I’m closing in on my 40th year in my time on earth and I’ve made as little money as anyone can make in a year (as in 0) and as much as some of the wealthiest people in the world. I mention this because it’s an important piece of information for this article. Being content on an emotional and financial level actually has very little if not nothing to do with the actual amount of money you make.
While these topics are somewhat difficult to define in a cut and dry kind of a way, I think there are certain things within the realm of being content that we all can agree on. It’s important to note however, that certain levels of contentment and how you define it can change dramatically due to age, geography, having a family, and thousands of other factors. However, as I said these definitions I feel can apply to anyone as far as being able to decipher whether or not you are content.
And I use the word content rather than happy because being content is the first step to complete happiness (in my mind). Without it, you’ll never be comfortable in your own skin as well as interacting with others.
What is being content financially?
When you’re younger there’s almost no such thing as being content financially. I know that when I first started out I was just happy to have a job, live in the big city (NYC), and go out with my friends. While I did think of things like saving, growing my income, and achieving financial independence, I’m not so sure I ever really thought about what being content financially meant. I think as you get older you tend to understand it better because you are forced to. In my eyes, being content financially means being “comfortable.” What I mean by comfortable is being able to pay your bills by a healthy margin, do the things you want to do in life (that cost money), be able to put away a little, have no debt, and have as stress free life as possible. So let’s put that into a real life example. If you make say $5,000 a month and your monthly expenses are around $3,000-$4,000 a month I would consider you to be content financially.
Now, you may not feel that way because you desperately want to earn more money or have more “things,” but it’s important to note you are still “fine” in that you don’t have any financial issues that are stressing you out. And to me it’s that simple. Granted there are many more emotional attachments and outside influences at play here but let’s make it a point that being content financially essentially means that you have little to no worries about money, or at least you shouldn’t by literal definitions. While we know that’s rare in this world because so much crap gets in our way, if we truly rationalized and got down to the bare essentials in life, bringing in more money than your directing out is always a great place to be if you don’t let the outside world dictate who you are. Speaking of which, that’s where the emotional part plays in……
What is being emotionally content?
This one’s similar to being content financially in that age and “life situation” plays a major factor. For example if I’m a single male in my 20s versus being a married male with two kids in my 40s, my perception of being emotionally content is completely different. However, for universal purposes I think a solid definition of being emotionally content is being happy with exactly where you are in life. And what does that mean? It means while perhaps you strive for greater things, and maybe you wish for more “stuff” in your life, the exact place that you are in the world is something you are completely fine with. This is more of a mental perception than anything else but it’s one that is extremely important nonetheless. There are people living in poverty and who are 100 times more emotionally content than those living in 10,000 square foot mansions. The point is this. You’ll never be OK in life unless you are OK with the point you are at in your life. Essentially we’re talking about the present here. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been or where you are going, being happy with where you are at this exact moment in time is what matters most.
How does being content financially tie into your emotions?
So how do we bring these two concepts together? It’s a little tricky. However, what I will say is this: When you are not worrying about money, in general a positive mental mindset can and will follow. What’s one of the biggest things in the world that side tracks our thinking? Money. It’s the reason most couples get divorced. It’s the thing that drives us to do things we normally wouldn’t or couldn’t. Money can be extremely dangerous and it’s that hunger for money that leads to emotional distress. It’s almost a catch 22. Where do you have to be first to be happy? Do you need to be emotionally content or have enough money first? Many people get trapped into thinking “once I have enough money I can then be happy.” It’s actually the complete opposite. Once you develop a content emotional state you can then assess how money plays a role in achieving that state or even a greater state of contentment that you currently have.
So what do you need to earn to be both emotionally and financially content?
Well, there are plenty more articles I’ll be writing on this subject. It would take way too long to list everything here. However, I will say that it’s a lot of emotional and numbers crunching. Plenty of questions to ask yourself and plenty of scenarios to go over in your head. We’ll get there together. No worries.