MoneyZen: The Secret to Finding Your Enough
5 minute read
For the first 30 years of her career, first on Wall Street as a buy-side analyst and institutional portfolio manager, then as a financial advisor to individuals, Manisha Thakor was a striver. She was, as she puts it in her new book, Moneyzen, a self-described member of the Cult of Never Enough. “I landed on the other side of [age] 50 with a massive face plant,” she says, with a physical illness that involved her body – quite literally – attacking itself. “I had been running so long and so hard that I was burning out. I was divorced, childless and I’d lost all of my friends from working so hard and missing so many birthdays and other important life events. I had become a human doing rather than a human being.”
Many people would have crawled into a hole. Or, retreated to what they knew best – in Thakor’s case: work. She decided to do something different, turn inward and spend some time exploring exactly how she had gotten to this place. What she discovered was that, although it may be easy to ask how your self-identity has become too wrapped up in your job or net worth, answering that question is something else entirely.
The initial discovery – which in turn led to her path to a better place she calls Moneyzen (we’ll get to that in a moment) was that toxic money behaviors came from – four broad buckets of life experiences. First, the sort of personal traumas that result in feeling that you are not enough or less than. Second, cultural norms that place expectations (often unreasonable) on you. Third, societal influences, like social media, that encourage you to keep reaching for more. And fourth, evolutionary biology… Survival of the fittest (and richest, smartest, etc.) is not something, she explains, we have outgrown.
WATCH Your Money Map: MoneyZen: The Secret to Finding Your Enough
Once you understand how and why your relationship with money gets skewed, it’s easier to forge ahead and find a better, happier place. As Thakor defines it, “Moneyzen = Financial Health + Emotional Wealth.” Financial health is a place where you are able to meet all of your current obligations without any stress at all, she says. “You have something set aside for emergencies and when you are in the second half of life and are continuing to save for retirement or college funding or your elder care years, you feel good about what you have or are putting aside.” Said another way, just enough money (the must-have money) to cover those basic expenses. Emotional wealth, she says, the series of activities or cadences to your day that make your soul sing. That might include volunteering, spending time with friends and family, having hobbies. But it can also be small things. A beautifully lit candle. An environment that is particularly calm.
How do you get from here to there? Thakor will admit it’s a process that is likely to be different for each person depending on where you are right now. But there are a few guiding principles that can help when it comes to both the financial – and the emotional.
- Strive for some sort of balance. In Thakor’s case, she had focused so much on money and financial health that she was “emotionally bankrupt”. “Most people aren’t as extreme as me – able to retire at 50, but with no idea how to be a human – usually they are just struggling to balance one with the other.”
- Financially, try to get a sense of what’s enough. Enough is not a number, Thakor explains. “I spent the last 30 years of my corporate career giving people precise numbers: what will your returns be, what will inflation be, running Monte Carlo analyses. I can calculate that six ways to Sunday, but it doesn’t always make people feel like they have enough.” That can be equally true for someone who has plenty as for people who are struggling financially. The key to feeling as if you have enough, she says, is to explore the question of what you believe you need to have. “Use joy as your ruler,” she says to figure out where you are leaking money on things that don’t matter to you. Is the mortgage on the house that has more bathrooms than occupants draining your resources, for example? Maybe you’d be happier using those resources to travel more. And what other people may realize by doing this exercise is that they do have enough, but they aren’t going to feel like it until they start living it.
- Emotionally, shift your schedule to provide some renewal in every day. Money is a limited resource, yes. But it’s not as limited a resource as time. Only by making time for some of those small joys – and yes – those important people, will individuals who’ve gotten too tied up at work be able to find their way to a Moneyzen, Thakor notes. Personally, she decided to completely upend her life. She moved out of Portland, Oregon, where she had been living, into a cabin in Maine, a short two-miles from her brother and his children. “I want to be the doting Auntie,” she says. “And I’m finally on training wheels for learning how to be a friend, trying to repair some of those relationships I lost.” It’s working. “It wasn’t until I started experiencing emotional wealth that I had the courage to say, ‘this is enough.’”
Check out these simple tools and guides to and out whether you have enough to cover those basic expenses so you can get to MoneyZen in the next half of life.