Rosie Millard: Thriftyliving

The rules of wealth in our brave new world
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The Independent Online

Once more, i am invited on to the sofa at the BBC, and once more have a sense that Television Centre is something out of Communist Russia. The parallels are just too easy: the top-heavy inverted pyramid full of mendacious leaders, the phalanxes of exhausted, demotivated workers, and a peculiar house style of penny-pinching (coffee in Styrofoam cups) running alongside profligacy (a Mercedes whisking me to and from the studio).

"We get paid for eight hours when in reality we work 10 hours a day," a producer groans to me. "It's as if no one cares." Perhaps one of the reasons that the BBC looks so vulnerable is that we in the West have moved on. The commercial world outside the Blue Peter garden is much simpler, if a whole lot more brutal. Work, then more work, is the only point. Profit is the only motive.

The financial Bible that promotes this credo is The Rules of Wealth, by Richard Templar. This guide is not in the least bit interested in saving money, and wholly fascinated in how to make pots of it. It will not ask you to add up how many times you use the washing machine, or to save your loose change in a jam jar, or to freeze your credit card in an ice block. "Small economies won't make you wealthy, but they will make you miserable," advises Templar. So all that stuff about skipping the daily coffee in Starbucks is just baloney? Indeed, it is. "Cutting out your daily cappuccino might help you lose weight and it might reduce your caffeine intake, but it isn't going to make you rich," writes Templar. "Wealthy people don't scrimp and save. Don't start thinking that giving up little luxuries will somehow increase your wealth. It won't."

Over a Greek yoghurt with nuts and extra honey (purchased from a Pret A Manger that I usually march right past in an attempt to increase my wealth), I keep on reading. Essentially, Templar recommends that you invent a "wealth strategy" and work on it daily. Your strategy depends on selling. "Selling," advises Templar, "is the bedrock on which every fortune is built."

So, what should I sell? According to Templar: oneself; something that can be sold while you are asleep; something that can be flogged to countries you have never heard of; and something that can be made for you incredibly cheaply by other people but that gives you a really healthy return. On the basis of the rules, one should probably go and found the first 24-hour Gap.

It's all very jolly, and one can't help but wish that one had dreamed up The Rules of Wealth before Richard Templar did. He's probably made a fortune of this book, which is probably sold in lots of countries I've never heard of. And seeing as I bought it in Stockholm airport, it is clearly a highly adaptable product.

However, I happen to believe that mastery over money and the achievement of riches come about almost by chance. I know that Paul McKenna and others have interviewed very rich men to find out their secret, but I can't help think that quite a lot of it is luck. I certainly don't know anyone with a "wealth strategy" on which they work daily, though maybe all that means is that I don't know enough people at Goldman Sachs or UBS. Maybe my problem with money is that I don't work hard enough at amassing it.

Still, working out what you have got to sell is quite an interesting and, dare I say it, even valuable mental exercise. I had an email the other day from a man called Paul Ariss, who describes himself as a struggling screenplay writer. Mr Ariss still lives at home with his dad, and apparently leads a monk-like existence, yet says he still worries about his growing debt. "Any tips that don't include missing meals?" he writes.

Well, Mr Ariss, if I were Richard Templar, I would probably advise you to stop messing around with the arty stuff and get on with writing something that a) can be sold while you sleep, and b) attracts people in countries you have never heard of. I suspect the notion of the artist doing a bit of genteel struggle in his/her garret in the name of art doesn't wash with Templar. In this brave new world, where even the Stakhanovite workers of the BBC are threatened, if you ain't out there flogging your wares like Richard Branson and his ilk, you aren't going to win the prize.

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