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Living with Less Can Provide Meaningful Life

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Not everyone is rich. So, does the profession of financial planning have anything to offer to the average or even poor person? What could just plain old regular folks do to live better?

I have met individuals worth multiple millions who had no time, no love and no peace in their lives. I have also met others who could list all their possessions on the back of a napkin whose family, community and lifestyle were a constant source of joy to them.

So let’s begin with the understanding that wealth never made anyone rich and poverty never made anyone…well, poor.

Lest I get too romantic about all this, let me quickly add that I know plenty of happy wealthy folks and I don’t know too many of lesser means who would turn down the check if a distant wealthy relative died and left them everything.

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned from the truly rich of lesser means:

1. Appreciate simplicity. The person of few means has few things to keep up with. Life is less cluttered with stuff. This can leave time and space for more important things…like people.

2. Avoid stupidity. If you don’t have much money you can hardly afford to be stupid with the money you’ve got. Did anyone say lottery? Lottery tickets are bought in great disproportion by lower income individuals. This is effectively a voluntary tax they pay that rarely benefits them.

3. Activate sharing. You don’t have to own everything you use. Get in the habit of sharing among friends and neighbors those items you need and use irregularly. It also tends to build stronger bonds in your circle of friends.

4. Begin planning. If financial planning is important for the wealthy, it’s critical for those who have less. A simple plan includes how much income comes in and how much spending goes out and to whom. You can do this on a single sheet of paper.

5. Broaden your definition of wealth. If the definition of wealth is “something of value,” then wealth must be more than money. What are those things in your life that have value? I can think of a few: your faith, family, friends, health, community, laughter, contribution. Sit back and think about it – you may be wealthier than you thought!

6. Conquer comparison. The quickest way to get your eyes off the really important things in life and on to what you don’t have is to start comparing yourself with someone else. Howard Hendricks used to say, “Comparison robs your joy.” Boy was he right.

7. Cultivate contentment. The cure for comparison is to cultivate contentment. And the quickest way to contentment is to practice thankfulness. It’s really hard to grumble and give thanks at the same time…one crowds out the other in your heart. So just make sure thankfulness gets there first.

Whether you consider yourself poor, wealthy or somewhere in between, you can be rich in the things that matter most.

That part is up to you.

Byron is a Certified Financial Planner and Managing Director of the Planning Group at Argent Advisors, Inc.
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