Money & Retire

How Your Money Really Can Buy Happiness

Does being a decision-maker in control of your money play a significant role in your satisfaction in relationships and life? Yes, as it turns out.

If you’re not already there, getting in control of your money is a process. And it starts with being willing to balance emotions, intellect and your desires vs. those of others.

The study “How Money Buys Happiness: Genetic and Environmental Processes Linking Finances and Life Satisfaction” (Wendy Johnson and Robert F. Krueger, University of Minnesota, 2006) found “the perceptions about financial situation and control had rather substantial effects of their own on life satisfaction.”

If you’re not already there, getting in control of your money is a process. And it starts with being willing to balance emotions, intellect and your desires vs. those of others.

When it comes to money, the players you’re juggling might include your spouse or significant other,your friends, kids, extended family members and colleagues. Even your own money history and beliefs can stake a claim of control over your time, decisions and direction. For example: Carly R., a divorced flight attendant, stated: “I feel out of control with my money and it is a source of constant worry and concern.”

Jean W., a new widow confided: “My husband took care of everything, I am so overwhelmed by everything concerning handling money, I don”t know where to begin.”

Sylvia J., said: “Money was a constant fight. My husband wouldn’t talk about it and we fought constantly about it. I threatened him with divorce and it wasn’t until we entered counseling that all his money and control issues came out. It was life changing for us.”

Gaining control means learning and understanding. You can learn the basics of money issues by reading independently or working with an experienced fee-only financial planner.

Fundamental financial knowledge is just the first part of gaining control over your money. There are two other significant factors: your ability to get clear on and work with your income and spending decisions and your money history.

Dealing with your income and spending is straightforward: know what you earn and what you spend.Get a handle on what part of your spending is for fixed items (rent, mortgage, loan payments and other”must” payments) vs. what you can control—and to what degree. For example, you can control your grocery spending somewhat if you shop wisely and use sales and coupons. You can control vacations and entertainment to a much greater degree.

Your money history impacts everything you do around money—and is much trickier to wrap your arms around. The lessons you learned growing up—your money imprint—created the foundation of what you perceive as normal. For example, if you heard, “It’s important to save for a rainy day" you might tend to be a good saver. But if you heard, “It’;s important to show everyone that you are successful,” the tape that plays endlessly in your head might lead you to spend, regardless of the consequences.

In order to gain control over your money life, you want to start with a clear understanding of your money history and your beliefs about money. If your money belief system leads you to money misery—debt, panic, worry, lack of savings and security—it’s time to reassess since clearly it’s not working for you. Instead, toss out those broken messages and install new ones that support a feeling of control and mastery.

Gaining control doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a plan, broken down into tiny supportive steps that cumulatively build a foundation of empowerment and control.

Michael F. Kay

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