Genuine Curiosity

Author Dwayne Melancon is always on the lookout for new things to learn. An ecclectic collection of postings on personal productivity, travel, good books, gadgets, leadership & management, and many other things.


Prosperity & Security: Growing Wealth & Protecting It

Financial independence is true independence. You work hard, but what does independence mean if all your wealth is tied to an office job or you have no flexibility to stop working? I've been thinking more and more about what happens "next" beyond a career, what kind of legacy building I want to strive for, and so on. There is no magic wand, but here are a few ideas that may help for growing your prosperity — and a few for holding on to it.


Wait, isn't retirement the opposite of building wealth? While it may seem counter-intuitive, a mini-retirement or sabbatical has the potential to increase productivity when you come back refreshed. Companies in many sectors encourage sabbaticals.

A potential financial benefit of taking a sabbatical is that stepping away from the daily rush of the job can help you focus in on your values and what you need to build toward retirement. Brian Stoffel at the Motley Fool describes how his mini-retirement reshaped his family's financial life--for the better.

The mini-retirement led him to realize that consumption was not the key to financial strength or personal happiness. At Financial Mentor, Todd Tresidder frames it this way: You must control your spending so that your lifestyle lags behind your income. This will create available capital for your investment activities.

Leveraging Currency Exchange Rates

The dollar is stronger now than it has been for years. While this can be great if you're about to take that European sabbatical, what does it mean for the risk-reward ratio in leveraging currency exchange rates? Overall, individuals always take big risks when entering the world of currency exchange, so caution is warranted. As attractive as this sounds, this is probably one of those "don't try this at home" areas for most of us.

Investing in Gold

Over the years, you've probably heard a lot about this, including debates about whether gold trades more like a currency or a commodity. Fads in investing come and go, and yes, sometimes the price of gold goes down. Forbes contributor Henry Lo recently advised that its current low makes now a great time to jump in to the gold market--especially if you're taking the long view.

Unlike many other commodities, gold's ultimate value is intrinsic. While our cultural image of gold is one of opulence and decoration, gold has many uses in electronics, medical technology, and industry. It has unique applications that mean it will never become worthless, so it can serve as a bulwark against the vagaries of the world economy.

There are good ways and bad ways of investing in gold, due to the way laws work in many countries. If you want to invest in gold, I suggest consulting with an experienced financial advisor.

Avoiding Identity Theft

Regardless of the path you take to build your wealth, keeping your identity secure goes hand-in-hand with financial security.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, an estimated 17.6 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2014. People in all demographics are affected, but among racial groups, the BJS found that white people experienced identity theft at higher rates than all others. The process of rehabilitating your credit score can take time, and out-of-pocket monetary loss is not uncommon.

  • In the analog world, you should have a paper shredder and never put financial documents in the trash. But now that so much of the world has gone digital, what’s the equivalent? Unfortunately, technology changes at such a fast pace that it’s hard to know what’s coming. Cybercriminals are constantly evolving new strategies that threaten your wealth.
  • Investing in a service like LifeLock to monitor your data is crucial to ensure maximum identity theft protection. Stay up-to-date on the latest cyber security news and tips by following the LifeLock on social media as well.
  • Don’t want to be a victim? Make sure your home computer has its firewall on, and always be sure to update your software — criminals love to exploit bugs in software that hasn't been updated.

Planning and Getting Help

If you don't know where to start, start with goals - what age do you want to retire, what kinds of things do you want to do after your career, etc. This approach will help you determine what your needs are, so you can determine what kind of nest egg you need to build.

When seeking help from professional advisors, I suggest using a "fee only" financial advisor - this is an advisor that doesn't sell products, doesn't get a commission from any of the things you invest in, etc. In other words, they are compensated by you which means their allegiance is to you, their customer. In the US, organizations like the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) can help you find fee-only financial advisors. Your Credit Union may also have a good, objective advisor on their staff.

The main point here is to steer away from free financial advisors - if you aren't paying, you're no longer the customer, you're the product.

What about you? Do you have any advice to share? Please leave a comment below.