Now, remember, I am just a motivational speaker who lives in a van down by the river. I am not a Rich Dad or a Poor Dad. I am a dad. However, I have stopped “being done by” money.
Take care of finances, so finances don’t take over your life
I made that decision in the middle of the wilderness in Western North Carolina. I was at a base camp of the North Carolina Outward Bound School, where I went to learn how to be an outdoor educational instructor. I woke up that morning to the hooting of barred owls outside of the rustic cabin I was staying in between wilderness trainings. Someone came to my cabin and said, “Juan, you have a phone call.” I put on my fleece jacket and shuffled down the trail to the base camp office and picked up the phone. It was a collection agency. My credit card and college loans debt had caught up to me.
I made a decision at that point to get control of my finances. It took a while, but I cut all credit card and college loan debt and have been bad debt (see below) for 16 years. I didn’t have access to a lot of financial literature at the base camp but I devoured some old Kiplinger’s finance magazines that someone left around. I hungered and went after financial information before I had the resources to deal with the debt.
When I finally got back to New York, I found a couple of books that were especially helpful. The most helpful was Personal Finance For Dummies by Eric Tyson. Tyson really helped me to understand the compound effect of debt and how paying the minimum on your credit card debt is disastrous.
Tyson explains the difference between good debt and bad debt. Good debt is for things that increase your value such as education or home. Tyson explained you should never buy a house for more than 2.5 times your income. I wonder how many people would not be hurting in the current housing bust if more people had followed this advice or if the whole banking system hadn’t been steered to encourage people to borrow beyond their means? The book was updated in 2009.
Yes, But What Does Personal Finance Have to Do with My Samurai Mind (and 19th Century Japan?)
Yah mind yer finances so your mind doesn’t get overwhelmed by finances. Or to put it more bluntly, you pay attention to money to avoid physical and mental slavery.
In the 19th century, Japan was under increasing pressure to open up their country to Western trade. In 1853, U.S. Admiral Matthew Perry (not the one from 90210!) came with big guns and said open up (or else!) Japan blinked, and said, well okay. But unlike a lot of countries in Asia, they didn’t get taken over. Japan’s leaders made a decision to modernize and retool their country to be able to defend themselves.
I remember seeing a great exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York called “Samurai in New York.” They were part of a delegation of representatives who were all over the Western world to get ideas about education, government and industry. The Japanese had a firm understanding that in order to preserve their country and their independence they needed to succeed in the material world.
Don’t Be Purposeless Samurai (While Drinking Juice in the Hood)¹
However, a not so funny thing happened on the road to Japan’s modernization. Japan went on to conquer Korea, parts of China, and ignited WWII in the Pacific. They aren’t the only country who got lost on the way to modernizing.
Acquisition, control, and material for their own sake are not enough, for ourselves, others, and the earth. One of the things I love about Phil Laut’s book Money is My Friend for the New Millenium, Second Edition is how it emphasizes a powerful life purpose exercise that takes into account not only your interests but also your vision of how you want the world to be.
Do you want to be financially solvent, creative and powerful or do you want to live a life of purpose and service? I hope your answer was yes.
¹Yes, I’m stuck in the 90’s. Based on Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood