Wealth is Attitude, Not Income

  • Someday Lesson: Don’t let your fear of poverty block your dreams.

Periodically I examine my finances. Since I have a tendency to obsess about numbers, I usually operate on this basis:

Money in bank account? Check. Money coming in over the next couple of months? Check. Okay good.

And that’s it.

Occasionally, however, I look a little further ahead just to see how I’m doing. I did this last night because I’m now not going to earn anything from teaching English until the end of October – that’s six months without my part time job. Knowing that I can contribute to the household until then is definitely a good thing.

But this post isn’t about my finances. It’s about the realization I had while looking at my income. According to most North American standards, I’m incredibly poor. Having just launched my coaching services, I earn about $1000 US a month. Because I have a boyfriend we share our expenses.

And yet I don’t feel poor. The money from one ongoing freelance writing client goes to my credit cards, so that’s dropping regularly. And with the next coaching client I get I will pay for a one week vacation for the two of us to the Canary Islands. Poor people don’t take holidays (actually most entrepreneurs don’t take holidays no matter what they earn, but that’s another story). Two other clients would give me some money for retirement savings and after that everything I earn is gravy.

Imagine feeling wealthy earning less than $15000 US a year.

When I lived in Toronto, with my mortgage, business expenses and cost of living, that much money lasted me fewer than six months. And for a lot of people that much money would last three months maximum.

You wouldn’t believe the pressure that’s taken off my shoulders. Life isn’t all about working hard to earn enough to survive. My coaching has suddenly become something I do to bring in extra money to make our lives better and to allow us to retire sooner.

How cool is that?

Do you know your minimum comfort level money-wise? If money is the thing that stops you from following through on your dreams, what could you do to change your attitude or lifestyle?

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27 thoughts on “Wealth is Attitude, Not Income

  1. I don’t know my minimum comfort level (and hopefully won’t need to find out) but I do know this: When my husband and I both had decent-paying government jobs, we were in debt up to our ears. Now we are making less between us than either of us made individually in the public service, yet we seem to have more money than ever. Of course, it helps that we’ve gone from having two teenage boys at home to being empty nesters, which definitely cut out expenses, but it seems to me that the more you have (or think you have), the more you spend.

    Janet Barclay´s last blog post..Golden Horseshoe Virtual Assistants Group grows, thanks to the WP Remix Theme

  2. Friar says:

    Well, attitude…up to a certain point. But I find money DOES buy happiness.

    I’ve spent years being broke when I was a grad student, not being able to afford the things I loved doing. And having to live in a crummy apartment, where some of the other tenants were shady characters. My car got broken into. The people downstairs were noisy. It was stressful.

    Yes..by Third-World Standards, I was ‘rich’. But I can tell you, that lifestyle SUCKED and I was miserable and couldn’t wait to start earning a decent wage.

    Fast forward to right now. I can afford a decent place that’s clean and quiet, where there are no urine puddles in the laundry room. And I can afford a car and a small canoe, so I can paddle all summer. I can indulge in the odd vacation where I ski or fish. I even discovered I love to garden.

    Not to mention the reduced stress levels (if there’s a sudden added expense, I can cover it, and not worry about how I’m going to get the money).

    My income allows me to pursue activities that I love and live in a home environment that nurtures me. This helps me be a happier better person, I think.

    Living off $12K a year as a student? Or living on an engineers salary today?

    I would most definitely say yes, I’m MUCH happier now. And it purely has to do with income…not attitude.

  3. Alex Fayle says:

    Using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs various studies of happiness have stated that money does buy happiness up to the two basic levels of physiological and safety. After that there’s no direct correlation.

    So for me, my basic needs are met with $15K, but for you those are met with the engineer’s salary.

    It’s something I find intensely interesting – how that minimum for happiness is so different for each person.

  4. Great post today Alex! I agree with you that once basic needs are met, everything else is gravy. It is certainly nice to have those little extras that Friar mentions.

    I would love to have a house instead of this apartment where the party girls upstairs tromp around in high-heels till 3am – a good night’s sleep would make me a happier person. However I don’t NEED a 3000 sq. ft. home with 5 bedrooms & 3 baths and equally large mortgage to be happy.

    Balance is the key more stuff = more debt = less happiness; less stuff = less debt = more happiness.

  5. I’m all about having the right attitude so I completely agree with your post today. Extras and monetary wealth is nice, but, as those who have money know well, money doesn’t make you happy. You make you happy.

    Positively Present´s last blog post..stop slackin’ & get crackin’

  6. Andy Hayes says:

    This is a huge issue for me as I’m pretty risk adverse to being short on cash, and have never over-leveraged myself. You’ve said it before – it’s all about balance. If you can work out what’s important and what it costs, you can do the math. (All of this far easier said than done – that’s speaking from experience!)

    Andy Hayes´s last blog post..Inspiring Travel Blog Carnival – April Edition

  7. Hmmmm … I am risk adverse when it comes to money as well. I HATE debt. Car loan and mortgage I accept as facts of life, but I try to keep the payments low. I have a ‘magic number’ which is the dollar amount I am willing to let my bank account drop to. However, I am learning to relax as well. I never travelled in my adult life because I couldn’t justify the expense. Now I am taking those trips and finding they are worth the expense.

    I am wondering, if I lived in Spain, which is culturally different than Canada AND has different weather, could I live on less than I do now because I can see and experience more for less?

    I really think we each decide what the minimum $ amount is to make us happy. BUT you have to know what it is that makes you happy. I think the fact that more money doesn’t make you happy is because you aren’t clear on what it is you need to be happy. Trust me, if I won the lottery, I would be very happy because I would simply enhance my life, not try and change it.

    Urban Panther´s last blog post..But I really wanted David!

  8. Jacki, you make some excellent points. When we had a house, we couldn’t afford an extravagant lifestyle, because of the high cost of maintaining said house, so it wasn’t hard for us to adjust to having less. Which completely confirms your equation more stuff = more debt = less happiness; less stuff = less debt = more happiness

    Janet Barclay´s last blog post..3 Simple Ways to Create Client Loyalty

  9. I have never feared lack of money if I had happiness. Money doesn’t make you happy. If you’re happy, you can be shit broke and still find good in the world. But you can be one miserable rich SOB, let me tell you.

    That said, I don’t want to be broke. I’ve been there once in a very bad way and wouldn’t like to revisit it.

    But I will say, I was happy. Not stupid lalala happy, but okay with the world.

    James Chartrand – Men with Pens´s last blog post..Are You A Big Spender or a Cheapskate?

  10. Friar says:

    All this altruistic talk about people not needing money, we’d be happier if we had less money, etc. etc..

    Why is it always implied that rich people are miserable?

    Well, ask yourself this. All things being equal, if you suddenly had a $20,000 windfall (or $50K…whatever), would it make you happy?

    Chances are…I’d bet dollars to donuts, it probably WOULD.

    You’d pay off some debt. You’d take a dream vacation. You’d maybe buy yourself something nice that you never could have afforded. You’d have freedom to try a new business venture, or go back to school…pay for your kids education. Pay for medical expenses.

    Or, if you really didnt’ want the money, you could give it away to charity. Which would probably make you feel good about yourself, because you helped someone.

    I’m with Panther. Trust me…if I won the lottery, I’d be VERY happy.

    If none of you need your money very much, please send it MY way. I’d be more than glad to take it off your hands! 😉

    Friar´s last blog post..How to be a Nouveau-Riche Yuppie

  11. The money/happiness discussion is interesting, and here’s my take. As we grow, live certain events and have experiences, we develop our value system.

    I don’t value money. I mean, I like it, I enjoy its comfort, but it is not in my list of core values. Love, honesty, integrity, fairness… these are. Homeless people can be happy.

    Money creates temporary comfort. Not inner happiness. No one can give you that but yourself.

    But other people value money above happiness. I know a guy whose who self-esteem is tied around how much money he can make for his family. Money is a symbol of his affection and pride in being a father.

    Happiness and poverty together send him screaming. He’s aghast. Impossible! Is he right? No. He just has different core values, as do the people here.

    Personally, I’m with Alex, and I’m on a 4/5 with that Maslow, sometimes dipping into 3. And I’m not rich. Money wouldn’t change sweet fuck all of my issues, problems or happiness.

    So while I respect the people who value money more than other qualities, please don’t tell those who don’t value money that they’re wrong.

    James Chartrand – Men with Pens´s last blog post..Are You A Big Spender or a Cheapskate?

  12. Sorry, just to clarify : No one here said that anyone was wrong.

    I’m just saying I sure as shit don’t want to argue about who is wrong, so let’s avoid that type of implication. That’s all.

    James Chartrand – Men with Pens´s last blog post..Are You A Big Spender or a Cheapskate?

  13. JoVE says:

    I’m starting to see this too. My partner has just cut his working hours (and salary) in order to be able to devote more time to the dream (which involves chickens and vegetables and eventually sheep and cheese). And sometimes I worry we can’t afford it. But then we will be growing our own food, so we won’t starve…

    JoVE´s last blog post..The politics of research funding

  14. JB says:

    I am, right now, below my minimum comfort level and it is a scary place to be. But I made that $16,000 partial estate distribution stretch from November to now. It got me through the winter.

    Now, if I could find a job, even if it’s way outside my field (and I have been applying like mad), I’d feel rich just knowing there is income coming in. I’ll feel richer still once the housing market picks up and the two houses I got stuck with due to the estate/death deal finally leave stagnation, and the estate can finally be closed and distributed. I’ll feel even richer still when I’m back on my feet making a decent salary, even if I’m not yet doing what I most passionately love.

    But I have a house to live in. The mortgage was paid off decades ago (thanks, Dad). I have, for now, heat, water, electricity, internet, phone, cat food, people food, and a paid-for car that runs. Things could always be worse. In many ways, I am already rich beyond the wildest dreams. And all things are possible…

    JB´s last blog post..Why Pray for Others, When I Need the Help?

  15. I’ve had high income with few debts or commitments, low income with few debts or commitments, high income with lots of debts and commitments, and average income with few debts or commitments. In each case, happiness was enhanced when I had few debts or financial commitments (rent etc, not own, travel with backpack and no home base). I think this falls in line with the fact that I place high value on my freedom.

    I also value being authentic, creative and having a greater purpose for my life. When these factors are in play, I am on top of the world.But these are my values – I may not care about money, but I know some people do. They like security and there is nothing wrong with that. It’s like James says, none of us are wrong. We’re just different. The important thing is to own your values and choices and do what works for you. But I think to fixate on money as the big solution to all your problems is always a mistake. No matter what your circumstances you can choose to feel grateful and look for the good, even if it’s just that you are breathing and walking around.

    Coincidentally, my most miserable period ever was when I had high earnings and few commitments. At the time I was lost, with no real idea for where I was going in life. I had drug problems, depression, anxiety attacks and I can tell you having an overflowing bank account didn’t make any of that better.

    Kelly@SHE-POWER

  16. What I don’t understand is why discussions about money always end up revisiting the question of whether money buys happiness. Well no, money cannot be taken to a store and exchanged for happiness. But I don’t understand – why do so many people think the purpose of money is to buy happiness?

    Puppies don’t buy happiness either, but that never comes up in a discussion about puppies! Things can be wonderful without buying happiness, because everything has its place. There are no magic solutions, and a lot is up to what we do with what we have.

    Hunter Nuttall´s last blog post..How To Be More Creative: A Handbook For Alchemists

  17. Friar says:

    @Hunter

    Yeah, but puppies cost money. Including the shots and vet bills and such.

    If you were living from paycheck to paycheck, you wouldn’t be able to afford a pet.

    Friar´s last blog post..How to be a Nouveau-Riche Yuppie

  18. Kelly says:

    Alex,

    You asked whether money’s the thing that stops me from following through on my dreams, and the answer is no. I changed my attitude about that long ago. Funny, because people have attempted to hurt me with money at times in the past, but that’s their values, not mine. I have a love of me and the Kelly-version of happiness, independent of a dollar amount in the bank.

    Money doesn’t buy happiness any more than being skinny, or any of the million Someday Syndrome variants people use as excuses for unhappiness.

    Having said that… I happen to live in one of those high cost of living areas where Maslow’s hierarchy is a little… higher. I’m not at all averse to an income that takes that into account.

    Hunter,

    Wise words. I like that very much. Now I wish I could fit a puppy in this apartment. 🙂

    Regards,

    Kelly

    Kelly´s last blog post..Think Broader?

  19. @ Friar, I’m not sure why you’re saying that in response to what I said. I agree with you – puppies cost money, so if you don’t have money, you can’t afford one. That’s an example of something money can buy, and why having money is better than not having money.

    What I was saying is that money (or love, health, friendship, etc) doesn’t have to buy happiness in order to be worth something, because that’s not what it’s for.

    @ Kelly, with enough money, you could genetically engineer a puppy that would fit. Alternatively, you could get a bigger apartment. 🙂 And of course you could go puppyless, if that works for you.

    Great point about Maslow’s hierarchy being a little different in areas with high costs of living. It’s also going to vary from one person to the next, even in the same area.

    Hunter Nuttall´s last blog post..How To Be More Creative: A Handbook For Alchemists

  20. Kelly says:

    Hunter,

    First I have to genetically engineer the landlord to allow puppies.

    Kelly´s last blog post..Think Broader?

  21. Alex Fayle says:

    @Janet
    That reminds me of a story my parents told me of an investment planner they met with who worked out their desired minimum monthly expenses at something like $20000 – they looked at him and laughed but his monthly expenses were that because of all the things he felt were essential to be happy and comfortable.

    @Jacki
    Yes, honestly I would like an apartment with another room and some more storage but given how inexpensive the place is I’m totally happy to be here – yes a little bigger would be better, but I don’t need it and so it doesn’t make me unhappy not having it.

    @Positively
    I like that point – extras are nice, but not necessary. They make live smoother, but we need to be happy to start with or the money will just disappear in unsatisfying ways in an attempt to fill the hole.

    @Andy
    That’s where we all differ. I have no problem being short of cash. It makes my buying choices much easier (I don’t unless I need or love it).

    @UP
    I too would be very happy if I won the lottery! Yes, I’d give a chunk of it away to charity and I’d help out friends and family, but my spending habits would change little. I’d still buy few things, but I’d buy REALLY GOOD QUALITY things.

  22. Alex Fayle says:

    @Janet
    Now that I’m back to renting, I don’t know if I’ll ever want to own again. Never say never of course, but at the moment, I like renting just fine.

    @James
    Exactly – I’m okay with the world. Actually more than okay with the world. The world and I are fantastic. For me doing something I love and that satisfies me outweighs making a good secure paycheque each week. That’s how I’ve chosen to live and it’s working out perfectly for me.

    @Friar
    I’m so not altruistic. I’m just as selfish as every other person on the planet. If I was altruistic I’d be giving away my coaching services – ha! And as I said to the Panther, winning the lottery would make me very happy. But the point I was hoping to make in this post is that I would rather be poor and satisfied with my life rather than earning a “safe” income and being miserable because my fear of poverty has me trapped in a job I hate day after day where all I do is complain about my life because that in my case would be Someday Syndrome in a (paycheque-wrapped) nutshell.

    @JoVE
    Oh wow. I totally romanticize all that kind of stuff – but for me I’ll keep it a nice little fantasy – all that physical effort doesn’t interest me. 😉 But yay for your husband following his dream and double-yay to you for accepting and supporting it!

  23. Alex Fayle says:

    @JB
    Sorry to hear about being below your comfort level, but yay to making the money stretch! Now you know that it’s possible that must take away some of the fear. You don’t have to like it and the desire to get out of the situation is a great motivator, but you don’t need to fear it and so you won’t act irrationally based on that fear. Well done! And good luck!

    @Kelly@SHE-POWER
    Exactly! Unless we are happy and comfortable with our lives, money will just add to our problems because we have more disposable income to distract ourselves from dealing with what’s really bothering us.

    @Hunter
    Yes, my point wasn’t about whether money buys happiness. I wanted to get people to think about the fear that poverty holds for them and whether that fear holds them back from pursuing whatever passion really drives them. Thanks!

    @Kelly
    I have a love of me and the Kelly-version of happiness, independent of a dollar amount in the bank.

    Woo hoo! Exactly!

  24. Kelly says:

    Alex.

    LOL.

    *wakes up, runs about morning routine, checks email and sees a whoo-hoo in her inbox…*

    Thank you for the goofy smile. Everybody should wake up to an occasional whoo-hoo.

    Until later,

    Kelly

    Kelly´s last blog post..Inspiration Points: 1,2,3,4 Pressure!

  25. Not sure that I am going to add anything that has not already been said but here is my take. It is interesting that all this talk has turned from wealth into hapiness, And isn’t happiness a state that we all strive to get to. I have met happy people who have a ton of money and happy people who have very little money. I have met very sad people who have a ton of money and very sad people with very little money. The happiness these people have or don’t have has nothing to do with money. It is al about the person and how they view their life.
    The difference as T. Harv Eker says” Money is a lubricant. It enables you to SLIDE through life instead of having to SCRAPE by.”
    Now being honest I would rather be sliding than scraping….but either way I am still happy.

  26. Alex Fayle says:

    @Kelly
    Let’s give you another one then, just to make your Thursday a wonderful day:

    Woo hoo, Kelly!!!

    @Elaine
    Yes, I agree – sliding through life is much better than scraping!

  27. Kelly says:

    LOL again, thanks!

    Maybe I should make it into a screen saver. There’s power in that little phrase…

    *goes off to tinker with computer innards*

    😀

    Kelly´s last blog post..Inspiration Points: 1,2,3,4 Pressure!

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