Earning more money won’t get you out of debt. You have to tackle your money beliefs.
10 minute read. In today’s blog, we’re exploring the role money beliefs play out in our financial health both in life and business.
When I was younger, I would love going to my Nana’s. She’d always give me a shiny 50p piece from the old leather purse she had tucked securely down the side of the chair she sat on each day.
As I grew up, it turned into a pound coin and on very special occasions, I would get a five pound note. I could hardly contain my excitement, imagining up all the things I’d buy from the shop up the road.
Often my mum would be there with me and she’d say “Oh wow, Lisa – you are a very lucky girl. Your Nana is so kind. She’s given you her last”.
All very true.
I was a very lucky girl.
My Nana was incredibly kind to all of us.
And she didn’t have much money.
Other times, when it was a note, my mum would say “Wow Lisa, be sure to share that with your brother”.
I would split it with my brother and not think much of it. Of course I’d share it with him. He shared his treats with me too. He had to because that’s how we were raised.
Fast forward two decades, I was 28 years old, running two companies and £100k in debt. One day, I said enough is enough and I started to face it head on. I thought it would be a simple case of cutting up cards and creating payment plans until it was paid off. It turns out that was the easy bit! The hard part was unearthing and reprogramming my very deep rooted views on money and the way it works. We call these money beliefs.
A money belief is something you ‘know’ to be true about money. It’s something you’ve accepted as fact. So much so you don’t even realise it’s a value by which you operate: It’s just the way it is. It’s an unconscious belief; a value you live your life by and expect others to respect and abide by too.
You might have heard phrases like this growing up:
A good day’s pay for a good day’s work.
Save what you can for a rainy day.
A penny saved is a penny earned.
Money doesn’t grow on trees.
We can’t afford that, honey.
These stories become so ingrained in our psyche that we form communities and tribes around them. And we defend them!
We’re poor, they’re rich.
She’s so stuck up. Rich b*tch.
The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
Money is evil.
Rich people are greedy.
It’s only money – you can’t take it with you.
We get taught things about money (rightly or wrongly) and end up defending those beliefs by sticking together. We have our narratives around money and we stick together based on that shared narrative. We’re poor, they’re rich.
Getting into debt
When I was growing up, I heard ‘You’re lucky’ and ‘You have to share’. I also heard things like ‘Don’t quit your job Lisa, it’s such a great wage’ and ‘It’s only money, just get what you want’.
Of course, everyone around me was always sharing the best of what they knew and everything was shared with my best interests in mind.
Now fast forward into adulthood and consider how these words impacted my behaviour around money. These phrases were telling me how money works. What I deserve. And what I was expected to do with the money I had.
So whenever I earned money for myself in business, I’d find myself thinking “Wow, I’m so lucky”. My next thought was always “I can’t keep this for myself, I need to share it with others”.
And so, whilst I was fabulous at earning money, I was never very good at keeping it! I always found others in need of it. I felt guilty when I saw it sitting there in the bank. So I literally gave it all away. This happened when I was earning £2,000 a month, £5,000 a month and £40,000 a month. The amount was irrelevant. The rule I was living by said ‘share what you have’ not ‘share what you have up until £5,000, then you can stop’.
That’s why earning more won’t change your situation with money. In most cases, earning more can get you into more trouble if your values aren’t aligned to your goals.
I gave away shares in my businesses for nothing. I gave people bonuses and pay rises before I bought myself a car to get to and from the office. And the most dangerous part of it all is that it felt ‘right’, because I had been taught this is the ‘right’ thing to do with money.
It didn’t help that I didn’t know much about being in business of course. And when you combine these factors – not knowing anything about business and feeling bad when I had more than someone else – it makes sense I ended up in debt.
Now contrast those earlier messages with messages I might have heard such as: ‘You should invest your money in assets that make more money, Lisa’, ‘You can earn as much as you want to Lisa – what’s your money goal’, ‘Try not to swap your time for money, build things that bring in revenue while you sleep’.
Can you see how these two sets of messages differ?
Your life reflects your beliefs
We all have beliefs around money. If you want to know what you believe to be true about money you only need to look in two places.
1. Your bank account
If you’re constantly out of pocket, always scraping by until the end of the month and using credit cards to make up the difference, there’s a chance your money mindset would benefit from an upgrade.
Why don’t you have enough? Do you overspend or maybe you don’t earn enough in the first place? Do you feel worthy of earning more? Have you set your goal any higher? Do you charge your worth or do you constantly give discounts because you think people can’t afford your offering?
Try not to judge yourself as you ask these questions. You’ve done nothing wrong. You’ve just operated according to your existing beliefs around money. Now to make a change, you need to change what you believe.
Enter point number 2…
2. What you internalised growing up
How did people used to talk about money when you were growing up. Was it open and honest conversations about growth, assets, abundance? Or was it private and angry conversations about scraping by, saving and never having enough?
What impact did ‘the money conversation’ have in your house? Did it bring joy and wonderful expansive experiences? Or did it lead to fights, work arounds and more ‘no’ than ‘yes’.
Take a moment to think about this and try not to assign blame or allow yourself to feel like a victim of circumstance. Remember, you’re reading this post because you’ve been called to explore this. The people around you were acting according to their best knowledge. Maybe you need more knowledge for this next stage your life. And there is an abundance of knowledge out there for someone seeking to learn.
Learning about money
When I finally counted up my debt and realised the total was a six figure sum, I felt sick. I felt embarrassed, alone and like no-one could help me.
My accountant’s solution was to cut costs. Makes sense.
My friend’s advice was ‘go bankrupt’. Yup, I can see that option.
And there was a third option: Go to people WITH MONEY and ask them what to do.
It struck me at the time that I’d never done anything to self educate myself on money and wealth. I’d never studied the behaviour of wealthy people. I’d never read a book on money. And I was following the advice of people without money!
So, even though I was up to my eyeballs, I went online and ordered five books on topics like ‘how to get out of debt’, ‘building wealth’ and ‘money mindset’.
I felt embarrassed buying them (again, another clue about my money mindset) but I bought them anyway. I studied every word. I read into the night. And crucially, I took the action they recommended.
For example, one seemingly crazy suggestion was to get a £20 note and tuck it into my pocket. My homework was to go into town, walk into a bunch of shops and look at all the things I could afford with my money. I wasn’t to buy anything. I just had to generate that feeling of wealth and abundance. The author said it’s the exact same feeling someone with a million pounds has when they go into a shop.
So I did the work.
And I cut my costs.
And I built new services to drum up new business.
And I wrote about it to share the new knowledge I was accumulating.
Oprah couldn’t help me
At the time, I remember watching a woman talking to Oprah Winfrey on a YouTube video from years ago. The woman was £5k in debt and clearly struggling.
I thought to myself that Oprah could just give her £5k and that woman’s problems would be over. But that’s not true. You can’t just fix the external reality of your situation. You have to tackle the inner belief that led to it. Otherwise history repeats itself.
Think of that friend you bailed out – they always come back for more don’t they?
Think of that sibling that’s always without money – it’s the same story no matter how much you give them isn’t it?
If Oprah had given her the money, chances are she’d be back in £5k worth of debt in no time. Because she hadn’t changed as a person. Her beliefs, her patterns and her behaviours would have landed her right back in debt.
To get out of debt, she needed a new education, a new set of beliefs around money, a new set of priorities when it came to money.
When the penny dropped for me (ahem, pardon the pun!), I dove even more into the money books and I committed to the work.
It wasn’t easy, no. And I don’t want to do it again. But getting into debt gave me the best possible opportunity to learn about money and change my beliefs around money, wealth and abundance from the inside out.
Go to someone with results
You might say I didn’t learn about money growing up, but I did. We all learn about money. Sometimes it’s helpful and most of the times it isn’t.
My biggest piece of advice? If you want something in your life – health, wealth, freedom, love, business success, happiness – go to someone who is clearly and undeniably living that lifestyle and follow their lead. Accept you have a certain ‘belief’ about what it takes and that belief might not be right or helpful. Be prepared to upgrade that belief, be open to new ideas and get ready for things to change.
What you’ve been taught about money (or health or love or anything) isn’t a fact. It’s a view point. It’s one person’s opinion based on their experience in life.
I didn’t know I was operating on a limiting view of money. What some people call a ‘poor person’ money mentality, as apposed to a rich person mentality.
But as soon as I did, I knew it was on me to do something about it.
Lisa Bean is the founder of Expansion Business School. Teaching purpose driven entrepreneurs how to build scalable six figure businesses. If you’d like to find out more, hop on the brand new masterclass she just created: 7 Stages to Six Figures.
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Coming soon: How I got out of debt. Subscribe on YouTube to be notified when it goes live.