Someone recently told me a story about a member of his community who had fallen on hard times. He had gone from being a wealthy businessman to someone who struggled to make ends meet. He had gone to his friend for advice on what to do about his financial situation. The friend replied that he had to sell his R2 million investment car. Not only could he not afford to keep up the insurance payments, but it would generate cash he could use to settle other debts.
The businessman refused, stating that to be successful, he had to look successful. He believed his car made other people see him as important because without that car, he would be nobody.
This story came to mind while reading Mavis Ureke’s Managing Emotions for Financial Freedom, where she talks about the extent to which we equate money with emotional wellbeing.
As Ureke points out, while one has to feel worthy of financial success to achieve success, you do not have to achieve success to feel worthy. Yet this businessman’s entire self-worth was dependent on how he was portrayed in his community because, like so many people, his self-worth was dependent on his financial success, and when the finances went wrong, his entire world fell apart.
Ureke goes on to talk about how so many of us equate success with lifestyle or status and how success is tied to the lifestyle we live, the car we drive and the clothes we wear.
“A person may decide to look like it and act as if they have it, and the underlying belief might also be that if you look successful, then you will be successful,” writes Ureke.
The point Ureke makes so well in her book is that we need to understand the value system we attach to money, and also learn that having money, or not, does not determine who we are as people. She sees money as an energy that is in constant flow, so sometimes we earn it, save it, spend it or lose it.
One thing we know from watching people becoming millionaires overnight is that money does not bring happiness.
This does not mean that Ureke does not believe in financial success – quite the opposite. The book was borne out of her journey of taking control of her money and moving out of financial chaos.
In undertaking the journey, she realised that her money mistakes would never stop unless she understood why she made them, and understood why she continuously sabotaged her financial stability.
In her book, Ureke defines financial freedom not only as a physical state where one has enough money not to work or knowing that you will not be a burden on your children; but in having the “ability to manage the money you have in such a way that it does not leave you with anxiety, regret, anger, shame and fear”.
Ureke says that, ultimately, financial freedom is when you are “not a servant to money, but money is instead your servant, meaning it obeys you, and when you say come, it moves towards you”.
As you can gather, this book is not your traditional finance book. It does not teach you how to budget or invest, but rather it deals with the reason you may not be reaching your financial goals and how you are subconsciously sabotaging you own success.
This requires deep reflection of our own money values – values that have been ingrained in us from a young age through the way our families managed money, or personal experiences where we perhaps suffered a financial loss.
So it starts with understanding who you are and what it is you value.
Ureke uses the seven levels of awareness used by leadership coaches to assess your personal level of money awareness.
Based on a questionnaire, you can assess whether you manage your money as a survivor, conformer, aspirant, individuator, discipliner, experiencer or a master.
For example, a survivor is someone who ignores money problems, has fallouts with family and friends about money, and tends to be a compulsive buyer.
Ureke describes this level of awareness as someone who sees themselves as a victim, someone who blames other people for their financial predicament and shifts