It never ceases to amaze me how many business owners I talk to these days – many that made between $500,000 per year and $2 million per year before the recession – that tell me they have lost “x” but have never been happier in their lives.
What does this mean? Does it mean that everything we have been taught about the importance of money is wrong? So many financial planners spout stories of financial security. “Have four months of living expenses in savings” they say. “Plan for retirement by maximizing your 401k” they espouse. Or my personal favorite “Stop buying lattes and you will save twenty dollars per week which equates to one thousand dollars per year and you can pay off those credit cards for good” they suggest. But is that all that today’s business owner is up against? Is it really that simple? That a few less trips to Starbucks can really allow me the ability to make an impact on the financial burden that comes with being an entrepreneur in today’s economy? Hardly.
It is true that many of the people I have met in my career display an inverse relationship between money and happiness. Meaning the more you have does not necessarily mean the happier you are. This leads to the suggestion that your attitude toward, and not your possession of, money has the larger impact on your financial well being.
Mark Twain once said, “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” It eloquently points out that our attitude toward the events of our lives has so much more to do with how they turn out than the circumstances themselves. Intuitively in our lives, we know this to be true. Why wouldn’t it be the same with money? Because money is a fickle lover. It is emotional. It is psychological. It doesn’t call you back after a great evening. It doesn’t thank you for a job well done. And in these times, it ebbs and flows in some ways that are in direct contradiction to the effort you do or do not exert to control it in times of economic distress. After all, doesn’t it seem that the more emotional baggage you carry with you about the state of your financial affairs, the worse your financial affairs become? What other aspect of our lives (save your love life and your relationship with your children) can carry such weight that it can utterly paralyze an otherwise logical person?
The emotional side of money is not about materialism. It is not about keeping up with the Joneses. To reiterate, the most miserable people I know have much more in their bank accounts right now than I do. The emotional side of money is about what it means to you, how you approach what it means to you and the ways in which you let money, whether you have it or you don’t, control your emotions.
So, try this exercise. Embrace your financial situation, whatever it may be. If you are not struggling financially or stressed in any way about money, take the time to congratulate yourself because you are few and far between. If you are struggling, arm yourself with tools to improve the situation. Control what you can and devote your energy there. Evaluate your relationship with your financial state and decide whether you will allow money to be the white elephant in the room or if you will take educated steps as a passionate entrepreneur that are needed to excel, rationalize and slingshot into a new era of financial well being.