Being selfless is good. Selfish is a dirty word. Right?!
Nay, my friends. On the contrary. Learning to be selfish is the single best thing you can do for your finances. (And life in general.) If there’s one thing I’ve learned over and over in my 20s, it is the importance of putting myself squarely first.
It is the key to making more money, to hanging on to your money, and that is what will enable you to build the life you want – and ultimately, give back consciously and deliberately in ways that are meaningful for you.
It’s particularly important for women, I think. We tend to struggle more with self-confidence, imposter syndrome and negotiating; bad relationships tend to be more financially devastating for us. And that is where selfishness comes into play.
Here are my best tips for stepping up your game, based off my personal experiences and observations of others around me.
Be an advocate for yourself
Let’s face it, nobody else will. No one else will put your best financial interests first. Your employer does not exist to help you make money. It’s up to you to learn to track your accomplishments, trot them out, and use that to ask for raises or negotiate higher salaries. Those who don’t ask, don’t get.
(Well, generally. Some will do the right thing – when I applied for my first non-journalism job, I secretly wanted to make $60k but I couldn’t, deep down, fathom anyone paying me that much. It just seemed outrageous. So on the application form, I wrote $58k in the desired salary field. They offered me $65k – a full 12% more. But it would be a mistake to count on any employer ever doing that again!)
Listen to your mentors
Okay, so maybe you need an external nudge? Hopefully, you have senior people to give you a reality check! Take their advice.
One told me to ask for a raise. I didn’t. I was planning to go travelling soon, which would either mean taking extended leave or resigning, and it seemed like bad faith to ask for more money right before that. Plus, I had terrible imposter syndrome and suspected I was overpaid. Ugh.
Another told me to quote high on some freelance work. I took that on board, and as a result, for the first time ever, charged $50 an hour. A preposterous sum of money to me, probably a fair professional rate in their view.
Do not give too much away
You work hard for the money. Don’t let it trickle away with lax boundaries.
I’m talking about giving too much to the people closest to you. You might feel obligated to help them out with money, or they might actually outright pressure you into it.
Don’t do it. You must put your own financial security first. That has to be your top priority. You will know when you can afford to be generous, and in most cases, this is not that time.
Get over your mental blocks
Easier said than done, I know.
There are so many messy messages wrapped up with money. You might think making money means selling out. There’s nobility in being a struggling artist. Rich people are assholes. Liking money makes you greedy or a bad person somehow.
If you stop to really reflect on your most deep-rooted perceptions around money, and wheel them out for inspection in broad daylight, you start to realise how unfounded and illogical many of them are.
There is nothing wrong with earning or enjoying money. Sure, if you were a tosser before, you’ll still be a tosser – having money won’t change that. But if you’re a decent human being, having money won’t change that either. If you’re starting from a reasonable baseline, then you’re good. You’ll still be you. Promise.
And selfishly? If you’re anything like me, you have dreams and those dreams ain’t free.
I’m a frugal person naturally. It’s my default mode.
But you know what I hate? Being constrained financially. Being FORCED into frugality, into cutting costs and pinching pennies. I never want to be limited by money. Particularly as we live in a capitalist society, where inflation ensures life only gets more (not less) expensive.
There’s no use feeling guilty about your financial situation, either. So lots of people do much harder jobs for lower pay; so some people struggle. The answer does not lie with you. If you were to earn less, this would not magically level the field for everyone. You having more does not mean someone else automatically has less. Your success does not take anything away from others. If anything, you could argue it’s your responsibility to reach your maximum earning potential so that you can use that money to give back.
Go get it.
After more inspiration? Head over here this International Women’s Day and have a read of all the other awesome #WomenRockMoney content.