You may not know it but I own a company. I’ve owned my company since August of 2004. I’ve been in business nearly ten years now and have enjoyed being able to fund my life and fund my dreams.
You also may not know that my husband is a stay-at-home dad. We are fortunate enough to have him stay home with our daughter Willow while I work 9-5pm out of my home office.
My business affords me the luxury of paying my bills, saving money into a savings account, funding an RRSP and an RESP and being able to spend frivolously from time to time.
This all sounds magical right? Well, even though my life is on a fairly even keel, people always assume that I’m failing.
We moved into my parent’s house while we saved the money for our down payment and people assumed my business was tanking. Not that we were making a smart decision and relying on family to get us to our dream goal of owning a home quicker. Nope, my business and I were failing.
When we bought a house we decided to purchase a townhouse to keep our mortgage payment small and to ensure that when we did want to move into a larger house (IF we decide to – I think we’ll actually keep less than we need instead of more than we need), the resale rate was high.
I traded in my BMW 128i convertible for a Jeep Patriot and people automatically assumed that I couldn’t afford the payments any longer. It couldn’t possibly be that I was pregnant and wanting to move to a family friendly vehicle and that I wanted a lower car payment. Nope, success was withering away from me.
I work smarter and not harder now and since I’m not attending events or speaking or marketing my ass off, people automatically assume that my business is slower. I started a new website with some girlfriends (this one) and people asked me if I had time to do this because business was slower. I took time off with my daughter and people asked me if my business was suffering.
See the trend? People assume I’m failing.
I can see why they’d think it. My lifestyle and my purchasing decisions have drastically changed. The amount of times we go out for dinner and “nights on the town” have decreased, especially since having my daughter. I don’t travel as much anymore because I really have no desire to (right now). I’ve stopped buying high end, designer clothes and I turned in my sports car. I coupon. I sign up for freebies. I say, “I can’t afford it” and I mean it – especially if it doesn’t fit into my budget for the next month. I’m officially frugal.
Two things happened to create such a drastic 360 turn. One: I had my daughter and it changed my entire mindset. Instead of wanting the latest Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses, I wanted to make sure that she could choose to go into university without any worry on our part. Two: my husband and I read Dave Ramsey’s, “The Total Money Makeover” and it changed our lives. We took a hard look at how we were spending (stupidly) and decided to change it.
Instead of spending $300 on a pair of jeans, we put $300 a month into RRSPs/RESPs. Instead of spending $800 a month on a car payment, we funnel that into life insurance, our tax-free savings account and our mortgage. We’re now creating equity and a net worth versus a closet full of today’s fashion trends.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking anyone who does spend their money in those ways. I am just saying that being frugal and choosing to spend your money on savings versus material goods does not equal failure. Not having a large house does not mean you are poor. Not driving the latest sports car does not mean you are less than. Not busting your ass for fourteen hours a day doesn’t mean your business isn’t successful.
We live in a society that worships material goods and it’s sickening. I used to be there and I bought into it. I spent thousands and thousands of dollars on items and to be honest, much of it I can’t even show you. If I think back on it all, it makes my stomach a bit sick but at the same time, I am incredibly grateful for the lesson. I learned that lesson in my twenties and am now entering into my thirties (this December!) smarter.
To me, success is working toward long-term wealth. It is setting yourself and future generations up for security. When you are self-employed, you don’t have another company preparing for your retirement – you are on your own. If you spend your money in a way that lets other people know you are successful, you’ll wind up at the end of the journey being unsuccessful. The material goods will wither away, the clothes will become outdated, the sports car will rust and you’ll be left with just yourself and your family. The things that you should have made priority #1 while you had the time and resources.
If you’re reading this and your focus is not on building long-term wealth and future security, how can you change that? How can you make a difference starting today? My first piece of advice would be to read Dave Ramsey’s book and of course, share your comments below.