Have you ever been curious about the key to true wealth? Well the answer may lie not only in the way you manage your money, but also in how you think about money. The Cheat Sheet chatted with Michael Kay, certified financial planner and author of The Feel Rich Project: Reinventing Your Understanding of True Wealth to Find True Happiness. Here’s what he had to say.
The Cheat Sheet: Why did you write this book?
Michael Kay: I wrote this book because so many people are living in money misery—in debt up to their eyeballs, trying to keep up with how they think they’re supposed to live, rather than what makes them truly happy. Feeling rich—true wealth—comes from harmonizing who you are with how you live. I also talk a lot about understanding and repairing any dysfunctional money messages we brought to adulthood, because how you are imprinted with money has a big impact on how successful you are with it today.
CS: What is financial happiness? How do we attain it?
MK: Financial happiness is having a clear picture of what’s most important in your life and living according to those values without feeling blame, shame, and “less than” people who have a higher net worth or income. Getting there is a process, but it starts with understanding exactly where you are right now and then deciding where you want to be. The key to unlocking financial happiness is often rewiring some core, unsupportive beliefs about money that can lead to living in misery.
CS: What is true wealth?
MK: Look into the eyes of those you love—that’s a great place to start. Think about what gets you out of bed in the morning and what allows you to put your head on the pillow at night and feel secure and happy. That is wealth. Maybe it’s laughing with your family over the dinner table. Or giving away things you don’t need to those who do. Or just planting flowers in your backyard. One of the things I love about my work is that everyone’s definition of true wealth is different.
CS: What do you mean when you say feeling rich has little to do with being rich?
MK: Coco Chanel once said, “There are people who have money and people who are rich.” Feeling rich means using the money you do have to live a purposeful and abundant life that reflects your true self—your real values. You don’t need to be a millionaire to do that. Of course, that doesn’t mean you’ll always have everything you want, but it does mean you are clear on what matters most. You understand the difference between a “want” and a “need” and are willing to make trade-offs to live the life you most crave.
CS: What is money misery? How can we alleviate it?
MK: Money misery is when you’re living in a push/pull existence. You know that the decisions you’re making push you into a worse financial situation, but you do it anyway.The bills pile up and you’re not making enough money to pay them and support your lifestyle. Bill collectors call, you have sleepless nights, panic…that’s one form of money misery. The only way to truly, once-and-for-all alleviate money misery is to replace what you currently believe about money with a more rational belief system based on your values.
CS: What is a money imprint? How do your life experiences create your money imprint?
MK: You acquire your money imprint in childhood by listening and watching your parents and those around you. You learn that money is a tool, that it needs to be saved, spent carefully and that it doesn’t “buy” happiness. Or you learn that money creates conflict, is the root of all evil, that rich people are bad or that it’s important to show your wealth (even if you don’t have it). You assimilate those imprints or impressions in early years and—even though you processed them through an immature mind—they become your “normal” for good or bad. The question you want to ask yourself is this: Does your money imprint bring you closer to or further away from living a rich life as you define it?
CS: What do you hope your readers will learn from this book?
MK: I hope that readers who are in money misery will see that they are not alone. I’d like to inspire them to start—and then guide them to finish—the process I lay out for them to begin to build new beliefs, behaviors and habits around money. I also hope that this work helps demystify money and financial challenges. You don’t need an MBA in finance to lead a satisfying and successful life; you just need to decide that you will be an active participant in making better decisions.
CS: Anything to add?
MK: Just this. You start living the life you genuinely crave when you commit to matching your beliefs and values with action. You can read all the books you want, but until you take that first step, nothing will change.