One million dollars.
It used to be the magic number. Reach one million dollars and you can live a carefree life of champagne wishes and caviar dreams.
While one million dollars is still a fabulous sum of money, inflation means that it buys a lot less than it used to. And depending on where you live, it can buy even less (like in San Francisco, for instance!). I work with some clients who are fortunate to be amongst the 7.8 million Americans who have at least one million dollars (not counting their home), yet many of them still want more. It can be quite frustrating for them to achieve wealth, yet feel that they are still short of what they feel they need. They begin to question, "Will I ever have enough?"
I see the same phenomenon when people become parents. They now have to take into consideration not only the added expenses of being a parent: Child care, private schools and programs, forgone income, additional every day expenses, etc. They also feel the pull of a bigger driving force to be more "responsible" and put away still more money towards college funding, buying a better home, and family vacations.
So would one million dollars solve these problems?
I don't expect so.
Does that mean that our pursuits are worthless? That striving to continually make more is a waste of time? Of course not. With any type of stress, and perhaps financial stress most of all, it is easy to focus on what you don't have. The best solution is to try to reverse these feelings by focusing on the success you have had and your ability to do more without doing it all. You can learn to be satisfied along the way.
Try out these exercises:
- Know your Vision: What is it that you want to achieve? Where are you going? What do you want to feel? Pick up a pen or start typing. Write down your vision. Know what you are creating in your life. This will take you out of every day material spending and elevate your focus.
- Express and Feel Gratitude: Each day,acknowledge what you do have. Whether it is healthy children, a job you like, a comfy bed, a delicious cup of coffee. Practicing gratitude, above all else, keeps you present. At the start and end of each day, name three things for which you are grateful. Perhaps at dinnertime, your family can sit together and each person shares something for which they feel gratitude. It could be as small as a tasty donut you had for breakfast, or as large as a bonus check that will pay for your Hawaii trip. Express and notice good things no matter what your circumstances.
- Align with your Purpose: What are you "meant to do?" This very big question can be honed over many years --- but what is it that you bring to your work, to your family, to your community? Are you bringing forth your best and are you in alignment with your purpose?
- Prioritize: You can't have it all. And you never will be able to for all of the aforementioned recalibration reasons. You will always have to prioritize (I have heard this from very wealthy people, too!). When I work with clients, this is a HUGE part of the outcome of the plan. Where does your money go first, where does it go second, and if there is more, what's third. It's not easy to figure out, but when you do know, you rest assured that you are taking the right steps whether these are particularly high earning years, or you're just getting by. Understanding and knowing your priorities is critical to being okay with where you are right now and what you spend.
- Find Support: Trying to go it alone can spin you into circles. You run the risk of falling into the default position. Having someone outside your family support you will keep you on track. Be sure you find someone who will not judge your priorities.
- Practice: As with any new habit or new pursuit, you have to practice. You are going against the grain, and it takes practice to get into this new way of thinking and acting.
- Forgive Yourself: You will not get it "right" all the time. You can set the intention, practice to your best ability, but when you do fail to hold to this high standard of being "okay" where you are financially, forgive yourself. And start over again.
When Kristin isn't writing awesome guest blogs for us, she spends her time as a Financial Planner in San Francisco. She often blogs about life and finances.