How would you describe your relationship with money? Parched—never enough. Feast and famine—sometimes abundant, sometimes starving. Smooth sailing—balanced and achieving my financial goals. What do all these answers have in common? They represent the same general responses, whether one makes $30,000/year or $300,000/year.
Unfortunately, studies show that 75% of American families are living paycheck-to-paycheck (Johnson, 2013), which leads to the assumption that if they cannot find a balanced way to live on $30,000, they likely do not have the discipline and budgeting skills to live on more. As I have lived at those two household income extremes at one point over my lifetime, I believe your ability to live within your means, save for a future, and live generously is based on your relationship with money and your money mindset.
Except for material poverty, where one struggles to cover such basic necessities as food, shelter, and medical, more money does not equate with more happiness, because happiness is independent of how much you make. As a coach, I often hear comments from clients that “life would be so much easier,” that they “would be happier,” and “life would be less stressful,” if they had more money. Short (2014) studied the influence of money on happiness and found that a national average of $75,000 of household (not individual) income was the break point, where additional money did not improve happiness.
So if more money does not bring greater happiness and life satisfaction, what does? What can one do about it? One of the more interesting exercises a person can take is the Prepare and Enrich Program’s “Meaning of Money,” where a series of questions reveal whether a person’s drivers of money are to facilitate control, achieve higher status, live greater enjoyment, or increase security. Extremes in these areas may suggest an unhealthy relationship with money. For example, someone who has an extreme need of security may tend to save to the point of hoarding money and not utilizing money for self and others. An extreme need to grow status may manifest itself in overspending to accumulate designer clothes or cars to feed society’s messaging on self-worth to the detriment basic needs. Many of these extreme behaviors leave people feeling empty and a sense that no amount of money will be enough.
What does a healthy relationship with money look like? Perhaps you might say: (1) not taking on debt that interferes with saving or (2) achieving a balanced ratio of giving and living. Money is an important tool, yet like sex, it can be emotionally charged and difficult to discuss. Our views and comfort in discussing money start in our childhood home. Whether spoken or not, our parents impressed upon us and taught us their meaning of money, which influenced our worldview and relationship with money.
As a professional coach, I work with clients so they can understand their money worldview and underlying beliefs that drive their behaviors. When clients are more self-aware, they can decide what changes they want to make to align with their chosen plan. Many people decide they want to live more generously, which means living in more financial freedom.
Hewitt and Moline (2015) offer a free online assessment so you can receive your own personalized. You can even see how you rate against the United States average along four dimensions. The dimensions measured are: (1) I long for security vs. I live in freedom, (2) I long for independence vs. I live in community, (3) I long for more vs. I live in contentment, and (4) I long for success vs. I live in calling. Based on your answers, perhaps you will choose to partner with a life coach, so you can begin a journey to move your mindset and behaviors further toward the side of the continuum of your choice.
Hewitt, B., & Molein, J. (2015). Your new money mindset: Create a healthy relationship with money. United States: Tyndale House Publishers.
Johnson, A. (2013). Seventy-fix percent of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Retrieved from http://money.cnn.com/2013/06/24/pf/emergency-savings/index.html
Short, K. (2014). Here is the income level at which money won’t make you any happier in each state. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/17/map-happiness-benchmark_n_5592194.html
About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in business development, leadership, and ministry which provides her with the experience, relational skills, and proven processes to move individuals, couples, and leaders to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement. She coaches in a variety of areas including life purpose and plans, business, finances, and premarital/marriage.