Everyone Has Money Problems (And Why That’s Reassuring)

Fill in this sentence.

“If I had more money I’d be _________________________.”

If I had more money my life would be easier…
If I had more money I’d be happier…
If I had more money I’d have more freedom…
If I had more money I’d have more time…

Here’s a thought that changed my relationship with money forever…

Everyone has money problems.

I’ll go so far as to say everyone has the same amount of money problems, but when you get a lot of money you have a different set of problems.

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So which would you rather have?

All of a sudden being rich doesn’t seem like such a walk in park, so before you answer “I’d want to be rich!” consider that we love to hate rich people. What would happen if you as a millionaire tried to go hang out with some people participating in the “Occupy Wall Street” movement? Would you feel accepted? Would you be welcomed into the drum circle and handed a djembe?

Look what happened to Amanda Palmer after her Kickstarter campaign earned her $1,000,000 for her new album. I’ll quote an article called “The Most Hated Woman on the Internet”.

Palmer has been portrayed so consistently as a human black hole, a sucking moral and intellectual void from which no shred of human worth can emanate.

Sounds like fun, huh? And before you tell me she caught heat for the way she acted, take a stroll down to Sunset Strip in LA and see if any broke musicians acting like snotty pricks get the same treatment.

People projected their own self-hatred about their financial situation onto her and she became a scapegoat for money-hating hippies who got tired of blaming their parents.

Here’s another scenario

Let’s say you just won the lottery. Hooray! You’re finally rich and able to do whatever you want, right?

The phone rings. It’s aunt Jenny and she just heard about you being rich (because everyone talks about it) and she wants to know if she can borrow a few bucks. She’s just down on her luck and needs a couple months rent, no big deal right? I mean… you have all that money, it would be selfish of you to say no. You say yes and cut her a check.

That night you’re out to dinner with your friends and when the check comes one of your buddies looks at you and says, “hey bro you’re rich, can you just cover me? I forgot my wallet.”

Phone rings a week later. It’s your friend from high school whom you haven’t talked to in ten years. He tells you that his son just got diagnosed with cancer and he lost his job. He asks you for $30,000 to cover the medical expenses. You hesitate and he reminds you that it’s only 3% of the millions you won, and his son needs it more than you do.

Are we having fun yet? Now being middle class doesn’t sound so bad.

So what are we left with? Everyone has money problems, but is that a bummer? Are we doomed to be stressed out about money as long as we live?

The good news is there’s a way out, and it doesn’t involve you increasing your income, finding new friends or paying off your credit card debt. The way out is by seeing that the cause of your stress isn’t money.

The difference between being broke and not having money

Jack and Jill each have $23 in their bank account. Jack says “I’m broke”, Jill says “I have $23”. What’s the difference?

Jack is writing a story about his life, Jill is being with what is. Jack is stressed, Jill is not. We do this all the time, we blame our circumstances and make them the cause of our stress. They aren’t. Let’s look at another guy who had a low bank account.

Elon Musk, who founded PayPal, SpaceX, SolarCity and Tesla had a bad year in 2008. Actually he had a horrible year, compared to most of our standards. He was just as out of money as you or I have ever been, but the story is different. Elon Musk could have thrown in the towel and said “well I can’t do anything now since I’m broke” but he knew something most people don’t.

Money is a resource.

It’s just like water, lumber or electricity. It doesn’t mean anything about who you are. Elon got the privilege of learning this by becoming crazy rich after he sold PayPal in 2002 and probably having this conversation with himself (I’m taking creative license here):

“I’m crazy rich, and I feel the same”

So what’s the point?

Financial freedom is understanding that our money stress doesn’t have anything to do with the number in our bank account. Everyone has money problems, and the problems don’t go away when you become rich (or poor), you just have different problems.

The financial freedom you want is a state of mind.

I’d like return to the original inquiry and suggest a response that to me represents someone who is financially free.

If I had more money I’d be ___________________.

The same.

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