I used to focus on money…a lot. I’d save as much as I could, my “nest egg” was never big enough and I would work longer hours and burn myself out so I could make more and feel more secure. I would chose work over play, and limit myself on food, clothes and fun just so I could keep more of what I earned. I thought if I reached a set amount of money that I could finally relax and start living my life the way I wanted to. Money would buy me freedom.
This is what I thought until I hit a major bump in my life. I was working for a company that, unbeknownst to me, was in the process of going bankrupt. I ended up being demoted (along with many others) as they started to close down stores and saw my pay cut in half. Around the same time I learned that a previous roommate had forged my name onto his student loans years back and my credit score was now taking hits as his loans went into collections since he wasn’t paying on them. The apartment I was living in was full of mold in the carpets and vents and I couldn’t live there but the rental company wouldn’t let me out of my lease even with solid proof of my claims. It wasn’t money that came and saved me. Money didn’t solve any of my problems. It was the people around me that were willing to be there and help me, support me, love me…that is how I managed to hit that bump and keep going.
I moved out of the moldy apartment and stayed with a friend (rent-free) till my lease was up. I found a new job with the help of another friend who referred me and was happy to get out of the retail/service industry. My cousin helped me find the right contacts to prove to SallieMae that I had never agreed to be a co-signer and my name was forged by previous roommate and I got my information removed from the loans. I still thought money was important and I would still get stressed out feeling like I didn’t have enough, but I was starting to see that there was far more value in my relationships with others.
Getting married was a huge challenge on the money front. It was a major source of stress and fighting between us because we had different views on it. He assumed we’d figure it out no matter what and I wanted to know that I had a cushion to fall back on. I started to focus on the money again…instead of on the people.
Then came the husband injury and the unemployment and then the fire…which resulted in getting a bunch of money to replace things and having that large chunk of money in the bank didn’t change my stress level. I didn’t feel any different, no safer, no more fulfilled. I told myself then it was because husband was spending the money as fast as we were getting it. Eventually I got sick and tired of fighting with husband about his excessive spending and gave up stressing about money. I made sure I made enough to cover all the bills and stopped expecting anything from him. I decided my relationships needed to be more important than money.
If you think about it…money is an arbitrary concept and holds only the value we agree upon. US currency isn’t really backed by anything other than faith in the government. Most money is virtual now as well…numbers in an account that could be wiped out with the push of a button. Your assets could be seized by the government or skilled hackers and what would you do? Where would you go? Who would you turn to? Instead of focusing on making as much money as possible I have started focusing on building my skillset. Learning how to utilize what I already have and what is around me to accomplish tasks instead of just buying something new or hiring someone to do it for me. I focus on building stronger relationships with people. I no longer tally up a mental account balance in my head over what they’ve spent on me vs. what I have spent on them. I value time and events over making additional income. If I had to take on additional work to make money to cover my bills I would, but if I don’t have to I would rather spend my time making memories I can look back on fondly. Money is useful, but if I had to make a choice today I would choose the people I care about over money every time.