The flight home from our family trip was only an hour. But the wait at the gate was longer.
To kill time, my son bought a car magazine from an airport shop and flipped through it. He stopped at a picture of a Porsche 944. Drawn by its bright yellow colour, he quickly read through the specs and stopped at the price.
“Dad, this one is only a hundred and twenty thousand dollars! I’m going to get one.”
I was thrilled to see him motivated – teenagers are sometimes hard to peg down.
So I responded,
“Great! How will you pay for it?”
As I asked him, I recalled the story in Robert Kiyosaki’s great book, “Rich Dad, Poor Dad“. The “rich dad” in the story had taught young Robert to ask the question, “How CAN I afford this?” instead of immediately thinking he couldn’t afford it. The “rich dad” taught the young kid to work backward from their goal and build a plan to get there.
“Uh, win the lottery?”
I should have expected that answer. Our school system teaches all of us to trade time for money. The path we learn is to get good grades; get a degree; build a resume; get an entry-level job; and try to achieve 2-3 promotions (with small raises) over the next few decades. Students aspire to the lifestyle of middle management, a teaching job or a well-paid technician.
Unfortunately, most people in those careers barely keep their head above water. They spend beyond their lifestyle, and stay in a horrible cycle of borrowing money to keep up with the Joneses. Social Media makes this worse (because the Joneses always seem to have a new car.) The money not required to cover their rent and food usually goes to interest payments. If there are a few dollars left at the end of the month, that money buys entertainment–booze and lottery tickets.
Think I’m exaggerating?
Check out the most popular shows on your dish: home upgrades, dream cars, buying wedding dresses.
Listen to pop music: bling, top-shelf drinks, beach vacations, expensive divorces.
Scroll through social media until you reach a post that makes you think, “I want that”. It won’t take long.
Teachers aren’t wrong, or dumb. They’re just caught climbing the same rickety ladder because they don’t know how to get the yellow Porsche, either.
You can’t trade your time for money and eventually get the Porsche, because you’ll just run out of time. You’re also never going to win the lottery. Yesterday, I wrote that you can’t cut your way to wealth.
Today, I’m going to tell you how to increase your income without trading time for money.
The key to getting the Porsche is to build your own ladder. Entrepreneurship, reinvestment, cash flow assets…these are all rungs in the ladder to wealth.
How would I get the yellow Porsche?
In his shoes, I’d start mowing lawns. Not because I could ever cut enough grass to save the money to buy a Porsche (that’s more than I could cut in a lifetime.) But I could cut enough grass to buy a second mower.
Then I’d hire someone to help me mow more lawns. While they mowed, I’d recruit more homeowners on the street where I was working. I’d ask someone to help me with the billing and collection. When our schedules were full, I’d add another mower.
Within three summers, I could be generating enough cash to pay for the monthly instalments on the Porsche. I could literally drive the yellow Porsche to my senior prom. And the great part? My success would be limited mostly by my ability to knock on doors and ask people if they’d like my help. Not by a middle manager trying to protect their own job; not by the time required to earn a Master’s degree or defend my thesis. (I could actually build the business faster without school, but that’s not our goal.)
Cutting grass isn’t the only way. There are hundreds of things you could do. And you don’t have to be a 14-year-old boy with an entrepreneurial parent to make it work. You can start a side project anytime. Your progress might be slower without unlimited time to do the work, but you can still build your own ladder.
My grandfather once told me that “the lottery is a tax on people who can’t do math.” He dropped out of school after sixth grade; performed manual labor until the day he died; and never borrowed money. That set up a foundation for his kids to be more successful than he was. And in turn, they set up my generation for wealth. But while his advice on lottery tickets was sound, he lived in a different world than we do now.
Look, maybe you don’t want a yellow porsche. Maybe your ‘yellow porsche’ is an animal shelter. My point is that you won’t reach your goal by conventional methods. Your default education won’t teach you how, because it’s not part of the curriculum or the body of knowledge held by the teachers. If you want to build wealth, you’re going to have to find the path yourself. You can spend your money on anything you want (more wealthy people choose the animal shelter than choose the porsche, by the way, and most of us choose both.)