Money — What’s love got to do with it?

“Money is just a tool — But DO WE know what WE ARE doing?”

[Personal Flashback] I’ve spent many years working in the casino business. I’ve had the opportunity to visit some of the largest and most luxurious casino properties from Macau, Singapore, Las Vegas, The Philippines. I’ve witnessed rich people trying to spend their money and tried to get a gauge on how happy or enthusiastic they look. I’ll leave it at that.

The old saying is true — “Money is not everything”. The media often tells us that more money equals more happiness. We are also told that we need to have a LOT to be seen as successful. I believed that for a long time. But today, I know money really is not everything.

However, to do many things in life, especially in today’s world we require some money. The obvious ones include food, bills, education, medical expenses, entertainment, caring for dependants, amongst other things. So while money is NOT everything, we do need it to survive and live better lives. Most people I come across don’t have a real handle on what it takes to really build financial wealth or stability. They are constantly trying to catch up to their commitments and do not have a strong sense of how to save their money or invest smartly. Either that, or they are comfortable following aged advice from their parents/family.

My family is not financially wealthy and is not greatly educated with money matters. I didn’t learn much about handling finances there. Our education system doesn’t give us the information we need either. I have always been fascinated with the freedom-giving power of money and began learning about personal finance from when I was a teenager watching various shows on CNBC (Suze Orman anyone?!).

My sentiments towards money enabled me to view it as a tool to create freedom, and that’s all money really is. Money is simply “a screwdriver that fits in your wallet or bank account” — what you do with that tool makes all the difference. Nobody tries to hit a nail into the wall with a screwdriver. An upside-down hammer doesn’t work very well either. In the same way, why do we expect that money would fix ALL our problems?

You HAVE to know what you are doing.

Over my financial journey, I built up a net worth of over $100,000 before I was 30 years old (lost it), racked up student debt of another $200,000 and managed to pay most of it off within less than a year after graduation. No fancy gimmicks, and no get-rich-quick schemes. You just need to be consistent, disciplined and ruthless about it!

I’d like to share the major lessons I’ve learnt over the years that have helped me during my financial journey.

Creating wealth requires 3 very specific techniques:

  1. Earning Money
  2. Saving Money out of what you earned from Step 1
  3. Investing Money that you saved in Step 2 appropriately

Most people are very aware of #1, Step #2 gets us confused. But #3 is where the real magic happens. It takes patient, long term planning and effort to do this. For today, I’d like to kick off with just Step #1. (#2 and #3 are part of a separate article coming in a few days. It was too big to chunk them altogether).

Step 1: Earning Money

In order to have any money, you have to earn it in the first place. Those earnings could come from a job with a salary and/or commissions, real estate that earns you rental income, a business or equity investments that pays dividends. This could also be pocket money or allowance or earnings from multiple jobs, but it’s fundamentally the same thing. Let’s call this your primary source of income if it is recurring and sustainable.

Sometimes folks may earn a large sum of money from a one-time project, or maybe a lottery or an inheritance (because everyone has a rich uncle/aunt right!?!), in which case you can skip straight to Step 2 (coming out in a couple days).

Being able to maintain this primary source of income is critical. This ‘bread and butter’ earning should help us survive without depending on any other income. Being able to look forward in the future, to see what your earnings growth could potentially be is important too. Maybe there’s a promotion lined up, or you plan to switch jobs and get more money.

Most people are pretty savvy with this part, it really is the easiest.

However, I want to be able to tie this back to the FEMPS concepts from my last article (Available here if you don’t know what that is).

When we earn our incomes, we need to pay attention to the fact that we are not just trading our time for a fee. We are investing physical and mental energy, as well as emotional bandwidth to get there. We are simply trading EMPS to get a financial ROI. We are faced with all kinds of challenges on a regular basis. Unending traffic and long commute. A difficult boss or insufferable customers. Poor working culture and a lack of growth prospects. Insufficient learning from the regular work.

We need to ask ourselves:

  • Is what we are doing costing too much of my E / M / P / S?
  • Can I do a job that enables me better financial ROI for lower emotional stress?
  • Can I take on a task that will give me higher mental ROI?

Tell me what you think. Have you thought of work in this way? Have you traded your job for a non-financial reason before? I’d love to hear your comments.

Originally published at



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