Being in this position does not inspire confidence. Or happiness, resilience, risk taking, gratitude, or any of the other attributes of the wealthy personality. Even when they do have assets to invest, they're not investing them the way you must to become wealthy: aggressively enough to beat taxes and inflation. Three-quarters say the stock market feels too risky for them. One-third can't even envision a day when they won't have to work to meet their financial needs.
Again, this is not a life sentence. If you're in a paycheck-to-paycheck position, learning—and then practicing—optimism, resilience, appropriate goal setting, and prudent risk taking will put you in position to find your passion in life. Once you find that passion, you'll no longer feel the need to overspend to fill the emptiness in your soul. In fact, because you're more self-satisfied, you'll be inspired to take care of yourself in other ways by saving more, investing appropriately, and annihilating that credit card debt. Likewise, saving more, building up that retirement account balance, investing it for growth, and watching the balances on your monthly credit card statements dwindle will put a smile on your face and make you feel you can conquer the world.
Meet the Further-in-Debtors
Finally, there are those people who can't even tread water. They're already in a hole, but instead of making their way out, they're tunneling down further. Some 15 percent of Americans say they're sinking further into debt each month.
It's a dire picture. Less than one-quarter of further-in-debtors save anything each month or make a contribution to a retirement plan such as a 401(k), which is why 56 percent of them have less than $10,000 in investable assets to their name. Three-quarters say if they had a large medical bill tomorrow, they would find it difficult to pay. Not surprisingly, they're both unhappy and insecure. Nearly half get physical symptoms like insomnia, heartburn, stomachaches, or headaches when they think about their finances.
What do they blame for their situation? Bad luck.
What do I blame? Hubris.
The paycheck-to-paychecks overspend and know they're doing something that's not in their own best interest. The further-in-debtors overspend without a thought because they feel entitled. They deserve the nights out, the new clothes, the latest technology. How do I know? Our research gave me a peek into their budgets. A full third devote a decent chunk of their budget to entertainment or extras—nonessentials as far as I'm concerned. Far fewer devote any money at all to saving for tomorrow.
Can they change? Can they turn the situation around? Absolutely. They need to embrace as many of the components that make up The Difference as they can. And they'll need to use the arsenal of tools in the chapters that follow to keep themselves on the right track.