Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Living Below Your Means

Living Below Your Means
I read an article today entitled 5 billionaires who live below their means. The five wealthy people who were briefly profiled (see included some of the people you might expect like Warren Buffet, along with some people that you probably haven’t heard of like Carlos Slim Helu who is the richest person in Mexico and possibly the richest person in the world.
The group shared some commonalities. They seem to have made their own money, rather than have inherited it. Many of them are old enough to remember tough economic times. Most strikingly to me, however, the common characteristic seemed to be that they lived modestly not because they were depriving themselves, but because they had all they wanted.
This attitude was exemplified by Warren Buffet:
“When asked why he doesn't own a yacht, he responded, "Most toys are just a pain in the neck."

These are serious people and their pursuits are serious (unlike the celebrities we see on television and the tabloids). Now that he’s reached his 80s, how is T. Boone Pickens having fun? He is trying to solve the energy crisis.

That’s an attitude I appreciate. The most satisfaction in life (outside of your family) is going to come from what you can achieve. Andrew Carnegie started as a factory worker, built U.S. Steel—and did own a yacht—but he spent much more money building over 2,500 libraries. You can’t do that if you are spending all your money on private jets and vacation.

Now I doubt any of you that are reading this are billionaires (and if you are, please send me a check!), but I think we can all learn a lesson and we should all think about the opportunities that living below our means could afford us. It would mean we could afford to help a relative who needed it; afford to take a lower paying but more satisfying job; afford to start a new business; take time off to travel, educate ourselves or volunteer.

If you spend all you can, buy all you can and borrow all that you can—like too many of us do—then you remove yourself from a world of possibilities. In many ways that means that no matter how much you have, you are poor.

John Greenan

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