Life Lessons from the Very Wealthy

On 06/20/2011, in Career, Entrepreneurship, by Jordan Wilson

Courtesy of The Washington Post, 7 Life Lessons from the Very Wealthy.

Some not too bad advice for aspiring millionaires. Or, in the case of my nephew, billionaires.

A few of my thoughts on the article below. 

Cash Rich, Time Poor

In theory, a good point. And one that is very, very true.

In practice, it is not an easy thing to balance work and leisure.

Almost no one I worked with in professional or management positions actually wanted to be in the office 70 plus hours per week.

But it needs to be done.

Well, actually it probably does not.

However, private companies run lean these days. The work is still there, but with less employees to cover the tasks. Compounding this, is that if you do not want to put in the time, the guy or girl down the hall will.

Want to spend time with your children? Want to go on an extended vacation with your spouse? No problem. Just realize that your odds of getting promoted or a pay raise will fall.

If you want to balance work and personal life, find a job that offers it. But if you want to rise high in most private sector companies, you will need to put in the hours and likely sacrifice family and leisure time.

Memories Versus Material Objects

I would label this lesson differently.

“Invest in appreciating assets, not depreciating ones.”

Spend your wealth on assets that will grow in value. Minimize what you spend on items that decrease in value.

For example, one can invest in real estate. While real estate has been quite volatile over the last few years, I believe in the long run quality properties will increase in value.

But one does not invest in automobiles. With few exceptions (e.g., classic collectible cars), vehicles depreciate in value. You buy one new and the second you drive it off the lot you may have lost 25% or more of your purchase price in the secondary market.

You can spend $5,000 on a Hawaiian vacation with your spouse. Yes, there will be some nice memories. But outside of a tan and some extra weight around the belly, memories are all that you will have.

Or you can invest that same $5000 into a tax-deferred retirement account and the picture changes. No great memories, but at a 5% annual return over 30 years, your investment will grow to nearly $22,000.

I am not saying to not enjoy life. Interestingly, I have both a Rolex (a gift) and a Casio G-Shock. And yes, the Casio keeps much better time. But when I am in the office, I do not wear the sports watch. I need to look professional.

However, if I was buying a dress watch on my own dime, it would not be a Rolex. Something classy and of good quality, but definitely not that expensive. The value is not there for the cost. I can look just as nice for probably a tenth of the Rolex’s price.

So enjoy life, but avoid extravagance. And if you try to increase your spending on appreciating assets and reduce expenditures on depreciating assets, you will be better off in the long run.

Lifestyle Leverage

Not a bad point, but one tough to follow when being offered a corporate perk.

Typical “golden handcuffs” are pension plans that require a certain number of years before vesting. As well, stock options are also popular ways to tie employees to their firms.

Always look at any deal from all angles before locking yourself in on debt agreements.

Do you really need the estate home when a nice bungalow will do? Or the brand new BMW when a Ford will suffice? Just because someone is offering you a loan at preferential rates, it is still a debt that must be repaid.

In any deal you enter in life, the opposing side always has its own motivations. Understand what they are and you will make better decisions.


Having goals is very important for success.

I recommend determining short, medium, and long-term goals. In many cases, the objectives will build on themselves into the longer-term goals you desire.

Define the goals as tightly as possible. The more realistic and fixed the objective, the easier it is to focus upon.

Goals are fine, but of equal importance is the planning process.

Without creating a specific game plan to attain your goal, you will never reach it.

Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.


When reading about successful people, luck always plays an important role.

To some extent, one creates his or her own luck. Hard work, perseverance, intelligence, proper planning, etc., are keys to success. But often it comes down to pure luck as to whether person A or person B reaches the end of the race first.

Some ideas are before their time, some are a week too late.

When I was extremely young, pet rocks were the rage and made someone wealthy. Today would they have the same success?

Watching golf on the weekend, Rory McIlroy won the U.S. Open. A great young golfer. But if his parents did not sacrifice their lives so that he could get the training he required to become great, would he be the same player today? Not likely.


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