Work Hard for Prosperity, or learn from Rags to Riches stories?

by Matt B

manramWhich is more impressive? The “one in a million story” of rags to riches and beating the odds, or the boring success story.  The one where the “hero” is diligent and disciplined and ends up prosperous in the end.

Often, I find myself wishing that there were more stories of “normal Joes” who made $15,000 a year and ended up with a fortune at retirement age due to nothing more than frugal living and financial intelligence.  Unfortunately, those stories are often less than flashy, and lack the miraculous “overcoming the odds” allure, leaving them in the dust when it comes to coverage.

These are the two types of millionaire stories we are exposed to more than any others, which begs the question, which would you rather hear or read?

The Rags to Riches Stories:

Slumdog Millionaire-If you have not seen this movie, do so.  It is not your traditional tale.  This story, which is based on real events, tells a tale of an 18 year old orphan who is on the Indian equivalent of Who Wants to be a Millionaire.  His unusual amount of knowledge brings about an investigation as to whether he cheated on the program.

The Celebrity Stories-Most of us have heard the stories of various celebrities who broke it big.  While many of these famous tales bring motivation and hope, many are greatly embellished.  After all, these stories are meant to evoke emotion and ambition, so you’ve got to make it sound like these people have hit absolute rock bottom.  (Related Read:-6 Inspiring Rags to Riches Stories That are Bullshit.)

Athletes-Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy the story of the kid from South Central L.A. who made something of himself, went to college and got drafted in the first round.  Hopefully, he or she will go on to a great career, and a happy ending.  The problem is that too many of these kids did not learn about money on their way to fame and fortune.  So when they get the huge contract and signing bonus, all too often, it is gone in no time.  As J.D. at Get Rich Slowly explained back in March with Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems: Why Pro Athletes Go Broke, usually Millions of dollars come with hundreds of issues.

Lottery Winners

What small town American does not dream of one day winning the lottery?  After all, these tickets are their train ride to their very own Rags to Riches story.  Most people do not realize how much their lives will change when stricken with great wealth.  The family members that will crawl out of the woodwork for a handout, the potential lawsuits or the poor investments that many former lottery winners make due to poor overall financial knowledge.

It seems that the line between living in a trailer, surviving on food stamps and lighting $1000 cigars with Hundred dollar bills in your mansion is a fine one.  MSN has an article titled 8 Lottery Winners who Lost Their Millions that tells tales of lawsuits, depression, poor money management and even some time in jail.  It may sound like a dream, but until you are “living the dream” you may not see that it is really quite a nightmare.

So, What about those Who Were Smart With Money, and Became Wealthy the “Hard Way”?

As I said, these stories are boring to the layman.  Few want to hear the hard work involved with building a solid financial foundation.  So those of us who want to learn things “the right way” are stuck piecing together chunks of advice and lessons from others, to form our own foundation.  These stories do exist, but do not get the attention they deserve.  The internet has been a great resource over the past 5-10 years to find viable and helpful information about the “right way” to handle money.  Conversely, there is a ton of garbage to sift through before you may find some of this information.

Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad (My Review: Here) stresses the importance of financial intelligence, and happens to be one of these people who worked hard and treated his money right to get to his current position.

Personally, I would much rather read about and learn from those who have built something from nothing, than received everything for nothing.  I am not saying that athletes and *some* celebrities have not worked their asses off for what they have.  I just prefer to learn how to do things the right way that yields positive results, as opposed to learning from the “one in a million” stories.

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