Gaining a “Happy Money” State of Mind
What is the point of saving money? Sorry to start this off with such a loaded question, but I would love for you to take a moment to think about this. What is the point of saving money? I would like to argue that the point is to bring more joy and happiness into your life. We don’t save money to torture ourselves or make ourselves miserable; rather we do it to bring “more” into our life, not more stuff. When we really go deep and look for the reason, it usually centers around more connection, community, service, nature, and freedom, which eventually leads us to more joy.
I read, “Happy Money – the Japanese Art of Making Peace with Your Money,” by Ken Honda a few years ago, and I keep coming back to some of the main points in the book. One of the reasons I became a financial advisor was to help my clients find more happiness. Now, my goal is to help clients discover and attain their version of financial freedom. In the end, though, I’m hoping to help them feel more joy and less stress.
Honda’s book is one of the tools I have used to reframe money conversations for my clients, and I think some of these points could help you as well:
One point would be to reframe our conversation about saving in general. In my industry, it is common to hear that someone is, “…saving in a diversified portfolio, tied to their risk tolerance, in a tax effective manner, so they can spend on future expenses in retirement.” This doesn’t sound very motivating. However, what if you created a fun and exciting picture of what that would actually look like? Try instead: “I am saving to take my grandkids on a week-long vacation, where I can buy them what I want when I want. I can watch them play in the pool with smiles on their faces and then tuck them into bed each night as they exhaustedly say, ‘I love you.’” Which would you rather save for?
Another small change would be to tie gratitude to your expenses. I’ll take a common expense as an example – your electric bill. How many times do people complain when they receive this bill because it has gone up or it was more than expected? How does that make you feel – stressed, frustrated, or helpless? Now imagine if you took that same bill, but reframed the conversation in your head by leading with gratitude. “I am so thankful to have the resources to be able to afford this expense. I am so thankful for the lights in my house, the food kept cold in the refrigerator, and the TV to watch at night. It is so amazing that I have to only flick a switch to have the gift of electricity in my house.” It really is quite marvelous when you think about it.
Many of the tips Honda shares have to do with your inner conversation with money. We have all been influenced by our family, friends, school system, and community when it comes to money, and many of these memories revolve around a story of scarcity, fear, or stress. To see just how strong this influence can be, I would like you to think about your very first memory around money. Who was there? What was said? What happened? Now, follow this story through your life and you will see how much it has affected your decision-making without you even being aware of it. This is not something that can be changed overnight, but the changes noted can help you start re-writing the conversation.
When you think about money or see money, what thoughts come to mind? Are you happy you have it, or are you afraid that it will soon leave you? One last exercise you might want to try is imagining money as a friend, like an actual physical friend, and then have a conversation. Do you typically say nice things about money, or are you usually negative? And if you actually talked to a friend that way, would they stick around very long? Probably not. For the next week, I challenge you to say “thank you” every time you physically see money – whether it is a penny or a $100 bill. If you want to earn extra credit, think of a specific instance that money is making your life better. Remove the stress and fill yourself with joy. Remove the fear and fill yourself with gratitude. It is time to start making your relationship with money “happy.”
For more on our emotional connection to money, read, “Managing Our Feelings About Money.”