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Living Rich for Less
Batman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, and X-Men all have something more in common than being comic book characters. They are part of a dream, the American Dream, the dream each of us wants, whether we admit it or not. WonderWoman, for example, is drop-dead gorgeous, and
her 38-inch inseam makes me want to get leg extension surgery; if my husband had Wolverine’s abs, I’d be a lot more patient when he missed yet another highway exit because he’s fiddling with the satellite radio. Again. And if any of my kids had Bruce Wayne’s wealth? I might never have to
clip another coupon in my life!
I may not be a superhero, but I’ve learned how to do practically supernatural things with money—like help people save $30,000 in the next year.
How can I make such a claim?
Because I’ve been there and done that. My family tried for years to get ahead, even before these taxed-out, maxed-out times, and we found the tried-and-true way to live rich. The really cool thing is that I believe there’s a superhero embedded in you—one waiting to make a grand entrance and save America from financial disaster. For every family that becomes financially solid, we build a firmer economic foundation for our country. Therefore, you can save America by saving yourself and unleashing your inner superhero!
I’ll call you “Mr. and Ms. America.”
This book is for you, written by someone (and her family) who was average by day but ambitious by night, dreaming of:
• getting out of debt.
• owning our cars outright.
• buying a dream house.
• putting our kids through college debt free.
• learning the ins and outs of saving and investing cash.
The thing is, I didn’t stop with a dream. That’s where it began. Then there was a process, and now, on an average American salary, we’ve seen all those dreams come true. We’ve discovered that there is a rich lifestyle embedded in our checkbook. There’s one in yours too, and I’ll help you discover it so you can make a life and not just a living.
My greatest ambition is to helpMr. andMs. America live rich for less. If you’re wondering whether you’re the Mr. and Ms. America who can find similar financial success, realize that the average family makes $48,000 per year, and an amazing 85 percent of the population makes $100,000 or
less. I’ll leave the top 15 percent of the nation’s wealthiest to experts like Jim Cramer and Suze Orman. I’d rather help people who come from an average background to find above average success. People like us.
When I first met Bob, my husband, I was searching for my own personal Superman. If he looked like Christopher Reeve, all the better! I never expected him to fly in on a jet. But alas, my superhero really was a pilot named K-Bob, and I found that time flew around this guy as well. I protested, “When I’m with you, time goes by so quickly that if I married you, I’d be an old lady before I knew it!”
I gave in and married the flyboy, just yesterday…or so it seems. I left my job as a broker and followed my guy around the world. Today we’re living the rich life, but it wasn’t always that way. Our early marriage was filled with major villains, like the Joker of debt and the Lex Luthor of near bankruptcy.
When I married the guy in tight tights, I found myself with a three-for-one deal, because not only did I get a great guy, but I also inherited two beautiful stepdaughters in the process. As with many second families, we struggled with the financial aftermath of divorce, which included $40,000
of consumer debt with nothing to show for it. In those early years, a crossstitch sampler on our wall summed up our situation well: “Blessed are the poor, for they be us.” We had trouble making ends meet and even struggled with the ability to pay the rent and buy groceries.
Here’s what our portfolio of bills looked like:
• Uncle Sam—one-third of Bob’s income went to taxes.
• Child Support—another third went to child support and medical insurance and more for Bob’s two daughters.
• Charitable Giving—we tithed 10 percent off the top.
• Living Expenses—we lived on the other 23 percent and also serviced our $40,000 in debt with this portion.
We did the math and discovered that we were essentially living on the equivalent of an airman (one of the lowest enlisted ranks in the air force) even though Bob was a captain and a pilot.Then the situation became even more complicated.
Our family grew, and we had a total of five children in seven years. As a blended family, we now had seven children to support. Bob’s military career included eleven moves in the first thirteen years of our marriage. It became plain, very early on, that it would be impractical for me to go back to being an insurance broker.
Nonetheless, I didn’t regret staying home with our children. I rolled up my shirt sleeves, took my business education and experience, and channeled my energy and know-how into paying down debt and learning to save money.
Two and a half years later, we were completely debt free and have remained free of consumer debt ever since.
But then it got even better.
On a military man’s salary, with me as a SAHM (stay-at-home mom), we were able to recover financially and in fifteen years pay cash for eleven different cars, give away three of those cars, buy two five-bedroom homes (one after selling the other), take regular family vacations, nicely furnish our home, clothe our kids in style, and support more than thirty nonprofit organizations in a dozen different countries by giving away more than $100,000.
Today our kids on are track to graduate from college debt-free, and we have a nice nest egg for retirement with a home that by then will be paid for with no debt.We also have a fully funded 401(k), an SEP, Roth IRAs, mutual funds, and other investments.
Living in a nice home, paying the bills, driving paid-for cars, putting your kids through college, and having money for retirement—isn’t that the rich life?
Attain and Maintain
To me, being rich is the idea of finding security in a world that can never really be secure. After those early years of struggling to find the money to buy groceries and diapers, I shouted like Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind that I never wanted to be hungry again, neither me nor any of my kin. I wanted to have the choice of shopping at a garage sale or a mall, but in those early years there was no choice. I wanted a safety net in a world that was unsafe. Living rich meant living well and living without worry. It also meant finding that supernatural balance between needs and wants and between contentment and desire. In the process, I foundmyself to be a former ragamuffin, Eliza Doolittle, who became My Fair Lady when I discovered the timeless financial truths and exclaimed, “I think I’ve got it!”
What I discovered were the specific steps someone (that means you!) can take to attain the lifestyle you want, the lifestyle that allows you to maintain a quality of life that’s important to you. Bob and I learned a lot during the first couple years of marriage, and our solution wasn’t just a
quick fix—it was a long-term plan.
This book will show you, step by step, how to find that $30,000-plus in the next year and how to attain and maintain a rich lifestyle by practicing the 10/10/80 Rule™, the Cha Ching Factor™, and the Living R.I.C.H.™Principle.
• The philosophical marries the practical in the 10/10/80 Rule because there has to be a reason behind the way we earn, save, and spend our financial resources. This rule serves as a guide for the how-to part of gaining wealth.
• The Cha Ching Factor is just plain fun, as you will learn throughout this book the dollar amount you can save during the year.
• The Living R.I.C.H. Principle demonstrates the mind-set and actions needed to become debt-free and live that way.
Thanks for joiningme on this lifestyle of rich living.The degree of success you experience depends entirely upon you, but I know you can make wise choices that will benefit you, your family, and even your worldwide community. Together we’ll watch you create the lifestyle you want by giving, saving, and spending smart.
Born Saver Meets Born Spender
The 10/10/80 Rule
I’m a born saver. I was due on January 20 and born on December 28, just in time to give my dad another income tax deduction. My husband, Bob, on the other hand, was born two weeks late, on Mother’s Day, which his mom spent in labor. He spent all her strength to come into this world and was dubbed a born spender.
If there’s any doubt whether the name fits, I should tell you that Bob also spent his lunch money before he got to school. Don’t get me wrong; he has a fabulous work ethic. But when he was a kid, his paper route money never saw the inside of his pocket. This pattern continued into his adult years, and when he became a fighter pilot in the air force, he could still spend money faster than his Stealth F-117 could go from zero to 500.
And then he met me.
I still have my lunch money from third grade.
So what happened when Bob the Spender met Ellie the Saver and carried
her over the threshold?
Let me put it this way: Bob decided he’d rather volunteer for a twoweek survival training exercise than come home and tell me that he forgot to use a coupon on the pizza he bought for dinner. He was more philosophical in his view of wealth. He figured if he worked hard, he could spend hard. I, on the other hand, was more practical. I also had so many rules and regulations for spending that I was an uptight bore.
So we had the basic issue of opposites attracting, and we had to find a way to marry our spending styles. Something amazing happened when we started to work through our differences.We discovered that if applied correctly, our polar approaches to money could complete rather than compete. Bob could balance me and I could balance him, and a marriage of two opposites really could lead a rich life together.
The same is true for money matters. You need philosophical and practical smarts.
First, we have to explore the philosophical, and that is where the 10/10/80 Rule makes its entrance. If you live by this rule, you’ll be rich. Period.No caveats, no secret handshakes, no need to spend another $89.99 for a special “10/10/80 Rule Implementation Kit.” And your riches won’t be in just dollars and cents, but in living and giving, in relationships and legacies.
The 10/10/80 Rule crosses all boundaries of religion, race, creed, and economic status. This rule is similar to the law of gravity. If you jump off a cliff, gravity kicks in even if you are screaming all the way down that 200- foot drop, “I…don’t…believe…in this…laaaaaaaw!”When the 10/10/80
Rule is applied to money, you have the secret for creating true riches, even if you don’t believe in it.
The 10/10/80 Rule is simple:
• With the first 10 percent of your income, practice The Rule of Giving 10 Percent. The philosophy is that the sweetest dollar you ever make is the one you can give away. The practical
truth is if you give away the first 10 percent, you’ll have more coming in.
• With the next 10 percent of your income, practice The Rule of Saving 10 Percent. The philosophy is the safest dollar you ever make is the one you can put away. The practical truth is if you put it away, you’ll have money for the future.
• Then practice The Rule of Spending Smart on that remaining 80 percent of your income. The philosophy here is the smartest dollar you ever make is the one you spend well. And the practical truth is that smart spending will allow you to live in your own home when the ARMs (adjustable rate mortgages) start to rise and house prices drop. It means a recession-proof life when the economy is shaky and consumer confidence is low. It means you’ll have less stress because you’ve got good habits.When everyone else is panicking because food costs are on the rise, you’ll already know the ins and outs of finding consistently good deals. These good habits carry you to the place where you can still take vacations even when gas is at sky-high prices. No matter what the economy, you can ride it like a gnarly wave handled by a skilled surfer and take it all the way to the shore standing up. It’s a simple, straightforward strategy that works every time because if you spend wisely, you won’t have debt, and that’s the crux of spending smart. But you can completely blow this idea out of the water if you spend beyond your means.
Living Rich for Less demonstrates that these ideas are solid, tried, and true rules that worked for previous generations. We can bring these rules into our generation and the next, a generation that wants something more than the debt and stress their parents experienced.
Incorporating the 10/10/80 Rule into your lifestyle means living rich and could even be called the BillGates Rule or the Warren Buffet Rule. But there are some obstacles to this rule that I call Mutant Rules, and they can interfere with the rich life.
Mutant Rule 1: The 10/20/70, or Born Saver, Rule
I like to bake for my family (and they don’t complain). Sour cream pound cake with fresh strawberries and cream, homemade cappuccino brownies, Dutch apple pie with strudel topping, and chocolate cake à la mode are some of our faves. This last dessert is my husband’s favorite because the chocolate cake is served with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce.When it comes to chocolate sauce, Bob is of the philosophy that “if a little is good, a lot is better.”His dessert ends up looking like aHershey’s Syrup truck collided with a Sara Lee truck—gooey and sloppy and won’t win any awards for presentation.
Some people apply this same idea to putting money back into savings and investments,especially born savers. If you can save more than 10 percent (a little is good, a lot is better), that's great. There’s certainly nothing wrong with saving 20 percent or more in order to reach certain financial goals. Some people even have accelerated savings strategies in order to buy
a new home, open a business, retire before 40, or plan ahead for one income when children come along. All of these and more are viable reasons to go the route of aggressive savings.
I was born saving money and know what it’s like to feel the compulsion to save, invest, and then save some more. But I needed to be brought into balance—especially when we had such a huge debt load and poor financial picture in our earlymarriage. Saving that kind of percentage wasn’t
In fact, it’s not realistic for the average person or family in mainstream America either. A 10/20/70 approach can set you up for failure when you’re trying to achieve a savings plan beyond your ability—you can become a slave to saving money. And you can end up a frugal mess, a Scrooge, a cheapskate, a miser like Hetty Green.
Hetty was the richest woman in the world in 1916. She was so cheap that she wore her clothes until they became threadbare, ate warmed-up oatmeal, and wouldn’t let her son, Ned, get medical treatment at the hospital when he broke his leg. Gangrene set in and Ned’s leg was amputated.
Bizarre, I know, and an illustration that compulsive saving can turn you into a psycho freak.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want any of those labels. I’d rather be called someone who is living rich for less.
The next danger of a 10/20/70 rule the temptation to take that extra amount from your giving in order to keep up with an unrealistic investment strategy. It’s another reason that the 10/20/70 rule doesn’t generally work for most families.
You may move in and out of these rules at different times in your financial life, and that’s cool too. If your spouse has a banner year in his or her employment and has some unexpected cash flowing, start saving more—it’s smart. But remember that your budgeting and saving strategies
must be fluid in order to accommodate any long-term goals. And over the long haul, ten, twenty, thirty years down the road, if you’ve stuck to the basic 10/10/80 Rule, then you will be living rich.
Mutant Rule 2: The 0/20/80, or Selfish, Rule
This one could be called “The Selfish Rule,” and it is in direct contrast to the 10/10/80 Rule. There are people who earn money to keep it and people who earn money to manage it and eventually give it away. Those who selfishly hold it close, choosing to build up investments rather than investing in their communities and other nonprofit organizations, end up with less in terms of quality of life than those who give it away. The “more” that 10/10/80 people end up with isn’t always measured in dollars and cents, but sometimes it is! “More” is the idea that you are making a difference in the world and that it will be a better place because of how you’ve managed your money.The next chapter delves further into the first rule of money—giving.
Mutant Rule 3: The 10/10/90 Debt (or Born Spender) Rule
Often times people try to manipulate the 10/10/80 Rule by adding more numbers and changing it into their own theory of spending. This is particularly true of born spenders. When you buy more house than you need because adjustable ratemortgages are low and housing prices are on the rise, you’ve manipulated the numbers and it won’t work. It’s not the 10/10/90 Rule—where you spend, in credit, 10 percent more than you earn. Average consumer debt in the United States is steadily on the rise and currently stands at $8,500 per person. This doesn’t include debt for a mortgage or car loans, only consumer and credit card debt. Here’s an
example of how our current culture takes the 10/10/80 Rule and turns it into the 10/10/90 Debt Rule.This chart shows that if you overspend your income by only $100 per month, in 10 years you will be over $30,000 in debt.
So Are You are Born Spender or a Born Saver?
If you believe that you are either a born spender or a born saver, then it’s time to evaluate where you fit. Do you live to spend or spend to live? Are you so tight with a nickel that you give the president a constant migraine?
Born Saver Money Statements
In contrast to our previous quiz, here are some smart money mantras that will put or keep some money in your pocket:
• “I have a modest mortgage because I want to own my house and not have my house own me.”
• “I live by a reasonable budget and avoid using a home equity loan for consumer debt because it only deteriorates the equity in my home and borrows on my future. Besides, most people who use HELOCs to pay consumer debt are right back in that much debt within eighteen months.”
• “I drive a nice car that was a year or two old when I bought it and was the best value according to kbb.com and edmunds.com. I refuse to finance my vehicle for so long that I would have negative equity in it.”
• “We adjust our withholding so that we get our money during the year, invest it, and don’t get a big tax refund.”
• “I’m not going to borrow $10,000 from my 401(k)/IRA in order to pay off some of my consumer debt. The details indicate that the penalties and interest are not a cost-effective loan.”
• “The market will leverage out in time, and building my 401(k) is still a good idea no matter what kind of market.”
• “I don’t make emotional investments, like investing in a company because of either panic or euphoria based on reading the newspaper. But I do invest in companies about whom I know the goods and
services of that industry and can gauge when the company is doing well or poorly.”
• “I always try to contribute to a nondeductible IRA or Roth IRA because there is a long-term tax benefit.”
• “Refinancing when closing costs are at a minimum and I can save 1.5 percent in interest is a good move and worth the inconvenience. It’s often a perceived hassle and not a genuine problem.”
• The little choices add up to big ones at the grocery store. For example, this week I purchased Dawn Ultra because it contains 30 percent more cleaning ingredients per drop than the leading nonconcentrated brand, and unlike some larger bottles of dish liquid that have more water, with Dawn Ultra, I get what I pay for—more power, not more water.With Dawn Ultra, I can clean more dishes
without the water feeling greasy.
(Look on the front of a nickel.) There has to be a balance between this compulsion to spend or save—a healthy balance that leads to rich living.
We all make mistakes and poor choices, but certain patterns lead to wealth and certain patterns lead to poverty—no matter how much money you make. There’s also the need for balance—you shouldn’t strive to be a 100 percent born saver or a 100 percent born spender. Whether you’re
already rich or whether you’re poor, you will become the sum of your money choices.
Our wealth is usually in an ever-changing state and should be viewed as a fluid condition. Most of us are in process and few have really arrived. One area of our money management will usually need tweaking. The guy in the $3,500 Armani suit watching CNBC has as much to learn about how to teach his kids the value of a buck as the middle-aged woman buying a $1.89 iced sugar-free vanilla coffee at McDonald’s. (Cha Ching! She just saved $2—the same drink at Starbucks costs $3.89.)Mr. Armani’s kids may never learn how to manage money and end up in serious credit card debt as a result. Or Ms. McDonald’s might have kids that go to Stanford on full scholarships after learning the values she taught them about working for what they want. Or Mr. Armani might effectively raise the next Warren Buffet, and Ms. McDonald’s kids might end up on welfare. There are no limitations on wise or stupid money choices.
Smart money decisions will lead to wealth. Habitual, stupid money decisions can lead to a lifetime of payback. Paying back creditors, paying ex-spouses (divorced over money arguments—the number one reason for divorce), and a payback of no retirement funds for your golden years.
From the Hardcover edition.Copyright © 2008 by Ellie Kay
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