Your Money: The value of $1 million is relative

Dave Ramsey explains how, when you lose a lot, and it's a small percentage of a lot, you don't have to worry so much. But when you lose a lot and you didn't have much to begin with, that's a recipe for financial disaster.
BY DAVE RAMSEY, For The Oklahoman Modified: February 8, 2014 at 11:47 pm •  Published: February 10, 2014
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DEAR DAVE: I've heard you say many times you shouldn't buy a brand-new car unless you have a net worth of $1 million. What's so special about a million dollars?

— Angela

DEAR ANGELA: In all honesty, there's nothing particularly special about a million dollars. A brand-new car will lose about 60 percent of its value in the first four years. So, if you're going to turn a $30,000 investment into $12,000, you've got to have a bunch of money. You've got to be in pretty great financial shape in order to absorb the blow.

If your entire net worth is $100,000, and you put $30,000 of it into a vehicle that will lose 60 percent of its value, you're just being financially and mathematically stupid. Your income is your largest and most powerful wealth-building tool. If you're buying things that go the wrong way in terms of value, you're not gaining wealth; you're losing wealth.

There's really nothing special about $1 million. I could have said $2 million or $900,000, but $1 million is easy to remember. Plus, it's nothing to sneeze at in terms of an individual's net worth. When you lose a lot, and it's a small percentage of a lot, you don't have to worry so much. But when you lose a lot and you didn't have much to begin with, that's a recipe for financial disaster.

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