Working in a bank for many years, I witnessed numerous situations where people quickly became crazed after not getting what they wanted as it pertained to money. Even in calmer situations, people often act differently from their usual selves when a money challenge comes up. Of course, you don't have to work in a bank to witness the craziness that money brings to life.
Consider the time a dinner check came when you had a small salad and a soda while others in your group had full course meals and several drinks yet it was expected for everyone to split the tab equally even though you just got laid off from your job. Or perhaps it was a long drive with friends and no one offered to share costs for gas and other expenses. On the flip side, perhaps you were the recipient of frustration when you weren't completely honest in handling your own money responsibilities.
Even if we tried, it would be difficult to completely avoid problems with money. Arguing over money is a top predictor of divorce and marital problems concluded a study published in Family Relations in 2013. Even though money causes all sorts of difficulties, most of us would rather talk about our sex lives than to confront our money challenges. Lack of discussion further compounds the problem by not giving us an outlet to learn from whatever comes up.
It doesn't help that we are rarely taught about personal finance in school growing up, leaving us to figure it out on our own or from our parents. When parents don't have much experience with financial planning, they aren't able to teach what they don't understand themselves. When you add in relentless marketing campaigns geared towards a culture focused on 'more is better' combined with the desire for instant gratification and you have a perfect storm brewing.
Money was a source of great stress for much of my life, partly due to a childhood where there wasn't enough, and partly due to the emotional baggage left over from those struggles. Without positive mentors to learn from, somewhere along the way I decided the secret to finding peace of mind with money was to make lots of it. While making money took care of a lot of things, eventually I came to realize that the peace of mind I was looking for was never going to come from something outside of myself. And rather than looking for money to give me peace of mind, I needed to interact with money so that it was actually creating the peace in my mind. Here are some of the steps I took along the way:
1. Joyfully Give It Away
Giving money with joy and gratitude can be transformative. Studies show that spending money on others promotes happiness. Another survey conducted by the Gallup World Poll between 2006 and 2008 found that in 120 out of 136 countries, people who donated to charity in the previous month reported greater satisfaction with life. The power of giving creates a ripple in the universe that goes beyond our personal actions. Giving isn't just about donating money, it also includes giving your time.
Before giving money away it is good to research causes that align with your personal values so you know where and how your money will be spent. Often times we donate to causes but do not understand where the money goes and therefore miss out on the joy of knowing what came from our contributions. You may be uncomfortable asking questions of the nonprofit, but it is completely reasonable for the organization to support your learning and understanding. Plus you are more likely to give in the future when you see the value you bring to the organization.
2. Accept it Graciously
Acceptance covers all the ways we receive money and resources from others. This includes earning money through employment, receiving gifts from others, and earning income from investments. By accepting money with gratitude, even if we worked hard to earn it, we create feelings of inner peacefulness.
Gratitude is one of the most powerful actions of the mind and it causes immense joy every time we focus on it. So take time every day to consider how fortunate you are to receive whatever comes your way and watch the magic unfold in all of life.
3. Mindfully Manage It
Managing money includes the mental action of spending and saving. We all have some type of living expenses so that is of first concern when it comes to managing finances. Ensuring we live within our means and have money left over for savings is one way to create greater peace of mind. It also helps to use good judgment when shopping for 'best' buys, to maintain a reasonable degree of sales resistance, to be mindful of the importance of delayed gratification and to promptly pay bills as they become due. Simple shifts in the way we engage in money management can greatly improve our personal relationships as well.
4. Consciously Invest It
As a financial planner, I was surprised at how few people inquired about socially responsible investments. Living in a time where we need to become better stewards of the environment, I wondered why people weren't asking, if not demanding, for their portfolios to reflect more of their personal values. This could be connected to past reports indicating it was not possible to receive sufficient returns when investing with a social conscious but my research proved this to be untrue.
There are several socially responsible investment options available and many have done well over the past five years. The next time you meet with your financial adviser, ask him or her to help you learn about the options for putting your money where your values are. As more of us withdraw financial support from companies that engage in harmful business practices, we can change the world in peaceful and meaningful ways.
5. Trust in the Future
Even though people have tried, you can't take it with you so why not take time now to plan where your money goes when you are no longer here. Writing a will and putting together a trust are worthy of consideration for many reasons such as avoiding probate and taxes depending on your situation. However, the most important reason for getting your affairs in order is to show your family how much you truly care about their well-being. Planning for whatever comes helps you live in peace now and rest in peace later.