It is a false dichotomy to suggest that a person either enjoys life or thinks about money. It’s true that some people are more the accountant, organizing type, while some are the more romantic, impulsive type. Yet, as counter-intuitive as it seems, the more highly-developed your inner bookkeeper becomes, the more you can truly develop your inner romantic, and vice versa.
The key is to develop both of these parts within yourself—the wise and efficient financial planner and the romantic who knows how to live life to the fullest—and to be able delegate between the two.
Problems generally develop when people identify exclusively with one side or the other.
Visualize the one-sided accountant type with pursed lips and a furrowed brow, who buys a ski lift ticket, and then can’t stop second guessing the purchase and calculating the cost of each ski run rather than enjoying the skiing. The one-sided romantic type, on the other hand, shoves all bills in a drawer and, happy-go-lucky, ignores and forgets them until the day of reckoning. The first cannot enjoy the moment and the second is headed for a financial cliff.
When you build a house, different trades focus on particular specialties—the electrician on lighting, the plumber on plumbing and so on. What is critical is that there is a general contractor to coordinate it all.
Similarly, people need to schedule and coordinate their inner “trades.” By avoiding financial chaos and debt overload, you can create peace of mind to live life without having to fear an impending crisis. Here are some guidelines to find a balance between taking care of the future and enjoying the present:
1. Spend less than you earn. The worry about growing debt rarely is worth the things purchased on credit. Focus instead on all the free things that can create a fulfilling life.
2. Put money into savings first. Savings provide security and allow one the freedom to make transitions in life. For example, with adequate savings, you can handle losing your job or consider changing your job and save for retirement.
3. Pay bills at a scheduled time. If you pay your bills on a scheduled day every week, you take care of your business and alleviate the dread of dealing with bills and accumulated debt.
4. Take care of issues promptly when they’re small. When you can’t pay a bill or a bank statement seems to be wrong, deal with the problem immediately before it turns into an overwhelming predicament. By moving from dread to action, you minimize complications, extra fees, and your own psychological discomfort.
5. Once you’ve dealt with your finances, choose to enjoy life and the people around you. After dealing with bills and the budget, allow your inner accountant to recede into the background, and bring forward other parts of your personality to enjoy the present moment. Purposefully switch modes from being task-oriented, responsible, and bean counting to being in your body, connected to others, and appreciating the world around you.
We can never completely alleviate financial insecurity. Yet by thinking about money, finances and other practicalities at regular intervals, we actually free ourselves from thinking about money all the time, giving ourselves enough serenity from worry to enjoy life more fully.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD