I’ve recently picked up a refreshing book about personal finance: You’re Broke Because You Want to Be by Larry Winget.
The main thesis of the book is that everything you do, you do because you want to.
If you struggle to make rent each month, then deep down you want to be someone who struggles to make rent each month.
You may say you want to be financially free and earn in excess of what you need, but you don’t really. You might enjoy the fantasy of being flush, but that’s not the same as wanting it.
It’s not the first time I’ve heard of the idea that our destructive habits give us side-benefits. But to say that you want to be a person who indulges in those habits is perhaps an even more useful model.
It suggests a wider and deeper problem, yet perhaps a simpler solution.
Psycho-Cybernetics talks about self-image as the driver of all behaviour. Having a self-image as someone who struggles financially may be the same thing as “wanting” it. It’s just more comfortable when reality matches the image we hold inside.
I’m also reading What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars by Jim Paul, and I’m noticing some connections. The main ideas and lessons of each book seem to be different, but both talk about people getting into ridiculously bad financial positions due to psychological quirks.
Larry’s book has many anecdotes of seemingly insane people who he’s coached out of debt.
Example: The woman who lived with her husband, rent-free in her mother’s home so they could save for their own place. She owned a staggaring $600,000 worth of designer clothes in her borrowed closet! They hadn’t saved a penny.
Likewise, Jim talks about letting his own massive wealth drain away in one month for no logical reason. He held on to a stock that was going down and down, until he had nothing left. He only stopped when they took everything out of his office.
What possessed him to hold on when the stock was bleeding him dry, day after day? Why would an otherwise rational woman burn hundreds of thousands of dollars in clothes?
Why do I continue to waste precious time when there’s nothing stopping me from living up to my potential?
Irrational self-sabotage is fascinating to me for obvious reasons. These books hold pieces of the puzzle.
##Why The Hell Would I Want To Be Broke?
I just thought of one source for my own aversion to making as much as I could.
When I was in school and uni, my friends and I would wrinkle our noses at and freely judge people who got into jobs “for the money”. We would say, “Experiences are much more important than money”. We would feel justified in judging these people, because they’re clearly just greedy money-grubbers who don’t have enough self-respect to do what they actually want, right?
Of course, life has taught me that your experiences, like almost everything in life, is greatly influenced by your financial position. Also, we didn’t know what we “actually wanted” to do. Maybe these money focused types really wanted to “win” the game of life. There’s nothing pathetic about that.
What seemed like a very solid self-righteous position (oxymoron), turned out to be another delusion. It doesn’t matter to my deeper brain, however, who might still derive perverse pleasure from times when I’m struggling financially, because it somehow proves I’m a cool, independent-thinking guy who cares about more than my bank account.
There are probably many other little invented benefits one might get from staying broke.
It’s worth doing some digging to see what they are, so you can finally see how ridiculous they are.