This is a question asked by all. The answer has never been anything that resulted in an immediate wealthy future and an early retirement. Our disabilities, weaknesses, limited knowledge and limited experiences, stand in the way of a quick and easy way forward.
I am 50 this year. At 25, I set a target to achieve an asset value of R100m. I knew however, that this was going to be a struggle. You see, I am dyslexic. Varsity was a struggle, as I had to put in much more effort than everyone else. It took me twice as long to read books. After I achieved my degree, I believed that a positive mindset is all one needs to achieve success. In 2011 I achieved my target. It took 17 years to build up assets to the value of R100m. My liabilities in bonds were R55m. Assets minus liabilities equaled R45m. I decided to spread my risk and invested in a coffee shop. I also started a transport company, was a property developer, traded in property stock, was a labour broker and had an accounting practice. At this point, I felt good about my achievements. Managing my wealth took up all my time. Family time was limited, as days were spent managing my businesses.
We all wish for the wealth of the rich and famous. Have you noticed that the high-flyers work harder than anyone else? Wealth does not come easily and takes an immense amount of time to manage. Wealth is a time-consuming business. You not only have to work hard to achieve wealth, once you have it, most of your time is taken up maintaining it.
People look up to you, ask you for advice, want you to partner with them in ventures and see you as the icon they want to be, unaware of the stress that goes with being wealthy. They see your exotic cars, your properties, your achievements and wish they could have them all. You see these but are aware of the price you paid to achieve them.
One morning in 2003, I woke up and realised that all my time was spent managing and maintaining my wealth. Weekends were spent getting my work up to date, to secure financial stability. I had 2 Rolls Royce’s in the garage, 55 properties in the development company, 250 drivers on the road as part of my transport company… I even had enough to purchase a new Bentley for my partners 40th, in cash! I was overweight (no time to look after myself) and stressed. I used to go home after work, only to work more hours. I stood back that morning, turned around, looked at the castle I lived in and realised the price I was paying. My time is running out, my enjoyment is crippled by work stress, my relationship needed attention and my dogs were not getting the walks they so desperately needed.
From large businesses, you gain business experience and learn to manage risk. At this point I was managing to maintain my wealth, but not managing to live a healthy lifestyle. I lived to achieve financial goals, while stress was taking its toll. Sometimes, the targets we set when entering a market at an early age, are meant with good intentions, but the price we eventually pay to achieve these sometimes outweigh and we lose in returns.
So, on that morning in 2003, I sat in my car, transfixed and staring forward. I never turned the ignition but made a bold decision. My focus changed from financial wealth to wealth of a different kind. My target of my early years, to achieve wealth, had changed. My question to myself now was: What do you actually want?
My answer was: a peaceful lifestyle in a small town, close to the sea. An art gallery, a Harley-Davidson and spending more time with my partner.
Some may see this as a mid-life crisis, but for me, I was taking back control of my life and all the things I’d lost along the way.
My target and goals, that had been the same for all those years, changed in less than 24 hours. The light at the end of the tunnel looked attractive and for the first time, I started looking after myself. A smile returned to my face. I placed those financial targets on the back burner. Money is not always the wealth we need, and it may take a lifetime sometimes, to realize what you truly want.
That day, I placed the accounting practice on the market. I gave notice to the clients in the labour broker practice and put all the properties in the development company on the market. I stopped purchasing new stock and gave the coffee shop to a friend. The exotic cars were sold, to cancel out heavy monthly lease debit orders, and the search for a home in a small town, close to the sea, began.
In the accounting practice I looked after the finances of 3 500 clients. I advised these clients on how to manage wealth, showed them how to build businesses and helped them to make good financial decisions. From that day onwards, I was my only client. I promised myself I would not spend all my time saving clients from bankruptcy, but spend my time rebuilding my own life.
We purchased a small house with a sea view in Hout Bay, and I opened a small art gallery in Camps Bay. My income dropped from R650 000 p/m to whatever I sold in the art gallery. My hours were now 09:00 till 17:00 and not 05:00 till 21:00. Weekends were spent visiting tourist destinations in the Cape and soon I got my motorbike license and Harley-Davidson.
I had achieved the ultimate lifestyle and stress levels were significantly lower. My beautiful home by the sea and my art gallery were doing well.
Reading magazines, listening to music and looking at the sea from the gallery was great, but I soon realised something was missing.
The problem with an entrepreneur is that we cannot sit still. Our minds are trained to look for profitable ventures and although the more relaxed lifestyle was great, my mind had a wondering eye, searching for something that would bring back the adrenaline of achieving more.
I have lived both the high life with no quality, and the best quality lifestyle without the retrace to achieve wealth. A balance between making money and quality living is not easy achievable, nor is the balancing act of a perfect lifestyle.
There is no perfect recipe to wealth. The questions to what we really want sometimes take a lifetime to answer, and only our own experiences will guide us towards these.
The answer to ‘How can I make money?’, is different for all of us. By the time we know what we want, we have moved on and sometimes have passed life’s halfway mark.
It is not always about finding a business that prints money, but to seek a balance between building wealth and still making time to enjoy it.
While auditing businesses in the accounting practice, I gained the knowledge of how different businesses work. I gained the knowledge of trade secrets and saw the errors people make as well as the risks that can make or break a business. Taking time to research before making decisions lowers your risk. Decisions based on emotions and ego are a step in the wrong direction. Simplify your life. The result is clarity. Talking to people with experience is worth every second. So many times, we have great ideas and never take them further. There will always be someone, or something, that convinces us the downfall and risk is too high.
At a party once, a friend mentioned a business idea. I took note of the draft plans and made mental notes. I knew nothing of the trade he spoke about, so did my research. One year later I had turned the idea into a money-making venture. 10 years later and I had made more than R10m in profit. This was because I had taken an idea all the way to the end. That same friend never took the idea further.
The answer to what we each want is different, but the way to achieve it is by working non-stop towards our goals. Many people only plan their retirement at the age of 45 – 55. By focusing on yourself, knowing what and when you want it, you can start planning well in advance. This allows enough time to achieve the wealth you desire. We spend years working to retire comfortably, but most days are a waste of time. Look at the things you have done today. If you were focused on your future plans, you would probably have planned your day differently.
Get up tomorrow morning and only do the things that will result in a better future for yourself. I am sure that 80% of the things on your ‘to do’ list will be scratched out. This will give you more time to focus on what is important – Plan. Focus on what you want and not others. Stop doing the things that do not benefit you. Move away from the things that distract you. Copy from those who have achieved what you want. Ask yourself more often: ‘What do I want?’
If I could have it all over again, I would have planned better. Not focused on providing advice to others for a consulting fee, but moving the focus to my own financial portfolio.
Instead of setting one goal, break it down on a timeline. With every small step achieved, you move closer to the desired result. A timeline is important, as time passes quickly and before you know it, you may have achieved nothing or even less.
In other words: Include your bucket list in your wealth planning. Include all your goals on your timeline. With every goal achieved, you will be motivated to plan better and achieve quicker. Wealth, you will find, is easy to achieve once you know what you want.
I hope you get into your car tomorrow morning, on your way to work and stop for a moment. Ask yourself what it is that you want and make bold decisions that will make you smile. The wealth that you want will start right there!