Money Can’t Meet Your Emotional Needs

On Money and Happiness and Meeting Your Emotional Needs

Studies have shown that people who feel more successful than their friends are happier than people who feel less successful than their friends. That made me laugh—maybe all you need for happiness is poorer, unsuccessful friends!

The Dalai Lama says most people base their happiness on comparisons to others. A study evaluated lottery winners and the impact winning had on their lives. The same researchers also studied another group—recent paraplegics. The study revealed that six months after winning the lottery or becoming a paraplegic, both groups had the same level of happiness. So winning the lottery will make you just about as happy as becoming a paraplegic. After discovering this I stopped buying lottery tickets—why buy a ticket if all you need to do is jump in front of a bus? (I’m not jumping in front of any buses either!)

Here’s a much more useful assignment:

First, write down everything you would buy, do, have or be if you did win the lottery. What changes would you make in your life? What would you do differently? Then, make those changes now, in whatever small ways you can. You may not be able to buy a new Porsche, but you could test drive one or possibly buy a used one. If you’d quit your job, start looking for work you’d enjoy if you didn’t have to work. This is the new retirement. After lying on the beach or playing golf, most retirees start scouting around for something more fulfilling, challenging and rewarding to do. They might not want to work 40-60 hours, but most want to do something other than loll around and find semi-retirement more enjoyable than full retirement. If you already do work you love, congratulations! You’ve effectively retired early.

If you won the lottery, would you hire a housekeeper or a cook?

You might find that you can afford some of these luxuries now, even just once a month to start. Most of the things people think they want don’t require as much money as you might think. Sometimes, you just need to closely examine how you are spending your money. Is it making you as happy as possible? By cutting expenses that don’t give you joy, you may find you have money available for the things that do give you joy.

One of my clients, with a large, $500,000 house, realized she didn’t actually want the house which cost $3,500 a month to maintain. Instead, she’d rather live in a beautiful apartment with a pool and yard that requires no maintenance, is within walking distance of her daughter’s school and costs $1,000 a month. She realized she would rather have the extra money to take a trip to Disney World and travel abroad. All this she could easily afford if she let go of the expensive house.

Is your lifestyle what you really want, or are you trying to keep up with your friends or neighbors?

After all, it really is rather silly to base your happiness on what someone else’s life looks like.

The other thing that mystifies me is why people think they should be happy if they aren’t doing anything on a daily basis that makes them happy. If you are in a job you don’t like or a relationship that brings you down, why would you expect happiness? If you aren’t doing anything that brings you joy (dancing, playing soccer, painting, dining with friends, etc.) why should you expect to be happy? Structure your life so you are doing something every single day that makes you happy. It doesn’t have to be big stuff. One client sits on her porch with a cup of tea, looking at her beautiful trees while writing in her journal every morning. This starts her day on the right foot. Her next step is to create the perfect evening routine.

Are you working to support a lifestyle or a life you truly love? Is it worth it?

Make your lottery list and take a close look at your spending habits. How much joy do you get from every dollar you spend? If it isn’t giving you joy, it is time to rethink your spending and your lifestyle.

The most common error I see in the area of money is the belief that making more money is the fastest way to solve your financial problems.  This is why intelligent people fall for get-rich-quick schemes and play the lottery–they are hoping for a big pile of money that will solve all their financial problems. The problem with this strategy is that money is not the answer to most problems. Get to the root of why you are in financial trouble in the first place. If you don’t figure this out, any extra money you make, win or attract will slip down the same old drain.

What are the common money drains?

Having unmet emotional needs is typically the hidden source not only of our discontent, but of our financial problems. We are conditioned to think that if we go out and buy something we’ll feel better. In truth, no amount of money will ever be enough to satisfy your emotional needs. There is no getting around this one.

Years ago, with the help of my own life coach, I finally figured out that I was overspending because I had a need to be cherished. Unfortunately, the spending high was short-lived. Once I realized what I really needed (to be cherished), I began to think of ways to get that need met. I asked my mother to call me every week and tell me how much she loved me. Then, I asked my sister to send me a postcard once a week saying some way she appreciated me. Finally, I asked my boyfriend at the time to give me a back rub once a week. Don’t worry, they don’t have to do it forever, just for six to eight weeks until you feel your need disappearing. As I began to feel completely cherished, my desire to shop also vanished.

I didn’t have to exert “willpower” to stop spending. It just faded away naturally because I no longer felt the need to.

Once my emotional needs were fulfilled, I was able to make permanent lifestyle changes. I kept a detailed spending log to track every single purchase down to the penny for a month so I could see where my money was going and then made a few changes, cutting out the expenditures that didn’t bring me joy and keeping those that did. In time, I went from having $22,000 in debt to having six months’ living expenses in the bank. I had been waiting for something magical to rescue me—a big raise at the bank or a knight in shining armor. With my debts under control, I started attracting more success and financially successful men. You are much more likely to attract what you want if you don’t need it. So get your personal and emotional needs met first! Not sure what your needs are? Try taking the free Emotional Index Quiz and raise your emotional IQ instantly.


To learn more about financial freedom, check out the FIRE course.


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