What does feeling rich have to do with actually being rich? Plenty, it turns out. Your beliefs and feelings about money drive how you see yourself and how you define "rich."
The Feel Rich Project starts by analyzing your specific history with and feelings about money, then uses that information to help you redirect your life where you want it to go. It's a uniquely personal experience during which you will:
Sometimes you need help to energetically and purposefully pursue the life you crave. The Feel Rich Project is an inspirational but practical guide to help you build your true wealth, a compassionate, warm, momentum-building program for all who dare to seek meaning and joy.
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About the Author
Michael F. Kay is a financial life planner and CFP® who has helped thousands of women, men, and families master their financial lives, a process that almost always includes uncovering--and planning for--what they value most. He's president of Financial Life Focus, a fee-only, multi-advisor, financial life planning firm, and the author of The Business of Life. Named by Twitter as one of the top 35 personal finance experts, his financial advice has been featured in Forbes, Psychology Today, Fox Business, and the Wall Street Journal. He lives in West Orange, New Jersey.
Read an Excerpt
Beginning Your Journey to Overcome Money Misery
Money misery is a condition suffered by too many people in our society. Though I am certain there is no insurance code for this diagnosis, there probably should be. It can come from our internal beliefs, behaviors, and habits, or can be supported from external sources. Money misery can best be defined as feeling frustrated, angry, dissatisfied, confused, or generally lacking in comfort or security around money issues. Not having enough money left over at the end of your paycheck; being burdened by debt that never seems to end; and feeling less successful than your friend, neighbor, colleague, or family member are just a few examples of money misery. In other words, whatever makes you feel insecure, insolvent, or in a cycle of financial constraints is ripe for money misery. You might say, you know it when you feel it.
We are treated every day to "news" of the rich and famous — their opulent lifestyles and the rarified air they breathe. The 1-percenters live an existence that most of us can't even hope to experience. Yet their antics and possessions are everywhere for our consumption.
These dramatic differences can make us feel like there is a deep separation between "us" and "them." And it seems that being "them" is way better than being "us." If that doesn't lead us right into money misery, I don't know what does.
Let's be 100-percent clear: Our money misery does not appear out of thin air. We are either taught that possessions equal satisfaction, or we come to that decision by viewing the world around us and seeing ourselves as lacking. Our desire for success leads us to a neverending loop of want. "He who dies with the most toys wins" is a worthy mantra.
Money misery comes from how we interpret what we see versus who we are — you know, what we consider "normal." Our idea of normal comes from the messages we learned growing up. Your parents may have grown up poor or wealthy or in another country — and their experiences became their reality. Those experiences formed their belief system about correct thinking and action, which they more than likely passed on to you. After all, through a child's eye, why would you question what appeared normal?
My grandparents came to this country without money, security, or a job. They figured out how to survive and scraped by with only meager resources. My grandmother would move from apartment building to apartment building during the Depression — wherever she could find a month or two of free rent. That made the difference between starving and surviving.
So of course my father grew up with these lessons firmly implanted in his psyche. His normal was to save, save, save. Never hire someone to do something for you if you could figure out how to do it yourself. His frugality was taken to extremes: His internal "drivers" had him on high ladders, scraping shingles and painting the house, into his 70s. It was stupid to everyone else; to him, there simply was no other option. His money misery came in the form of never feeling comfortable with his resources, because you never know when the next Depression will wipe out everyone.
Money misery has other faces. Measuring yourself against your friends, neighbors, and relatives buys you a ticket into a life of constant competition for first place. There is no comfort in second place — only angst, anxiety, and misery. Overspending and taking on debt out of misplaced guilt is a terrible companion through life. "But I only wanted my kids to have it better than I did!" is just passing on misery to the next generation.
Can we agree that there is more than sufficient money misery around us? Extreme and highly visible wealth possessed by the few stands as a symbol of what everyone wants, which creates a cycle of dissatisfaction and misery. Living as "less than" is not living; it is an existence of pain.
Fortunately, there is a path out. It's not a 12-step program. ("Hi, I'm Carol and I live in money misery.") But The Feel Rich Project is about understanding that your beliefs around money and values, in most cases, stem from your childhood and how you see yourself in the world. They set you up for the rest of your life. Without thoughtful, insightful action, you are primed to listen to the shadowy voice that whispers "I want," "I deserve," "I need" in order to feel good. You turn to retail therapy to pacify the feeling of not having enough, which invariably turns into yet more misery. The cycle continues.
Some examples: the home-buying spree that led to the real estate bubble bursting and a deep, painful recession. Maybe you bought more house than you could truly afford. Or you tapped into your equity to fund vacations or an over-the-top remodel.
Or maybe you got mired in credit card debt and are walking the razor's edge of financial insolvency. All it takes is one life surprise — you lose your job, your spouse loses theirs, you welcome a new addition to the family, there's an unexpected death or divorce — for you to tumble into bankruptcy.
So what's the solution?
First, understand that financial happiness is not a function of how much money you make. There are many people who earn a modest income, live within their means, and have extremely high levels of satisfaction. There are also many people who earn piles of money and are miserable. The idea is to identify the whys of your feelings around money, and move in the direction of what alleviates pain and increases real satisfaction.
Start by separating your money reality from your money fantasy. The rest of this chapter will be devoted to several worksheets designed to gather both quantitative (numbers) and qualitative (feelings) information. The purpose is to help you separate your money reality from fantasy. Your numbers are your numbers, and your feelings are yours. The point is to promote your knowledge and understanding. For example, a young couple asked us to help with their planning by reviewing their situation. What we found was a net worth statement in the red caused by a ton of student loans. They both earned a modest income, as they are beginning their careers. Their cash flow, which you will have the opportunity to create later in the chapter, was pretty much at breakeven — meaning they are paying their bills but have very little left over. Their question to us was, "Can we afford to buy a house?" Our job was to explain that buying a house was impossible without a substantial increase in earnings or a miraculous windfall that would pay off their school loans. The fact that they are thinking of buying a home tells us that we need to help them separate their fantasy from their reality.
Distinguishing Your Money Reality From Your Money Fantasy
Fantasy lives in your head. It's a nice place to visit, but a lousy place to live your financial life. Our view of reality can be skewed by our experiences. Remember: Just because you believe something, doesn't make it so. For example, if you believe "Money is the key to happiness" or "Money is the root of all evil," you might want to consider those beliefs by asking yourself why you hold those beliefs. This isn't about right or wrong; it's about whether your beliefs support your values. What we want to get to is objective reality; you know the facts.
The following worksheet will help you to capture some of your core beliefs about money. Use the information gained in this worksheet to begin to see and understand your core money beliefs and areas that either support you or create dissatisfaction in your life.
WORKSHEET 1-1: REALITY OR FANTASY?
Capture your core money beliefs by asking yourself some questions and recording your answers. Quick reminder: These answers are yours; they are private, honest, and real. Ask yourself whether your answers are being tainted with guilt, shame, or some other factor that makes you feel bad.
What do you believe about success? Examples: "I believe success is best displayed by the possessions I own." "I believe success is about paying my bills and putting money away for the future."
What do you believe about people who are wealthy? Examples: "Wealthy people are selfish." "Wealthy people work harder than those who are not."
What do you believe about people who are poor? Examples: "Poor people are satisfied being poor." "Poor people just don't work hard."
Is there anyone in your life with whom you feel money competition? Why?
What makes you worry?
What provides peace and security?
What lessons did you learn about money from your mother and your father?
Was there ever a time when money was not a problem? Why was it not? What made it that way? What did you do differently then that made a difference?
Write down your beliefs, and "tag" them to an example in your life and their source.
Here's an example:
I believe: that money should be used to show my success.
Example: I bought that new BMW so everyone knows I'm doing really well at work.
Source: My dad always said we needed to look better than Uncle Jim's family no matter what.
As you work through this, mark your beliefs that are affirming and positive with a star. And note those that create problems or strife in your life with an X.
1. I believe:
2. I believe:
3. I believe:
4. I believe:
5. I believe:
6. I believe:
7. I believe:
8. I believe:
9. I believe:
Do have more stars or Xs? Do your money beliefs support the life you want, or have they created a foundation of money misery? The idea is to identify those positives and appreciate them as the strengths you possess. It's what we build on. It is fair to say that for many of us, we tend to underplay our successes and focus on our problems or faults. I'd like to turn that equation upside down. Let's begin with a deep appreciation for our successes, what we've learned, how we've grown, and where we are. Spend some time considering those positives and try to move them up in the order of attention. Now for those damned Xs. The fact is, no one is perfect; no one is free of strife, problems, or weaknesses — it is that which makes us oh-so-very human. Those weaknesses are where we want to begin to improve by gaining knowledge, competence, and mastery little by little.
Did you learn anything new about your money beliefs? Now let's add in some more reality.
Sticking With the Facts
There are certain truths surrounding money that sometimes get washed away, especially if you're prone to justifying what you wish to be true. Following are some of those truths:
Your income is your income. It's typically controlled by factors other than your desire. Winning the lottery, marrying into wealth, or running the table in Las Vegas should not be factored into your income accumulation strategy.
Your expenses can be fixed or discretionary, controllable or variable. It is your job to set the boundaries on what is realistic in view of your income, your goals, and your ability to survive unexpected challenges, like losing your job or disability.
Your money problems rarely, if ever, solve themselves. Your debt doesn't go away because you wish it to (at least without bankruptcy, which is a whole other bag of problems).
Money — and managing your cash flow — is active, not passive. You'll need to take an active role in managing your money life. Blindly handing over responsibility to anyone else or putting it on the "to do later" pile are sure roads to disaster.
You can't afford not to get educated about and comfortable with your money. We're not talking PhD-level here. You don't need to know everything. You just have to get comfortable with the basics and know when and where to seek out advice. You can't afford not to make educated decisions.
So what are your money facts? It's time for the moment of truth when you can see — all in one place — your reality.
Your next task is to get a snapshot of your current cash flow and net worth. You may not be excited about these next worksheets, but if we're going to take this journey together, this dose of reality is 100-percent mandatory. If you want to figure out where you're going, it's best to start by knowing where you are.
A note before you start: This might feel awful, especially if you're stuck in a less-than-positive position. You might have to take some time to gather the numbers and documents, but it's here where you need to be spot on with accuracy. But trust me: We'll get through this. Start with information, honesty, and courage; you are where you are, right? So get to it. It's the beginning of a very important journey.
WORKSHEET 1-4: YOUR MONEY FACTS (PART 3)
Let's extract some observations from worksheets 1-2 and 1-3 and see what there is to learn from the numbers.
My cash flow is:
_____ Positive (more income is coming in than going out).
_____ Negative (more is going out than coming in).
My discretionary spending is:
_____ Under control (i.e., you have positive cash flow and are saving regularly).
_____ Out of control (i.e., you are spending to the extent of your income or creating debt as a result of your outflow).
My debt situation:
_____ Is very manageable.
_____ Is somewhat manageable.
_____ Gives me night terrors.
My income is:
_____ Secure and fixed.
_____ Insecure and fixed.
_____ Secure and variable. (Variable income might be a result of being self-employed.)
_____ Insecure and variable.
I have a good handle on where the money goes each month.
_____ For sure
_____ Uh ... nope
I save regularly.
_____ Yes, I do!
_____ I save, just not regularly.
_____ Can't seem to do it on my income.
My net worth is: (This is pretty subjective. If you believe you should have $1 million by the time you reach your 30th birthday, you might not feel good about your net worth, but take a shot at how you feel about how you are building security.)
_____ Satisfactory for my situation.
_____ Fair, could be better.
_____ Let's put it this way, it's not positive.
What percentage of your income is spent on debt other than mortgage?
_____ More than 20%
What percentage of your income is spent on mortgage debt?
_____ More than 50%
Based on my numbers: (Remember: This is a solo assessment, so try to keep your thoughts about anyone else's situation out of it. Your feeling is important, and you will only muddy the waters if you compare yourself to your imagination of your brother's, neighbor's, colleague's, or friend's financial situation.)
_____ I feel pretty darn good.
_____ I am moderately satisfied.
_____ Help! I need to turn this ship around.
Over the next chapters we will explore more fully these concepts and ideas. I want you to have a baseline of quantitative information on your numbers and qualitative data about how you feel about those numbers to begin to work toward improving the areas that add to your life's satisfaction.
Using the Knowledge and Information You've Gained
What you have here now is a quantitative and qualitative understanding of your money. The numbers are vitally important, but without understanding where your messages, beliefs, and behaviors come from, you are rowing with one oar. You may want forward progress, but trust me: You'll be going around in a circle.
Your history and belief structure can create the bedrock of sanity and satisfaction or a wickedly unstable foundation that will crumble (typically with you still inside).
You want to look at yourself and how you can make changes — even small ones — to replace broken ideas with strong successful ones. It is not an overnight solution, nor will your transition be flawless. There will be bumps. There will be mistakes. But in the end, you can bring yourself a sense of peace and satisfaction. Just stick with the process I show you in this book to take one step at a time. I'll be right here with you.
Preparing Yourself to Transform Money Misery Into Satisfaction
Crossing over from money misery to satisfaction can be a minefield. You need to be prepared to not only do your work, but to jump four possible barricades:
Misery is your "normal." Think about what you do in your daily routine without giving it a thought: whether you put your left shoe on before your right, the hand in which you hold your toothbrush. You do what you do because it has become your "normal." If you spend first and think second, it is because you've become conditioned to do so. Buying on impulse, deferring savings and avoiding tightening your financial belt is following the most comfortable path of existence. What you're really doing is deferring pain. You know intellectually that you'll have to deal with this issue at some point. The question is: How far down the road can you kick that can? You may be deluded by magical thinking — hoping you'll fill-in-the-blank: win the lottery, receive a big inheritance, find a bag of money, or get an inside stock tip (acting upon which is illegal).(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Feel Rich Project"
Copyright © 2016 Michael F. Kay.
Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Beginning Your Journey to Overcome Money Misery 21
Chapter 2 The "F" Word 49
Chapter 3 Happiness Is Personal and So Are Your Values 63
Chapter 4 What's in Your Bags? 77
Chapter 5 Your Soul Wants to Drive: Putting Your Values Into Motion 97
Chapter 6 Adjust Your Money Mindset 111
Chapter 7 Chart Your Plan 129
Chapter 8 Stoking Your Money Mojo 153
Chapter 9 Tame Blame and Shame: A Ramp to Resilience 163
Chapter 10 The Tao of Financial Planning 177
Chapter 11 Living Intentionally to Live Richly 199
Conclusion: Where to Go from Here 209
About the Author 223
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book makes it clear that financial management is not one-size-fits-all. Everyone has different experiences and desires. So happiness---and a rich life---feels different to each individual. What's truly great about Feel Rich is that it is both a "how-to" guide with clear explanations and insightful examples AND it's also a practical, valuable workbook. It's an essential handbook for using your financial resources in the way that is most meaningful to you. I'm so grateful that I got this book!
The Feel Rich Project will revolutionize the way you think about your money. Author Michael Kay believes that feeling rich isn't just about money, it’s about your whole life. It comes from harmonizing who you are with how you live, and “using your money to live a purposeful and abundant life that reflects your true self.” This book is a standout by providing a truly liberating approach to personal finance.
This book provides honest, straightforward help for anyone who feels pulled down by money worries. The engaging stories and worksheets help you understand how your attitudes affect money decisions. By making small shifts you can stop struggling and get back in the driver's seat of your financial life. Please read this book and take its wisdom to heart. You will be glad you did.
A user-friendly, practical resource offering the reader powerful tools to understand the psychology of money and our relationship to it. A must-read for everyone who wants to create positive money habits and live a happy and "rich" life.
Michael has given us a true gift! Let's move away from the illusion of wealth on Wall Street and create true wealth on Main Street. The beautiful combination of humor, transparency and deep behavioral financial knowledge will guide the reader with introspective tools and an opportunity for real change and growth around their financial lives. Danielle Howard, CFP
The Feel Rich Project is about the crucial but often overlooked topic of money mindset. Author Michael Kay explains, “The numbers are vitally important, but without understanding of where your messages, beliefs, and behaviors come from, you are rowing with one oar. You may want financial progress, but trust me, you’ll be going around in a circle.” Kay offers a practical, step-by-step guide to transforming your financial operating system, identifying the “musts” in your life and setting up habits that support them. An important read.