|Person A:||People are rich and successful because they were kind and generous in their past lives. So if this is what you want, start giving!|
|Person B:||Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!|
I am sure many of us have encountered the above conversation one time or another. We might even have played the role of person A or B at different times.
As Buddhists, we recognise the importance of generosity, kindness & being supportive of charitable endeavors. It lessens the suffering in others, support our own spiritual practice and create good Kamma to ensure better rebirth for ourselves. So its win win win.
However, something is inept about the message in the above dialog. It is subtly implying that our current state is all a result of kamma from our past lives and that there is little we can do about it now, all we can hope to do is to do good deeds so as to improve our state in the future.
Of cause this is not true, on the contrary, now is the most important time. We all carry good & bad kamma from the past, we can’t change that. But there are many things we can do now.
For a start, we can choose how we react when bad things happen to us. We can choose to react in anger/sorry or embrace it with calmness and kindness. Equally important, there are also many things we can do to change the status quo. So from the above example, if we wish to increase our wealth and to gain financial independence, we can start by working harder and smarter, and adopt a frugal lifestyle!
In fact that was the advice the Buddha gave in the Dighajanu Sutta, when asked by a layman, Dighajanu, how to have happiness & well-being in this life. The Buddha answered that the lay person should develop skill-sets that are valued in our modern world, work very hard and smart, be frugal and don’t develop bad habits like gambling or womenising and lastly avoid bad companies that might influence us to act in ways that would endanger ourselves. (see http://ahandfulofleaves.net/dhamma/?page_id=135) 
These are the most important Kamma (action) for gaining wealth in this life. The same can be said of all human endeavors; If we wish to be _____ (fill in the blank yourself; more generous, patient, kind, wealth, get a higher education, a better meditator), there is always something practical & tangible we can do to help us achieve our goals & aspirations.
1. In the same sutta, the Buddha also gave equal emphasis on being generous, kind and taking the opportunities in this precious human life to practice the Dhamma to ensure happiness in future lives.