Do You Obsess About Money?

April 20th, 2005 by Bob Bly

The song ?I Am? by Train has this line: ?I never had a day where money didn?t get in my way.?

Is money a problem for you?

Numerous surveys show that couples fight about money more than anything else, with the possible exceptions of division of household labor, parenting, and sex.

I am in the middle of the road as far as money is concerned: I like money and it is important to me, but I am not obsessed with it.

Here are 5 money tips that have worked for me; they may or may not work for you:

1. Do something in which you can make a higher than average income. A lot of white collar corporate guys my age (47) in my neighborhood (Bergen County, NJ) make around $100,000 a year. So I want to make at least double that. (I typically make at least 5 to 6 times that, but my goal is to double it.)

2. The best piece of financial advice for self-employed people I ever got was from Florida freelance writer David Kohn: ?Live below your means.? This was easy when I was single; having a wife who likes to spend money makes it more difficult.

3. Train yourself to enjoy feelings of affluence and wealth from having money rather than from having possessions. If you have to buy and own stuff to feel wealthy (the BMW), you will get caught in a vicious cycle of spending money as you make it ? and always needing more.

4. Have no consumer debt. I always pay cash for cars. I bought my first home with a mortgage because I had to. But the next house I bought for cash.

5. Avoid ?compare despair.? There will always be people richer and poorer than you. Unless you are Bill Gates, you will never be the richest kid on the block. So don?t get caught up in worrying about whether your neighbor has more than you.

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73 responses about “Do You Obsess About Money?”

  1. Steve Slaunwhite said:

    Why is it, Bob, that so many writers focus on low paying markets? I know lots of freelancers who complain bitterly about how little they earn, yet continue to toil away writing for magazines and newspapers that pay peanuts.

  2. Richard Leader said:

    Why is it important to do better than the people around you?
    (I realise that benchmarking is often good and that this is really the aim of the capitalist society, but sometimes I wonder why more is better?)
    Isn’t it better to say $200k is what I want, and I won’t compromise myself for the sake of an extra $20k?

  3. TonyD said:

    Well, since I started up my tech writing business about three months ago, these days I worry about it a lot. What you say is good advice, though. My long term thought was that getting my own business running and gradually working towards better paying contracts would mean more financial independence. Check in next year, and I’ll let you know how it went. :)

  4. Greg said:

    What you say makes a lot of sense for someone in your position. I lost my job 4 years ago, from a career that lasted 24 years and paid a bit over $100k/year, not including bonuses. The bottom dropped out of telecom and people stopped using sales engineers. I ended up taking jobs that paid 80% less than I was making in order to have benefits for my diabetes. Sure, I would love to be able to just double my income. And double it again and again. I’m a few months shy of age 50, my certifications are outdated and very expensive and time consuming to renew. Not to mention, younger people with more certs are being highered for half of what I made 4 years ago.

    Bob, I respect you and your work. However, I do not agree with you. The light is much brighter at your end of the tunnel. From my vantage point it’s a pinhole.

    G.

  5. Paula Richey said:

    I’ve always thought that having money for money’s sake is a miserly attitude. I would enjoy having money that I didn’t have to spend because of the security of never having to worry. But the idea that money shouldn’t be spent for enjoyment is rather repellent.If you can spend and honestly enjoy what you get, that seems to be a wiser choice than simply hoarding. For instance, if you have always wanted to go to Italy and now you can afford it, it would be crazy to say, “No, I like my money better in the bank.” Living below your means in order to have security and freedom to do things you really want later is one thing, but developing an attitude of having money put away just so money can be put away is another.

    I do not advocate trying to outspend other people or buying stupid things that won’t add to quality of life, but I do think the position presented in the article is a little extreme. After all, money is only a tool used to get the things you really want.

  6. Joel Heffner said:

    Money is relative. Although I don’t have a BMW (or any other similar car), I do have a $8.00 pencil. I enjoy nice (expensive) writing implements.

    Although I’m retired from my previous job, I am having some fun helping people improve themselves. I enjoy speaking in public whether or not I get paid for it. I enjoy workshops whether or not I get paid for it. If money comes out of it that would be great, if it doesn’t I can manage without it.

    It’s important to have “enough” money. It’s nice to have “more” money than you need. What’s best is having enough and enjoying yourself.

    Joel

  7. Patrice Robertie said:

    “Train yourself to enjoy feelings of affluence and wealth from having money rather than from having possessions.”

    This is so true … so right.

    And it’s so sad that this GREAT FEELING gets so little mention today, mostly because people who are enjoying it are very unlikely to make a big deal of it (for all of the obvious reasons, including those so beautifully outlined in “The Millionaire Next Door) and because it’s a story the media just doesn’t see/care about.

    The older I get – I’m 44 – and the more I realize how much stuff I already have, the less I want to buy more of it. I don’t want to store it or insure it or dust it. Until recently, I did spend lavishly on books, until I realized I have about a 3-year backlog waiting to be read right now. Enough is …. way more than enough!

    Bob’s comment also reminds me of a hair stylist I used to go to. He always wished he had a million dollars ’cause he had about a million things in mind to spend the money on. Well, if you have a million dollars and spend it … you don’t have a million dollars any more. I never could get him to see that.Oh, well.

  8. Jonathan Kranz said:

    Then there’s the “risk vs. reward” equation to consider: The greater the risks you’re willing to embrace, the greater the reward for success.

    Launching a solo writing career can be risky, but it has rewards commensurate with those risks. I’ve learned to be discrete about my income, however, so as not to stir resentment, i.e., “You make that kind of money just for writing?”

    Funny, the resentment always comes from the same people who ridiculed my pursuit of degrees in art and creative writing: “How will you ever make a living?”

    Sigh.

  9. Cristian Bosch said:

    Money is not everything, but it is important. It ranks up there with oxygen, water, etc. Everybody has basically the same ‘needs’ but completely different ‘wants’, therein lies the catch. So it is basically up to each one of us to determine what we ‘want’ and work towards that financially. As for me, I just want enough money so I don’t have to worry about money.

  10. RichW said:

    Over the past 20 years I’ve experienced fairly comfortable, broke, relieved to be merely comfortable, really broke, very comfortable, worried about going broke again, and currently reasonably comfortable.

    One of the reasons I moved to Pittsburgh was because I could live the way I wanted to without being house-poor as I’d have been staying in New England. If you’re self-employed and mobile, why spend your earnings on shelter?

    I drive a ’93 Saab (paid cash) and my wife a ’95 Volvo. We will do so until they just don’t go anymore. But we eat out often, go to the theatre, and travel a lot. So that’s where the money goes – on experiences, not things. I have no fond memories of any new car or stereo I’ve ever owned, but lots of memories of the three continents we’ve visited.

    So I suppose the moral is to marry someone with the same values. We rarely argue about money. When it came time to buy a new Dacor cooktop that we “needed”, there was no issue about firing the landscaper. The neighbors might not like the weeds getting tall once in awhile. But they’ve never enjoyed a great dinner in Auckland, ate yogurt in Rila or took an unplanned taxi ride to the Panama Canal. So f_ck ‘em.

  11. Jack Zavada said:

    Most folks are fond of misquoting the Bible by saying that “money is the root of all evil.” What it does say is that “the love of money is the root of all evil.” I’ve found that when you have enough money, you rarely think about it. When you don’t have enough, it’s ALL you can think about. When you reach the point where you realize you won’t die if you don’t get the latest “gotta-have”, you’ll find that you have enough money.

  12. Susan Slattery said:

    I really admire your work Bob, but I feel compelled to point out that in this post, you contradict yourself–you say that we should aim to earn a higher than average income, and that in your area, guys your age typically make $100,000 annually, so you want to make at least twice that much… but then later you exhort all of us to avoid “‘compare despair’… don’t get caught up worrying whether your neighbor has more than you.”

  13. Amy said:

    Bob,

    I am trying very hard not to let a bunch of vitriol spill over onto this post. You see, I am so incredibly angry at myself these days, it inevitably boils over into some horrible harangue of an unsuspecting recipient. I’m angry at myself because I am just realizing, at age 36, that I have wasted the past 18 years of my life pursuing an education and career that is worthless. I wish I had read your list of financial advice 20 years ago.

    But it’s not good to dwell on the past. I’m doing what I can right now to turn my financial situation around, but it is difficult when I’m supporting my family at the same time. Right now I have two jobs, plus two ebay businesses, and we barely make it to the end of the month without pulling out the credit card.

    I must let you know, when you said you make $500, 000 per year most years, I almost choked. You say this with such breezy elegance.

    That is 10 times what I make. Of course you don’t worry about money. You have it.

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    Put Jesus first above all things, and He will direct you in all things.

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