I can’t help it. No matter what I do, I’m always stressing about money.
If you’re like me, then you’re constantly thinking about how to get a raise, sign more clients, or increase your user base.
All of these things equal more money. And if you remember from my recent post, cash is important because it’s a tool and it allows you to achieve any number of things.
With increased income, you could buy that house you want, take the lavish vacation you deserve, or hell, you might even decide to save up and quit your job.
Sigh, all of these things sound so nice.
The fact of the matter is that money equals freedom. However, the attainment of money, that is, the act of you acquiring it, usually involves some sort of servitude.
If you have a fat bank account you can do almost anything you want. If your bank account is dry, however, you’ll have to invest your current freedom to generate income in an attempt to reward yourself with future freedom.
But what happens when the thing you love doesn’t yield you any money at all?
What if all you want to do is pursue a non-lucrative passion?
What if you’re conditioned by society to value money above all else?
Well, I think it’s time you changed your perspective.
The Root Cause of Your Money Woes
It all comes down to your perception of value. Unfortunately, we’ve been taught to perceive our assets as the most important things in life.
Your home, the number of cars in the driveway, and the size of your bank account prove that your life is valuable, no?
Instead, we need to take a step back and figure out what gives our individual lives the most value. Which is hard, because we care about what other people think. I suppose it’s a function of our evolution.
Regardless, our desire to impress people causes us to trap ourselves in a never ending cycle of money hunger. But for what? Odds are you don’t even care about the things you’re buying, anyway. All you’re trying to do is keep up with the Joneses, because, well, you care what they say about you at the privacy of their dinner table.
This is a root of our money stress. It’s trying to make “enough” cash so other people think you have a great life. But, of course, as Ryan Holiday says, and as I quoted in my previous article, when you don’t have a specific number in mind, the goal quickly becomes “more.”
This desire to earn more, rather than a specific goal, starts you on a never ending treadmill of cash validation.
Now, there’s another cause of money stress that’s more near and dear to my heart.
Money becomes a giant worry when you aren’t making a lot of it.
But that’s the exact situation people find themselves in when they risk and pursue their passion.
Take it from me, I went from a six-figure salary earner in corporate shackles to a content marketing consultant who makes far less. However, the whole point isn’t to make more money but is to focus on my fiction writing. Ultimately, that’s what I want to do with my life.
But, even as I invest time into my ultimate goal, I still worry about my lacking income.
But it’s an investment. And I’m in finance. Which means that investments are my language.
In essence, I’m investing my potential current income for the return of greater happiness and a higher future income.
What’s more, when I really think about it, I’m worried that my peers are making greater financial strides than me. Some own houses and others take international vacations I can’t afford.
Doesn’t that sound familiar?
So in reality, the root causes of our money stress are really one in the same.
Perspective is a Value for Value Exchange
The key, if you want to decouple yourself from your cash worries, is to place a value on everything you do.
Only then can you change your perception from one of money value to one of holistic value.
Take my example, above. I reduced my income to pursue my writing passion. But, even though I’m making less in the short-term, I have to think of my income reduction as an investment in my future.
When you alter your perspective to think in this way, everything starts to change.
If you want to get technical, figure out the exact difference in your income from your highest paying job to your current endeavor. If you were making $100k per year at a big tech company, for example, and then you leave to start your a business that yields you $50k per year, your annual investment in the future success of your business is $50k.
Multiply that by 0.70 to account for taxes and you get $35k. So, the monetary investment in your dream, goal, and / or vision is $35k per year.
You’re quantifying your opportunity cost.
This helps you change your perception to value your time, happiness, and progress toward a long-term goal. Then, you’ll soon realize that the greater opportunity cost is not pursuing your ultimate passion.
And so what if you fail? If you spend two years working on your business and then it folds, chances are you’ll go back and get a corporate job. Technically you lost out on $70k over that two-year period, but I think it was well worth it to try.
You gained valuable learnings, increased your confidence, and proved to yourself that you could take a risk. I bet you’ll try again soon.
Control Comes From Financial Planning
Changing your perception of value to a holistic approach is great. However, it’s not going to completely get rid of your money woes.
No, your monkey brain will try its best to keep you worried.
So, in addition to valuing other areas of your life and thinking about opportunity costs, it’s important to also come up with a financial plan.
It could be a monthly plan, quarterly plan, or annual plan. What matters, though, is that you take control over your finances, however little they may be.
Planning gives you the feeling power over your financial life. You can forecast your earnings, and therefore your savings, with confidence.
And then you can set financial goals for yourself. Just because you’re pursuing a passion that doesn’t make any money at the moment doesn’t mean you should live poor.
Instead, set an intention to earn “X” amount of dollars within a 12-month period. Then, work toward it while still putting your ultimate passion first.
Setting up a financial plan even if you aren’t making a lot lets you see what’s possible. Maybe you can buy that house you always wanted after all.
And if you can’t, your initial plan will still let you see what’s attainable. Maybe you can’t buy real estate at your current monthly income level after all. But, you might find that if you increase your monthly earnings by $1k, you can save up enough to buy a home within 10-months.
This gives you control over your financial life and helps to reduce your money stress.
Worry is Here to Stay
Ah, I can feel my stress alleviating already.
Change your perception of value and generate a financial plan. These two things will help you decouple your worry from money.
But, as is always the case, the human mind loves to worry. It’s an evolutionary trait.
So, the moment you stop worrying about money, you’ll start worrying about something else. It’s a fact of life.
And hopefully that helps you. Every time you worry, think to yourself, “great! I’m human.”
Because maybe worrying about money is better than worrying about something else…
Evan Tarver is an author, nonfiction writer and editor, screenwriter, and small business owner with a background in finance and technology. Overall, the content he creates is meant to shift the way people think and encourage them to act. Some ideas explore the social environment on the macro level, some ideas explore the transformative power of personal growth on the micro-level, while most fall somewhere in between.