Money = happiness, yo.

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Could money be the key to happiness? It may not lead to true fulfillment, but it does provide you with a way to meet your basic needs and lay a foundation for future happiness.

If you look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the bottom two pieces of the pyramid generally include items that require at least some financial resources.

So, can you spend money, be happy, and move forward with your life? Here’s how to make it work.

 

Concepts

  • Spend money, be happy? Maybe it’s more about staving off complete misery.
  • What you need to think about when it comes to subsistence.
  • Once you reach a certain point, more money doesn’t add to your happiness.
  • You are more likely to spend money, be happy when you spend on other people.
  • Figure out what you value and what makes you happy and focus spending on those things.
  • Money can also be used as a resource to help you pay for what you need and some of what you want.
  • Be careful of using money as a status symbol. You are far more likely to be miserable when it’s a means of keeping score.

Here are some cool money quotes:

“Happiness resides not in possessions, and not in gold, happiness dwells in the soul” – Democritis, the ancient philosopher

“It’s a kind of spiritual snobbery that makes people think they can be happy without money.” — Albert Camus, early 20th Century philosopher

“Money has never made man happy, nor will it, there is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more of it one has, the more one wants.” — Benjamin Franklin

This week’s DO NOWs focus on helping you take a closer look at your relationship to money. We talk about writing down your feelings about money, reviewing your spending to see if it follows your values, and identifying spending that doesn’t make you happy or provide things you need.

This week’s listener question looks at how whether or not earning more money will really make you happy. The spend money, be happy situation is further explored in our answers.

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Resources

$75,000 a year might be the perfect salary.

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You could spend your whole life chasing the dream of more money. But to what end? Figure out how much is enough – and be happier for it.

Have you ever thought about what it would feel like to acquire too much money? I haven’t had that problem, but do plan on discovering what this problem feels like in the future.

But, in all seriousness, how on earth do you decide how much money is enough for you? I have some ideas and thought I would share so that you can have an easier time figuring this out when you have this issue.

Consider your current life circumstances.

I thought I would approach this problem with some Michelle logic. First, it feels obvious the amount of money that you need will change given your current life circumstances. If you’re single and debt-free, the amount of money that you may need and want may be significantly different from a person who is in a relationship, has kids, and a few bills.

Likewise, your past and current life experiences may have a direct effect on how you arrive at the actual number that is your financial sweet spot.  For some of you, early childhood experiences of not having enough money may make it difficult for you to  imagine ever having enough. In fact, your childhood financial experiences may resonate through future decisions such as: the type of work you may choose to pursue, the way you would like to live your life, and even who you plan on marrying.

Figure out your financial sweet spot.

Here’s some general guidelines on figuring out how much money is enough for you.

Ask yourself, are you sick of your job and have lost interest in earning money in the way that you currently are? Yes, this seems a bit counterintuitive, but stick with me. Before I began working for myself, I worked at a university making decent money (especially when you factored in the benefits).

But, there came a point when I just wasn’t interested in earning more money. In fact, while I want to experience earning ridiculous amounts of money in the future, at that specific moment in time I just wanted to change my life. So, I focused on figuring out my lowest earning threshold. What was the bare minimum I need to make in order to live without eating ramen noodles?

I started crunching numbers and figured out what I could live on and still manage paying on my obligations. It was glorious….until, it wasn’t.

Don’t be afraid to shift your goals as your needs change.

My needs had changed. I now find myself looking at future financial goals and have realized that I want to make a lot more money than I currently am. And, I definitely don’t have a maximum earnings threshold. In fact, I felt like I wanted to earn as much money as I could possibly earn without burning myself out. I don’t want to place limits on my ability to earn.

I can honestly say that I look forward to pushing myself as much as possible to see how much money I can earn. In fact, for the next 12 months in my mind there is no “enough” it’s how much is possible? I spent time frantically crunching numbers, I looked at my goals and figured out daily earnings goals. Then I focused on how to achieve those goals.

Finally, spend some time focusing on what makes you happy? There are various studies that have linked happiness to money and studies that have found the exact opposite. There’s also a widely reported study that noted that people weren’t significantly happier when they earned beyond $75,000 a year.

Recently, I’ve gotten very clued into what makes me happy. And, knowing this has helped me zero in on how much money is enough. Some examples of what makes me happy include:

I’ve discovered that my needs aren’t that complicated or expensive.

I took a numbers and heart-based approach to deciding how much money is enough for me. Ultimately, I just want enough money that gives me stability and freedom. And, yes, more money is always better than less.

What are some considerations you use in determining how much money you need? Let us know in the #Adulting community on Facebook.

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A promotion. More money. All your problems are over, right? Actually … No. Depending on how you treat money, your next promotion could actually make you poor.

It’s tough for many of us to accept, but for most of us, our financial security is not contingent on how much money we earn.

It’s not about how much money comes in but how much money goes out. For most of us, our lifestyle increases with increases in our income – and even increases in our available credit.

When you tie those increases in income to increases in spending, pretty soon you have this problem: Could a promotion make you poor?

Learn from others’ wins and losses.

How many celebrities and athletes who earn millions of dollars a year have we heard have gotten into financial trouble?

From MC Hammer to Johnny Depp to Lenny Dykstra to Marion Jones, the world is full of millionaire income earners with no money in their bank accounts. A couple of years ago, it was reported that about 80% of retired NFL players go broke.

On the other end of the spectrum, Oseola McCarty, a former washerwoman from Hattiesburg, Mississippi bequeathed her $150,000 fortune to the University of Southern Mississippi. At the time, she was its most famous benefactor. That $150,000 in 1999 would equal $220,957 today.

To be sure, $150,000 or even $220,957 isn’t millions of dollars. But considering McCarty’s low-wage paying job and the fact that 47% of Americans today can’t come up with $400 cash, that’s a solid amount of savings.

Likewise, consider Ronald Read, a former gas station employee and janitor. When Read died at 92 in 2014, he was worth an estimated $8 million. Read was an avid and consistent investor and lived frugally, way more frugally than I ever would. But he’s another example that it’s not about how much money you earn. It’s what you do with the money you make.

With your next raise or promotion, will you do better than McCarty or Read?

Know if you’re on a cycle of rinse, recycle, repeat.

Most of us go about making a living instead of making a life.

We go to school to get the best job we can to make the most money we can and then, for any number of reasons, spend all the money we can and then spend more money than we have. Despite each promotion and each raise, we eventually find ourselves living beyond our means.

Today we finance our phones, our music, our education, our homes, our vacations, our everything. The problem is that a growing number or economists are becoming convinced that prosperity is contingent on our property rights.

Property rights usually relate to law. However, it’s logical to conclude that if we give up our property rights by financing from the cradle to the grave everything we would otherwise own, our affluence will suffer the same negative consequence as if we had no legal rights to ownership.

If everything from music to television to mortgages to education is on a small, affordable monthly payment, when do we stop making payments and start amassing wealth? What do we pass to our heirs for our family’s long-term financial security?

Jim Rohn said, “Once in a while, somebody says to me, ‘Boy, if I had a million dollars, I’d never work another day in my life.’” He goes on to say, “That’s probably why the good lord sees to it they don’t get their millions.”

With your next raise or promotion, how long will it be until you’re back in the same financial position?

Know why you should do well.

I read and listen to a bunch of personal finance information, and it astounds me how I keep returning to the same conclusion. Financial success, even life, personal, career – any success – is contingent on your purpose or your ‘why.’

As I’ve shared here, my husband and I amassed $51,000 worth of credit card debt – despite knowing better and notwithstanding the fact that we could do better.

At the time (and like many people today), we were unsatisfied with many aspects of our lives. It’s important to acknowledge that our economy is designed to keep us feeling unsatisfied.

Television, the internet, Facebook, movies, magazines and everything else tells us that we need more of this, that, and the other thing to feel happy, feel good, be liked, or be like someone else. When everyone in the neighborhood is drinking this Kool-Aid, it’s hard not to take a sip.

For this reason, the best thing we did to turn our financial situation around was to decide what we most want and not what we think we should want or what others want for us.

When we realized our most important goals, everything came into perspective, and we could manage our financial lives accordingly. It’s because we know our purpose that we’ve turned our $51,000 deficit into a $700,000 surplus and now work for ourselves.

Learn how you can do better, even without a raise or promotion.

How do you figure out your most important goals? For us, we did a lot of personal reflection and had lengthy discussions about what we most want in life. Everything we said was put on the witness stand and cross-examined until our purpose came down to three things. For you, it may be more or less, but if it’s too much, it’s too broad.

Next, we assessed what it was that was blocking us from our primary goals. Everything from not paying attention to our cash flow to being insecure came up.

Finally, we decided what it was we were willing to do to overcome those blockers. This step helped us determine how committed we were to change our situation and lay the foundation for a strategy.

Just as climbing the corporate ladder won’t solve all your problems, your next promotion or raise won’t make you rich. In fact, your next promotion might make you poor. What happens when you get a raise or promotion and you spend right up to it? What happens when you have a vision of the things you “should” have with your fancy new job title?

It’s easy to get caught up and overspend because we have the idea that’s what you do when you get a promotion. But that thinking just puts you back where you were – or even makes things worse financially.

When we realize that it’s not external factors or our circumstances that dictate our success, but our choices and behaviors, that can be better than any promotion.

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Is your unconscious mind dragging your finances down? Outsmart your brain when it comes to money.

Once in a while, we present Adulting.tv LIVE! Subscribe on YouTube to hear about future events, and share your questions about or suggestions for our next discussions!

Show Notes

This week, we don’t have a video, but we do have a great discussion with guest Emily Guy Birken. We talk about behavioral economics and the ways we get hung up with our money.

What’s keeping you down? What’s contributing to your poor financial habits? We get into the nitty-gritty of what happens when our minds get in the way. And we talk about how to overcome financial fears and stresses and make better money choices.

Emily Guy Birken is the author of End Financial Stress Now, a book about improving your financial outlook, no matter your situation.

Hosted byHarlan L. Landes and Miranda Marquit
Produced byadulting.tv
Edited and mixed bySteve Stewart
Music bybensound.com

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Some struggles make us lose hope. Make us feel lost. If you are dealing with anxiety or depression, there is hope. There is a path to wellness.

There’s no denying it – depression and anxiety are on the rise in the United States. Whether you attribute the uptick to societal factors or heightened awareness of mental health issues, it’s clear that many Americans are suffering without a clear path to wellness.

Thankfully, treating these issues is exceedingly more simple than people realize – which isn’t to say it’s easy. There are tried and true methods that, if used appropriately and consistently, have a high chance of improving the symptoms of anxiety and depression. It may be an uphill battle, but it’s a hill worth climbing.

Successful treatment looks different for everyone, so keep an open mind. Here are some basic steps to take if you don’t know where to start.

Catalog your feelings.

Writing down your feelings is one of the most basic strategies to cope with feeling anxious or depressed. The University of Rochester Medical Center recommends journaling to combat “stress, depression or anxiety.”

I write in a journal every day, chronicling how I’m feeling and what’s bothering me. When I’m in a funk I can’t explain, I automatically reach for my notebook. On a basic level, documenting your mental condition allows you to separate yourself from negative emotions by playing the part of an objective observer.

I also use thought records to document my anxiety and change my reaction to it. A thought record is a simple worksheet where you catalog what the situation is, what you’re thinking and how you feel. Then you write down how rational your thoughts are, what the more rational response would be and how likely it is that the rational response is correct. Cognitive behavioral therapy practitioners believe when they change their thoughts, they can change their feelings and behavior.

For example, if you think your friend will be mad you forgot her birthday, you could write down a thought record saying why you feel bad, what you’re thinking about yourself and what your friend’s likely response is. Thought records can help you see when you’re blowing things out of proportion and how to manage your problems more effectively.

Stay connected.

Depression often robs victims of the energy and desire to do the hobbies and activities they once enjoyed. It can take away the motivation to work out, eat healthy and stay connected to your social circle. The problem is, staying involved with your friends and pastimes is one of the few ways you can feel better.

Start small. Invite a friend or two over for a movie night where you don’t have to do anything except provide a DVD or turn on Netflix. Meet a former coworker for coffee or a drink. If a pal is having a party, try to go for at least an hour.

“I can usually count on a few things to help or at least distract me from how I’m feeling for a bit,” said Kelly Whalen of Centsible Life. “Those include reading, walking outside, petting my fluffy dog, taking a nap or a little window shopping.”

You should also consider finding a group of peers who are dealing with depression as well. Talking about your problems with people who understand can make you feel less alone in your struggles. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has an online support group you can join, as well as a private forum where you can write out your feelings.

Find a therapist.

A licensed therapist or counselor can be an incredible tool in fighting depression or anxiety. Unfortunately, many people assume that the only therapists available are ones who charge $200 an hour.

Not so. Almost everyone can find a low-cost therapist if they look hard enough. Your doctor might have some recommendations on where to look, so start there. A local university with a psychology department will also have an in-house clinic where you can meet with current students or graduates. Low-cost or free clinics often have a therapist on staff.

On average, these clinics charge anywhere from $5 to $40, and many have a sliding scale system based on income. I’ve had good experiences with inexpensive therapists and consider them a necessary tool in fighting anxiety and depression.

Talk to a doctor.

You should talk to a doctor about medication if therapy, journaling and working out don’t alleviate your anxiety or depression. Only a medical doctor can prescribe pills, so make an appointment with your primary care physician and not your counselor or therapist.

Don’t worry if it takes some time for the medication to kick in or if you don’t like how it feels at first. Many patients need a few weeks to adjust, so be aware of that. Your doctor can alter the prescription as need be if you’re not feeling better after a month or so. If you decide you don’t like it, ask your doctor how to taper off. Withdrawal symptoms are common and can be debilitating if you don’t scale back appropriately.

If you’re feeling anxious or depressed, it can take time to work through it. Try to find what works best for you.

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Small-town life may seem boring, but the reality is that you might be able to live larger. Lower living costs = more money to spend on life.

Like Dorothy and that rainbow, younger people often chase their dreams in the big cities. There’s much to see, do, and gain in major cities, but there can be downsides. Can a smaller city lead to a larger life?

Can a smaller city lead to a larger life?

Ditching small-town life.

That was the case for me. Having spent the first half of my childhood near a big city and the latter half in a small town in a land far, far away, I couldn’t wait to get far, far away myself!

As a young gay man, I thought I’d wind up in San Francisco –  with the Rice-A-Roni and all. But a friend of mine and I moved to Denver, Colorado in the late 90s instead. It wasn’t Philadelphia, PA, but it wasn’t Lebanon, PA, either. I was supposed to live here for two years, soak up the snowboarding, and then move onto “bigger and better” things.

But, I met a boy, and that’s a whole other story.

With about 549,000 people in Denver proper in 1999, Denver was big enough, but not too big. There was lots to do. Nightlife and dining scenes and all the great outdoors. It wasn’t yet expensive. Our first apartment cost less than $800 a month for about 1,000 square feet.

Denver has seen a population boom in the last decade, with a relatively consistent growth rate over 2%. That same 1,0000 square foot apartment now goes for about $1,800 a month. We’re no New York City, but the consequences of growth are evident.

A big city can mean empty pockets.

It is desirable to live in a city with half-a-dozen things to do all seven nights of the week with millions of people looking for the same; you may be surprised at how expensive it can be living in such cities. Here are the costs of living in premier locations, based on PayScale data:

  • New York – cost of living is 118% above average; housing is 341% above average
  • Los Angeles – cost of living is 32% above average; housing is 102% above average
  • San Francisco – cost of living is 63% above average; housing is 198% above average
  • Chicago – cost of living is 17% above average; housing is 38% above average
  • Seattle – cost of living is 24% above average; housing is 57% above average

All of those cities have a lot to offer, but at what cost?

More jobs are going to smaller cities.

With the combination with the dotcom bust, the 2008 housing crisis, and ever-increasing taxes in the above cities, more businesses are transferring some or all of their operations out of the bigger cities. This migration is called ex-urbanization.

Housing tends to be more affordable in second- and third-tier cities, like Denver, Salt Lake City, and Charlotte. Such cities offer a diverse pool of talent that isn’t isolated to bigger cities.

In many cases, the quality of life outside of work is appealing to many industries’ best and brightest. Denver and Salt Lake City offer skiing and snowboarding to give you your weekend adrenaline rush. Portland has amazing microbreweries to wind down your work week. Charlotte has a unique and vibrant foodie scene for those of us that love to love food. Richmond is a perfect place for runners and kayakers.

Businesses know that happy employees make for happy businesses. If employees have a high quality of life outside of work (and not just the Colorado kind), they’ll give their all at work.

Smaller cities allow for geographic arbitrage.

With the growing gig economy and online entrepreneurs, more people can now live and work from anywhere. One can charge big city prices and live on a little city budget. A virtual assistant who resides in Kansas City can charge a client who lives in Chicago Chicago-based fees. Or, they can offer competitive fees that a virtual assistant who resides in Chicago can’t.

Geographic arbitrage isn’t just a benefit for virtual assistants, virtually any online freelancing or IT job, and many contractors and consultants, can thrive off of charging big city prices with little city expenses.

If climbing the corporate ladder is more your style, get a job in a big city and then transfer within that company to a smaller city. Most companies will keep you at the same salary even though your cost of living will likely drop. I’ve seen many Denver friends leave for a few years and return, taking advantage of just this strategy.

Smaller cities can mean bigger pockets.

By and large, smaller cities come with lower living expenses. This is a big deal for things like saving money for retirement, owning your own home, and putting children through college. These financial goals are all easier to achieve with a lifetime of lower costs.

A personal, favorite perk of living in a smaller city, especially one centrally located in the country, is that we can quickly hop on a plane and get to any coast within less than five hours and many within three hours. So while I never moved to San Francisco, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been there because it’s cheap and easy to head that way.

Before you hop a jet plane over the rainbow to some major city far, far away, open your mind to second or third-tier cities elsewhere in the country. The costs may be more agreeable and open you up to a lifetime of bigger living. With transportation getting better and the internet making the world smaller, your opportunities may be greater.

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Don’t ever accept the first offer. Instead, negotiate a better deal — no matter what it is.

Once in a while, we present Adulting.tv LIVE! Subscribe on YouTube to hear about future events, and share your questions about or suggestions for our next discussions!

Show Notes

Joining Miranda and Harlan for Adulting.tv LIVE! is Rebecca Neale, Personal Finance Lawyer. An expert in negotiation, Rebecca is our guest today to discuss tips and tricks that are going to help you in all aspects of your life. (Plus, get a bonus from Rebecca by heading to https://promos.brilliantnegotiator.com/adulting.)

We talk about how to negotiate everything from a better price at the store to your next car. We also look at some of the ways you can sabotage yourself when you negotiate, as well as the biases against you as you head into your next negotiation.

Rebecca Neale is a lawyer who has been negotiating settlement agreements in court cases for a decade. Her superpower is her poker face. She owns her own law firm and focuses on divorce, custody, estate planning, and consumer rights — where she works one-on-one with clients, to help them navigate some of the most difficult chapters of their lives. Rebecca practices law in Massachusetts and assists people nationwide with non-legal advice on negotiation. For more information on her law firm, visit http://thepersonalfinance.lawyer/

Watch the video, recorded live, above, or listen to just the audio using the player below. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast!

Hosted byHarlan L. Landes and Miranda Marquit
Produced byadulting.tv
Edited and mixed bySteve Stewart
Music bybensound.com

Like what you’ve heard?

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For a limited time you’ll receive our new book, The Best Bank Accounts for Adults, when you sign up!