Excerpted from “Creating Money, Creating Meaning” by Orna Ross
A core understanding in “Creating Money, Creating Meaning” is that how you do money is how you do life. Your bank statement is the most accurate statement you have of your real, lived values (as opposed to those you talk about).
If money is making you unhappy right now, it’s important to close the gap between the values you talk and think about and those you actually live, as revealed by your earning and spending.
Money thoughts run deep. They come in the form of attitudes, beliefs, convictions, denials, expectations, and feelings (ABCDEFs) about money — indeed, about all aspects of life — and these frame our experience. “Frame,” with its associations of confinement and enclosure, is an appropriate word. They limit and contain us. Many of these ABCDEFs, particularly those that are most limiting, tend to be unconsciously held: We’re not even aware of them.
For many of us, our ABCDEFs about money have set into a pattern. See if you recognize yourself in any of the following types of “money minds.”
Wishers yearn for more money. If only you had (some usually unspecified amount of) money, your problems would be solved and you would be happy at last. You may take part in lotteries and other raffles, go to fortune tellers, and know exactly what you will do with the money when your ship comes in.
Strugglers can’t seem to get beyond making ends meet. You want more money but somehow it doesn’t happen for you. You may know why: It’s the economy, or a swindling boss, or the education you never got, or your parents’ attitude to money when you were younger… there could be any number of reasons. You work hard and think about money all the time.
Extreme version of Strugglers. You somehow don’t feel fully alive unless you are in money chaos or crisis. If money does come in, you manage to chase it away. You are chronically overworked, you consistently under-bill for your services, and you regularly lose money.
You have no idea exactly what’s in your bank account or what bills are coming your way and, frankly, you don’t really want to know. If you did, you’d probably have to take some action you’d hate, and anyway, money is too dreary/incomprehensible/boring/anxiety-inducing (insert adjective of choice). Until the inevitable crisis comes.
You may by now earn levels of income that would have seemed immense when you were younger — but somehow, you’re still financially flummoxed. As soon as money arrives in the bank account, it’s gone. In fact, it’s often gone before it arrives. Chronic spenders are usually in debt – what’s the point in saving for a future that might never happen? A lot of your time is devoted to moving money from one account to another, averting bounced checks, and playing credit card shuffle.
You never engage with money, except to spend it. You have a relative or partner who handles all that so you don’t need to bother yourself. Except in the moments when you face up to, or are made aware of, how this financial dependence undermines your autonomy.
You regularly buy things you cannot afford — and that you possibly don’t even want. The hangover hits when the bank statements or credit card bills come in. “Never again,” you promise, gritting your teeth… until the next time.
You overspend today against the big deal that is going to come in tomorrow. You know it’s only a matter of time before you hit it big, and then everybody will finally see who you really are: a somebody.
You manage your own money well, but you’re married to, or otherwise involved with, a Spender or Big Dealer. You need to be needed, so you consistently foot the bills for your partner’s financial irresponsibility, saying, “This is the last time I’m bailing you out.” Or it may be the opposite problem: You’re under the control of someone who decides how you are “allowed” to earn or spend.
You have no time to enjoy your life or your money, not yet. You will one day – when you get the right job or when the children are grown up or when you retire. Then you will live a nice, wealthy life. But in the meantime…
You expend a lot of time and peace of mind seeking out bargains and fretting about what you could have picked up elsewhere for less. Never mind that the bargain item you bought was extraneous, poor quality, or in need of adjustment or repair. The bargain is the end in itself.
Like Procrastinators and Big Dealers, you are highly invested in the future — but to you, what has yet to happen is a great and frightening unknown. Even if you have a good deal of money, you don’t feel wealthy, because… well, you never know what could happen.
If you take a financial step forward, it’s only a matter of time before you are knocked back. As soon as you get close to any kind of worldly success, something happens: You mess up an opportunity, decide to leave your job, have a sudden need to make a major expenditure — and wind up as strapped as before.
The worst thing that could happen to you is to lose money, so you vigilantly guard what you have and take every opportunity to make more. Money brings you great anxiety: How should you invest it? Are you managing it in the best possible way? What if you do something stupid and end up with less than you could have made?
You’re doing fine. You like your work and your earnings are sufficient. You have all the conditions for happiness, but… But. It’s never enough. And it never will be.
Such patterns of behavior have little to do with the actual amount of money earned or spent; they occur at every level of income, from the poorest to the richest. The underlying ABCDEFs corrupt our money relationships, leading to debt, distress, energy drains, or addictions that cause poverty.
Blaming our feelings of lack and scarcity on money allows us to avoid the harder, more creative work of uncovering the underlying reasons for our ABCDEFs — and taking the steps we need to transform them.
How you do money is how you do life. Money is not something separate from you. You might bemoan it, disparage it, or despise it; you might pursue it, crave it, or accumulate it; you might be willing to sacrifice good relationships or good health or good values to get your hands on it; or you might give it away as fast as you can.
But however you handle your money, you two are in a relationship, inextricably hitched, until the day you die.
Wouldn’t you like to improve yours?
This excerpt was taken from Creating Money, Creating Meaning, a new book in the “Go Creative!” series by Orna Ross, in which she explains how to apply the creative process to money in one’s own life.
A long-time teacher of creative and imaginative practice, author-publisher Orna Ross lives in London and writes, publishes, and teaches around the world. The Bookseller named her “one of the 100 most influential people in publishing” for her work as director of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi).