Money, Happiness, and Sustainability
2012: The great wheel of time is making its inexorable turn, granting us a new beginning and an opportunity to step back, review, and renew. You can use this moment of transition to start the new year with a fresh attitude and a doable plan about the spending, saving, and sharing of your money—to live your priorities with greater satisfaction and happiness. Perhaps you are among the many who have suffered from the financial anxiety epidemic—you want to shed your fears, and regain a sense of being in charge of your financial destiny.
But how to get there? What will make this year different from all the rest? Yes, you have started many a new year with good intentions, maybe tried a new tack, and then found yourself once again, adrift on the seas of old patterns and habits. How can you get on a positive financial track when we see (and feel the effect of) world economies struggling to accomplish this goal? How can you live a happy and satisfying life making decisions that result in financial sustainability?
We know you can, And the fact that there is change in the air, and butterflies in your gut, will help motivate you to step outside of old habits and patterns, increase your Affluence Intelligence, and take actions that will give you a life that is aligned with your values, that is fun, and that is sustainable.
Let’s start with an attitude adjustment. Too many of us make financial decisions based on impulse (“I must have it now”); finding comfort in old ideas and habits; and well worn, obsolete facts. It is time to wake up to the fact that the economics of today is not the economics of your past, or the economics of your fantasy life. You can blame it on the internet, globalization, population growth, rising 3rd world economies, expensive wars, too much or too little government, or the Great Recession. It is all of the above, and more. Truth be told: Your psychological and economic operating system is going through a major firmware revision. You need to upgrade your program or find that your software won’t run very well or may not run at all.
So we need to think about our money and our lives with a broader perspective, with a mindset/operating system that can handle the dynamics of economic and systemic change in our lives and in the larger community. Certainly, we can no longer expect or rely upon any single institution, whether it is a corporate employer, or the government, to be a reliable contributor toward your financial sustainability. But how do we make decisions that will result in the ongoing sustenance of our personal and financial resources? Instead of asking the economists, who don’t seem to have any great answers these days, let’s consider some key ideas from Environmental Science. All living systems are characterized by either regenerative (growing, building, spiraling upward) or degenerative (reducing, depleting, spiraling downward) processes. Regeneration creates and harnesses energy, degeneration depletes and wastes energy. In our financial lives, we make financial decisions that are regenerative, such as starting a business that grows and thrives, or saving money to attain long term objectives—purchase of a home, or retirement. And we make decisions that are degenerative, such as living outside of our actual means, accruing a massive creating credit card debt, or buying gifts that we can’t afford. Degenerative processes can get progressively worse, in which (for example) your debt becomes the primary driving force of your financial destiny.
In fact each of us has a unique balance of both degenerative and regenerative financial processes. Few of us will only make only regenerative financial decisions; we live in a culture that continually pushes us to ‘have fun and pay later’; to enjoy immediate gratification and not think of its price. But if we want money and happiness, if we want sustainability and financial resilience, then we need to make sure that our regenerative actions trump our degenerative actions.
Therefore, sustainability in and of itself is a moving target. What you really want to aim for is what we call Regenerative Economics, in which you make money and lifestyle decisions that support you, your family, and your community’s capacity to grow and regenerate. Each of us needs to craft a plan, a personal lifestyle design that is attuned to your unique personal and financial ecology that will guide your financial decision-making so you can reach your unique balance point. Simply put: there can be no sustainability without regenerativity!
So it is time to turn up the thermostat on your Affluence Intelligence: Take the test, determine your Affluence Intelligence Quotient, and make a plan to leverage or improve your AIQ.
Here are some tips to inform your new year’s intentions and actions, based on our many years of working with people who have attain both personal and financial success:
1. Have your values drive your money not your money drive your values. Money is a tool to live your values, to help provide for your sustenance, care, and satisfactions. This is the single most important lesion we have learned from our successful clients. Know that your self worth is not equal to your financial worth. Don’t let money become your primary value. It is not a substitute for self esteem, love, connection, real productivity, or personal integrity.
2. Use a Regenerative Economics mindset: Review your spending and saving decisions. Are these decisions regenerative or degenerative? What do you need to do to shift the balance?
3. Practice conscious consumption: Ask yourself: is this purchase a need or a want?
4. If you need to earn or save more money, keep in mind: Spending less is earning more.
5. Nourish your physical and emotional health. Don’t defy common sense: if a financially related activity is making you sick, stop doing it….now! Your health, your time is precious, and not for sale.
6. Take Action: Create a three month plan for yourself, with doable action steps that you will implement tomorrow. In our book we describe a step by step method for creating such a plan.
- No excuses. Walk your talk, implement your plan.
7. Get support. Find a person (not your spouse) who is willing to be your Affluence Intelligence Buddy, a source of support and accountability.
8. Buy Local: Purchasing from local business enterprises put money back into your neighbor’s pockets, an activity that is regenerative for you and the community in which you live.
9. For each discretionary dollar of spending, put a predetermined percentage of that amount into saving and or charity.
10. Give to a charity or cause that matters to you. Giving, whether it is in the form of money or your time, will make you feel rich, and is regenerative. We have been amazed by the powerful sense of fulfillment and satisfaction that many of our successful clients experience through their generosity in giving both their money and their time. Whatever you can afford, no matter how little time you have to give, it will make a difference-for you and for the receiver of your gift.