There is no one way to wealth. Financial success isn’t about picking the right stocks or buying into the right financial philosophy. There are many a great financial mind that has written a book or given a seminar on how to get rich. To succeed financially you have to know what works for you. If you take someone else’s road to wealth you may never get there.

These are some questions you need to ask yourself to know who you are financially.

Are you an entrepreneur or do you prefer to work for someone else?

People often tell me I should start my own business. I have no desire to be an entrepreneur. The whole idea of it is stressful to me. I like working for other people. I enjoy finding a company or organization I believe in and working to make them better. I don’t want my own company. I’m happy other people do. I’m just not one of them. They can start their own business and I’ll come work for them.

I’ve had others tell me I should go into real estate or banking. I look at them and say, “Are you kidding me? Me, trying to sell something? I’d be talking people out of buying houses and financial products!” I’m not a sales person or an entrepreneur. I need to recognize that if I’m going to make it anywhere in life.

If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, start your own business and give it everything you’ve got. If you’d rather work for someone else, find a company that matters to you and work your way up the ranks with them.

What is your passion?

Finding your passion in life is a great way to find financial security. There are exceptions to this including the starving artist and the hobby that costs more than it produces. If you can find something you love and you can get paid for, you are well ahead in life. You may never want to retire if you love what you do and do it well.

What level of risk are you really comfortable with?

Leveraged investing makes me break out in hives. It is simply past the level of risk I’d ever be comfortable with. I don’t like debt. Period. Even if it’s ‘good’ debt. I prepay my mortgage. I pay for cars with cash even if they offer 0% financing. I pay off my credit cards every month.

I don’t try to talk other people into living by my level of risk. I’ve read the books. I know that higher risk investments do better over the long term. I can take some level of risk but not a lot.

Knowing what level of risk you are truly comfortable with enables you to sleep better at night know you’ve made sound financial choices that align with your particular level of risk. Don’t invest in something beyond your level of risk just because someone else thinks it’s a good idea.

What are your true goals in life?

Some people have a goal to be rich. Great. In fact the whole goal of this blog is the Million Dollar Journey. The goal is right in the title. My goal isn’t to get rich. My goal is to have balance in life, to live well now and have enough financial security not to have to depend on social services in my future. Knowing that for me, the goal isn’t about the bottom line but about finding balance helps me make choices in life.

Just recently I was offered two jobs within days of each other. Making that decision was one of the most difficult choices I’ve had to make in a long time. One was a full time position with great pay and benefits but with the expectation of a lot of overtime hours. The other was a part time position that paid less, didn’t come with benefits but was with a company I believed in and wanted to be a part of. I chose the part time position. I work from 8:30 – 3:00. I’m home in time to meet the kids after school. It still gives me time to write in the evenings and pursue other hobbies and interests. Knowing my goals helped me make a difficult choice.

What gives you financial peace of mind?

I’ll admit, it’s boring. What gives me financial peace of mind is a fully funded emergency fund, a paid off car, an ever decreasing mortgage and retirement funds that grow month after month. I’m not into get rich quick schemes. I have no hope of coming in to a big inheritance or winning the lottery. I’m the turtle, slowly and incrementally saving for a secure future. Boring perhaps, but I sleep well at night. For others financial peace of mind is something entirely else. That’s ok too. What’s important is that you know what brings you security and you strive towards that in your financial goals.

Many financial writers claim they’ve found the right way to financial success. There are many ways that work and even more ways to define success.

How has knowing yourself helped you succeed financially in life?

Kathryn has been a staff writer for MDJ since January 2009. During the day she works in an office. In her off hours, she volunteers as a financial coach helping ordinary Canadians with the basics of money management. Kathryn, along with her husband and two children live in Ontario.


  1. cash back credit cards on March 2, 2010 at 10:10 am

    These are some great questions to really be thinking about, and really be searching deep within yourself to see what your truly passionate living for and about. Thanks for opening up and sharing like this.

  2. tom on March 2, 2010 at 11:39 am


    You hit the nail on the head in all your points on this article. It’s nice to read an article on ‘wealth management’ that wasn’t pumping the latest and greatest technique to loop-holing your way to becoming rich.

    I have enjoyed reading your previous articles and this one finally made me comment as it makes so much sense. I talk to people all the time that are obviously not in a position to take on much risk, but are looking for the ‘get rich solution’ that involves tonnes of risk.

    I will be forwarding this article to many of them…

    My wife and I have very similar thoughts on life and money management as you and we have discussed many of your articles in the past. Thanks and keep up the good writing!


  3. Mike 4P on March 2, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    I used to be pretty frustrated with my job because I was working really hard and putting lots of hours in, but it didn’t appear that I was getting rewarded for that extra effort compared to people who just did their “fair day of work”.

    Eventually, I clued in that if I just do the 9-5, I make the same money and I could enjoy more of a life outside work. Since then I’ve enjoyed my job a lot more because it is just “there”, it still pays well and I have a fair bit of time in the evenings and weekends to do whatever I want to do (or whatever the kids want to do).

    As far as entreprenurial stuff – I love running my business (which is mainly 4P). I would argue by the fact that you are doing some freelancing that you are a bit of an entrepreneur as well.

  4. Bruce on March 2, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    I prefer to work for myself and cooperate with other people. I like the 50% equity & 50% load investment. If you are 100% debt free, It`s a low risk portfolio, however , if your cash flow is good, it can not make big money in the long term.

  5. ldk on March 2, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    Great post, Kathryn! I think to succeed period (at marriage, parenting, finances, whatever) the first and most important step is ‘knowing yourself’…after that it’s all just details!


  6. ctreit on March 2, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this post. Most of the times we focus on the “finance” part of “personal finance”, when “personal” is just as important if not even more important than finance. The old adage applies, “Different strokes for different folks.”

  7. Sarlock on March 2, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    Most of the wealthy people I know run or have run their own business and it’s for a reason: the corporate structure gives you so many more opportunities to get ahead than working for someone else. You can earn money corporately, pay your 15% or so small business tax and keep it in the business and turn it in to future profits – the only money you take out personally is that money you need for living day to day. It’s like having a limitless RRSP available (and the capital gain you make if you later sell the business is tax free up to a large figure too!!). Compare that to paying 30-40% for personal tax and then investing it from there. You can also hide a lot of personal expenses in to a corporation, especially a larger one where it gets buried under a ton of legit expenses. These two components alone ensure that if you compare two individuals who have the same T4, same return on investment, the person with the corporation will have 2 or 3 times the net worth of the other person after 10 years or so. It’s extremely unfair, but that is how the system is structured.
    Take the HST for example… it comes in to effect in a few months and those people who have corporations are actually excited about it. Why? Because all of those personal items that they flow through the corporation will suddenly become 7% cheaper because the PST will be a flow through credit to the corporation instead of an expense. Suddenly there’s an additional 14% income gap between those who are paying for everything personally and those who have a corporation to hide under. If you can flip $20,000 per year through your corporation instead of personally, that’s an extra $2,800 in your pocket.

  8. Kathryn on March 2, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    I agree that being an entrepreneur is one of the best ways to become financially successful. What I think some people need to recognize is that not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur. They may do more damage than good if they aren’t very good at it or if they start a business for the wrong reasons (to make money rather than to create a product they believe in).

  9. Monevator on March 2, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    I agree with Kathryn – many people aren’t cut out to be entrepreneurs.

    And not because they aren’t smart or capable or responsible or even risk takers, but because of some other trait that turns out to be important that they didn’t realize they never had.

    If I had to pick one thing often overlooked, it’s people skills. Besides being vital in start ups, if you’re good with people you can find a close partner to do the other things you’re not good with.

    In contrast an entrepreneur without people skills has to be able to do everything – and have thick skin!

  10. Matt @ Dividend Monk on March 2, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    True. Everyone has different strengths. People can become quite wealthy by working for someone else as long as they are really good with the money that they receive. I remember reading about a woman who worked as a secretary, but invested much of what she made into the company she worked for, retired early and let her money sit and grow, and when she died, her will gave millions of dollars to the school she went to.

  11. Brendan on March 3, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    Sarlock your plan is fine until CRA decides to audit you.
    And I hope they do audit you and your friends who cheat the system.

  12. Ms Save Money on March 3, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    As long as your a skilled – it doesn’t matter whether you’re an entrepreneur, doctor, lawyer – you just really need to be happy with what you’re doing and believe in what you’re doing and know that there is a need for what you’re doing you’ll be successful.

  13. fastmoney on March 3, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    Having a business/corporation offers much more tax advantages to an individual versus not having one. Sure, there are people who try to find ways to manipulate the system to their advantage. But as long as Sarlock’s expenses are legitimate he has nothing to worry about from the CRA. As everyone here is aware, there is a fine line between tax avoidance and tax evasion.

  14. Sarlock on March 3, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    If an audit came my way, all they’d find is a set of meticulously kept accounting records with all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed. I, and other smart business owners, know what you can and can’t flow through and keep it all squeaky clean.
    I know entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone… it is just really unfair that those who run a corporation have so many advantages against someone who works for a paycheque. Two people who work just as hard, earn the same money and save in a similar fashion, one running a company and one working for a paycheque, should be expected to reach retirement with the same amount of money saved… but the system is structured in such a way that the company owner will be typically much farther ahead financially just because of the opportunities to shelter from taxes.

  15. AnalystAnalyzer on March 6, 2010 at 12:45 am

    I wonder how long it takes to really know yourself. I certainly would not be confident about how I know myself without trying a bit of everything.

  16. Financial Cents on March 6, 2010 at 11:17 am

    Couldn’t agree more Sarlock. I just need to find something I’m passionate about and start my own business, instead of working for the man.

  17. Kathryn on March 7, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    It’s a good question – how long does it take to really know yourself? For some it happens more quickly than others. For me it took until my mid 30s to really understand who I was and what I wanted out of life.

  18. Ed Rempel on March 8, 2010 at 2:43 am

    Hi Kathryn,

    Have you found that knowing yourself is more of a continuous journey? New experiences keep teaching you more about yourself and that you change with time. Or do you think that at one point you mainly know yourself?


  19. zud on March 10, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    i think i’m still in the process of getting to know myself. i used to be salaried but now i’m a contractor. i can pick and choose work and the amount of work available is much more than i can do in normal waking hours. given this opportunity to work work work and rake in the huge income, i find myself working less hours than a normal workweek.

    i have learned that money is not a motivator for me, i work enough to cover my basic expenses plus some savings then its painfully hard for me to continue working. my financial success is that i feel stable, not wealthy whereas before i always thought i wanted to be wealthy if only i had that high paying job or opportunity to make alot of money. faced with that opportunity i’m not even taking it.

    if you could make the same, assuming good, income working 20 hours a week, would you work an additional 20 for the extra?

  20. WittyArtist on May 24, 2011 at 8:40 am

    I have no problem working for others as long as I like what I have to do and put passion in it. As for financial peace of mind I like to have some saving funds. I believe passion is important when we want to make money. I’ve also written similar issues on this theme on my blog if you want to read. :)

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.