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How We Totally Misunderstand The Idea Of Being Wealthy

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It’s a word that reeks of New Age dogma — “abundance.” To someone who lives in a world where bills have to be paid and money doesn’t appear out of the sky from meditation, “abundance” can just sound plain goofy.

But abundance is a state of mind. It is not its literal meaning, “a very large quantity of something,” or “the counting of many things.” When spiritual teachers refer to abundance, they mean that you want for nothing, and that you have everything you need right now. Abundance pulls you into the present so that you recognize the true breadth of possibilities before you. It’s hard for most of us to feel abundant, though, about our money, because we’re sure we’ll never have enough of it. We’re not aware of our own financial neuroses. We accidentally live small financial lives. You want to live a big life filled with mission and purpose, but your thoughts on money stay small. You get stuck.

Abundance is your way out. Abundance allows you to mentally break from the habits you practice out of fear and insecurity about the future. Abundance is for everyone. You may not believe it until you’ve come to terms with your own financial story, but you’re getting in your own way.

The Double A’s of Financial Struggle

There are two main ways we sabotage our finances day in and day out: Avoidance and Attachment. Which one do you practice?

Typical “avoidant” financial behavior includes:

  • Buying gifts for everyone to prove your abundant attitude;
  • Picking up the check for every group meal (to make your generosity obvious);
  • Buying nice things for yourself all the time, even if you can’t afford them;
  • Carrying a credit card balance month to month.

Your money never stays in your hands long enough for you to do anything productive with it. You avoid it entirely. For the avoidant, abundance means spending money on non-essentials, which makes zero sense if you think about it. Abundance is actually about knowing that you want for nothing and that you already have everything you need.

If you feel sad when you’re not spending money, you might have grown up with people who believed that abundance was equal to how much you could buy and externally show the world. They probably mismanaged money as a habit, which confirmed a misbegotten belief in you that you had to use your money while it was around, or it would be gone tomorrow. Perhaps you accepted this belief in your own way, and have been busy sabotaging yourself since.

On the other side of the spectrum, typical “attached” behavior includes:

  • Saving for saving’s sake alone, often called frugality;
  • Refusing to spend on experiences;
  • Spending more time searching for coupons than other productive financial activity such as investing in your earnings power;
  • Not tipping people who serve you well, even when the service you received was above and beyond expectations.

If you’re attached, you’re insecure about the value of your self-worth measured in any other currency besides dollars and cents. You believe that the more money you have, the more worthy you are, so you hoard it. Maybe you came from a family that had to scrimp and save to survive. Or, you were surrounded by people who regularly put things and material wealth ahead of people.

Recall how I mentioned above that how you treat your money is a reflection of how you measure your self-worth; it’s not the amount of money you have that’s a reflection of your self-worth. It’s an important distinction that attached people have trouble with. You are not the quantity of your money.

Raising Your Financial Consciousness

Your story may be so entrenched, so long in history, that you don’t even know that you’re playing your own movie over and over again in your head, not aware of the million other possibilities you could be living instead. Abundance, in non-New Age terms, means knowing that you have everything you need in this moment, no matter the challenges. It is objective.

It means adopting an expansive state of mind, not more stuff. It means circulating your wealth in such a way that creates more joy in the world for you and for others. It also means creating a financial balance of inflows and outflows for yourself that allows for a secure — not insecure — future.

Abundance doesn’t mean that you should have it all. It means that you already do.

Avoiding A Potential Pitfall

The biggest danger with money ironically lies in its greatest value — that it can be used for almost everything. There’s so much choice. As Greg McKeown discusses in his book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,

If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.

Making financial decisions such as spending, saving, and investing from a state of abundance is your way out of chaos. Abundance means needing less while having more. Do the inner work of understanding your own behavior with money. Free yourself from an accidental financial life, and become intentional with your money. Ask yourself, if you want for nothing, what would you choose to do with your money? Your answer will illuminate what you truly love.

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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  • Declan

    This. Blew. My. Mind. Never has a personal finance article illuminated my spending pattern in a way that I didn’t even have an inkling before. A-ma-zing

  • Ellie Rockhill

    Oh. Man. I’m totally an avoider, and my new boyfriend is definitely attached.

    I did the quiz/assessment thing on Mission over Money’s website and I think I am going to do the $7 money cleanse workshop thing. I think the lessons there could be really interesting and I would love to figure out how to apply that to mine and my guy’s opposing mindsets. Curiously, my ex and I were both avoiders, and I know what that did to our shared finances.

    Interesting stuff, I really liked this a lot.

  • Savanna Swain

    I find it incredibly fascinating how often we talk about our “relationships” with money, where money is personified like a living thing…Interesting how like a real life partner, it has has the potential to either bring you joy or pain or drive you mad. The way you describe it with the avoidant/attachment types, similar to human relationships is absolutely brilliant!

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