#30 Days Trying to Find Joy Challenge – Day 8

March 12th, 2020   Thursday 8:44pm  – My gift, my curse

Well, today was a challenging day. The rain was fierce coming down throughout the day  and I had a client cancel and a project I had to put aside for a while.  I think that’s going to be the norm during this whole Coronavirus thing, but the loss of Michael weighed heavily in my bones as I went about doing things. I don’t want to harp on it too much – but losing someone you love is hard. But it’s also a part of life. I guess for me today it was about thinking too much about some great moments we had – I went and bought some chocolate today too to honor him and I laughed and then cried…  Yeah, I’m so sad he passed away. 

Today was challenging because I had to much on my plate and I’m just finishing up the work on my To Do list. I’ve decided that I really need to make money doing something I love. For real.  I can’t keep working for people who don’t “get” it. People who are mean are one thing, but people who are not empathetic towards other people’s needs are a complete other.  Don’t get me wrong, I hate mean people too. But I hate even more working with people who are so caught up in their own world, so self-absorbed, that they don’t even recognize when they’re hurting people.  And here’s the thing: I can’t help but call it out.  Ugghh.

Now, you might think that sounds like a good thing, but I guess if I had a bucket of money somewhere and I didn’t have to pay any bills at all, then me calling people out on their bullcrap would be an okay thing to do.  But most times, when I have to say something, I resign, or quit or walkway and lost the job, at least on my own footing. 

Yeah, yeah, yeah, principle. 

You know what though?  Being principled has lost me thousands and thousands of dollars.  I wouldn’t change a thing that I’ve done – don’t get me wrong. But it always bums me out when I just can’t keep my mouth shut any longer and have to tell someone, basically they’re an asshole.  Or, they’re a slimey asshole. Or, they’re a cheap slimey good-for-nothing asshole.  I think you’re getting the point. 

Now, in all fairness, there have been people who appreciated the call out.  Some people, in this case an extremely wealthy woman, had no idea she was being a cheap asshole to her staff by not paying them more.  I was frustrated with her for a while, and finally I sat her down and told her sternly,

“You just came back from Barney’s with a wardrobe that includes a White Tshirt that cost over $600. Do you realize that’s more than what you pay your housekeeper for two weeks of work? She cleans your toilets for goodness sake and she’s asking you for $1 an hour raise and you’re having a complete breakdown over it. What is wrong with you?  Just stop it.”

She took it well. She took it like a woman of privilege who had a realization that she had lost her way. 

Yeah, I took some solace in that. 

Truth is, I’ll always be as honest as possible. I’m blunt, but I try to be as kind as I can be, till someone’s behavior is just too much. Then I’ll go off on them. It’s both a gift and a curse, of course. And although I may have lost a lot of money by saying my piece various times in the past and walking away from a client or job, I have no regrets. I can’t work for unethical people. I really can’t be around people who are mean.  And I really hate people who have no no emotional intelligence or integrity whatsoever.  So yeah, no regrets. 

I’m so glad I just wrote that all out — somehow, I feel better. Today, was a good day. Yeah, I like who I am. I wouldn’t change a thing. Not for all the money in the world. And that ain’t no lie.

Well, I didn’t think I would write about that tonight, but there you go – surprise, surprise! I’m kind of loving this end-of-day journaling thing.  Hmmm.

Till tomorrow, I guess.

Carmen   

Best Life: Stop Feeling Bad About Money

Any time is a good time to start changing how you THINK about money. Even around the holidays. Maybe especially around the holidays! 

If you can grasp why you feel the way you do about money, you can start laying the groundwork to change your financial stress and/or stop living paycheck to paycheck.

Too many people have an identity that is tied to how much money they have or don’t have. Stop it!   

Imagine a day where you no longer fret over making enough money. Imagine making choices not based on how much you don’t have, but instead, on what you really want to do? It’s possible. You can even learn to save money for that special trip you’ve been wanting to take or buy those fabulous Tamara Mellon shoes you’ve been craving all year long  (Yaaaaassss! You say trip, I say shoes, tomato/tomahto).  The point is, it’s all possible. 

But first, it starts with understanding it’s taken you “this” many years to develop your views about money, so it’s going to take time to work and change it.  So, start today. 

Baby steps.

Understanding your backstory when it comes to money specifically is the first step in making changes to how you feel about money.   

We all have feelings about money. Those feelings are tied into how we were raised. Our experiences watching adults deal with finances had a significant impact on how we deal with money today.  If you were raised in a well-to-do household, you may have a distorted view of what it means to “earn a living”.  Doing volunteer work because your dad wouldn’t give you access to your trust fund is not the same as growing up watching your dad work as a teacher, janitor, secretary or carpenter and never knowing what a trust fund was/is. Some people never make enough just to put food on the table, let alone “summer” in France regularly.  It just doesn’t happen, it’s not even an option for most folk. In the same respects, kids born to wealth are not inherently ungrateful, selfish or unenlightened. Being born into wealth isn’t easier.  It’s just different.  Some kids born into wealth are raised by nanny’s – children of wealth may have constant feelings of being shuffled off and may feel like a nuisance to their parents. “Rich kids” may get everything they want materially but may miss out on relationships with their parent, which, let’s face it, is what every kid really wants. 

The point is no one should feel bad about what family financial situation they were born into. 

No one has a choice how they come into this world.  But we all have a choice in becoming better, in everything we do when you have the opportunity. That includes understanding what money is, what it can be and how we can be better about our emotional attachment to it. 

To be very clear: one story isn’t better or more evolved than the other. Just because you grew up not “summering” or having private lessons, doesn’t make you a better person.  But our past, matters.  Having a real conversation about WHY you feel the way you do about money is an important first step to fixing your current financial ideas about money. 

For most people whose parents worked regular 9-5 day jobs, money may have always been a scarcity, always hard to get, felt like some sort of relief whenever they had it, and easily spent away in one “important” holiday or unexpected emergency room visit. 

For others who may have been born into wealth, money is hardly discussed but always shown. Children of wealth have similar but different problems with money. Being given a Honda instead of a BMW for a birthday gift is a real problem.  The status of driving a Honda among friends may be seen as “not good enough” when your parents could have afforded a “Beemer”.  It may feel as some sort of punishment.

Again, to some people reading this blog, the idea that a car would be gifted to a teenager may seem unfathomable and many would dismiss the issue as the wealthy teenager being ungrateful. But you would be wrong.  For the purposes of this discussion, none of that matters.  What does matter is that the stories we personally have about what money means affects us into adulthood regardless of wealth.  It can be detrimental to who we are as adults. Our past defines how we relate to money and how we feel about it today.  In order to change our emotions about money, it’s important to acknowledge why we believe the things we do. 

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. When was the first time you remember learning that you were rich, poor, middle class or anywhere in-between?   On page 26 of my book CANELA I discuss opening presents one Christmas morning and realizing there was no Santa. And although I always knew we weren’t rich, being poor was solidified for me that day.  There was no Santa and when you write a letter asking for what you want and don’t get it, it’s because your mom can’t afford it. My first feelings of not having money is that being poor is bad. We must be bad people. I’m not worthy to have things I want, because we’re poor and being poor is bad. See how that works?     
  2. When you were a child and first heard adults talking about money, what were they saying? I remember mostly the bargaining and the begging from my mom needing another week to pay this or that. The negotiating. The hoping she could afford something. I remember her stress and reaction when I asked for something we couldn’t afford. I remember going without because she didn’t have enough.  So, money to me has always been a negative entity. Money has always been associated with people with power being cruel to people with no money. I grew up not liking what money did to good people. And thinking that all bad people were mostly people with money.  Now, of course today we know that power is a whole other animal and really what that was about. Nonetheless, my issues with money are associated with that experience.
  3. Was money the main topic of discussion in your house growing up? Were there arguments about money you overheard? Money was always discussed in my childhood. Money was the reason for why things did and did not happen. Dreams were based on money. I couldn’t dance because I couldn’t afford new dance shoes or afford expensive “real” classes.  Money and not having it was the reason for everything. It became the reason my mother died at 49. Not having enough money to get proper medical care and having to work while sick, is still what I maintain killed her. I absorbed that as a child. Money was cruel. Money was evil. People who had it were horrible to let my mother die. Again, none of this is really the entire truth, but at 11 years old, this is what defined my ideas about money and wealth.   
  4. When you wanted something and it cost money, were you made to work for it or was it given to you with a heavy dose of guilt attached or was it a simple transaction? I learned to stop asking for things because it was painful to watch my mother tell me we couldn’t afford it. After I lost my mother, I always felt a burden to other people, so I made-due with what I had and my only goal was to never be a problem. Wanting anything more than what I already had came with a heavy dose of guilt.  Self-esteem and self-worth always in flux during those years.
  5. Do you think you have a healthy relationship when it comes to money? Today, yes. But it’s because over the years, I’ve worked with and been around various kinds of people from so many different financial backgrounds – from extremely wealthy clients to individuals starting out with less than two rocks to rub together. I’ve learned from first hand experience how extremely similar all people are about money, regardless of their bank accounts and “net worth”. 

The one common denominator that’s changed my views about money is that most people, regardless of the amount of wealth they have, can be very unhappy and struggling. And it usually has to do with how they define money in their lives. 

It’s incredibly fascinating. Terribly sad. Totally fixable. And oh, so freeing! The best part: fixing how you feel about money, has nothing to do with how much of it you have or don’t have. Feeling good about who you are regardless, is…well, forgive the cliche, priceless.  

Once you understand why you feel the way you do about money, you can take steps to start deconstructing those ideas and get to a better place.   

Think about these truths/facts:

  • You are not defined by how much money you have in the bank.
  • When people meet you, they don’t know how much money you have or don’t have.
  • People with healthy relationships with money, don’t flaunt money or care about designer anything. Good people with healthy ideas about money value quality over quantity. Quality over cost. Quality over everything.
  • There are amazing people who have a lot of money.
  • There are horrible people who have a lot of money.
  • There are amazing people who have no money at all.
  • There are horrible people who have no money at all. 
  • People with money have just as many problems as people without money – different problems, but just as bad, just as heart-wrenching, just as stressful (I promise you, this is true).
  • Poor people’s problems are just as valid as rich people’s problems. And just as important.  
  • You are worthy regardless. Period.
  • Wanting more money is not a crime. Having money is not a crime. Not having money is also not a crime. Stop feeling bad about any of it.

Till next time. As always, thanks for stopping by.

Carmen

(Carmen Suarez is an Adviser, Business Manager and Speaker to various start-ups and individual/wealth clients. For more information visit: carmensbusiness.com)

A Million Dollar “Gift”

I was just on the phone with my good friend “John” (we’ll just call him that for this post). I was complaining, venting about how hard life can be at times and he asked me simply, without hesitation:  “If a million dollars landed on your doorstep, what would you do?”

We’ve all had this dream at one point or another, right?  The conversation is usually with one of my girlfriends as we finish off our typical weekly catch up call where they’ve complained about their husband or kids (or both) and I’ve complained about work, a date or my latest frustration, my neighbors. And as we finish off our chit-chat we remind each other to get our lotto tickets because “…you never know…” and “…hey, you can’t win if you don’t play.”  (That last one is my favorite).  But yeah, we’ve all had that dream, Am’I’Right?

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But today was a different.  This friend of mine is actually wealthy.  He’s in a position to drop bank and not think twice about it. I’m not sure if he’s the “million dollar” kind of bank or not, but he has “bank dropping” abilities nonetheless.  So interestingly the question sounded different coming from him.  It felt like a real question. I hesitated. I had no quick witted funny-isms, no:  “Gurl, we’d be killing it on a sandy beach somewhere watching some half – naked man serving us drinks” – no:  “Gurl first stop, Rodeo!” (It’s a Pretty Women thing).  I had nothing. I was stunned. Into silence. Rare.

Truth is, no one “needs” a million dollars especially if they didn’t earn it.  I calculated that if I could make $200K a year for the next 50 years, I’d be tre cool with that “tiny” amount (she said sarcastically)!  Interestingly enough $200K for 50 years is only $10 Million dollars. I say “only” because those lottery grabs are always so much more than that.  Truly, no one needs that much unearned money EVER!  Even the ultra-wealthy like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates give their excess money away because at some point it just makes sense to share it.  Seriously, how many homes, cars and shoes does one person need?  No, for real?

I honestly don’t need a million dollars dropped on my doorstep. But when I heard Donald Trump say:

“…it has not been easy for me and you know I started off in Brooklyn. My father gave me a small loan of a million dollars. I came into Manhattan and I had to pay him back, I had to pay him back with interest…”.  

I lost my dang-on mind! Even as I write that quote I cringe. There’s an actual sensation in my chest that feels like somethings burrowing deep into my being as I hear it, read it, write it. It bothers me so much.  I know I’m not alone in this.  But, I have finally figured out why.

People think they want loads of money.  People think they need lots of money.  A lot of dumb people think money can buy them happiness (yeah, my apologies for using the word “dumb” here but it really is dumb to think money can buy you happiness).  Money can provide choices. But choices are abundant even when you’re poor.  So, having money can sometimes give you too many choices and become a burden and lead you down the wrong path (Uhem, “Elephant” man bones, Michael Jackson…Google it. An extreme example, but you get the point).

What people actually want in life is security.  That’s a very different thing than loads of money but people confuse it all the time. It’s why I hate that quote from Donald Trump so much.  He doesn’t understand the security he has….

Let me explain.

Money is a vehicle that allows for security, but make no mistake about it – security is a thing, and it hasn’t always been about about money for most of us.

I’ve wanted security my entire life.  And security comes in different forms throughout our lives.  You can see the joy in children who have parents – they may have very little money-wise or a lot of money, but if a young child has love, money is generally not even a thing.  It’s not even part of the conversation.  Think about it this way:  do you remember the first time when you realized you were poor?  Or, do you remember the first time you noticed you were rich? Do you remember whenever you found out that there was a status associated with how much money your family had or didn’t have?  Before that time, all you knew was (hopefully) the joy and happiness of being a child.

I remembered when I fully understood we didn’t have money. It was when my mama bought me boots.  I wanted to march in parades. I was part of an organization that marched in a lot of local events and I didn’t have the right real boots to wear. And one day she used the money that should have been used to pay for heat to buy me the boots I had wanted so badly and for so long.  She traded a utility bill payment to give her little girl a Christmas gift Santa had forgotten to give her.  We went without heat in the middle of winter.  And yet, despite our actual poverty, I always felt secure as a little kid. I knew even then, mama would take care of me, would take care of everything. But seeing her trade heat for a gift, was a realization I hadn’t comprehended fully till that moment. Yeah, we were poor.

As we get older that sense of security becomes our own responsibility. If you’re lucky, you’ve made some choices that maybe provided for some shared responsibility with a husband or wife – or maybe you’ve been able to get a great job with a 401K and good benefits. Maybe you’ve saved a bit, made good investments, and have a cushion of some sort. But see, security now becomes about how much money you have in the bank – and less about your mom or your dad providing that basic sense of safety.  But that oblivious sense of security – that blanket kind of comfort, that sense of well-being you had as a child that was all encompassing and about your safety, security and nurturing, is now all on you. And a lot of it is about how much money you have.  If you don’t have tons of money, then you do what you can to give your family and friends that sense of security and safety anyways.  And even if everyone else believes you’re doing okay, maybe the fact is, you live in that place where fulfilling your personal dreams and ambitions take a back seat to making money every day for your family or just to make ends meet. Taking care of your basic needs is priority numero uno.

Truth is, most people live paycheck to paycheck. There’s not a lot of time for being “creative” or “starting a business” when the fundamentals of living haven’t been met.  A lot of real honest hard-working people, who have done everything right don’t have much more than a couple of months or so savings to make it through if they lose their job (or, if they work for the government and there’s a shutdown – uhem).  It’s been estimated that 40% of people don’t have enough for a $400 emergency.  Rack it up to a $500 emergency and I bet it’s even more people! Fact is, you can make all the right choices in life and still lose everything because financial security is elusive to most regular folk.  It’s hard to dig yourself out of whatever hole you may be in trying to make a better life for yourself , your family (school loans, medical debt, etc.) and still save such an abundance of money (or credit) that you can live through any other financial emergency crisis that may occur AND fulfill some life long dream. I love that line about “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps”. I always counter with, “It’s much easier when you’re born with boots that have them bootstraps to pull on. I’m still walking around barefoot trying to find my way into the damn boot store.”

When someone like Donald Trump talks about it being so hard for him – maybe it was. I mean, everything is relative I do suppose so maybe for HIM it was difficult.  His world is so different from mine, so maybe it was hard for him to deal with receiving such a gift from his father. What angers me about the statement is his inability to understand how insulting it is to those of us who would give anything to have half the advantages he’s had in his life AND get an offer of any kind of loan or gift to make our dreams come true.

The security aspect is so important.  It’s the part that people of such wealth and privilege like Donald Trump don’t understand.  If I had the security of knowing my rent would be paid, my student loans would be paid, my taxes would be paid, my gas bill would be paid, my electricity bill would be paid, my health insurance would be paid, my car payment would be paid, my auto insurance would be paid, my phone bill would be paid, my AAA membership would be paid, my gym membership would be paid, my groceries would be paid, my dental bill – paid, my eye doctor – paid, contributions to a retirement plan or knowing that I would be taken care of in my old age… If I knew all those things – that all those basic necessities would be paid regularly and on time and I didn’t have to ever worry about them, then yes, I could see how being laden with a million-dollar loan might feel a little difficult.

You see, because if all those basic necessities were paid and I was given a ton of money on top of all of that, I’d actually have to use that money to do something amazing and brilliant and I’d have an enormous amount of pressure to succeed.  Maybe that’d be scary.  To have no excuses? To have no worries of how to pay the rent?  To not be able to bitch and moan about how hard life is to make ends meet?  Maybe, that’d be scary.   But hell, I’d take that challenge every day of the week and twice on Sundays. I’m pretty sure most of my friends reading this post, would too. Wow, how to succeed when all you have is a million dollars and your dream.  Talk about First World Problems.  It took me ten years to complete and publish my first book. You know why? It wasn’t because I write slow.  It wasn’t because it was a complicated idea or I didn’t have a plan – NO. I wrote the book fairly quickly.  But I had to worry about all the other priorities that came first. And no, I didn’t have extra money readily available for an editor, for a book cover “designer” and blah, blah, blah. Basically, it took me ten years to write my first book because I had to do things like pay the rent.

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I’m not saying it’d be easy, but yeah, go ahead Universe, bring it! I dare you.

I don’t “need” a million dollars to fall into my lap. But if it did, I’d pay all my bills for a year, and then go from there fulfilling the next steps of my dream. Because what I really want in life, what we all need in life, is a sense of security. A solid foundation to start from.  Then, on top of that, I’d take the opportunity to soar. That wouldn’t scare me at all. And I promise, at the very least, I’d  pay it back…with interest.

 

xo,

Carmen