Back in 2015 I read an article about a CEO who had himself read an article about the median salary required to maximize human wellbeing. This research showed that happiness increased with earning levels up to $75,000 per annum (at the time - 2010 - and in US dollars).
The explanation given was that this amount allowed people to afford all their basics and a little on top of that for pleasure and meaning - such things as travel, concert tickets, self care or hobbies. Earning above this showed no substantive increase in happiness or well being.
That CEO decided to level out salaries across the organization so everyone, regardless of their role, would be earning this amount. For many employees this was a considerable increase and for him it was a considerable decrease. 6 years later in 2021, he reported he was happier than he had ever been and his company has very high staff retention rates.
Lately financial stress has come up frequently as a topic in my client sessions. What has been really interesting to note is that stress and anxiety can arise in a huge range of situations and contexts with money: where lots of money is involved, where a lack of money is involved, where there is loss and where there is opportunity.
From a client feeling the unrelenting pressure to sustain a high salary to support the lifestyle of his family; to another behind on taxes and invested into crypto currency she doesn’t really understand; to another inheriting large sums but feeling empty and regretful about all it took to get there; to another finding himself left out of an inheritance; to another making lucrative changes to the structure of their mortgage and business, the same message comes through again and again behind the details - fear.
Without denying the soul-crushing grind of hunger and poverty, it is frequently not so much the circumstance itself but our conditioning and reactions to it that are key here.
How do you feel when thinking or talking about money?
Do you think it’s undignified to discuss it?
Does anger arise - rage at a system that creates such inequities?
Does your heart race in anxiety about your own place inside it, the security of your future wellbeing?
Do you agonize and procrastinate over every purchase to the point you feel sick in your stomach?
Do you avoid dealing with it but obsess over it all the time?
Does your throat close in terror or frustration about your situation?
Many of us find ourselves then acting impulsively, medicating our anxiety with spending, or overworking to make more money or pressuring ourselves to “get it right” with our decisions around money.
Or perhaps we avoid it, get vague about it, hoping it will all just “work itself out”.
Maybe we even get judgemental about it as a way to avoid our shame and discomfort and justify our inaction - “people who talk about money are grubby and greedy - I am just not materialistic”.
Our reactions, our conditioning and our traumas can make a bad situation worse or completely take the pleasure out of a good one. And so we need to work through our emotional responses, our beliefs, our stories, reactions and conditioning to try to relate to money in a balanced way.
If your reactions are strong, chances are you might have traumas or strong emotional imprints there that are driving your behavior and once cleared can allow you to take the actions you need to deal with the realities of what is possible for you and have a healthy relationship with money.
The first and most important step is to slow down and become aware of how you feel when relating to money - spending it, earning it, saving it, investing it, talking about it. Notice in any consideration you have around money what happens in your body and in your emotions. Learn how to regulate your emotions and nervous system so that you can approach these considerations from the place of possibility rather than fear.
We can find a place where we neither crave or avoid it but use and steward it wisely for the benefit of ourselves and those we love.