Money is an uncomfortable subject for most of us. We love money, and we hate it. We can't live with it, and we can't live without it. Money can be a source of great joy and creativity, or it can bring frustration and misery, depending on our relationship with it. And we bring all these doubts and fears, hopes and expectations with us every time we deal with money--not just when we visit a financial planner or a loan officer, but in every area of our lives.
Money touches almost every aspect of living: work, leisure time, creative activities, home, family, and spiritual pursuits. Everything we do and dream of is affected by our relationship with this powerful form of energy. Whether your dream is to travel around the world, pay for a house, establish a food bank, buy a Corvette, get out from under a mountain of debt, or take a year off to write a novel, that vision is intertwined with the possibilities and pitfalls bound up in the energy of money.
This very discomfort is what makes our relationship with money such fertile ground. Whatever is potent for us, whatever elicits strong emotions, whatever seems to "hold on to us" in life has the power to bring forth our greatest strengths and most remarkable qualities. Our relationship with money calls on us to wake up, to see how we are handling all kinds of energy--not only money but time, physical vitality, enjoyment, creativity, and the support of friends--and to use those lessons to enrich every aspect of our lives.
The Hero's Journey
In my twenty-five years as a clinical psychologist and seventeen years of leading the You and Money Course, I have been inspired by how willing people are to learn and apply these lessons in ways that enrich their own lives and contribute to others. In fact, I have come to see our relationship with money as a hero's journey. It is a path fraught with trials and triumphs, tribulations and treasure.
The hero's journey is often thought of as a classic "coming of age" story. We all undergo such a journey, consciously or unconsciously, in our individual lives. And we all go through the same basic stages of this journey as we undertake new pursuits and goals throughout our lives: we depart from our familiar routines, lives, or families; we enter into unknown territory where we encounter fears, mysteries, dragons, and mentors; we are initiated into new understandings, pursuits, or skills; and, finally, we gain mastery over our newfound skills, ourselves, and our particular part of the world.
The hero's journey calls on us to bring forth the power of "being", which Webster defines as "the complex of spiritual qualities that constitutes an individual". In working with the energy of money, we think of our being as that ineffable, indescribable part of us that remains constant and courageous, regardless of what is happening around us. The power of being emerges in moments of extraordinary insight or heroism. It is our authentic self, the essence of who we are, apart from our personality traits or the drama that sometimes surrounds our lives. The hero strives to bring the qualities of being to whatever he does, including his relationship with money. Working with money from the source of your true being will give you power and ease and a sense of interconnectedness.
The main goal of the hero's journey is to make your dreams a physical reality--and to learn from all the challenges along the way. In doing this, we see and appreciate our own true nature more clearly--which is where our dreams come from--and we share ourselves and our accomplishments as a contribution to others. I believe that this is the purpose of being human.
In the You and Money Course, I've coached more than 4,500 people toward breakthroughs in their relationship with money. One by one, I've held each person's hand as he or she stood in front of a group, took a deep breath, and began talking about his or her money life and monthly take-home pay. This was desperately uncomfortable for some, but these people had a vision for themselves. They realized that they had achieved certain goals, and some had come a long way from where they began, but they also sensed that something was keeping them from going further. They all had intentions and dreams, and the desire to know that they had made a difference. They had inner Standards of Integrity, even if they had temporarily lost sight of them, and they were willing to experience the momentary discomfort of revealing themselves and their concerns to the group if it might help them experience miracles.
I have worked with people in every walk of life, wealthy men and women and those on welfare, as they grappled with their relationship with money. I saw them look at how they had been "shooting themselves in the foot", at where they had stopped themselves in the past, and at what they could do to keep moving forward toward their goals and dreams despite great discomfort.
I saw these people succeed at bringing their dreams into reality with ease and joy--building a business that contributed to the community, getting their pilot's license, having an art exhibit or publishing the book they'd always wanted to write, taking their children on a vacation, being a successful entrepreneur. Finally, I watched them see themselves clearly, sometimes for the first time, and experience themselves as courageous, wise, loving, powerful, and compassionate individuals who had learned to release and use the energy of money.
This journey always began with being willing to look within, and then to bring forth into physical reality that which had heart and meaning. These people have inspired me, and shown me what was important in my own life. They have also pointed me to certain questions, and one of these is: Why is it that we don't use all the information and resources available to us to achieve what we want in life?
Knowledge + Wisdom = Power
Today, we are surrounded as never before by all manner of information, knowledge, and advice--but something stops us from using it. Have you ever read a financial magazine or gone to a money-management seminar, but then didn't put all that good advice to use in your life? As one woman said, "I have some of the world's greatest money books sitting on my nightstand gathering dust. I wish I could close my eyes and absorb them all through osmosis or something. I never seem to do anything with the information."
Acquiring information and advice about how to manage or invest our money is easy. The trick is to act on the information, to do something that improves your life and the lives of those you love. That's what wielding the energy of money is all about. The woman with the stack of unused budget and investment books was not experiencing a powerful relationship with money. Her situation had nothing to do with her skills, talents, ability, or intelligence. It had everything to do with her own personal money obstacles--obstacles that she eventually cleared away using the principles in this book.
If you could take all the information available and put it to work in your life--if you could translate all that knowledge into behavior--would you do it?
All of my work as a clinical psychologist and in the You and Money Course has been aimed at giving people the tools both to use all the information and knowledge available, and to access their own inner wisdom--because I believe that knowledge plus wisdom equals power.
Using the Energy of Money
To use the energy of money successfully, you need to operate in both physical reality and the metaphysical reality made up of, among other things, dreams, visions, and your Life's Intentions.
Our inner visions inspire us, but we can't be content merely to "metafizzle" our ideas without taking any action in the real world. I can dream forever about taking a trip to Paris, but nothing will happen until I call the travel agent, book a ticket, go to the airport, and gather the funds to pay for all this. If I don't do these things in physical reality, that goal of a Paris trip will languish on my "wish list" forever, the subject of endless talks with friends and perhaps even discussions of how I limit myself. Psychological insight, positive thinking, and reading travel brochures may help me clarify what I really want, but only the energy of money will help me get on the plane.
How do I make it happen with ease? And how do I apply the lessons I learn in my relationship with money to all other areas of my life?
When you learn to work freely and easily with the energy of money, your life will become what psychologists and counselors call "intentionally" satisfying. You will know precisely what you want, what brings you joy and meaning, and you will see how to get it with ease. It will not be a hit-or-miss proposition. For example, when you understand your true Life's Intentions, apply your personal Standards of Integrity, and learn to release the energy of money within your company, you will do business differently and probably with greater success. You will make the important decisions in your life consciously, never again abandoning your dreams by default because you "can't afford them."
My Own Story
If you had asked me to talk about my relationship with money seventeen years ago, I would have been mortified. That year, I gambled and lost. I invested $35,000 on an unsecured promissory note to a man I had known for six months. It wasn't even my own money. I had borrowed it from a family member.
The man to whom I loaned this money promised I would get a 30 percent return on my investment. The money was supposed to be used to make short-term loans to buyers who needed to close real estate escrows. It was a fraud. There were no escrows, and within a few months all the investors lost everything.
Like many of you, I had read investment books and attended money seminars. I had a financially sound private practice as a clinical psychologist. But in the case of this $35,000 investment, what I knew didn't influence my behavior.
When I lost the money, I felt terrible. I have since repaid my relative, but at the time I still felt stupid. It was bad enough to have lost the money, and equally humiliating not to have listened to my friends, who told me to reconsider, that the deal sounded too good to be true. And worst of all was a haunting memory: just as I was about to sign my name to that $35,000 check, I distinctly heard a small voice--my internal voice of reason--say, "Don't do it!" Did I listen? No.
I hoped no one would find out what had happened. I thought that for the next several months, I could just hide in my office, make lots of money, and hope my friends would forget to ask me about my investment. However, Fate had other plans for me. Two weeks after I discovered my money was gone, I got an unexpected phone call from a local newswoman.
"Dr. Nemeth," she began, "the university gave us your name because you're an associate clinical professor there. We know you're a psychotherapist, and I need your help on an article I'm writing for the Sacramento Bee."
Now, as many of us would, I found her inquiry a great boost to my shaken state of mind. Here, at last, was a chance to recoup some of my lost self-esteem. After all, I was still a competent psychologist!
"Yes, I'd be glad to help in any way I can," I said with my most dignified, yet humble, professional voice.
"Well, you may not be aware of this, but Sacramento has been having a run of investment frauds lately. I'm doing an article on it. We need to know if there is any type of personality or character flaw that allows people to get taken in these schemes. You must see lots of these types of people in your practice. What exactly is wrong with their thinking process?"
Oh, my God! I was caught! At first, I wanted to say that I was way too busy to talk. I wanted to hang up the phone before she asked another question. I saw my reputation going down the drain. But the worst was yet to come.
I'm an extrovert. In order to know what I'm thinking, I have to hear myself say it. So, before I knew it, I heard the following words slipping out of my mouth: "I was one of those people! I lost $35,000 on that scheme!" I stared into the receiver, feeling my heart going right down through those little black holes. I was horrified.
After a long pause, the reporter asked kindly, "Are you sure you want to tell me this? Do you really want me to print this?"
As I regained my breath, I considered her questions. She might as well, I thought. Maybe others can learn from my mistakes.
At one point, the reporter tried to find excuses for my actions. "He played upon your trust and relationship with your friends who were also investing," she said.
"Well, maybe. But do you want to know the real reason I invested with him without reading the fine print?" By now, the relief from telling the truth was making me feel a little heady.
"Yes. Tell me," she gasped.
"It was greed."
The instant the words were out of my mouth, I knew it was true. Greed. Wanting to beat the system and make a quick profit. I hadn't listened to anyone who warned me about how risky the investment was. I had been blinded by the possibility of a fabulous outcome. I had not wanted to bother with the finer details, such as knowing the long-term track record of the company. I did not even ask to see the actual escrow papers of the deals I was supposed to be financing!
The reporter's interview was lengthy. The article she wrote detailed how people from all walks of life can experience moments of money madness. Greed was the form this madness took with me.
Soon after the publication of the interview, my friends and colleagues started calling to reveal their own financial nightmares. They had stories of scams, bankruptcies, and unexpected losses. People told me about their spending binges, or how they hid money from their spouses. I heard stories of families being torn apart because some were left more money than others when their parent or loved one died.
People told me about goals they had abandoned. They spoke about dreams delayed or unachieved because of the fear of taking even the slightest chance with their money. A bank vice president told me about a couple who kept more than $250,000 in a low-interest, simple savings account because they were too afraid to invest in money-market certificates.
Soon I had a big file of personal stories that showed how upset we can get in our relationship with money. Some of the people who told the truth about their worries and difficult money experiences were bankers, real estate brokers, certified financial planners, and stockbrokers. These were individuals one would expect to know better. The truth was, they did know better. Their knowledge was simply not getting translated into Authentic Action.
A well-known financial consultant confided, "When it comes to other people's money, I know just what to do. But I can't follow my own financial advice. I'm like the child of the shoemaker going without shoes."
I have since found that this is not an unusual experience, and it's especially difficult for those who are experts in financial fields. If their relationship with money is less-than-powerful, they worry that they are frauds. Nothing could be further from the truth! Interacting with the energy of money is an opportunity for all of us to learn lessons--no matter how much information we have. The trick is to identify and learn those lessons before they get bigger and more demanding.
I spoke with other people who, rather than having a disastrous relationship with money, were simply bored with the tedious predictability of their money lives. They made enough to pay the bills and make necessary major purchases. Their credit-card debt was too high, but they felt they would get around to paying it off--someday. Many of their goals and dreams had been delayed until their lives settled down--one day. This "someday/one day" mantra had captured their attention and was draining their creative energy.
The Energy of Money
by Maria Nemeth, Ph.D.
Excerpted by permission of Ballantine, a division of Random House, Inc. ©1999. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. www.randomhouse.com
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About The Author
Maria Nemeth, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist with more than twenty-eight years' experience, a former clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California-Davis School of Medicine, and a former columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal. Her popular Sounds True six-tape series, The Energy of Money, and her You and Money seminars (www.youandmoney.com) have helped thousands of people to create ongoing affluence and financial ease.