8 Reasons we all think we're poor and broke and what to do about it

Why do we pride ourselves on
taking the martyr's approach
that we're not making
money when US teachers
are in the top 5%
wealthiest people in the WORLD?
It is time to start living
like it and stop "feeling"
broke. Do you want to
hear more in this series?
Let me know in the comments.
(Photo credits: www.myparkingsign.com)
You can be wealthy but to do that you must be exceptional. Exceptional people spend less than they make. Exceptional people don't take the (usually dumb) advice of marketers but make their own decisions. Exceptional people aren't sold to, they buy what they want.

But I'm not rich?

Oh really. Let's look at some stats from the global rich list:
  • If you are at the US poverty line for a 3 person household of $19,350 you are in the top 11.26% richest people in the world
  • The average janitor (median income) of 24,936 puts him or her in the top 10.09% of the world
  • If you make the average annual salary of a US private school teacher of $36,300 - the top 4.24% in the world
  • If you make the average annual salary of a US public school teacher of $49,600 - the top .98% richest in the world
  • Principals, if you make the average salary of 67,000 then you're in the top .87%
That's right, if you're in a school in the US and you're reading this, you're officially rich! Doesn't feel like it? Well, it is time to get our act together.

I'm considering creating multiple part series on the topic of balancing our budgets and living like the wealthy educators we are. From the lunchroom to the teacher's lounge, we are some of the richest people in the world here in the US and we're missing out on the joy that can be ours if we just get our act together.

This is something that has caused me many tears personally and my husband and I have paid off mountains of debt even moreso after I became a teacher and took a massive paycut. If you're interested in me continuing to share what has helped Kip and me, let me know in the comments and I'll spread it out amidst the technology and teaching I talk about here. (I've been writing this one post since January so it may take a while.)

First of all, let's talk about why we think we're poor:

#1 - We are deceived by appearances.

Looking rich doesn't mean being rich. In 2006, Warren Buffett, one of the three richest men in the world bought his most expensive car, a $55,000 Cadillac. The average millionare buys a car for $31,367. (Stop Acting Rich: ...And Start Living Like A Real Millionaire p 207)

In 2009 most million-dollar homes were not owned by millionaires. In fact 90% of those who were defined to be a millionaire lived in homes worth less than a million dollars.(Stop Acting Rich: ...And Start Living Like A Real Millionaire p 9, 24)

The odds are, if you look like you're rich, you're not.

#2 - We're discontent

If you get on Facebook, it is likely you'll have a friend going somewhere and honestly... you want to go too. You deserve that vacation, you think. You want that new car. You need a dozen roses from your husband. You want that new plasma tv. Why can't you go shopping this weekend? Why? Why? Why? Pity pity pity.

Marketing in the US has thrived on the ability to stimulate us into being dissatisfied. Dissatisfied enough that we'll do something. (See: Lifehacker: The More Facebook Friends You Have the More Unhappy You Are)

On Facebook, you're aggregating all the high points in your hundred something friends lives and comparing it to the high points in yours. Let's see, out of 100 friends at least 4-5 are having it great right now. So, you're going to take those few and compare it to your life? That is unrealistic and unhealthy.

When you're having a pity party - GET OFF FACEBOOK. It stinks as a counselor and sucks wind as a comforter. Go talk to a friend or write in your journal. It is ok to see a therapist too. Talking about it is what healthy people do. Social media makes a sad counselor and a sick client.

#3 We refuse to wait

If you've heard of the marshmellow test, kids who are able to master their desire to eat one marshmellow NOW in the hopes of getting a second marshmellow when the researcher returns, test well on future success. This is because they understand delayed gratification.

The biggest financial mistakes I made as a twenty-something were because I wanted it NOW. Delayed gratification is one of the keys to any long term financial change.

#4 We use plastic instead of cash

One thing I learned in Financial Peace University (a great program from Dave Ramsey) is that the feeling of cash in your hands causes you to spend less. One of the fastest ways I've found to slash my grocery budget is to withdraw the cash for my grocery budget when I get paid. I keep it in an envelope and pay out of that. It is amazing how far money goes.

Plastic is NOT the same as cash. While we don't necessarily want to have a lot of cash on us all the time, it makes a difference if we want to cut our budget. 

#5 We refuse to make hard decisions

You can't do everything. Are you really watching all those television subscriptions? Are you keeping cable for one show?

Remember, I said HARD decisions not BIG decisions. For some reason, giving up entertainment seems to be a hard decision around my house. For example, I wanted to see the Jack Reacher movie, I enjoy the Jack Reacher book series. We didn't have time to see it in the theater, but then it came out on DVD and then for pay on Amazon to buy. I waited until last week to use some of my iTunes birthday money to rent it on iTunes. While, I could have waited another YEAR and it be free on Netflix (maybe), I do want to see it. Was it really worth the extra $15 to see it 2 weeks early? For me, the answer was no. Did I think about watching that movie quite a bit - sure I did, I was ready to see it. But, as we prepare to pay for my son's college in June, little pennies count.

Another example, I love books. I read at least an hour a day but sometimes more. If book reading were a hotdog contest, I'd be the dude with his mouth full, his hands raised in winning who asks for another when he's done.

But, I took my credit card out of Amazon and started buying Amazon gift certificates. I put it in and when I'm done with my Amazon budget for the month, I hit Kindle Nation Daily and the free kindle book list to find my reading. Or, I pull out a book that someone has sent me to review.

#6 We have no money in the bank

This happens when we're automatically debiting everything without stopping to think if we should pay that. I've learned the benefits of saving 10%, giving 10% and living on 80%. If there's no emergency fund or cushion, then you're living close to the edge.

I admit, I've socked my savings down to zero way too often. If this is you, take steps NOW. Enroll in Financial Peace University or buy Mary Hunt's 7 Money Rules for Life®: How to Take Control of Your Financial Future or one of my new favorites by Andrew Hallum, Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School.  Step back from the edge. No money in the bank is a problem.

#7 We sabotage ourselves by quitting just before the finish line and we have to start over.

There's a scene in Chariots of Fire, where one guy is about to finish. He turns his head to look at the other guy and he misses out. But we're not even doing that. We're saving and getting close to paying off those credit cards. We're freezing our credit cards, quite literally, in ice and going cash only so we don't spend any more. But then, just before we're done, we say "Hey, I've paid all of this off, it is time to go on a trip." WE're stopping right before we finish and going back and starting over. What is wrong with this? Running the race takes SOOOO much energy and we're going to do it again.

I've done this too. Keep your eye on the finish line. Finish paying off the debts and then more forward.

#8 We refuse to talk about it with our household.

This is a tough one. It is no secret how many marraiges struggle because of money problems.

Money is a gift because it is limited. Because it is limited, it forces us to talk about what is IMPORTANT. If we'll talk. The problem is that many argue, and others go into passive/aggressive mode.

This is why Financial Peace University helped us so much. You get in a room of people. Dave Ramsey, former bankrupt businessman, talks about how he got out. I don't really want to hear from people who've always been rich how to get rich - some of them were born on third base and take credit for hitting a home run. I want to hear from people who started off without a ticket to the stadium who got in and hit a home run.

My husband and I make progress when we're communicating. No communication, no money. That is often how it goes.

Money is important.

Why do we need to talk about this?

Because, we, as educators have more power than we think.

When we're debted up, torn up, cashless, and clueless - there are people we cannot help. The world needs us to get our act together financially. We need us to get our act together financially.

It is amazing how most millionaires I know, few people know it. They live in houses that aren't so fancy. They drive average cars. They are often quieter people. There are people who look and act rich. I don't know about their bank account, but the research I quoted at the beginning has now shown me that perhaps appearances can be deceiving.

I'm committed to saving and budgeting so that I can help people. I do think money is important - while it is not something I worship - it is important. I want to do my best to manage it well.

Certainly, I've made a heap of mistakes, but thankfully past mistakes do not indicate future performance if you're the kind of person who learns from it and fails forward.

Hope this helps you gain perspective and learn from my own mistakes. If you want me to write more on this topic some time in the future, leave me a comment below and I'll work on it. Again, teaching and technology are the main thing, but if this helps enough of you who read this blog, I'm happy to write about it again.

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