Financial happiness is one of the most overlooked financial topics in the entire financial planning universe. We often focus on mortgages, retirement, credit cards, debt, career… but we miss the most important focus our money should have: allowing us to achieve our dreams.
This might sound a bit sappy for a financial planning resource, but it’s essential to understand: not all financial paths lead to happiness. If you want to find happiness in your financial plan, you might have to make some “odd” decisions, and choose a little differently than your peers do. But it’ll be worth it.
Have a dream? Achieve it… Period.
One of my favorite movies is the Pursuit of Happyness, starring Will Smith. It tells the true story of a poor man named Christopher who could barely put food on the table. The situation is dismal.
The movie captures Christopher’s journey from poor to poorer. Financial rough times hit. His long-term girlfriend (and mother of his son) left him. Then he lost his house and has to sleep in a bathroom, after he covered the floor with paper towels for his son. It continues to get worse.
But regardless of what happened to Christopher, he refused to acknowledge defeat. He refused to accept his “fate” of being poor. He wanted happiness, and he was going to get it… he refused to acknowledge that “fate” had anything to do with his life. He was going to be a self-made man.
At one point he was playing basketball with his preschool-aged son, who was also named Chris. Young Chris informed his father that he was going to play pro basketball. Christopher shrugged it off. He told young Chris that he probably wouldn’t make it, and would just be average. The son dropped the ball and walked away, obviously upset.
Seeing what he’d done, Christopher pulled him aside and told him:
“Hey. Don’t ever let somebody tell you you can’t do something. Not even me. All right? You got a dream? You gotta protect it. If people can’t do somethin’ themselves, they wanna tell you you can’t do it. If you want somethin’, go get it. Period.”
It might sound sappy to read something like the above on a financial planning website. But it’s really not. Success can be found almost anywhere, regardless of situation. It requires the ability to overcome one’s current surroundings and environment. No one said success would be easy.
If you want somethin’, go get it. Period.
Unfortunately, we often get so caught up in the day-to-day survival, we forget to focus on what really counts… achieving our financial goals. So it’s all about the money right? Happiness is getting the most amount of money? Absolutely not. Money is just the vehicle — we have to drive to get there.
Financial Planning is More than Money
Let’s face it… real financial planning is much, much more fundamental than “just money.” Financial planning is primarily life planning. A good financial plan is based on your life goals and presents a process for achieving them.
If your financial plan doesn’t help you achieve financial happiness, then it’s a failure. If you’re a billionaire and you can’t stand doing what you do for money, you’re plan is failing. If you’re able to make six-figures in an office you just can’t stand, your plan is failing.
Financial planning isn’t about getting the most amount of money possible. It’s about changing your lifestyle and doing what you want to do — it’s about happiness. Sit back and think of 10 things you want to do yes in the next few years. If your financial plan doesn’t allow you to achieve those goals, throw it in the trash and start over.
The only real reason we care about money at all is because money is just a tool. It’s a vehicle that allows us to move to a better lifestyle. Money allows us to live in a certain manner that would otherwise obviously be impossible. The importance of money is lifestyle. Period. That’s it. As the philosopher Ayn Rand once wrote:
“Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver. It will give you the means for the satisfaction of your desires, but it will not provide you with desires.”
This means a well written financial plan is about anything that deals with material “stuff” that helps make up your lifestyle. The house you live in, the vehicle you drive, the food you eat, the vacations you take, the location you live at — these are what financial planning is “really” about. Financial planning isn’t about your bank account — it’s about what you’ll do to get where you want to get.
Financial planning is lifestyle design.
Your Career Shouldn’t Waste Your Life
When speaking of “lifestyle,” most individuals tend to think that lifestyle is something that happens after work. Work is often seen as a black hole that sucks time out of your life, and is something that simply must be done with unhappy hatred for the sake of the “necessary evil” of money.
Life is something that happens after work, and work is just the filler that makes the rest of life possible. That’s a horrifying and tragic way to look at earning money. Life is too short to spend doing something you don’t love… period.
So rather than accept the unhappy fate of just trying to “get a job,” let’s talk about ways of making money that don’t suck the life out of you. Let’s think outside the money box. As Greer Garson said:
“Starting out to make money is the greatest mistake in life. Do what you feel you have a flair for doing, and if you are good enough at it, the money will come.”
This is the part you won’t hear from too many “respectable” people. But now, with the incredible increases in technology, I find the idea of lifestyle limitations to be absurd. Things have changed a lot in the past ten years… a lot. Twenty years ago, what I’m about to explain would have been impossible.
Of course, this is not even lose to an exhaustion of the topic. The purpose of this article is to get you thinking of your own methods for designing a lifestyle. When you start brainstorming for how you want to live your life, don’t limit yourself. Don’t lock yourself into a politically-correct box that restricts who you can be.
Think about what can be, not what usually is. This is the recipe for finding financial happiness.
6 Ways People Make Money
Here’s a list of ways to make money… whether through the traditional method or not. Of course, if you want a non-traditional career, don’t expect it to be easy. I’ve listed the “good, steady job” first because almost everyone will need to take this path for at least a portion of their life.
The income paths listed below aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. Some ways to make money fall in multiple categories. The purpose here is to simply “get you thinking” about the various methods of building wealth. The list is vague and incomplete for a reason.
Moving on to a non-traditional income is extremely difficult. Most fail. Will you find success? That’s your difficult choice. If you never give up, you can’t fail; if you never try, you can’t succeed.
- The “Good, Steady” Income. The good job is what most people try to achieve. The idea is that you go to college, get a degree, find a business that needs someone. Your job at the business is to fill the corporate gap, fill the chair and keep busy. This is perfect for some people. For others, like myself, it would be living hell. The lifestyle that’s possible with this job is the typical lifestyle. “The office” is the foundation for social activities, and most of your waking time is spent in the business.
- The Creative Income. The creative job is where you learn how to put something together and sell it any way you can. Writing, art, designing anything — these are creative jobs. You learn a skill, create something and then sell it. The lifestyle is extremely variable depending on how well you do. Most don’t make much money — but they do what they love. The emphasis of the creative job isn’t the money — it’s the work. That’s the creative income.
- The Passive Income. The passive income is where you learn to do something one time that will earn you for a long period of time. Owning vending machines, rental property, dividend stocks, making money online — these are often considered the typical sources of passive income.
- The Easy Income. Most people would laugh at this idea when they first think of it. The easy income is, well, any easy way to make money. I have several friends who honestly aren’t too worried about their finances. They’re fine with barely scraping by, and couldn’t care less about living in a nicer house or driving a nicer car. They focus on the “good, steady job,” because it’s the path of least resistance — the easy income.
- The Independent Income. The independent income is where, simply, you don’t have a steady job working -for- someone else. Making money online with a website, making money freelance writing — these are all examples of the independent income.
- The Large Income. This is the income that is usually the most attempted and yet the most missed. The large income is the path to joining the “top 1%” or so. The goal is a huge income, period. Think of something brilliant, invest ingeniously or climb the ranks of corporate America. There are fewer paths to great riches… and you’ll have to work much harder, much longer. That’s what it takes to get the large income.
Of course, there are dozens of other incomes. The traditional job isn’t for everyone. Some need to run the rent houses, the vending machines and other passive businesses. Some need to write the books, think up new ideas, and teach others. The world economy is so diverse that there are literally millions of ways to earn an income. You just have to look for them.
Is your job a drain? Do you consider your “lifestyle” to be something that happens after work? If so, it might be time to find a new way to earn an income. Millions of people try to “trudge on” and ignore the emptiness they find in their careers… only to finally reach the “tipping” point later in life.
The next step is to consider your options and and list various ways you -can- make a living… doing something enjoyable and worthwhile. I’m in the middle of compiling a series of articles on dozens of ways to make money. You won’t want to miss it. Just enter your email in the box below and subscribe — I’ll send it to your inbox as soon as it’s published.