is having something to look forward to and this couple don’t have anything on their radar to give them a reason not to consume everything today. They are hopeless in the truly literal sense of the word.

Action Plan: If you are a “Slave” then sow some hope into your life by making the crucial and binding decision to begin right now to create an alternate and better future. Analyse your spending right now. Find out where your current thinking patterns came from. Also find out where your money goes by checking every item of expenditure for a week, and eliminate 10 per cent of the spending straight away. Observe yourself when shopping to see when the emotional pleasure rush kicks in. Set some modest financial goals for the next week or month and see if you can achieve them. Little successes will lead to bigger ones. Start small, not big, as you will need to get some wins on the scoreboard to keep going. Start saving today, even if it is 10 cents. I have met a great Christian spiritual leader in India who demands that every one of his followers, who are usually extremely poor and who number in the millions, begin by saving something every day. This might be as little as the equivalent of 5 cents. The goal is eventually the establishment of a small business that will set them financially free. The Grameen Bank in Bangladesh works on this very principle and has seen millions of the poorest Bangladeshi citizens claw their way back from the brink. If it can be done there, it can be done in your life. Start now!

FINANCIAL LEVEL 2:

ALAN AND SUE STRUGGLER

The Alan and Sue Struggler are a step above the “Slaves” because they have something in their bank account. It isn’t much because as it grows beyond a certain psychological level they will spend it. Their bank account has a habit of always reverting to an amount they believe is just enough to get them through the downtimes of life. They save money for all the negative reasons. They save only to cushion themselves from life’s “rainy day” events like retrenchment, car repairs, rental bonds, broken washing machines etc. The “Struggler” household are still going nowhere and have no plans to improve their lot. Like the “Slaves”, they live basically from week to week. They are the working poor.

They are usually renters because the mental strength needed to build up a deposit for a house requires just too much self-discipline. They are great buyers of lotto tickets too, as these give them a warm fuzzy feeling that one day they will achieve wealth without ever having to try. They also look forward to the pension when they can get “free” money from the government and relax, which they believe is their right. They have an entitlement mentality that is crippling their financial future. The typical middle-aged tradie-surfie bum of my region here on the Sunshine Coast in sunny Queensland fits this description well. Allen and Sue have stopped dreaming of a better future and have decided that this is as good as it will ever get for them.

Just as Jim and Betty Slave were knocked around by life’s circumstances, so Allen and Sue were probably scarred by a traumatic event in their past that has made them afraid of the future, give up hope of a better life and live in the present with little shots of retail therapy to keep them going. The problem with the “Struggler” family is that they believe life comes at them. They think they will always be victims of their circumstances and nothing they can do will make much of a difference in their life and financial circumstances. Mentally they are passive believers in financial determinism. For them it is better to not try than to try and fail. They believe the lie that life is to be lived one day at a time. They fail to think long term so fail to plan for the long term. The “Strugglers” don’t have a lot of energy. They prefer paddling along the shallow canals of life rather than risking the oceans of opportunity. In the next essay I will go into great detail as to what causes these self-limiting belief systems and in essay four I will explain how to overcome them.

Action Plan: If you are a “Struggler” then begin to ponder the causes of your current self-limiting beliefs. Please, please, please stop focusing on present pleasures and begin to think of a better future.  Imagine and dream about that better future. This will seem strange at first, but all future goals start with your imagination. Your imagination is your future in mental cyberspace. Control it instead of letting it control you. Start setting bigger and bigger savings targets. Your life is not finished yet! Stop feeling sorry for yourself and take control again of your mind and finances.

FINANCIAL LEVEL 3:

TROY AND SAM SAVER

The next level of financial independence is the “Saver” household. They are the lower middle class of any society. Troy and Sam were conditioned in childhood to believe that saving money was a good and honourable activity. It allows them to plan for those extra treats that life has in store for the hardworking people of the world. These include a reasonable car, a house in the suburbs with bland furniture and perhaps a trip interstate or overseas every few years. The lower middle class is full of these people. Life is for shopping at the mall and keeping up with socially created images of decency. Their mindset tells them that if they work hard they should be entitled to enjoy the fruits of their labour. They are people who can think further into the future than the previous two households and this is commendable. However, Troy and Sam generally spend their savings on things that depreciate in value rather than things that rise in value over time. In this category I am including boats, cars, holidays and bank savings. In their subconscious they sense they should be doing more but they just don’t know how.

Certain positive financial lessons have been learnt by the “Savers”, which has enabled them to enter the home ownership market. However, ignorance and fear control Troy and Samantha’s view of the world. They are in the dangerous position called comfortable. The present is cosy but the future is bleak once the exit their wage earning years. These are the people who will be working into their seventies. They spend to pretend believing they deserve it. Sadly, if they make some money from a small investment they will usually see these profits as a new source of spending on the house or car instead of seed capital for future capital growth.

Troy and Sam’s problem is that they lack any knowledge of investing. They are basically ignorant, but when they wake up in their late forties to their looming poverty-filled pension years, they usually become very motivated to learn. They may have once or twice experimented with a small investment on the advice of an uncle, family friend or brother, but were burnt and have decided to enjoy life while they can. For them, this is as good as it gets. Politicians love these people and covert their votes. Unfortunately for Troy and Sam, the politicians have set up the rules of the economic game in such a way as to make sure they can never save their way to financial freedom. By a deliberate policy of currency inflation and taxation, politicians will eat into the value of Troy and Sam’s precious savings 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They won’t know that money itself is depreciating at over 5 per cent a year until it is too late. Savings are the essential beginning point of the road to financial freedom, but it is only the first step. Troy and Sam intuitively sense this, but they don’t know how to take the next scary step on the journey. They often fear the journey and as we know, fear paralyses.

I was once a Troy Saver. I learnt the saving habit from my hard-working farming parents, for whom I am eternally thankful. But I always sensed there was something more. If farmers like my dad could retire in comfort, then why couldn’t I as a teacher? It took me a while to realise that my dad had bought himself an appreciating asset in the farm, while I was simply putting money in a bank. My other problem was that, with a young family there was so little left over at the end of the month, and for that “young family” season in my life I was actually stuck on the second rung of the financial ladder with Troy and Sam.

Action Plan: If you are a “saver” you are already off the financial starting blocks but have so much more to learn. Read, read, read and read! Learn, enquire, experiment and then you will succeed. You are basically ignorant of the investment and business world so you desperately need knowledge. Start experimenting in a small way with your own investments. Find out if you are a real estate person (practically minded and happy to do a little renovating with a distinct dislike for price volatility) or a stock market person (academic, analytical and happy to live with major price volatility). Examine your mindset. Sit down and seriously examine what motivates you in the area of finances. Find out what gives you pleasure and why you have become like that. Ask yourself how you see the short-term and long-term future unfolding and is it possible to change these imaginations.         

FINANCIAL LEVEL 4:

CATHY AND STEWART COMFORTABLE

As a school teacher I saw Stewart and Cathy everywhere. They are true believers in the house in the suburbs, the decent job, money in the bank, and some funds locked away with a financial middleman to keep them feeling good about themselves and their future. They believe in superannuation (compulsory retirement savings) and may even make extra payments. They are the definition of the middle class. Because wealth levels are often correlated to profession and age, Stewart and Cathy are probably both working, perhaps one is a professional and they are parents of teenagers or grown children who can afford to put a little thought into their looming retirement.

However, Stewart and Cathy still lack several essential ingredients needed to become financially independent. They will not compromise their spending patterns. They like living the good life and they lack the sense of urgency to act on their own. If they do launch out into the deep waters of the investment world, it will usually be for a single investment property. Any more than this and they would be outside their all-important comfort zone. Owning their home was a good move but will have to be duplicated at least four times and be largely paid off by retirement for the strategy to work, and they probably started too late for this to happen. They lack the knowledge of how to duplicate residential investments. They probably negatively geared their first property and if they have stock market investments they are happy with mediocre returns from managed funds. If you are a Stewart and Cathy “Comfortable” then I commend you for getting on to this rung of the financial ladder, but there is so much more you could aspire to. Your problem is the comfort zone. It is your worst enemy. You are locked into the middle class mindset and don’t believe you will ever rise further. I know Stewart and Cathy well because I and my wife were on this level of the ladder for some time and my teaching profession was full of people who think this way. Perhaps that is why schools are so frustrating to young people who are budding entrepreneurs.

When it comes to thinking about stock market investments Stewart and Cathy will usually seek the comfort of someone from the “Suited Army”! These are the smooth talking managed funds spruikers who capitalise on Stewart and Cathy’s desire to get ahead and lack of knowledge. They will display glossy charts and power-point presentations on how great their products have performed and project these well into the rosy future. Stewart and Cathy can forget their financial fears if they simply buy into a top-performing managed fund. All the spruiker asks for is access to their life savings! It is so easy, so simple. And the sales pitch generally works. However, the performance of these investments will always be very poor compared to what is out there if they really wanted to learn.

I first found out about the “suited Army” during the 1990’s when I completed my Australian Securities Institute course. I wanted to learn how to invest, but what I learned was that the word finance is often spelt “s-e-l-l-i-n-g”. When I went for my first job in the industry, which was advertised as a “broker”, I was told that I was really going to be a financial salesman for their products designed for the middle class. I knew I could never sell my soul to this world so I went back to teaching. Today the Australian managed funds industry is on its way to $2 trillion under management, mainly through superannuation. Like all professions everywhere the newly emerged superannuation/managed funds industry has created an impression that investing is much too difficult for the Cathy and Stewart “Comfortable” families of the world and is best left to the all-knowing and ever-helpful investment adviser. In the meantime they milk the middle class in fees. It’s a gravy train for the middlemen, banks and unions who control this industry. Thank goodness that in the last few years some people have started waking up to the con and have begun moving their funds into the self-managed superannuation sector where they can control their own destiny. But that is another story for another time.

A word of warning: If you are a “Comfortable” then seek a fee-for-service financial adviser who charges by the hour. A financial advisor who charges nothing up front is usually salesman operating under the wrong title. Ask your adviser if they ever did a stint as a real estate, car or retail salesman, and then watch the body language! The biggest problem with financial advisers is that they will be very tempted to place you in a fund that has the biggest commissions for them rather than the best returns for you. Up to 5 per cent of your capital can disappear as up-front commissions. Then they will milk your investment profits of one or two percentage points year-in and year-out as on-going commissions. If a 10 per cent return is reduced to 8 per cent every year it can have an astounding effect on the long-term performance of an investment. Read the small print extremely carefully, as that is where the sting will be. To make matters worse you will be doomed to a return that largely tracks the overall market so you will be locked in to a mediocre rate of return. Why pay a premium for a service that, with the invention of the internet, is available to you free of charge with a little research.

I fully understand that many investors will be happy to stay with a good investment adviser with whom they have built up a relationship of trust and I have no problem with this. Just remember though that you are still a breast-fed investment baby who is yet to take responsibility for feeding yourself. Product salespeople rarely ever have the time or the motivation to do the market research that an enthusiast with a half hour free each day could do. If they are not wealthy then they lack to skills to make you wealthy.

Action Plan: Ignorance, wilful or otherwise, is a huge part of the problem for Stewart and Cathy. However, unlike the Saver family who were fearful of the future, the Comfortable family are simply lazy and enjoying middle class comfort. If you are in this financial boat then picture your retirement and shiver. You will be totally unable to support your current lifestyle in latter years. The key to your future is taking control of your investments. Begin to educate yourself on how to invest your savings yourself. Take some risks and learn from the school of hard knocks. The books that have helped me over the years are a good place to start and they are listed at the end of this chapter.

FINANCIAL LEVEL 5:

TONY AND DAWN DABBLER

The “Dabbler’s” are more determined to get ahead than Stewart and Cathy “Comfortable”. They save, they invest, and they are not afraid to have a go. Tony and Dawn will try their hand at different types of investments and probably have an eclectic array of stocks, property and fixed interest in their portfolio. The dabbling stage is reached when you have the confidence to make your own decisions but you still lack the commitment to becoming an expert. Tony and Dawn’s problem is that they are distracted by the busyness of their profession, friends, hobby or family. Tony and Dawn are often small business owners with spare cash flow. Some investments have worked and some haven’t. If you are a “Dabbler” I commend you for taking risks, but I can also be just about certain that you are lacking focus. You do not have clear and concrete financial goals to push toward. You need to work out where you want to be in 10 years from now and write your vision on paper, work on it daily, develop your knowledge base and watch your returns take off. You are three quarters of the way there.

The “Dabblers” also lack an understanding of economic cycles. For years, Tony and Dawn seem to get their timing wrong and end up holding on to under-performing investments. They will buy property when it is fashionable to buy property. This is of course near the top of the property cycle. It is the same with their stock market investments. This is one of the main reasons they are not more committed. I was once a Tony “Dabbler” myself and followed the crowd into decisions that were often costly because of their timing. My heart was in the right spot and every few years I would have another stab at this elusive moving goalpost called financial success. In the middle of 1987 I bought stocks! Any one over 30 knows what happened next. In the early nineties I bought junior mining stocks with a little success. In the late 90s I made a disastrous foray into futures trading…ouch!

Then in 2000 it started to come together when Prime Minister John Howard brought in the First Home Owner Grant.  I was now old enough to remember the spurt in house prices this grant had produced in the mid 1980s. So we plunged into our first investment property in a market that had been flat for five years. The timing was finally perfect and we paid off our mortgage in three years after the price of the investment property doubled. Then, when George Dubya Bush invaded Iraq in 2003 I knew it was time to be in stocks because I remembered that when his father invaded Iraq in 1990 the Australian stock market doubled in the next 12 months. Age was finally giving me wisdom. I found my niche and have been fully invested in stocks ever since. When China started vacuuming up the world’s commodities in 2004 I knew it was time to be in commodities like nickel, gold, coal and gas. When the sub-prime debacle loomed on the horizon in America in 2006 I knew it was time to concentrate only on precious metals. That is how it will be with Tony and Dawn. If they keep dabbling, one day it will all come together, but there will be a lot of pain along the way. Anyone who has made it to financial independence has made these painful mistakes. These mistakes are an absolutely essential part of true learning. The day I changed from a “Dabbler” to the next level on the ladder, which I have labelled “Determined” was the day my investments took off.

Action Plan: Sit down and create some concrete goals to aim for. Read up on the lives of people who have done the hard yards and learnt by their mistakes. They were just like you before they became wealthy! Put more time into understanding what is coming over the economic horizon, as that is where the crowd will be in a year or two. Work out how to get there before them. Learn how politics interfaces with global finance and vice versa. Get your head around central banks and their current fad of money printing called QE. Try to comprehend what this means for your savings and currency. Understand the implications of staggering levels of debt for the future of the western world. Learn how the Asian nations are already becoming the next global centre of finance and commerce. Then find out how you can profit from the things they need to maintain their wealth. Put half an hour a day into understanding how global finance really works and it will pay you huge dividends. My assets have grown by $1 million over the last year simply because I understand what is coming.

FINANCIAL LEVEL 5:

BRUCE AND ALISON DETERMINED

There is a sense of urgency to Bruce and Alison that is missing in the “Dabbler” family’s approach to financial independence. Mr and Mrs “Determined” will seek to know why the investment world ticks the way it does. They will search out underlying trends, cycles and causes. They have made up their mind and set their goals in concrete. They have made the mental switch from consumer to wealth creator. Bruce and Alison are willing to sacrifice money, time and effort to mastering this elusive goal called financial freedom. They know the Dewey 331-2 section of the local library well! They are pushing through their fears and know that wealth is something they can attain if they keep going. They are not there yet but they grow more confident by the day that they will one day make it past the financial crowd. This is where I was from 2004 to 2009. I could see light at the end of the tunnel and was excited by the prospect of getting there.

It doesn’t have to take long to become a Bruce and Alison. I have friends who I have watched change from a financial “Slave” to a “Determined” in a week. It takes years to get sick and tired of being poor but the mindset can change in a day. Once the door of self-belief and possibility opens up to you, an amazing thing will happen to your world. In the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad Robert Kiyosaki tells the delightful story of the comic books. After working for wages, little ten-year old Robert’s eyes were opened through the gentle coaching of his best friend’s dad. He began searching for opportunities to create wealth and, almost instantly, he saw one. Robert found a way to own hundreds of comics for no cost and hire them to his friends for a fraction of the cost of buying a new comic. A classic win-win business developed because his eyes were open to new possibilities.

One of my favourite sayings is “When the student is ready, the teacher will arrive”. Think about it. When you really want something, when you desperately desire it to happen then that is when you will find a way to make it happen. You will see the world in a different light. Your antenna will be up to possibilities. Your “teacher” will arrive and your whole life will start moving in the direction of your new dominant thinking pattern. As a careers adviser to high school students I love talking to a young Mr or Miss “Determined”. They were passionate about where they were going. How I wish all young people could learn the secret of this type of passion. One of my former students displayed just such determination while still in senior high school. We had many chats about business and finance. He was already dabbling in the stock market. I knew he would achieve his dream due to his sheer determination. Now in his mid-twenties he is already a huge success. Please look up “Sly Underwear” on Google to see where this young man is going. There are many people out there like Bruce and Alison “Determined”. They may not have fully arrived at a point of financial security but it will be inevitable and it won’t take a lifetime.

Action Plan: If you see yourself as being in this cohort then start setting up the correct financial structures to handle the coming wealth, because, as night follows day, it will come to you! Start thinking a decade ahead and make detailed plans on how you are going to get to the dream that is already in your head. The only difference between a dream and reality is detailed planning. Put time each day into studying how to profit from emerging global trends. A later chapter in this book called “Buying In” will be of great benefit to you.

FINANCIAL LEVEL 7:

ED AND FRANCIS INCREDIBLE

The Ed and Francis “Incredible” family are usually an older couple and have arrived at a point in their lives where all the foundations they laid years ago are bearing fruit. Somewhere in life Ed and Francis deliberately established patterns of spending, saving, investment, planning, self-belief, risk taking and dreaming that have, with the fullness of time, allowed them the luxury of financial independence. They took their time, fully confident that they were on a journey that was fun and worth the sacrifice. Ed and Francis “Incredible” can come from all sorts of employment backgrounds and are not necessarily tertiary educated. In fact a significant percentage of “Incredible” couples came from the ranks of the trades and small business. Because of their natural thriftiness, they do not even have to earn a high income to create a large wealth base. Only a minority of them will drive flash cars. The stereotype of the rich does not fit Ed and Francis. They may even live next door to you but they are less than 5 per cent of the population.

Ed and Francis do not really see financial independence as a destination but a state of mind. Yes, they will have the assets to retire with if they wish, but they may still be busy building their business, or they may love their profession. The point is they can choose. This is the essence of financial independence, the creation of choice. Financial freedom cannot give us a happy marriage or well brought up children. It will not help us find the meaning of life. In fact financial success is downright lousy at fulfilling your inner need for meaning. That is why so many rich people live such hollow and sad lives. They are trying to use money, wealth and material possessions to fill the void inside them that only spiritual fulfillment can provide. However, in the areas of life where it is of use, financial freedom will give you the power to choose how to move forward with your life. So if you are an “Incredible” please make wise choices.

I am writing this chapter after having taken a year off work on no pay. In May 2011 Annette was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer and in December 2012 year we finally buried her mother after she lost her own battle with cancer. I was financially free by this stage so I asked my boss for a year off to spend with my loved ones. By the way, Annette treated her cancer with the right diet and is now cancer free. The point is I could choose my destiny. As an added bonus our portfolio rose while I was off work. It was our year of Jubilee, our year of rest.

If you ever join the ranks of Ed and Francis “Incredible” don’t fall for the lie that it is time to put your feet up in a high rise apartment by the beach somewhere. You will be bored in months. Choose to give. Giving is better than receiving. Give your time to your community. Give to your favourite charity. Put some new equipment in the local hospital. Support under-privileged children in the third world. The average Ed and Francis “Incredible” couple are often very generous people and great givers. If you choose self-indulgence while most of the world suffers from grinding poverty you have also become poor in spirit. The old saying “if you make two people happy, one of them is going to be you” applies to you in spades.

Action Plan: You are there, become a giver!

SUGGESTED READING

1. The Millionaire Mind by T. Harv Ekker

This is by far the most important book on this list. If you don’t read any other book, read this one.

2.Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

A simple, easy to read story of Robert’s childhood and his experience growing up with his spendthrift dad and his friend’s business minded dad.

3. The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley & William Danko

Interviews with about 18,000 ordinary millionaires in the USA inspired this profile of who they really are. This book is fully explained in the chapter titled “Boringly Wealthy”

4. The One Minute Millionaire by Mark Victor Hansen

Each page is divided into a story on one side and teaching principles on the other.

5. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.

Pretty boring but an old-time classic on how to change the way you think.

6. You Can Do It by Paul Hanna

Australia’s top motivational speaker pulls together all the wisdom he uses to motivate the corporate world. It is boring in places but has a lot of solid principles to apply. He got me setting goals.

7. Ordinary Millionaires by Jim McKnight

A profile of twelve ordinary Australians who started with nothing, came from totally different backgrounds, and made their fortune in real estate. A great read.

8. The Cash-flow Quadrant by Robert Kiyosaki

This book takes you step by step through the process of understanding how to go from a wage dependent life to live on passive income from investments.