A few days ago I was in line at a coffee shop. A young couple in front of me were discussing what to get when suddenly one of them remembered he hadn’t paid the credit card bill that month. He frantically took out his phone to check the balance, but before he could log in it was their turn to order. Rather than step out of line and make sure the money was there, he tucked his phone back in his pocket and said, “I guess we’ll just see what happens.”
Do you approach your finances this way: buy what you want and hope the money is there? If so, your money may feel like an overwhelming problem, too big to constantly manage. And, as long as it stays out of sight, it can blissfully stay out of mind, too.
That’s how we treat the things we fear:
The leaky faucet you don’t know how to fix.
The boss you think is always mad at you.
The bill you keep forgetting to pay.
The bathroom scale you haven’t stepped on in months.
Avoid! Avoid! Avoid!
Our hope is that if we avoid something long enough, the problem will eventually resolve itself.
The reality that we all know deep down in our bones, though, is that if you want those problems to go away, at some point you’re going to have to grab a wrench, crawl under the sink, and take a swing at stopping the leak yourself.
You will have to report to your boss.
You will have to call the company and pay your late fees.
You will have to stop eating Ho-Ho’s by the box.
You will have to get over your fear.
Operating from a position of fear is useful when being chased by a bear, but when it comes to your money it is unproductive at best, detrimental at worst. When you force yourself to face what you fear, you may well discover an inner strength you didn’t know existed.
MONEY IS COMPLICATED
One reason you might fear money - even if you earn a high income - is because it feels like too much to think about all at once. There’s basic daily cash flow - debits and deposits - which can add up. But there’s also student loan payments, credit card balances, retirement savings, investments, insurance premiums, profit sharing, market volatility, and the list goes on. Trying to hold all of these things in your mind at once is too much, and it might cause you to do what the couple did at the coffee shop - just spend as you want and hope the money is there.
One simple solution to the complicated nature of your personal finances is automation. You can set up your checking account to automatically distribute money every month as you direct it, and that way you don’t have to make the same decisions month after month. Automation makes money more manageable, and thus removes the fear.
MONEY AND IDENTITY
Another reason you might fear money is because of its unique relationship with who you are.
In the early-2000’s, NBA star LaTrell Sprewell (who famously choked his coach one time during practice, and in a separate incident threatened to pull a gun on a teammate) wasn’t quite ready to appear in preseason games because his team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, had yet to extend his $14.6M contract for another season. At a press conference, a reporter asked why Sprewell would not simply help the Timberwolves win an NBA title that season first, then worry about contract negotiations. It was a logical question. A player should earn their contract based on how they perform.
"Why would I want to help them win a title? They're not doing anything for me. I'm at risk. I have a lot of risk here. I got my family to feed. Anything could happen."
Not many people with a $14.6M annual salary worry about feeding their family.
Later that week on his morning radio show, sports personality Colin Cowherd said of Sprewell’s comment, “Money makes us more of who we already are.” In other words, if you’re a generous person, more money will make you more generous. If you’re a selfish person, more money will make you more selfish.
Here’s the thing about money: it doesn’t change us; it exposes us.
You might be nervous about earning a high salary because of how it will change you. But you are going to be you no matter how much money you make. So, regardless of how much or how little you earn, spend more time focused on the kind of person you are and then you’ll manage your finances accordingly. When you’re a person with high integrity, character, and a generous spirit, you’re much more likely to see money for what it is, and use it as a means to accomplish good things.
MONEY AND SPIRITUALITY
Most major religions teach at length about how to interact with money. Money is an inanimate object, but it is deeply embedded into the DNA of our lives. Everything from politics to entertainment to charitable causes have money near the core of their operations. That means money is at the heart of our sense of security as people. Our dependence on money will never go away, so we need to adjust how we see and use it.
Jesus taught his followers that no one can serve both God and money. Only one thing can have mastery over you - meaning you can only aim your life at one thing. If your life is aimed at money, your sense of joy and contentment will rise and fall with your bank statements and rates of return. However, if you aim your life at something greater, you are capable of maintaining joy no matter what your various accounts say.
GET YOUR FINANCIAL HOUSE IN ORDER
If you are a resident, physician, or dentist and you’re ready to get over your fear of money and get your financial house in order, click the button to schedule an appointment with one of our advisors.