4 Signs You’re Surviving Financially & How To Start Doing More With Your Money

The rules for financially thriving are different from the tenets of basic survival.

“What we think, we become.” — Buddha

No one wants to merely survive. We want to succeed to the greatest of our abilities. But many of us have only been taught financial survival tactics since childhood that serve us to the lowest level of financial growth possible.

Your purpose in life needs money. Even your most important relationships do. How present are you with your family and friends when you feel financially behind? A poor financial state is confidence-destroying.

Money is a real thing. It’s one of the few finite resources we possess to create an infinitely successful future for ourselves. How we manage it today means we eventually fly or get by in every other facet of our lives. Here are some examples of survival behavior when it comes to money management. In your financial life, are you surviving, or are you thriving?

1. You live for *only* today.

Do you live in full gratitude for today? (Thriving.) Or, do you live only for today with the way you use your money? (Surviving.) Even if you can’t really afford it, do you:

Treat yourself to a lavish vacation with friends.

Buy yourself an expensive juice every day.

Eat out at restaurants often to celebrate life.

Buy six brands of the same basic shade of lipstick because your face deserves it.

Lease a pricey car with all the perks.

These may sound like fabulous ways to love yourself, but when you find every reason to spend money as though tomorrow may never come, you live a financially pessimistic life. You may feel better for a few hours or even a few days, but your unhappiness inevitably returns. Meanwhile, your financial future gets bleaker.

What you decide to preserve today for something more important to you tomorrow matters. If you don’t have enough financial resources saved in a separate account to pay for your rent and all other living expenses for at least six months without debt, you stay in survival mode.

Then get out of it. Save what you need for a vibrant future, starting now. What you deserve more than a seventh tube of lipstick is financial security.

“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” — Warren Buffett

2. You look for miracles

Unfortunately, the natural laws of finance don’t care about our feelings. When we’re financially desperate, we want to see big, immediate changes. I’ve been there. I get that. But, how you get out of financial survival mode will be similar to the way you got in — through small, productive steps.

You’re reading this article right now because you have high standards. They’re probably nosebleed. You may not be sure how to manage your money, but in general, you’ve got ambitions. How do high expectations work? They come with greater doubt, fear of failing, and social pressure to give up and return to reaching more conventional levels of success. In other words, we create a lot of potential for anger and disappointment in ourselves by reaching for instant financial success. How about we dial that back?

Smaller steps executed with great love and consistency on a day-to-day basis will get you much farther. The same is true for money. During times of financial uncertainty, your best bet is to put your greatest effort behind driving simple, small changes in the right direction.

Pay off your debt balances a little more per month.

Pay your bills on time instead of late.

Invest 5% of the money you have left over every month in something you care about. A new business. An education for your kids. A higher degree.

You don’t have to go big to realize a very different financial future. Focus on what you can do, and have faith. Be realistic about your expectations, and over time, you will thrive.

3. You invest little

  • A financial survivor’s money outflow ratio: 90% spending, 5% saving, 5% investing
  • A financial thriver’s money outflow ratio: 40% spending, 10% saving, 50% investing

Do you see the difference?

A survivor spends everything on his or her monthly expenses. There’s nothing left. Whether it’s that he or she makes too little and lives an expensive lifestyle, or he/she earns a lot but spends way too much, it doesn’t matter. There’s no balance.

A thriver spends far less than what they make, and invests a tremendous amount, either in themselves (e.g. to upgrade a skill set, or start a new business), other people, or other assets (e.g. companies or real estate, to name a few). They invest in life. They don’t spend it away on stuff that has nothing to do with their purpose.

“Do not save what is left after spending, but spend what is left after saving.” — Warren Buffett

I’ve given you simple ballpark figures (they’ll vary according to where you live and any other special circumstances). However, if your numbers are way off, you’re living on the edge and not thriving. Your ratios must be well-balanced. Otherwise, you’re just surviving.

(To read more about the math of investing, try A Guide To Becoming Unstoppable With Money.)

4. Your money has no job

What do you want to do with your life? Close your eyes for a minute and imagine it. Ask yourself…

Do you want to play big or small? Most of us play small, but by default. We stay ignorant about money and scrape by. We don’t work towards a healthier financial balance. We don’t make sacrifices, and though we think we’re living big, we’re actually preparing to live small.

Thrivers view their financial state differently. They see their money as having a critical job. Their finances support their most cherished thing: their purpose. Creating financial stability allows a thriver to master her skills, work out the kinks, and make a mark in the world. She gets the option of spreading her mission to the nth degree. She can invest in ideas that don’t have a short-term payback. She’s allowed to take career risks.

“Whatever you have, you must either use or lose.” — Henry Ford

You won’t be able to take it with you. The point is not to have the most money for the day before you die. Because on your last day, you’ll never ask, how much money have I got? But you may wonder, what kind of impact did I make?

Manage your money toward something meaningful to you. Keep your eyes focused on what you love, and there will inevitably be less financial waste in your life. You’ll see money as a tool. You’ll know what it’s for. We can all thrive, but not all of us will. Thriving requires making difficult choices, having patience beyond what you think you have, and knowing what you want. Most of us will only survive. What will you do?

Jane Hwangbo is a former investment analyst and portfolio manager who founded Mission Over Money, a personal coaching program designed to change the way individuals see and interact with money. Visit her website or find her on Twitter.

Image via Unsplash

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