“In all reality, there really is no middle class no more,” Cassie, 26, says. “There’s pretty much poverty and rich people. That’s all there is.” Cassie is a divorced mom who wants to give her three year old daughter, Ava, a good foundation for the future.
She’s a friend of mine, and we often talk about her worries: “There are many times that I don’t feel like I’m the mother that I should be to Ava. Because I don’t feel like I can provide for her the way I should…. There’s nights that I cry myself to sleep because I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
Right now, Cassie has very little income. She doesn’t receive consistent child support, and she works in exchange for food and rent, helping her family out by taking care of her baby cousins who are in her parents’ custody. At night Cassie goes to classes for an Associate’s degree, and she’s hoping that she can find a job to pay back her student loans and provide for herself and her daughter once she is finished.
But in the meantime, she says, “it’s hard.” “You put on that smile, you put on that facade that, ‘Yeah, it’s great! It’s great!’ When you go home you just want to break down.”
Plus, she worries that maybe she’s not capable of getting out of the instability she is in now. “It just makes me wonder, Can I make good decisions based on what I’ve done in my past? Can I show Ava the right path to go down? Or is she going to follow in my footsteps and make mistakes?”
It’s a good question and one that many of us ask: “Am I capable of doing the things I need to do to gain financial freedom and stability? Is there even a way to wealth anymore?”
A new booklet, The Way to Wealth, that I co-authored says there is good news: while there are certainly things outside of our control, there are also many time-tested things that you can do to begin moving forward on the way to wealth. The booklet, the release of which coincides with National Thrift Week, suggests four rules that anyone can follow:
1) Work hard and honestly.
2) Spend less than you earn.
3) Give back as much as you can.
4) Have a plan.
The booklet also takes on some common objections. For instance, some people think that working hard at a “dead-end” job doesn’t pay off—that you need a career first. But the problem with this way of thinking is that if we don’t take our “dead-end” jobs seriously—we show up to work late, miss a lot of days, and do a bad job—we’ll never win the trust and reputation and good references that career employers are looking for. As the booklet says, “A career begins with jobs performed well.”
The booklet also has some handy practical tools: a step-by-step plan to get started on the way to wealth, tips on how to file your tax return without getting ripped off, and a monthly budget worksheet. The booklet also gives links to some really great websites: for instance, you can go to www.americasaves.org and take the “Saves Pledge.” You will then receive free newsletters and emails with savings tips, referrals to financial counseling, and free savings reminder text messages.
For most of us, there are no shortcuts to financial stability. And even at a time when it seems like a middle-class lifestyle is hard to achieve, there are things we can do right now to begin achieving stability. As the booklet concludes, “The rules work. Read about them. Practice them. Make them your way to wealth.”
What will you do to get started on your way to wealth?