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What is Money?

By Jeff Runyan

WE ALL THINK ABOUT IT. We all want it. And, we all need it. Whether you work for it, inherit it or you somehow have access to it from a spouse or another, money is an exciting resource that people handle very differently.

Money can be a source of pride for some who are pleased with their disciplined, lifelong choices that have led to the accumulation of wealth. Others have been known to have said, "it takes money to make money” and spend it freely in anticipation that spending will build more relationships and business in the future.

Whatever your approach, it may well be one that you don't talk about with others, and if you do, it is not likely often. Everyone grows up in a household where views, experiences and circumstances differ with handling money, and because of that, they perceive it differently. These attitudes and beliefs that each of us innately has are the underpinnings of how people choose and cope with economic decisions. That's why some who save prudently and may appear to have a "smaller annual income" based on their consumption habits frequently can surprise family and friends when, at their death, it's learned that they had large estates or significant assets.

It's the central idea of the book, The Millionaire Next Door, by Thomas J. Stanley that describes "Under Accumulators of Wealth" and "Prodigious Accumulators of Wealth" and the differentiating habits between each. The research concluded that frequently high earning professionals might accumulate less wealth than a lower earning person because they have an expensive lifestyle and consumption habits that drain wealth as opposed to building net worth.

But the reality is prudent money management, retirement planning and compound interest are typically topics not taught in school, even though they are subjects that will affect you throughout life. And, given that Los Angeles is the kind of environment that breeds expensive houses or neighborhoods, shimmering cars and fashionable clothes, it might be hard not to be tempted to "keep up with the Joneses." But, if you have a competitive spirit and like keeping up, try this: Compete with what you don't see. Compete with their 401k statement value, the IRA Rollover accounts and the investment portfolios that show up in the mailbox quarterly. Imagining what the "Joneses" have may nudge you into increasing your 401k contributions and paying down your mortgage balance faster! And that competition will leave your wallet fuller and your mind more at ease.

So, if you keep your focus on what you're most interested in achieving and minimize your acquisition of depreciating assets, you can find balance and enjoy both the joy of living in the here and now, while accumulating wealth to give you peace of mind, making your retirement years as comfortable as those you're in now.

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