Put the Odds in Your Favor to Avoid Poverty

A lot of the buzz online and the subject countless financial books address the issue of building wealth. And wealth is good but the first step and your first financial concern should be how to avoid being poor.

What steps can you take that are likely to keep you from living in poverty?

Well, actually, according to the Brookings Institute, a D.C. think-tank, there are three:

Get a high school diploma, work full time, and delay having a child until you are married.

Your chances of living in poverty in the USA are about 12%. Follow the three steps just detailed and your risk of being poor is reduced by over 80%!

In 1987 the magazine The Economist published an article that also listed three steps to avoid poverty:

Get a high school diploma, never leave a job except for another job, and get married and stay married.

Those three seemingly innocuous (common sense?) steps are the foundation that will keep an individual out of poverty AND also increase the odds in your favor of joining the middle-class by almost 20%. The three steps are the foundation of financial achievement.

However, statistical trends in our society are moving away from all three and it is the reason why poverty rates are climbing on average but, more alarmingly, in specific sectors of our population.

Almost 30% of kids live in single-parent households; this figure is 30% higher than it was in 1970. And poverty rates in those households are five times higher than two-parent households.

Among women under 30, more than 50% of births are to unwed mothers.

There are two other trends that are striking—college grads are tending to marry other college grads and to stay married. In other words, those at that end of the income spectrum are getting the word while those at the other end are not.

Money is No Object Redux

I wrote and posted a post recently in which I stated that money is no object—I herein retract that.

The fact is that my personal finances are a business and the object of my life/business is profit. So, even though I have long been financially independent, and that being so gives me some options as far as earning additional income is concerned, I do endeavor to achieve as high an ROI as possible on my business investments.

I make this retraction because your words, my words, carry weight and they are a form of self-talk. And our subconscious hears every word we say to ourselves and—and this is important—it tends to act on those words:

That is the reason you need to be very conscious of what you are telling your subconscious.

Feeding your subconscious a steady stream of thoughts that discount money and…who knows?

I am not comfortable with thoughts that discount the value of money. I do not want to think that way; every dollar that enters our lives is a blessing and when you treat it otherwise you act as a bad steward.

It is my belief that bad stewards are less likely to be receive more blessings because your actions are interpreted as meaning that you do not desire those additional blessing. Interpreted by who…or what? I have no clue. But I do believe that our self-talk creates actions that create consequences. That is about as well as I can explain it.

I base my beliefs in this regard wholly on empirical evidence. Ask and you shall receive. And I believe that getting what you want begins with knowing what you want and then asking for it. I mean…how can it be otherwise?

And there is another bit of biblical wisdom that has shaped my thinking in this regard that can be found at Luke 16:11:

…if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?

Exactly. So, to whomever is listening…I didn’t mean it!

We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming.

I Write Books and Renovate Houses

Recently, someone asked me what I do all day; this after they learned that I do not have a nine-to-five job. I assume they assumed that I had a life of pure leisure…a country gentleman…or something.

I told him that I write books and renovate houses although, truth be told, I sometimes renovate houses and write books. The exact mix of the two, in terms of how much of my day each consumes, will vary depending on the project I find most interesting at the moment.

My attention, in the time just after I have purchased a project house, goes mostly to that house; and, during that time, there will, inevitably, be a lull in my writing.

My real estate projects make me much more money than my writing. Much, much more. And the fact is, if I worked solely to earn income, I would be better off to abandon my writing entirely to focus my time and energy on real estate.

My present project house is a single-family residence built in 1978. The living space, under roof, is almost three-thousand square feet. As soon as I laid eyes on the place I wanted it. I love houses of character and this house has that in spades!

It also has two out building; one 600 square feet and the other about 750 square feet. The smaller building houses an in-ground eight-person Jacuzzi, a wet sauna, and a room that could be used for an office or dry storage.

The other building is a 38 foot long, 16 foot high RV garage with a 12 foot electric roll-up door.

I am now in the process of converting both to apartments. I think the smaller place will rent for $500 and the larger space for $600. I am financing the renovations out-of-pocket and I estimate the two projects will come in under $10,000. In other words, my annual ROI will be well over 100%.

That’s what I mean when I wrote that, if my only motive was profit, I would be working real estate deals, non-stop 24/7. But, the truth is, money is no object...

So why bother with my project houses at all? Because, as I wrote above, I love houses. A house is unique among all man-made structures in that they can become a home. And home is scared. I deal in sacred places. It is good work. And good work is a blessing.

The Most Important Financial Insight Ever

Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko, the authors of the book, The Millionaire Next Door, spent years studying self-made millionaires to discover the personal traits that had led them to wealth.

The following is perhaps the single most important insight to be gleaned from that book:

"Planning and wealth accumulation are significant correlates even among investors of modest means."

And what that statement means is that if you have a plan to save and then execute that plan, the odds are you will reach your financial goals—if you plan to save, you will.

But to that, I would add three more:

1. Your plan to build wealth must be documented;

2. You must, on a regular basis, measure your progress towards meeting the goals of that plan, and;

3. Accountability, that is, you need to report your progress to someone else. Obviously, this other party must know of your plan and goals and, ideally, this other person would be knowledgeable in the field of personal financial management; in other words, you need a personal money coach.

And, in this regard, I am not talking about a financial adviser who is always trying to sell you something…like a stock broker or someone who peddles life insurance products. What I mean is a fee-only financial adviser and in some communities there are services that will provide this assistance for little or no charge.

In fact, a friend, who you know to be financially savvy, might also be able provide this discerning eye. The goal in this regard is to inject some level of outside accountability into the process.

It is, of course, possible to go it alone…but based on research, being held accountable to some extent will help motivate you to achieve your goals and stay on track. And, because building wealth is something you do over time not over night, it’s a long haul and it helps to have someone you can count on who can count!

There are only two ways to get rich—accidentally and on purpose. The odds are against you getting rich accidentally. Yes, you might win a big lottery prize, but, really, the odds are against it. And, besides, do you really want to bet your financial future on getting lucky?