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How often have you thought, “If I just make more money, I’ll surely be happy?”
Or, the other side of the proverbial coin, “Money is the root of all evil?” While some commonly held money beliefs ring true—ahem, save 10% of your income and you’ll be prepared for a rainy day—there are other so-called bits of “conventional wisdom” that aren’t worth remembering at all because the behaviors they promote don’t provide the promised results.
Here are five common beliefs that hold you back—personally and professionally.
1. The Belief: Money Will Make Me Happy
Too many people focus on building wealth as an avenue toward finding happiness, but that’s a mistake. “We’ve gotten it backwards: It is happiness that leads to success, not vice versa,” says Jackie Ruka, author of Get Happy and Create a Kick Butt Life and founder of the Get Happy Zone, a personal and professional development organization. “The ‘failure is not an option’ mentality is an old belief system based on fear, insecurity, and competition, which results in working too much for fear of job and income loss. But, this state of mind can literally kill us.”
On the other hand, people who are happy are more productive at work and find more meaning in their careers and their personal lives, Ruka says. “It’s a cycle,” she says. “There are multiple scientific studies proving that we are, in fact, the ambassadors of our own happiness in that we have full control over this enviable state of mind, which is a powerful precursor of success in terms of the true meaning of the word and how it impacts the human experience.”
Rather than depending on more money to find happiness, focus on finding true happiness—through meaningful relationships, helping others, setting meaningful goals, being active, and being grateful—and the money is likely to follow.
2. The Belief: If I Work Hard, I Will Make More
Before leaving corporate America 10 years ago, business coach Carol Sankar believed that if she remained quiet, did her work, and a little extra, “someone from the executive offices would acknowledge my presence and give me a raise and the corner office immediately,” she says. Eventually, she realized that was a myth, when she figured out the person in the office “who made bold moves” was moving up the pay scale faster.
Realize that in most organizations, simply working hard isn’t what gets noticed. Most executives are looking for “another leader,” someone who shares new ideas and helps implement them, Sankar says. “If you are seeking financial growth in your career, becoming ‘unnoticed’ will hinder you from growth. They only pay for team players who recognize the value of raising the bar for the team. Your silence only gets you an occasional bonus, speaking up will get you a raise.”
3. The Belief: I Don't Make Enough to Save Money
“Enough is relative,” says Sandra Cleveland, a certified financial planner with Berk Cleveland Rathmell Wealth Strategies in Birmingham, AL. Saving money is more about discipline than the amount you have to save. Those who are always waiting to have enough to save may waste the best years they have for building a nest egg and a strong financial future.
Just start saving, even if you have to start small. “If you can only save $5 or even less per month, save that $5,” Cleveland says. “This will develop your discipline to save more. The money you save first will earn more for you because it has longer to grow based on compounding.”
Cleveland says to keep in mind a quote from Albert Einstein: “Compounding interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it; he who doesn’t, pays it.”
4. The Belief: If I Can Afford the Payment, Taking on Debt is Okay
Just because you can afford a monthly payment doesn’t mean it makes sense to take on debt. Keep in mind that the goal is to eventually get out of debt, not to keep paying it off into perpetuity. For example, Cleveland points out that many people decide what price car to purchase based on their ability to make monthly payments. “This is a recipe for always having monthly payments!”
Make sure the debt is reasonable for your situation. “Most businesses in the business of loaning money will offer more than is prudent for people to take on,” Cleveland says. Look at your other financial obligations and future plans—will you be paying for college sometime soon, for instance? Also, consider what you really need versus what you can supposedly afford: Just because a lender will loan you the money to buy a 6,000-square-foot house, doesn’t mean you need to buy it. If your family could be comfortable in a smaller house, why not save the money?
5. The Belief: Money is the Root of All Evil
While money, or the pursuit of it, can certainly cause some people to cheat or do other bad things, it can also be a tool for good. Just look at Warren Buffett, the Gates family, and other billionaires who have committed to give at least half their wealth to charity through The Giving Pledge. “People can be evil with or without money,” Cleveland says. “Being responsible with your money—paying your bills on time, prudent saving, charitable contributions—is not evil. Money does not create the evil in any way. Actually, the lack of money can lead to more evil than having money; for example, being dishonest, stealing, or feeling you have to hold on too tightly to your money.”
Make a conscious decision to be the kind of person you want to be, regardless of how much money you have. And as you grow wealth, take specific, systematic actions to reinforce those goals. Financial advisor and radio host Dave Ramsey recommends giving at least 10% of your income to help others and to find true fulfillment from your success.
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