Money Isn't Everything, But It Is Something!
by Cindy Skrukwa, Strategy House
*Excerpt from Chapter Five of "She Laughed All the Way to the Bank: Financial Empowerment for Canadian Women"
Is money really all that important? To some people money is the ultimate measure of success, to others it's little more than abstract numbers in a bank account. How important is money in your life? Would you put your entire life on hold for three years to launch a start-up Internet company if it meant you had a good chance of ending up a millionaire? Would you live on $2,000 per month in order to have more time with your children? I know people who have done both. What would you do and how do you define success for yourself? I've been rich and I've been poor.
Believe me, honey, rich is better.
~ Sophie Tucker It's time to start translating your new and improved prosperity beliefs into behaviour; success requires both thought and action. Developing an awareness of what you believe about money and its influence on your self-esteem and life experience is the first step. Reshaping your money thoughts, by clarifying what you believe about money and working to shift those beliefs to higher ground, provides the groundwork for prosperity. Action, in the form of acting on the opportunities for prosperity in your life and using your money effectively, completes the prosperity equation. We will begin our work on the action section of the prosperity equation by setting financial goals. Goals That Suit You When you set financial goals, they need to be consistent with your non-monetary life goals. If the two are not compatible, then you will be in a constant state of internal struggle and frustration. Remember, money is the enabler to help you to achieve your life goals, not vice versa. Each woman I met while researching this book placed a different level of importance on money. Some wanted to amass millions, while others were comfortable living below the poverty line. The key to contentment is clarity about, and compatibility between, the way you interact with your money and your overall life priorities, whatever those priorities may be. Barbara, a part-time artists' model and language instructor, values her personal time much more than she does material non-necessities. Her financial situation reflects this. In her fifties, Barbara has raised three children primarily on her own but has never worked at a full-time, conventional job; instead, she focuses on minimizing her material needs. She lives in a very modest home, which she owns, and spends most of her time reading and writing. While her income falls below the government defined poverty level in most years, she is able to maintain control over her time, which she considers to be precious. Her financial goals fit her life goals and meet her most pressing needs. Others, like 34-year-old Ellen and her husband, consider it very important to save as much as possible early on in life so as to have greater freedom in later years. As she puts it, "We are very, very careful about what we buy and how we invest our money. If it means we don't go on holidays each year, or that we go without new furniture for a few years, that's okay, we're happier that way. We feel comfortable knowing we are working towards our financial goals." "When we got married my husband didn't share this attitude. He had worked in a family business where the business sort of supports you and you don't worry about saving. When we got married though, I made sure we started saving in a big way. We used our savings to buy a house and paid it off in four years. It was our overriding financial focus at the time. We've now moved up to a larger home and are working hard to get it paid off. At the same time, now that we've started a family, our financial situation gives me the flexibility to stay at home and be a full-time mom. It's a great pay-off from all those early years of frugality." To Ellen, money represents freedom from stress. She puts it this way: "When you have enough money in the bank, when you have that security, it makes you freer to choose what you want to do in life. For instance, if you just can't stand your job you can quit. And even if you don't quit, having the financial option sets you free. It just gives you more stability overall. Money problems aren't wearing on you." Buy Yourself Some Freedom Money can buy you a measure of freedom. If you have savings, then you have more freedom to turn down those things you don't want in your life and take advantage of those opportunities you do want. You are more likely to be able to say "No" to a job you don't like or to a relationship that isn't working. If you have your financial house in order, then you are more likely to be able to say "Yes" to a dream travel opportunity that arises out of the blue or a steal-of-a-deal antique hutch you stumble across. Most of all, even if you never need to, or choose to, fall back on your nest egg, you will have the psychological freedom to think about your options in life more broadly and to worry less about setbacks. Regardless of whether or not you consider material possessions to be important, you should not underestimate the psychological value of savings. A little moderation now can create a lot of freedom later. One Step at a Time Learning to manage your money is like learning to run. A marathon runner starts running the same as all the rest of us, by putting one foot in front of the other. I started running three years ago with a goal of running for 15 minutes, three times a week. I worked my way up in additional five-minute increments. Now I regularly do hour-long, 10K runs and recently ran my first race. Maybe one day I'll run a marathon, but that's not what I was thinking about when I self-consciously gasped and sweated my way along the boardwalk during those first few months of running. Starting to build your financial health is just the same. It may feel awkward and painful in the beginning, but the most important step is starting, and the best way to run the marathon - or to retire with $1,000,000 -- is to put one foot in front of the other and get going! © by Cindy Skrukwa. All rights reserved. As founder and president of Strategy House - a management consulting firm specializing in business strategy and consumer marketing consultation, Cindy Skrukwa is a senior business professional with extensive experience in marketing and strategy development. "She Laughed All the Way to the Bank" came about as a way to help other Canadian women gain the freedom that money can buy.