shift your decimaL 

Why budgeting will not make you rich. 

1 August 2015

I cannot pinpoint exactly when this idea of shifting decimals hit me.  As a young girl, I didn’t have many friends so I read a lot.  I couldn’t even tell you whether this is something I had read somewhere or that it was an actual original idea from my head.  It may even have been something put together in my head based on all the ideas and philosophies my incredibly intelligent father kept talking to me about as a child. All I knew, even in my teens, from watching my immigrant parents work their butts off and not get the recognition they deserved just to provide so that we can head off to university to have a better life was that there was no way that I was just going to spend my life working nine to five.   

In my twenties, I realised the illusion of the “middle class”… Having been brought up in a middle class household, I see no way out.  Middle class people are what kept society ticking along, they are our biggest consumers, with some disposable income to buy some nice things, to go on that annual family holiday, maybe buy that family jeep that their neighbours envied but they are also our hardest workers.  Think about it, we work and we work until we retire when we are in our mid 60s, then what? I didn’t want that for me or my family.  What’s the point of being born, just to work to keep up with the Jones, with the bills?  You only get rewarded when you are 65?? No, thank you!  I want to travel and soak up the sun now! 

Saving money and budgeting, will that make you rich?  Well, it depends on how you define “wealth”, doesn’t it?  You certainly don’t want to go and spend more than what you earn but that doesn’t necessarily build wealth.  What does wealth actually mean anyway?  People that don’t have a lot of money often cite that “money doesn’t buy happiness” and that “you can’t take materialist things with you”.  Fair enough. But talk to people that actually have a lot of money and the tone turns into, well, money is just money, it actually has no intrinsct human value.   

For me, wealth means freedom.  Wealth means not having to be locked into working nine to five Monday to Friday for FORTY-FIVE YEARS of my life just so I can keep up with the middle class lifestyle that I am expected to lead.  It means getting my life back when I’m still relatively young.  Granted, I still have a little way to go to actually achieve true financial independence, which to me, simply means an income that is not dependent on time invested, MY time.  As my dad always taught me, you can always make more money but you can’t get more time.  Our days ARE numbered.   

So, what has this got to do with shifting decimals?  My concept of shifting decimals is just the simplest way I can communicate this idea of abundance to others.  I am a strong believer that whatever you send out will return to you in magnitude but you have to imagine it, to dream it, to believe it.  You have to believe that there is a way out of the endless middle class wheel, and it isn’t going to be that online savings account that pays you that 3% interest per annum only when you have been a good girl and not withdrawn anything that month.  

When my family immigrated to Melbourne in the late 80s, it cost 47 cents to catch a bus.  For an eight old, I operated in dollar decimals ($1.0).  If someone gave me a dollar, it was two bus trips, yippee! Fifty cents at the milk bar bought me a 300g bag of assorted lollies that made me the most popular skinny Asian kid on the block for the day.  Enter my teens, my beautiful parents had increased my increment to a $10 monthly allowance.  So, now I was operating in tens of dollars.  Fifty dollars made me wealthy.  I had shifted my decimal in the space of five years. Go me!  

Fast forward to university days, I now needed a car.  My beloved first car was a $3,000 heap of junk metal that was my pride and joy.  It took all my savings but it got me to my lectures almost on time.   I was now operating in hundreds of dollars cause remember $3,000 was my entire life’s savings at the time.  Shifting decimals is not about how much money you have, it is about your normal operating decimal, where your average spend lies.  Uni days were tough, I stayed in this three decimal (100.0) poverty sphere for a little while eating instant noodles.  I did spend about six years studying before I had an actual profession so it was a good excuse.  But perhaps it was because of this prolonged time in purgatory that put the fear of the middle class into me.  My university HECS bill was in the tens of thousands by then, a decimal category that made my head spin.  Scanning the Saturday employment sections and dreaming of my dream job, I thought that a $30,000 p.a. job was something I could aspire to.  

Lucky for me, eventually I made it into a profession that paid me slightly more than $30,000… Holy crap! I’ve hit the big time! I could have stopped then, I was trading in thousands.  Another decimal shifted, I was only 23! Life was good. I was at work 8:30 to 5:30 five days a week.  Although that’s an extra hour of work a day more than I had thought I would be working. That’s just 5 extra hours a week, multiple by 52 weeks of the year, multiple by 45 working years… Ok, I started to panic again… I worked and worked.  I worked hard, I saved money, I budgeted even, I paid off my first new car, I paid off my HECS debt… for the first 5 years of my career, nothing much was happening with my wealth.  Sure, I got given the token yearly 3% job well done payrise that was well below inflation but who was really counting.  I saved a little money in an online saver, maybe it was even $10,000. I actually don’t remember. But, I wasn’t shifting decimals.  I was stuck operating in the thousands. What was worse was that I could see no end to this and I still wanted a nice house, kids and a gorgeous husband at some point, maybe just not in that particular order!

How many of you are still operating in thousands, how do you make the leap into tens of thousands?  I can honestly say, most of the middle class remain operating in thousands for the remainder for their lives.  Sure, they may have assets, nice car, even a boat but spending tens of thousands every other day is not a norm.  They are still very much operating in the four decimal (1000.00) middle class sphere.  I hope, by now, you have got that we are shifting decimals to the right, not to the left!  Here is another point I want to make:  It is not the comfort level with what is in your savings account or how much your assets are worth that creates wealth.  In business as in life, cash is king.  Your assets are only worth as much as if someone is willing to pay something for it some day.  What defines wealth should be one’s comfort level at what you are spending.  This throws my entire save everything you can Asian upbringing into total chaos I know.  But think about it, if you are operating in the thousands, then you must have tens of thousands…. If you routinely spend tens of thousands, you must have hundreds of thousands.  The secret to wealth building, in my opinion, is to make the leap from the four decimal (thousands) to the five decimals (tens of thousands).  This takes you out of the working middle class bracket. Once you get out of that, wealth can happen exponentially.  It becomes easier to make more money as your expenses don’t necessarily increase at the same rate and you have surplus to invest.  Less effort is required to shift decimals further.  But you have to believe that what I am saying is possible before it can happen.  Because if you think what I’m saying is too hard, it won’t eventuate.  I’m not saying there won’t be stressful days, and there won’t be risks to be taken but just don’t be trapped.  Don’t be trapped by your belief of your own limitations.  There are so many opportunities out there in the world just waiting for you to take.  Sometimes, just shifting your mindset to the right a little changes the entire picture. 

Heidi Modrovich

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