For all the work I’ve been doing on money and mindset recently, I still struggle sometimes with it all.
The last few years have been awesome for my income growth and financial security.
And yet the thought keeps rearing its head: I don’t deserve this. How long can this last?
What I’m doing to counter these doubts:
Reminding myself there is room to grow
I know it’s possible to do so. Salary surveys and job listings out there prove it. As do people I’ve worked with who earn more. (Of course, this leads to another dangerous path that lies in the complete opposite direction – why don’t I already make that much?)
Remembering that me having less doesn’t make the world a better place somehow
The starving artist, nobility is poverty mindset dies hard, I guess. And it’s ridiculous. Me struggling would do nobody any good. I try to remember to give back by donating every month, as well as trying to somewhat regularly give blood, meet up with my mentee, and I’ve also recently joined a local nonprofit board. (Another trigger for imposter syndrome right there!)
Reviewing how far I’ve come
I’m horrible at tracking my accomplishments. But I recently updated my CV and LinkedIn (you don’t even want to know how long that took me) and when I’m feeling down on myself professionally, I look back at some of the stuff I’ve done for reassurance.
How do you cope when you feel like you don’t deserve what you’ve got?
But I do regret not asking for a raise earlier. The job that I held the longest? Prime opportunity! And sadly, a missed one.
3 (bad) reasons I didn’t push for more
I justified not asking for a raise or higher salary to myself for years. But you don’t get what you don’t ask for, and who doesn’t want more money?
I didn’t feel underpaid
I feel fortunate to have earned market rates. I never felt lowballed. I’ve never been through the wringer of learning that a co-worker made tons more money than me for doing the same job. And so I’ve never felt that particular burning motivation.
Sure, I felt I was getting fairly paid … but would more money have hurt? Definitely not.
And I think, in hindsight, there’s a fair chance I could’ve gotten more if I’d only asked.
Not having HR, not having reviews or any sort of structure around performance … none of that is a good excuse. But also…
I was scared to ask
Asserting myself doesn’t come naturally, and unlike my parents who have no shame in bargaining for a deal, I can’t even bring myself to haggle at markets where it’s expected.
And my anchor points, deep down, I think skew low (baselining off things like the hourly rates at my first part-time jobs, the low-paying field I then went into, what my parents earned when I was growing up etc).
I just wanted to fly under the radar and do a good job, in a dying industry. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. Ugh.
I thought it just seemed like a bad idea
Being employed in a industry struggling to make a profit, I felt lucky to have a job at all. I felt competent, but not outstanding.
I didn’t think that I had any concrete reasons to point to that proved why I deserved more; no ammo with which to back up a request for a raise.
The former may have been true, but what’s the worst that could have happened?
As for the latter, I’m pretty sure that was just imposter syndrome talking.
I can’t even tell you how searingly awkward it was to negotiate that first salary offer (err, and the next one…) and ask for that first raise. I wince when I recall them! But I was crazy proud of myself afterwards, not to mention a little bit richer.
Literally a couple of (painful, awkward) minutes could net you thousands more a year, and that compounds over time.
Their budgets are bigger than yours
A few grand might make a big difference in your life, but probably won’t affect their bottom line to the same degree. There’s usually some wiggle room, and you know what? Employers won’t be surprised if you negotiate – they expect you to advocate for yourself.
It sets a precedent for the future
Raises build on what’s come before. The more you earn now, the bigger those 2%, 3%, 5%, 10% bumps will be later on.
Raises aren’t a sure thing
You can’t count 100% on regular raises once you’re in. You’ve got the most leverage at the offer stage, so that’s the time to make the most of it.
What happens when Hillbilly Elegy meets Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother?
(Oddly enough, JD Vance, author of the former, credits Amy Chua, author of the latter, as a key influence in his life and success – she was one of his professors at Yale).
There’s lots of talk about interracial relationships, but I’m just as interested – scratch that, I’m WAY more interested – in cross-class relationships. Ones in which partners hail from very different upbringings and class backgrounds. Class barriers are not as immediately visible as racial differences, but that doesn’t mean we should gloss over their power. We just have to work harder to identify and address them.
We’ve always had contrasting views on and approaches to money and career stuff. I’d always thought these stemmed from our wildly different personality types – and that is an important factor for sure – but I’ve come to believe that the biggest influence that shapes our approaches is our polar opposite upbringings.
Growing up white collar vs growing up blue collar
While Jessi Streib’s book The Power of the Past: Understanding Cross-Class Marriagesis hardly a definitive work on this topic (it’s based on interviews with a small group of white middle-class American couples, where one partner grew up blue-collar and the other white-collar), I personally found it hugely validating of my own experiences, and it even shed some light on things I hadn’t previously considered.
The main gist is that white-collar upbringings are associated with a more structured, managerial, proactive approach to not just money, but life in general. These partners tended to spend only after research and budgeting; save for the future; actively manage their careers; and plan and organise their time. Their blue-collar partners generally spent for today; bought without thinking; let weekends unfold at home and went with the flow.
In short, white-collar = planner, blue-collar = laissez faire. This was true of most, though not all cases in the book.
She makes the case that the class we’re born into leaves an imprint. Yet even after years together, the couples overlooked the ways class shaped their ideas and choices (rather perceiving these as stemming only from personality differences). Almost every couple interviewed were drawn to each other because of those differences, however many later felt that these became things they lived with but did not love. “The things that you’re drawn to sometimes become the things that drive you crazy,” one observed.
How class shapes attitudes and approaches to money
Money, unsurprisingly, was a key battleground. People like Aaron, who spent their childhoods imagining what they would spend once they had money. bought everything he wanted once he started earning. No longer bound by constraints, he used money to distance himself from his past. Despite leaving their original class behind, they retained the strategies they learned at home.
The strategies that worked for their parents, who typically had limited means, were spending when money was available and having faith it would work out. Worrying was pointless, since they would always have financial difficulties and no amount of planning or fretting would change that. Low savings weren’t a cause for concern, as they had always gotten by on a shoestring. And that was at complete odds with the views of their white-collar partners.
Of course, that’s not to say that this is a blanket, universal rule. Obviously, there are blue-collar families that are financially comfortable, and white-collar families that aren’t. And for some people, growing up without much can be a great incentive to build their own security.
I put a call out for thoughts from people in similar boats – cross-class partnerships – and was pleasantly surprised by how willing you guys were to engage on this subject. One thing is clear to me: the PF blogging world is its own microcosm – who have mostly experienced quite the opposite of the dynamic Streib writes about!
Because he grew up with nothing, he’s arguably got more hustle than better-off peers.
If I dated a fellow silver spooner, I may not see as much drive and ambition in him and instead just complacency and entitlement.
We’ve also got quite a few hustlers who grew up with not much and paired off with more laissez faire, well-off partners.
lots of fighting early into our marriage tho. I’ve learned to loosen up a bit b/c I’ve climbed up the socioeconomic ladder.
(That said, there may well be a lot of overlap with typical immigrant values/mentality – because that’s another common thread among many of the people who replied.)
When class and cultural differences collide
Savvy Financial Latina and her husband grew up at different ends of the socioeconomic spectrum. Her family immigrated to the USA when she was 7 years old.
“On top of all the cultural differences (completely different discussion), my parents had money problems. They never spent more money than they ever had. Actually, they were always the ones with savings despite their low income. Family members and friends knew they could reach out to my parents for money. I learned quickly my parents were too nice and they have been burned (again another note). I would love to say even though my parents were poor, life was happy at home. In general, the lack of money combined with other life events, always, always caused a lot of stress in my family.
“I grew up knowing I didn’t want to be poor because when you are poor you have no options. I wished many times Superman would come rescue me and suddenly transport me to a new life. I had to work really hard to get to where I am today.
“On the other hand, my husband grew up in a fairly middle income class family. I say they were upper middle income class, but his family assures us they were lower middle income class. To this day, they don’t realize how blessed they are. As part of a “Jones” family, he always got what he wanted in life. Enough toys, vacations, etc.”
While coming from different backgrounds has definitely influenced their individual perceptions of money, she says they’ve slowly moved towards more of a happy medium after many years together.
“I’m definitely the more frugal person, always saving for tomorrow. I watch every penny, and although have loosened up to some extent, I still keep up with every penny. My main fear is not having enough money.
“I earn more money. I view work as a means to an end, but work hard to get the most out of it! My husband views life in a more relaxed way and thinks there should be more leisure. He doesn’t see the need to climb the ladder. I view more work, ultimately, as a blessing. He views more work hours as bad. I’m always thinking 5, 10, 15, 20 years ahead. My husband doesn’t think he’ll live past 45 LOL.
“I’m starting to loosen up a lot more. Especially when you compare me to 5-6 years ago. Now, I think the next couple of years will be finding a middle ground where we are saving enough for FI and enjoying life.”
A story of opposites
Here’s another story shared anonymously with me, where she and her husband are both savers and both make good incomes but essentially hail from different rungs of the ladder. While both of their families have always had blue collar jobs, her parents own a blue collar business that has enabled them to build wealth and given them many more glimpses of white collar life. His parents don’t talk about money period while hers do – all the time.
“My mom never grew out of her poverty mindset despite the wealth mine have built, which in turn left me with some poverty mindset for a while. It’s really bizarre to my husband to listen to my mom talk about how broke my parents are all the time when they aren’t really.
“My husband is only now starting to believe me that financial independence is a real thing…basically as we hit its early milestones. No one in his family has really ever retired, so it seems crazy to him as a possibility. If we wanted to spend MMM levels of money, we could quit working right now, both of us. But we don’t want to spend that little and my husband doesn’t want to retire before his parents. They already think it’s bizarre enough that just his income can support us – they have no concept of our household income and we mostly just avoid talking about money with them.”
His parents have no retirement savings – something she says she spends a lot of time worrying about, while her husband tries to avoid thinking about it.
Wedding planning has also highlighted the differences between their families.
“My husband’s extended family mostly don’t have passports so they likely won’t come, with that additional cost on top of flights. His parents and siblings are coming but they’ve definitely been telling us how expensive it is, while my parents are trying to save the $20/night hotel parking cost by parking at our place (that’s a firm no, parents!) during the event. My parents think we don’t have enough things on the registry, his parents should be paying for more things, etc. Weddings bring out so many class differences. My parents think we picked too expensive of a venue while his think the food sounds delicious. Honestly I have much less patience now for my parents trying to say they’re broke with his parents actually being broke.
“Vacation and travel planning is another difference. His parents and siblings all work blue collar jobs where they don’t know very far in advance if they can get the time off. So they pick dates before they book flights! This confuses the heck out of me because my parents would always adjust the dates to more reasonable prices so the dates were never final until they booked flights! My parents wanted to buy us a two week Christmas trip to somewhere warm this past year and it freaked the hell out of my husband. Their wedding gift being 10x his parents’ didn’t weird him out since that was a one off thing but he did not understand parents buying a trip for their grown children.
“I could probably go on about this stuff forever. I didn’t think our class differences were that severe but it turns out they’re more subtle than I realized.”
One thing is clear: it’s a journey but it does get easier – the beginning is the hardest.
As one blogger put it:
Lots of trying to teach him long-term vision with money.
When it comes to money, there are a few intense emotions most of us experience at some point that paralyse us financially.
I’ve struggled with every single one of these, and if there’s one thing those battles have taught me, it’s this: we are our own worst enemies.
The mind is a powerful, powerful thing and that cuts both ways. It’s up to us to harness that power and use it to our advantage.
Regret that you didn’t negotiate that salary. Regret for all the money you spent on things you didn’t care about. Regret for the money you wasted on deadbeat exes.
As hard as these regrets are to stomach, there’s only one way forward: Accepting the past, learning from those mistakes, and moving on. We all move through this process at our pace, but sooner is better, and healthier.
Fear of losing an income source, of some financial disaster striking, of the unknown in general.
Living in a state of constant tension and low-level panic SUCKS and it takes its toll.
That’s where a solid savings buffer and good insurance cover come in – knowing you’ve got those safety nets to fall back on. And so too does making contingency plans.
Some people don’t like to imagine the worst-case scenario, but I’m the kind who needs to confront my worst fears rather than hide from them – to ask myself questions like “Has it happened before? What are the odds of it happening? What would I do then?”
In lots of cases, the catastrophes we’ve conjured up in our lizard brains are over-exaggerated. They have never happened and are not likely to.
Guilt for all that you have now, all the privileges you’ve been blessed with … and the fact that yet you want more.
But you know what I’ve realised? It does nobody else any good for me to struggle, to not have what I want, to play the martyr.
By taking care of myself first and flourishing, I can then turn around and help others. Giving back is fantastic, once you can comfortably and safely do so from a solid position.
Each of these are ultimately useless emotions, and I’m personally done with wasting my time and headspace on them! We’ll be covering all of them – and much more – in my new course, Money Groove. Sign up below to get the lowdown.
Looking back, Big Life Things have happened for me when I least expected them. Often, when I’d given up entirely on them.
Not when I was pushing, pushing, pushing.
Not when I was fixated on them.
Not when I was desperate.
Much like with writing, which for me flows best not when I try to force it; but when I relax, when I’m in the right frame of mind, when the environment and circumstances are right.
And likewise, life is funny that way. It’s always worked itself out, just not necessarily in the ways I imagined or within the timeframe I anticipated.
It sounds woo-woo – but I’m getting more and more into the realm of woo, and liking it, with age. I’m appreciating the power of mindset, and the importance of getting into flow and alignment wherever possible.
So this is a public commitment to myself.
I have established my goal; now I must stop obsessing, and let it come to me when the time and circumstances are right. I’ve done my part, laid the foundations, and will continue to do my thing to make sure I’m worthy of it, and ready to identify and receive it when it appears.
Patience, humility, and a whole lot more patience.
It’s funny how certain things can shake your confidence to the core.
For example, in my professional career, I’ve never gotten interviewed for a job I didn’t get.
(I definitely DON’T count my history of part-time jobs while studying … it’s ridiculous how hard I tried to get a retail job and could never break out of hospo/customer service. But in the end I managed to crack the office admin market, and that suited me WAYYY better.)
So when a coworker at a previous job offhandedly mentioned that I wasn’t the first choice candidate to get that role, I had a bit of an internal meltdown. It all worked out, she assured me, for the best, because I was a great fit for the position. The preferred applicant had terrible references, while mine were glowing, which sealed the deal and led to an offer.
I put my streak down to the fact that although I’ve never had a 5-year plan or 10-year plan (or hell, any plan beyond about 6 months to a year, tops) when I HAVE set my sights on the next step, I’ve had a pretty good idea of what I wanted.
But I still suffer terribly from impostor syndrome. Clearly I know my shit to some degree, or I wouldn’t be where I am today. And yet most of the time I still feel like I don’t belong. Particularly as my personality is all kinds of wrong for the professional working world and its open plan offices: introverted, highly sensitive, a slow burner rather than an on-your-feet thinker, someone who needs a maker’s schedule rather than a manager’s schedule.
Although it’s a long, slow work in progress, I am finally shoring up my own confidence, independent of external factors. If that conversation were to happen today, I honestly think that would flow right past me. I mean that, for real.
Let’s take my reactions to a couple of recent situations.
One involved harsh criticism of something I worked on, voiced by someone much higher up the food chain than me. Once upon a time that would have devastated and humiliated me, and probably kept me up at nights in a furious tangle for days after. Instead, I was cool as a freaking cucumber throughout. I felt hardly any emotion at all. I had utter faith in the work and no doubts whatsoever. This was a view shared by and backed up by several other people – I promise it wasn’t a case of me having blinkers on or being precious about the whole thing.
Another had nothing to do with me but was one of those cases where it fell to me to straighten things out. This had me second guessing myself a few times, I admit. And I have never been the type of person to say “I am 100% sure that…” But I was, in fact, certain of this particular fact, and I stated this out loud. This was for a minor, tiny thing really … but mustering the courage to draw that line was a huge deal for me. And I was right.
Confidence – it hurts when it gets chipped away in big chunks, but it builds back up again over time without you even noticing.
(This is not the post for you if you are used to regular raises, bonuses, shopping and living large. Obviously.)
Sometimes I feel like the only person online who doesn’t religiously read and follow minimalism blogs. (And many of the mainstream PF blogs, for that matter.)
They don’t resonate with me.
Decluttering and downsizing are not things I struggle with or aspire to.
I am the person who rotates through the same 3 pairs of shoes every week.
Who put up with only having 3 forks for nearly a year.
Who has lived in painfully small places due to money not choice, and bought a small and dated house because it’s what I could afford.
Who has always lived in a one-car, two-person household.
When you tell me to get ahead by saving my pay raises, living in a small cheap place, ditching the car, cutting back on coffee and clothes … I bounce, cause that ain’t my life. Many of us don’t get raises, live in large places we can downsize from, have a car, buy lattes or shop for leisure. These are not practical options for everyone.
I get it. Trimming the fat is an easy win for lots of people. They are the low hanging fruit. And they’re everywhere on the internet.
There are also people who are doing all the right things, but can’t get ahead. Quite simply, if they want to change that, they need to bring in more. Cutting back is not realistic (any odd small splurge they can manage is what keeps them going, and is not going to materially impact their overall situation). Popular advice assumes a baseline that is way above where they operate from. I don’t know what percentage of the population they represent, but they exist. Particularly in a low-wage, high cost-of-living country like this. They are on the internet too, but you don’t see or hear about them as often. I’ve seen their comments and stories pop up more and more over the past year, and it breaks my heart.
I often find myself short of things that are more need than want. I’ve lost so much over the years through various cycles of flatmates, and moving house. I got by for so long without a shower caddy, baking trays, and tons more little domestic touches that make a home. It made no sense to invest in anything of that nature while renting, and even after buying my house I struggled to spend money on those little things despite their huge ROI in terms of quality of life.
I’m not saying I am perfectly ascetic. I have plenty of crap I don’t need lying around the house and it’s a battle as I have hoarding tendencies rooted in a scarcity mindset (what if we need it someday?!) Mainly free stuff. When freebies come into my home, be they books or drinking flasks or candles or whatever, it’s really hard for me to get rid of something ‘perfectly good’.
After a spate of breakups, I don’t believe there are any couples left in my regular IRL circle with a clear female breadwinner. Just me. It’s a lonely place to be.
One couple previously had a disparity, but have now equalled out, or close to it. Unsurprisingly, they are both happy about this, as it takes the financial pressure off her when it comes to having a family (particularly, god forbid, if pregnancy turned out to be difficult healthwise) which is now officially in the works! They’re working toward him getting a well-paying job so she can stay home with kids like she hopes to.
Every other couple has fallen apart – and money has been a factor for at least some, and possibly all of them. It’s such a common thread, I don’t think it’s a coincidence. There were elements of them supporting, enabling and being taken advantage of by their partners. Okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh; let’s say in every case, the dudes failed to step up and pull their own weight.
There’s also one woman I am acquainted with, who I thought might be a bit of a role model in that regard. There’s a loose parallel in our career paths and we both make more than our partner, but she’s about a decade older with kids. Yay, right? Unfortunately that illusion has been gradually shattered for me, as it’s becoming clearer that he doesn’t seem to contribute his fair share in any aspect of the relationship. And thus, theirs is not one I aspire to emulate.
But even if you have an awesome partner in every way, who pulls their weight overall, but just HAPPENS to earn a lot less….
Any kind of imbalance or inequality in a relationship can be tough to navigate. When it comes to money, it’s just easier if you’re roughly equal earners.
Where it really becomes an issue is when kids come into the picture.
I don’t need to be looked after – but it’d be nice to have the option, you know?
There are moments where it just feels like a rough deal all round. Not only do I have to make the bacon but bake the bun too? (Worst mixed metaphor ever. Sorry!)
But then again, we couldn’t have predicted this; 7 years ago I thought I’d be a journalist forever and he’d work up to being a qualified tradie who’d earn the bulk of our income. How things change! And who knows what else might happen in the next couple of years?
For now though, I think about the practicalities of eventually starting a family and am discouraged.
The ideal would be if we both individually earned an income that would support a family, but that is not the case. The loss of my income while on parental leave reduces our income by … well, a hell of a lot more than half. And our household income is not particularly high to begin with.
“Doesn’t that worry you?” my best friend asked me recently over lunch as we talked numbers.
Hell yes, it does.
Financially speaking, here’s what me being the breadwinner means if we want to start a family:
1) I won’t be able to take a full year off (which is the norm here). Which isn’t too terrible; six months seems like a reasonable chunk to me and that would be manageable if we start planning ahead ASAP, though it’ll definitely be a stretch. I’m fairly certain I’ll be well and ready to get back to interacting with adults and doing what I’m best at by then!
2) I won’t be able to quit my job and stay home if I change my mind. As above, I suspect I’d be itching to get back to work … but what if I’m not? I just don’t know, is all. It’s pretty unlikely though, so I’m just going to entirely ignore this possibility.
Plus, I can’t help but worry about the off chance that something throws a spanner in the works healthwise.
Everything might work out if everything goes to plan. But what if I have health issues in pregnancy, like some of my current and former colleagues? What if I need to give up work earlier than planned or return later than planned?
Between biology, the work world, parental leave law (less than minimum wage for approx 4 months here), a society centuries in the making … no wonder it’s so hard to break the mould of men working and women staying home. (Not all of us aspire to entrepreneurship, remember.) It’s just not set up for it.
There’s the long game to consider as well, which didn’t even occur to me until a friend pointed this out to me: Add in the fact that often 1) women earn less than men do in the same job 2) have to spend more on certain things by way of being female 3) live longer and thus need more saved for retirement. Ouch.
I don’t mean this to come off in a whiny, woe-is-me way. I feel like a bad feminist just for writing this all out (hence the title); I feel like I should be loudly and proudly proclaiming that I can and will do it all! Especially when I’ve been slammed on Facebook in the past for even daring to suggest otherwise, when I shared a link to a post that talked about how unrealistic it is to expect to have it all.
We’ll muddle through, I’m sure. One way or another – we’ve got time to figure it out. I’ve been running some numbers here and there. But this is one financial area where I want to leave as little to chance as possible.
Paying more for less every year while paying down someone else’s mortgage
Fighting landlords trying to blame us for things going wrong around the house, from the roof leaking to the shower floor breaking; having no hot water at all for a month due to them being useless
Dealing with frequent and annoying inspections
Never knowing how long you’ll be there
Cold, damp, mould, sick
Owning is to me…
Some idea of what I’ll be paying for 30 years with some of that going into an asset of my own
Less cold, less damp, less mould, less sick
Knowing when we’ve broken stuff vs bad luck/shoddy work and the flexibility to address that however and whenever we want
No inspections and no one to answer to
Knowing we can be here as long as we want and as long as we keep paying
Doing whatever the hell we want to the house
Buying stuff once and for all knowing it won’t disappear or break between the unpredictability of flatmates or moving house
I now pay for housing essentially what I used to earn when I first entered the workforce. I am so thankful to be in a position to afford a home, to have this degree of security. It is a particularly terrible time to be a low-income renter, and there are no signals of that letting up anytime soon.
I may never own a holiday house (which realistically I’ve never aspired to anyway) but I’m working to create a home I love – not just to come home to in the evenings, but to enjoy through the weekends and holidays too. Sitting out in the sun on my deck is quite possibly the happiest place on earth.
I had a good feeling about it as soon as I stepped into the house. It was a do up, but liveable. Now that I’m coming up on a year, I’m feeling more critical of it than ever, but I’m also very good at identifying what really matters.
Overhauling the bathroom or updating doors and wardrobes – not a priority. New kitchen – yes. Who ever thought tile counters were a good idea? They break and chip like mad, plus the grouting…! I’d also quite like cabinets that shut properly, a non grotty pantry, and a dishwasher. But good things take time (read: cost money). I’m probably only 20% into my savings goal for kitchen renovations.
It hasn’t been all sunshine and unicorns. A few cheaply done things started coming apart pretty early on – but it’s all right, simply more motivation to keep saving to redo this dang kitchen! And it’s getting time to upgrade one side of the fence (the wire chain/link side) to something more sturdy, for our dogs (and the rascally kids next door). Apparently neighbours are meant to split fencing costs – here’s hoping…!
I love home ownership and I am grateful every single day for what I have.