5. Ignorance is not bliss where money is concerned.
We all take in financial information from outside sources, whether it's friends and family, professionals we hire, the magazines and blogs we read, or the television we watch. Gathering that information is important, but at the end of the day you must depend on yourself to synthesize it and make your own informed decisions. Seeking out opinions is smart; blindly following those opinions without thinking through whether they make sense to you—and for you—will leave you drowning in a pool of powerlessness. When I was a struggling waitress and some amazing customers raised $50,000 to help me open my own restaurant, I blindly "gave" the money to a stockbroker without knowing how he was investing it. Within a few months, my account was worth zero. Zero! Was it the broker's fault? Sure. But it was mine, too. That was the moment I learned how my powerlessness had cost me a fortune. That was when I vowed to never trust anyone else to care about my money more than I do.
6. How you respect your possessions says a lot about how you respect yourself.
My closets are temples of organization. But they have been a work in progress. When I was just starting to make money as a stockbroker, I would come home after a long day and throw my clothes on the floor; by the weekend I had a pile of disheveled items that I schlepped off to the dry cleaner. I spent a lot of money having clothes cleaned and pressed because I was too lazy to hang them up at the end of the day. Sound trivial? I don't think so. It was symptomatic of my lack of respect for the money I had worked so hard to earn.
Cars are another dead giveaway. I once knew a woman who had serious external power and a super-impressive career. But her car was a disgusting mess: fast food wrappers all over the place and a trunk that was a mini-dump. One day she was driving us somewhere and asked me to pull her wallet out of her purse; my hand came back smeared in lipstick. Ick. No surprise, her financial life was a mess, too. I was at her house once when someone from the utility company came by to turn off her service because of lack of payment. Do you really think this was a happy woman? When you can't manage to keep the power turned on, exactly how much are you in control of your destiny?
And buying what you can't afford, regardless of how well you take care of it, is flat-out disrespectful of yourself. Purchasing a home with a crazy mortgage just because you think it is your right to be a homeowner—and then not being able to keep up with the payments—is not being true to your circumstances. Leasing a fancy car to keep up appearances when you have to borrow from your 401(k) to make the payments, or don't have enough to fund your Roth IRA? Tell me what that is all about!
If you don't respect what money can buy, you don't respect money. If you don't respect your financial obligations—paying your bills on time, buying only what you actually have the money for, saving for your future—then you don't respect money. And if you don't respect money itself, that is a sign you are not respecting yourself. It takes hours, weeks, and months working at a job to earn the money you then spend. To turn around and use that money in a wasteful or powerless way is just heartbreaking to me. You deserve better.
I want you to measure your power right now by walking through your home. First, open every closet and every drawer, and take a serious look in the garage, including the interior of the car. Are things organized or a mess? Next, pull out everything that still has a sales tag attached or is in unopened packaging. Why did you buy it? More important, when did you buy it? Perhaps when you were feeling less than? Every possession you bought is waiting to tell you a story. Take the time to learn the lessons that your money can teach you, and you will be on the path to building lasting and gratifying internal power. I'll bet all my money on it.
Suze Orman's most recent book is her 2009 Action Plan: Keeping Your Money Safe & Sound (Spiegel & Grau).
Get Back on Track: Suze's 10 Tips for a Fresh Financial Start
Feeling Powerless? If you think you have no control over your life, think again
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