(This article is the companion piece to Karen Caffrey’s more in-depth Guest Lecture ‘How to Stop Worrying About Money‘)
Do you ever wonder how you managed to live on so little money when you were in law school?
In my first year of law school I owned one frying pan. I boiled water in it to make spaghetti or instant coffee. If I wanted to cook something in the oven I would remove the handle with my screwdriver and use the pan as a cooking dish. Sometimes I’d put soap in it and use it as a shallow tub to wash my dishes.
Now, I have a dishwasher with a maintenance contract. And a thousand other possessions I’ve acquired in the ensuing decades.
And that, my friends, is one tiny example of how our lives and expenses expand over time, often without our being conscious of how this expansion may be impacting our well-being.
Many, many lawyers I counsel worry about money. They worry about making enough money to keep their law practice going. They worry if they will have enough money to pay their bills. They worry if they’re saving enough money for their kid’s college education or to fund their own retirements. They worry they don’t have enough money to take that much needed vacation.
What can you do if you are one of the worried-about-money crowd? The answer depends on why you’re worried. Below are some possible reasons you are bedeviled by money and some proposed solutions that range from the practical to the psychological.
Do you need more money education?
Unless you are one of the fortunate few whose families were open and instructive about money and its proper use and management, you can probably benefit from some practical money education. This could include anything from basic math (understanding how interest compounds, calculating fractions, etc.) to knowledge of basic investment instruments like mortgages, bonds and stocks. Don’t laugh and don’t shame yourself if this is you. Money is still a somewhat taboo subject in our culture. Some families still don’t believe girls need the same financial education as boys. It’s natural to worry about something you don’t really understand. Read some books, take a class or consult experts.
Do you need more business finance education?
As a solo you have a business, a virtual or real office, income, expenses and possibly staff, independent contractors and/or consultants. Have you been educated about how to operate the financial systems of a business? My advice is the same as above. There is no shame in needing help. Get the education you need to feel secure about your business finances.
Now onto the psychological stuff…
Are you using money unconsciously?
Have you ever been shocked when you open up your monthly credit card statement? Are the charges much higher than you expected? Do you understand why your 401(k) is performing well (or not)? We can do some of the worst damage to ourselves and others when we are not conscious and aware. Not staying aware of your money is like walking around and not noticing you have a bleeding wound on your arm. We tend to become unconscious as a defense mechanism when being conscious is too psychologically threatening or painful. This is not cause for self-criticism (which usually just creates more pain and boomerangs into a greater level of unconsciousness.) So be gentle with yourself…but start exploring why you are having a time staying aware of your money.
Are you using money for its intended purpose?
Money is a form of energy. Its’ purpose is to nourish us and support our needs and the needs of our loved ones, our families, our communities and the world. If you’re using money for any other purpose this misuse is probably contributing to your worries.
Are you using money for an unintended, and unachievable, purpose?
There are so many things we ask of money that it is ill-equipped or unable to do.
- We ask money to shore up our feelings of insecurity and inadequacy by buying expensive clothes, jewelry and houses.
- We ask money to prove to ourselves and our families that we’re not a failure because we own a home in the right neighborhood.
- We ask money to make us feel loveable and attractive by buying sleek cars and meals at expensive restaurants.
- We ask money to make us feel confident by earning lots of it and telling ourselves it makes us powerful and important.
- We ask money to try to make people love us by buying things for them.
- We ask money to keep people bound to us by paying for things they should pay for themselves and fostering their financial dependence on us.
- We ask money to ease our distress by buying things (alcohol, drugs, and unaffordable luxuries) and then having to work harder and longer to pay for those things because we can’t bear to feel the clawing, aching inner emptiness and pain inside of us that we have no idea how to soothe or make better.
Render unto Caesar…
Money has its own dominion and serves a purpose in our lives. Asking money to meet our emotional needs or to heal our emotional wounds stretches it beyond its intended purpose. It leads, at best, to a temporary fix. If you’re asking money to provide emotional solutions this may be a reason your expenses are routinely exceeding your income and/or you’ve structured a life where you live with financial worries. Take care of the emotional needs with emotional solutions and your related financial worries will very likely resolve.
All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.