Many people have a complicated relationship with money. Hang-ups carried over from childhood experiences get mixed together with positive and negative experiences from adulthood. Few people ever take the time to reflect on what money really means to them and how they can “get right” with money to make smarter decisions.
Take time to answer these 5 questions and you’ll do a better job of living your best life possible with the money you have.
1. What’s your first money memory?
Your earliest experiences with money probably happened in your home. You saw how your parents earned and managed their money. You probably compared the quality of your family home and vehicles to what you saw at friends’ and neighbors’ houses. An unexpected job loss or illness might have led to some very lean holidays or a skipped vacation. Or, if you grew up in an affluent household, you might have taken money for granted in a way you no longer do now that you’re the one earning it.
Identifying some of these early memories is critical to reassessing your relationship with money. Are you following positive examples towards decisions that are going to improve your life? Or, without even realizing it, are you repeating poor money habits that are going to hurt you in the long run?
2. Do you feel like money is your servant or your master?
Sometimes money makes us feel like we’re a hamster on a wheel, running as fast as we can without ever really getting anywhere. But if you never stop chasing after that next dollar, when it comes time to retire, all you’re going to have is money, and a whole lot of empty days on your calendar.
People who get the most out of their money recognize that it’s a tool they can use to skillfully navigate to where they want to be in life. So, instead of working too long and hard for more money, think about how to put the money you have to work for you.
3. What would you do if you had more money?
You’ve probably read about studies that show lottery winners don’t end up any happier than they were before their windfalls. This is a dramatic example proving some pretty conventional wisdom: money doesn’t buy happiness. That’s especially true if you’re stuck on your wheel for 40 hours every week just chasing more and more money.
If the idea of having more money gets you thinking about all the things you’d buy, it’s important to remember how quickly even the fanciest new car smell will fade.
If you would immediately quit your job if you had enough money to support your family and live comfortably, then maybe you need to think about a more fulfilling career.
Having more money might not “solve” some issues you’re currently experiencing, but asking what would you do if you had more money might lead you to new decisions that improve your current life satisfaction.
4. What would you do if you had more time?
Imagine you don’t have to work. You can spend every single day doing exactly what you want. What does your ideal week look like? What things are you doing? What hobbies are you perfecting? Where are you travelling? With whom are you spending your time?
These things often get pushed to the side when we’re busy working. But if your money isn’t providing you with opportunities to spend time doing what you love with the people you love, then your work-life balance might need an adjustment.
5. What would your life look like to you if it turned out “well”?
Hopefully by now you’re starting to think about how your relationship to money could be keeping you from getting the most out of your money.
The successful retirees that we work with don’t look back fondly on the amount of money they made or how much stuff they were able to buy. They tell us their lives turned out well because they used money to make progress towards major life goals. They say their money provided them the freedom to pursue their passions. And their sense of well-being increased as they committed time and resources to health, spirituality, and continual self-improvement.
Are you living your life in a way that brings you joy and meaning?
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