In our culture it’s okay to talk about therapy we’ve gone through, marital problems we’ve had, our deepest intimate secrets—but telling the truth about money, confessing our worries to our children, our parents, our friends, just isn’t done. Money is our secret both in private and in public. Imagine going to a dinner party and telling a group of close acquaintances, "I just don’t know what to do. My credit card debt has gone up to $17,000, and I don’t know how I’ll ever get out of it." The room would fall into embarrassed silence. (Most silent of all would be the others in the room weighed down by the secret of their own credit card debt.)
Almost all of us have, at some level, fears or anxieties about money, but we rarely admit them to those around us. We may not admit them to ourselves. But because they are holding us back, preventing us from taking control of our financial lives, looking these fears in the eye is an essential step toward freedom.
The Time for Money
I hear it from new clients every single day: "I’m too busy at work to deal with my money. I just don’t have the time." How is it possible that we’re all so busy working hard to earn money that we can't deal with the money we’re working so hard to earn? The answer is that it’s not possible.
There’s plenty of time for work, barbecues, bike rides, reading books (even books about money), seeing friends, talking on the phone, hanging out on the Internet, watching TV . . . time isn’t the problem. What prevents you from dealing with your money is not lack of time, but your fear of money.
Fears: The Weeds in Your Financial Garden
The trouble with fears is that when we keep them inside and refuse to deal with them, they grow, like weeds left alone in a garden. Take the fear of not having enough to cover the bills this month and let it wander around by itself, unchecked. Where will it go? It will become the fear of not having enough in general. Stretch that fear out, and it will become the fear of having nothing, of somehow losing everything. That’s a long way from not quite being able to pay all the bills this one month.
When you hold on to things in this way, you give them power. The way to control the fear instead is to voice it. Once you say it, you can see it: There’s no crocodile under the bed. So some bills will be late this month. It can’t be helped, things happen. That’s one reason we say time is money. The less time your fear allows you to devote to your money, the less money you will have. Weed out your fears, so you can give your financial garden what it needs to grow.
What Are You Afraid Of?
Most of us push away our fears without even knowing it. I am asking you now to step into them instead, pull them closer for a moment. What is it that you’re afraid of? Write it down. If nothing profound comes to mind, just give it time; often we block what we don’t want to face. Here, to give you an idea, are some of the fears that come into my office every day:
- I’m afraid I’m going to be a bag lady.
- I’m afraid I won’t be able to support my family.
- If something goes wrong at work, what other job could I possibly get?
- I’m afraid that if my friends find out how much money I have, they won’t like me.
- I’m afraid because I don’t even know the right questions about money to ask.
- I’m afraid that my husband will leave me, and then how will I get by?
- If my husband dies, who will take care of me?
- What if my parents have to go into a nursing home?
- I keep having to use my credit card just to cover the bills each month.
- How will I ever pay for my children’s college expenses?
- I am afraid I will loss everything I have.
Create a New Truth
The mind gives us thousands of ways to say no, but there’s only one way to say yes, and that’s from the heart. Believing, really believing, other realities makes other realities true: that you can control money, that you do deserve to do well, that there will be enough.
How do you replace the old fears, the old reality? With new thoughts. With new truths. Call it what you like—a financial mantra, a new truth, a new belief in yourself—but you must create a positive, empowering message for yourself and instill it into your powerful mind to replace the fear you’re leaving behind, beginning now.
Three Rules for Your New Truth
Install it, instill it, retrain your mind to believe it. Write it down twenty-five times a day, have it stamped on a T-shirt and sleep in it every night, say it to yourself on your way to work, when you pay your bills, when you begin to worry about money, when you feel afraid. Say it when you’re in the shower, first thing in the morning, last thing at night. A positive message to yourself, a message of possibilities. Do it when you resist it, do it when you don’t believe in it, do it when you feel as if it’s a useless drill, keep doing it until you believe it. Then it will be true. Three rules for your new truth:
Fears hate more than anything else to be defeated. They will try to invade your new truth like a virus, telling you what you can’t do, not what you can do, telling you what you can’t be, not what you are becoming, telling you what you aren’t, not what you are and have every right to be. Don’t listen. Just keep repeating your new truth.
- Make it short enough so that you can remember it exactly word for word, so that it’s easy for you to say. For example: "I have more money than I will ever need."
- Put your message in the present tense; the future begins today: "I am in control of all of my affairs."
- Make it an unlimited truth, to open the way to receive: "I am putting at least $200 a month into savings."
Your new truth is bigger than your fears, bigger than your debt, bigger than your worries about the future, bigger than all the things you’ve meant to do with your money but haven’t done. Now you can do them.
About the Author
A Certified Financial Planner® professional, Suze Orman directed the Suze Orman Financial Group from 1987 to 1997, served as vice president of investments for Prudential-Bache Securities form 1983 to 1987, and from 1980 to 1983 was an account executive at Merrill Lynch. She has lectured widely throughout the U.S., has appeared on numerous TV shows, including CNN and The Oprah Winfrey Show, and has produced and hosted two highly acclaimed PBS Specials. She is a regular contributor on the Today Show. For more information see, www.suzeorman.com. This article was condensed from Step Two of Suze Orman's #1 New York Times best-seller, The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom.