Thursday, December 11, 2008

Striking It Rich vs. Financial Strength

It’s the American dream. Striking it rich. A flood of money big enough to wipe away all your financial troubles.

The possibility of striking it rich inspires people to take risks and try out new ideas. Yet this strike-it-rich mentality is often in conflict with what people really want, which is financial strength. You can see this in the stories of people who do strike it rich. They win the lottery, get into the NFL, star in a movie, or get signed to a major record label. Many of them make a considerable fortune, then lose it all in just a few years. It’s because as they were obsessing about striking it rich, they lost sight of the goal of financial strength.

The same thing happens with a few big companies and many midsized ones. Already rich, they keep trying to strike it rich, and this approach eventually gets them into trouble. The strike-it-rich strategy doesn’t quite work after you are already rich. For someone like me, coming into $5 million after years of hard work would be a compelling reward for my efforts. It would make me feel that all the hard work was worth it. But for a company that is already worth $50 billion, an extra $5 million could almost go unnoticed. They can literally make a fortune and not realize it has happened. For a company that big, there is no sense of reward in striking it rich.

There is no particular reward for striking it rich after you are already rich, but the risks are still there. And the risks, at that point, really aren’t worth it.

Some people essentially pretend they are not already rich, and keep trying to strike it rich, I guess as a way to make life interesting. A better approach is to recognize and appreciate your success and focus on building your financial strength. And in fact, you do not need to wait until you are successful to do this. If you focus on the financial strength you already have and look for ways to add to it, you can get rich just as surely as if you strike it rich. And if you get rich this way, you are more likely to hold on to your money, because you are already focused on the goal of financial strength.