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Would you rather be rich or money smart? Both, you say? I hear you! But, if you are like most people, one of these traits usually must come before the other. Too many people act like they are rich when they haven’t mastered being money smart…and that can get them into big, big trouble.

So you read my first blog and you may be thinking “Colin, you sound like you are rich!” You are 100% incorrect! I am, of course, aspiring to be rich one day. But, for now I am grateful to be money smart. The key to being money smart is relatively simple, you can start at it today…and it won’t cost you anything.

I do not have money to burn, nor do I have an inheritance. If I was rich, I would be spending money on expensive cars and designer clothes. If I was rich, I’d go out to eat everyday. If I was rich, I wouldn’t need to think about money. I am money smart because I accept that I am not privileged, and as a result I opt to delay gratification, resisting the temptation of an immediate reward by waiting for a later, usually better, reward.

We would be doing society a great service if we taught our children at an early age to delay gratification, like we do with honesty and manners. But enculturating such a change in mindset would be at odds with corporate advertising. We must instead muster as much willpower as possible to make delaying gratification a personal value to live by. It is quite possibly the single most important thing we could do to promote our future happiness.

What happens if we do not delay gratification and act like we are rich when we are not rich? We build up debt, pay unbelievable amounts of interest to banks, lose our savings, stress about money, end up working longer hours, and we lose touch with the things that really make us happy in life.

Let’s say you really want a sprinkle doughnut pillow. Saving money is hard – it’s easier to just buy it, because you want it. The instant satisfaction you get is so pleasing. You feel like the people in every commercial you see – they wanted something, they got it, and now they are happy! But, the satisfaction doesn’t last much longer than those commercials. We end up with a lot of things that don’t really make us happy; it can happen over and over again and as this happens, what we end up doing is like taking out a bad mortgage on our future.

In general, material things do not give us sustained happiness. Think about what really makes you happy – having fun, enjoying an experience and spending time with family & friends are likely at the top of the list. A majority of the material things you have are not making you happy…and you want to be happy! So, you need to be money smart.

What do you need to do to become money smart? The key is having a long time perspective, which involves drafting a basic roadmap of what you want to do with your life. I did this type of planning after I attended college. My vision of being successful in technology/business, followed by focusing on my family and then my organizing business was all conceived long ago. Once you have a basic plan, the hard part is keeping disciplined and focused on your vision. You need to be headstrong, which includes not letting those close to you take advantage of you, as you will need the money you make to realize your dreams. Of course it’s a virtue to be generous and giving, but you need to remember that your money is not the answer to their money problems. It is even more important that you realize that their money problems are likely similar to yours…until you learn to delay gratification. Yes, that’s right, being money smart all starts with your relationship with stuff.

 Next week, I’ll discuss this first step in understanding this relationship. With the things you already own, we’ll go through the steps of how I do it, so you too can get organized. Once you get organized, your relationship with material things will never be the same. You will learn how to delay gratification and become money smart.