Monday, June 2, 2008

Frugal living / accumulating wealth

It's interesting that many things that I read seem to presume that if you strive to live frugally, then you have no wealth and little likelihood of accumulating wealth, and conversely if you are working to attain wealth then you're not going to be interested in living frugally - you'll want to "enjoy" your wealth.

I'm blessed that I know people and I'm finding resources that defy that stereotype which really shouldn't be on in the first place. To paraphrase a saying at much too late at night to remember the exact original, most folks don't get to be rich by spending their money foolishly.

I also have issues with but am trying to feel some acceptance for the word Wealth. A piece written by Professor Steven Hackett at Humbolt State University for his ECON309 class titled "Economics, the Environment, and Sustainability" includes the question, "What is the meaning of wealth in a more sustainable society?" One part of his definition of wealth in that context is:
  • Enough nutritious, healthy, tasty food
  • Access to clean water
  • Meaningful work
  • Support for maintaining physical and mental health
  • Opportunity to meaningfully participate in democratic decision-making that affects ones life
  • Physical security
  • Adequate shelter for physical comfort and security
  • Freedom from exposure to harmful chemicals and radiation
  • Opportunity to live near and visit areas of natural beauty
So it's been with those ideas in mind that part of this journey I'm on must include not just the isolated act of eating locally, but the bigger goal of living frugally in order to attain this particularly type of wealth.

My skills that might help me towards this goal are mixed. On the good side, I'm someone who managed to go from being told ten years ago that I have no choice but to declare bankruptcy, to now having zero credit card debt, a home with a reasonable amount of equity and a fixed-rate mortgage on which we do value-raising renovations all paid in cash. We have emergency savings, retirement savings, and we pay extra on everything in hopes to have our mortgage paid before we retire. We have a basic budget that definitely includes the old adage of paying ourselves first (savings, retirement, etc.), and so the everyday money management skills are good.

But the long term skills really pretty much suck. I have my retirement money diversified in a bunch of different money market accounts that I pretty much picked randomly. That is not good. I know it's not good. But any change I make will be another random choice.

There is so much I need to learn. I need to learn to take the financial results of our frugal, careful living and invest it in ways that will not only allow us to have a sustainable and sufficient cashflow when we retire, but will also allow us to do things that we feel are important: Help our grandchildren go to college. Provide scholarships. Contribute in various ways to the local immigrant community. So many things.

So that's one of my current goals: Learn to live more frugally, and learn to accumulate wealth, as defined from a more sustainable-lifestyle perspective.

I'm looking at a lot of different things that could help to that regard, and I just linked one of them to my blog: Money Ning, which is a personal finance blog written in a way that I think could help me with this goal. There is some good serious advice there, as well as things such as a post justifying a Wii as a good investment. Some of the advice given is UK specific, but I like the general tone and hope to keep up. I'm hoping to find other blogs that will help me towards this goal as well.

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