Financial Literacy

The Philosophy of Money: What It Means to Be Truly Wealthy

The Philosophy of Money: What It Means to Be Truly Wealthy

by Alexander Green, Investment Director
Monday, June 15, 2009: Issue #1018

As a young man in my twenties, I worked as a stockbroker in a local firm. Before long I was earning a six-figure income. Then came the brand-spanking-new lakefront house, the ski boat, the Jaguar XJ-6, and all the other toys.

I saved virtually nothing. When my friends came over for parties – which were frequent – most of them assumed I was rich.

I was nothing of the sort, I hadn’t learned about the true philosophy of money.

Wealth is not the same thing as income. If you earn a lot of money and blow it every year, you’re not rich. You’re just living high.

Wealth is what you accumulate, not what you earn. And it certainly can’t be measured by what you spend.

How does the average person get rich? Not by founding a software company or playing third base for the Yankees, I can assure you…

Studying The Millionaires Next Door

Thomas Stanley and William Danko spent years studying the lives of “everyday millionaires.” (One in every eight households in America has a net worth of more than one million dollars.)

They published their findings over a decade ago in their bestseller The Millionaire Next Door:

Affluent people typically follow a lifestyle conducive to accumulating money. In the course of our investigations, we discovered seven common denominators among those who build wealth successfully:

  • They live well below their means.
  • They allocate their time, energy, and money efficiently, in ways conducive to building wealth.
  • They believe that financial independence is more important than displaying high social status.
  • Their parents did not provide economic outpatient care.
  • Their adult children are economically self-sufficient.
  • They are proficient in targeting market opportunities.
  • They chose the right occupation.

In short, Stanley and Danko discovered that your net worth is mostly a result of the choices you make.

But isn’t that true of most things?

Where you find yourself today is partly a matter of circumstances. But it is also about the way you play the hand you were dealt. And the game is not over…

The problem is that we learn looking backwards. Yet life can only be lived going forward.

For too many of us, it is only through time – and trial and error – that we discover what money is really about. What it can do for us. What it is costing us.

And learning the hard way can be awfully expensive…

The Philosophy of Money: Wealth In Its Truest Sense

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the philosophy of money and what it means to become wealthy in the truest sense of the word.

In fact, I’ve just written a book about it. Out this week, it’s called “The Secret of Shelter Island: Money and What Matters.”

I’ve included the wit and wisdom of great money masters like Warren Buffett, John Templeton and J. Paul Getty. But I’ve also drawn on great thinkers from Cicero and Aristotle to Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius.

What can the ancient Greeks and Romans tell us about wealth today? Plenty. As Seneca said more than two thousand years ago, “Money has yet to make anyone rich.”

True wealth is not just about the size of your bank balance. Yes, it is partly about financial freedom. But it is also a particular approach to life, a certain attitude.

The Secret of Shelter Island

To capture that, I’ve divided “The Secret of Shelter Island” into four basic sections:

  • In “A Rich Mind” I describe the mindset that is common to virtually all wealth creators. And I show how it is still possible to become wealthy, even in the teeth of The Great Recession.
  • In the second section “What Matters Most,” I describe principles that every investor should know and use. And I demonstrate how to calculate “your real net worth.” (You won’t need a calculator or financial statement.)
  • In the third section “Attitudes and Gratitude,” I share some of the most powerful insights I’ve received in more than 25 years as a money manager and financial analyst. Many of them have more to do with your state of mind than the state of your investment portfolio.And you should certainly know how one affects the other.
  • In the final section “The Search for Meaning,” I take a hard look at the many things money can do for you, as well as the things it can’t. Before anyone devotes years of his life pursuing a particular goal – financial or not – he should know and understand these things.

This book is easily the best work I’ve ever done, the most important thing I’ve ever written. I believe that most Investment U readers will profit it – and not just in a monetary sense.

The Secret of Shelter Island: Money and What Matters” is now available at bookstores nationwide. However, Amazon is currently offering the book at a deep discount to its cover price.

And please be sure to share this with your kids and grandkids. You really don’t want them to learn these lessons the hard way.

And you shouldn’t have to either.

Good investing,

Alex Green


An expert on momentum investing, value investing and investing based on insider activity, Alex worked as an investment advisor, research analyst and portfolio manager on Wall Street for 16 years. He now runs the wildly successful Oxford Communiqué, ranked as one of the top investment newsletters by Hulbert Digest for more than a decade. He is also the author of four national best-sellers: The Gone Fishin’ Portfolio, The Secret of Shelter Island, Beyond Wealth and An Embarrassment of Riches. He shares his wisdom in his free daily e-letter, Liberty Through Wealth.

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