Yes, money matters.
Beautiful sunsets, walks on the beach, driving around at night listening to my favorite song, those things make me happy.
Building a career, reaching my goals, learning new skills, that makes me happy also.
There are a lot of things that make me happy that cost little or no money.
There is only one thing that has kept me up at night or put a knot in my stomach.
There has only been one situation in my life that has made me so angry that I became physically ill for months. This problem was money.
I’m a fairly even keel person. I don’t have a short temper or make impulse decisions. I don’t get into fights or arguments, I don’t often confront people. Most things that other get bothered by I barely notice. All the “tragedies” that seem to occur daily in modern society don’t register with me.
I spent the first several years of my adult life in a constant panic and stress over money. I would go months in a constant worried state that I was going to lose my job or that my investments would fail. Despite being a single 20-something who shouldn’t have had a care in the world, I was obsessed with every dollar that went through my hands.
I went to work everyday believing that today would be the end. Every time I got an email notification, I thought it would be my boss asking me to come to their office at the end of the day to let me go.
Then it happened. He took me out to lunch. He fired me.
The odd part was, I felt and instant relief. What I thought was the worst thing that could happen just did and I almost instantly realized it was a good thing. I had some money saved up and a very frugal lifestyle … I was prepared.
During what was supposed to be the worst day of my career, I suddenly had all the time in the world, some money to give me a runway and a need to change my career drastically. Within a few weeks I had a business started. I had dreamed of owning a small business my whole life. Spent hours researching it, analyzing every possibility and never actually took any action. Then I got pushed into it. I had an idea for a unique clothing item, I drew it up, showed it to a few friends, one of them loved it. I went and bought the cheapest sewing machine I could find and some scrap fabric from an outlet store. I spent the next few weeks sewing designs all day then show then take them to my friend for feedback. I started showing them to anyone that would spend a minute looking at them. I became instantly obsessed. Within a couple weeks we set up an online store, recruited a few friends to model for us, took photos on an cell phone and we were in business. It took three weeks to go from buying a sewing machine with no clue how to operate it to making our first sale.
This venture ended up being short lived. I had a job offer fall in my lap that was too good to pass up. Due to some personal circumstances, I wasn’t in a position to keep the business running; and my partner moved across the country. We didn’t get rich, but it was the most fun “working” I had every experienced. In fact it was probably the best experience of my life.
I had a vision, I was making progress towards it everyday, I was proud of it. When people asked my what I did for work, for the first time in my life I had an interesting answer. This made me happy.
Making money doing something that I’m good at is a rewarding experience. It makes you feel calm and secure, knowing that you’ve got a reliable method of supporting yourself. Having an income I could rely on and money in the bankwas liberating. Before I spent hours worried about things outside of my control, this was no longer necessary.
As my career progressed and my income grew, I also came to embrace the fact that having money doesn’t solve every problem, but it solves a lot of them. Taking a financial constraint out of a decision allows you to be more spontaneous and impulsive. It also encourages you to make decisions that will have a long term benefit even when there is no immediate return. These are the types of decisions and activities which won’t provide any immediate value or measurable financial return, but years from now I’ll look back and think it was worth 10x the time and money it took. This includes activities like travel, learning new skills or simply reading.
When I was younger, I would have never considered spending time and money on something just for fun. For example I took a painting and drawing class. The classes cost a few hundred dollars and took a few hours per week over the course of a few months. I’ve sold a few pieces but definitely would not consider myself a full time artist. I don’t plan on every making a significant amount of money from creating art. The result was though that I found an interesting hobby that I can enjoy anytime I want. It’s the type of activity that can been both relaxing and therapeutic whiles also involving intense concentration. I can spend a hours on a piece and feel a sense of accomplishment and productivity afterward.
The best part is, I became something that other people found interesting. My day job is not something that most people are fascinated by at a cocktail party, my paintings are. I also love to give them as gifts. I’m sure several of my friends and family don’t think I’m a very skilled artist, but they still appreciate the time, efforts and thought that goes into crafting a piece, far more than anything I could buy at a store.