5 Personal Finance Lessons From The Pursuit of Happyness
1 Timothy 6:10 – “The love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil”
We don’t frequently watch movies. In our effort to cut back on expenses and be more frugal we pretty much eliminated renting from our budget. While visiting with my wife’s parents last weekend, they highly recommended The Pursuit of Happiness.
Given we hadn’t rented a movie in forever, we decided to give it a try. Turns out, it lived up to it’s promise and then some. It’s an outstanding movie that contains a number of important life and financial lessons. Here’s just a few that really stuck with me:
1. Never put all of your money in one basket
Chris Gardner (played by Will Smith) spent all of his money buying a bunch of portable bone scanners that he was convinced would make him rich. He made the mistake of risking everything he had financially in the hopes of becoming rich. There are lots of “bone scanners” in the world offering the lure of riches for a “minor investment”. Don’t bet the whole farm, and do your homework. Remember, most people don’t get rich overnight and if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
2. Never give up and remain fixed on the goal
Chris Gardner never gave up. He decided what he wanted to do and went for it. Even though his motivations for being in the stock market weren’t the correct ones, it did end up working out for him.
Chris’ story proves that if you remain fixed on a goal, and attack it with passion, you can reach that goal. This is true for saving millions, getting out of debt, owning your own company, etc. Remember though, it generally requires a great deal of hard work and can take a long time.
3. Motivation and Attitude go a long way
Chris had motivation, he had to feed and care for his child. Having to feed your child is probably about the strongest motivation I can think of. Chris’ son (played by Will’s real-life son Jaden) reminded him daily of his need to succeed and get control of his life.
Not only did Chris have motivation, he had an incredible attitude and was confident in himself. If not for his confidence and attitude he most likely would have never become the successful stock broker he ended up being, much less even made it into the internship.
4. Sacrifice in the short term to gain in the long
The movie showed Chris staying up all night fixing broken medical machines, studying and watching over his son. I slept little, but did what he had to do. Chris knew that sacrificing in the short term would lead to a long term reward. It did.
The same holds true in our personal finance lives, we must sacrifice in the short term to gain in the long. As Dave Ramsey would say, we must “live like no one else so we can live like no one else”. Live on less than you earn, get out of debt, and begin saving. These are all short term sacrifices for the promise of being wealthy later. Chris knew this.
5. Never think you can’t do something
In one of the most powerful scenes of the movie, Chris tells his son that he can’t do something. After a few moments reflecting, he again looks at his son and says “Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something, not even me.”
If we think we can’t do something, chances are we won’t; however if we believe that we can, the chances of us succeeding go way up. The more you believe, the higher your chances.
Do you believe you can be wealthy? Retire early? Get out of Debt? Start your own business? Maybe you should.
As great as I thought the movie was, the overall message was a little troublesome for me. The movie title is “The Pursuit of Happyness” but the story is about Chris’ pursuit of money and wealth. I am not a believer that money buys happiness. It can certainly make things easier, but it can’t make you happy. What is interesting is a question Chris’ son asks his father. I won’t go into details, as I don’t want to spoil the movie, but Chris’ son asks him if they could go back to one of their worst times during the film. Ironically enough, this was a time Chris was the most unhappy, and his son was the most happy. They had no money at the time, yet that is the best time his son remembered.
What are you in pursuit of that will make you happy? Have you seen the movie?
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