Best financial advice ever given to freelancers

March 10th, 2014 by Bob Bly

McDonald’s came under fire again a few months back for giving
its minimum-wage employees financial advice on how to live more
frugally.

The company’s McResource Line advised Mickey D workers:
“Consider returning some of your unopened purchases that may not
seem as appealing as they did.”

McDonald’s management suggests that their poorly paid wage
slaves “sell some of your unwanted possessions on eBay or
Craigslist to bring in some quick cash.”

MD’s underpaid workers are also advised by management to break
food into pieces, because that often results in eating less and
still feeling full.

Now, this story gives me mixed feelings. And here’s why:

On the one hand, while I am sympathetic to the near
impossibility of getting by when you earn minimum wage, I am not
sure that – as a free market capitalist – I am really in favor
of forcing employers to raise the minimum wage they pay.

My favorite essayist, Barbara Ehrenreich, wrote a moving book
about working for minimum wage, “Nickel and Dimed.”

The liberal media portrays the workers as the victims and the
heroes, and the bosses and business owners as greedy thieves.

But here’s an opposing view: through our risk-taking and hard
work, we entrepreneurs build businesses that provide our
employees and vendors with jobs they need and would otherwise
not have.

If you are being paid too little, rather than picket for a
raise, why not focus on building your skill set to the point
where you add more value to your employer or customer?

If your services then begin to contribute more to the bottom
line, they’ll happily pay you to make them more money. To quote
Sylvester Stallone talking to his son in Rocky Balboa: “Go out
and get what you’re worth.” If you’re not worth that much,
acquire the knowledge and skills that will make you worth what
you want to be paid.

On the other hand, I applaud McDonald’s for the practical advice
they are providing employees to help them manage their household
budgets more effectively.

I wholeheartedly agree that consumers at all income levels buy
too much crap they don’t need. And when you spend more than you
make, as do so many poor and rich people alike, you set yourself
up for financial woes. To quote Robocop: “There will be …
trouble.”

I grew up in the very poor city of Paterson, NJ. When I was 8,
my dad would drive me around town in his 1962 Chevrolet Belair,
a collector’s model of which I display on a shelf in my office
to remind me of him. Even though he is gone now for 17 years, I
still miss him terribly.

When we drove to the poorest sections, packed with unemployed
people lounging on the stoops of decaying multi-family houses in
which they rented dingy apartments, dad told me, “Look at what
you see.” And in front of every poor, run-down house was the
same car: a big, brand-new Cadillac, polished to a fine gleam.

The best piece of financial advice I ever heard is from Florida
freelance writer David Kohn, who on a panel at a writer’s
conference, advised the attendees: “Live below your means.”

When you live below your means, you reduce the pressure to make
a lot of money, and can live comfortably on what you bring home.
You can still own a nice car – in dad’s case, a Chevy instead of
a Caddy – and sleep a lot better at night.

I know several very wealthy men. Two that come to mind are Sy
Sperling, founder of The Hair Club for Men, and former
heavyweight contender Gerry Cooney.

Both men have plenty of money, and both could afford to drive a
Rolls Royce, as Sy pointed out to me. (Cooney was paid $8
million for the Holmes fight alone.)

But Sy drives a Lexus, and Gerry drives an Infinity, albeit a
larger model to accommodate his 6’7″ frame. And they both seem
content and happy with their cars.

I find the trend today of Internet marketers toward ostentatious
displays of wealth with the purchase of Rolls Royces and other
mega-expensive luxury cars to be unfortunate and a bad lesson
for their followers.

Look, these wealthy entrepreneurs are entitled to spend their
wealth the way they want to. But you should not follow their
lead.

I am not as rich as a lot of these guys, but I am a
multi-millionaire … and I drive a 2008 Prius, which I love.

I like the simple advice in the book “The Wealthy Barber,” which
says that when you get money, sock away 10% of it. Then you can
use whatever is left to pay bills, pay for the kids’s tuition,
vacation, own toys, whatever.

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