Welcome to the first week of the EASY Money Challenge, where we’re exploring a new framework to understand your relationship with money.
This week we’re tackling the “E” of EASY: Earn. Let’s talk about how to earn money with ease and joy.
Tune in above or through your favorite podcast app, or check out the transcript below.
At the end of each episode in the EASY Money Challenge, I’ll share an exercise to help you fill out your Money Map — an inventory that lets you see where your money comes from, where it’s going and how you want to use it.
These exercises will help you gain understanding and peace in your finances without clinging to the budgeting habits so many people are doubling down on this time of year.
Healthy Rich is a platform for inclusive, budget-free financial education. Become a subscriber to support our contributors.
Here are three key principles to help you expand your imagination of work and experience the life you want.
No. 1: Ease starts with recognizing what you have
Money management has to start with recognizing the resources around you.
That includes your income, but it’s much more than the money you earn from working.
Your resources include:
Income: the money you earn from working.
Assets: those high-ticket items you own, like property, vehicles, jewelry, electronics and investment accounts.
Community support, which includes government resources like SNAP and unemployment benefits; nonprofits like food banks, rental assistance and shelters; and help from your community, like child care from family or neighbors.
Debt resources: ways you can borrow money to extend your resources, like credit cards and student loans.
Income is usually the first thing you think of when you think about how much money you’ll have to spend to meet your needs.
But not everyone is able to earn enough in income alone to cover all your costs.
Maybe you’re a student, or a parent, or you’re living with a disability or chronic illness, or you’re already expending all the energy you have to give to a job or multiple jobs.
That’s why your assets, community support and debt resources are important to count.
Assets might represent huge value you’re sitting on without realizing it.
It might not be viable for you to sell your home or car or tap into a retirement account — but noting that you have them lets you make financial decisions with a more complete picture of your options.
You might be able to rent a room in your house through a peer-to-peer platform, for example. If you’re renting, maybe you can downsize to a cheaper space or move to a cheaper neighborhood.
Recognizing your resources lets you get creative about how to use your money.
Community support can help you avoid unnecessary restriction when your income doesn’t meet your needs.
Community resources could include government benefits or support from nonprofits or people in your community. Here are some examples:
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families of TANF benefits
SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
Social Security or Disability Income
Unemployment benefits through your state
Housing choice vouchers through Section 8
Peer-to-peer lending platforms and apps
Thrift stores that give you access to low-cost goods and services.
Finally, you might have access to debt.
Note that debt is, ultimately, a liability in the long run, not an asset.
But debt can be an important way to expand your resources when you need it and help you avoid unnecessary restriction or deprivation when you don’t want to or can’t increase other resources.
And, before you pass judgment or shame on yourself, remember: Debt is morally neutral.
Your debt doesn’t reflect your level of responsibility or value as a person.
No. 2: You are not your net worth
Our culture glorifies work ethic, which tends to attach a person’s innate value to the way they earn money. This can make you feel like there are “right” and “wrong” choices for how you earn and use money.
But you can’t make a wrong choice for you.
Your worth has nothing to do with how hard you work, what kind of work you choose or how much you earn.
Tap into your intuition to choose work that’s right for you, and detach your self-worth from the ways you earn and use money.
No. 3: Good work does more than make you money
Choose work in line with your values, goals and best interests, so you have ownership over how you make a living.
That ownership helps you avoid the scarcity mindset that makes you dependent on an employer and ultimately tarnishes your relationship with money.
You can take ownership regardless of your employment status. Ownership could mean:
Entrepreneurship: Starting your own business.
Freelancing: Working as a contractor for other people's businesses.
Starting or joining a union: Formally organizing with coworkers to collectively bargain with your employer for pay and rights.
Starting or joining a worker coop: Collectively owning a business where all workers make democratic decisions, and everyone shares fairly in profits.
Informally organizing with coworkers for pay transparency and other conversations about equity and benefits with your employer.
By taking ownership, you can work in community and partnership with other workers to support each other’s pursuits and claim autonomy in how you work and how you’re compensated.
Earn money with ease and joy
To reiterate, the three principles of Earn are:
Ease starts with recognizing what you have.
You are not your net worth.
Good work does more than make you money.
We start the EASY framework with Earn, which is a key element many approaches to money management and financial education forget to include.
Managing your money should always start with how you bring in money, because that’s where you have the most opportunity to change your financial situation.
By recognizing your resources beyond income, detaching your self-worth from the way you earn money, and taking ownership over work in line with your values, you can avoid the stress and scarcity mentality that’s common around work, so you can earn money with ease and joy.
Fill out your Money Map
Now it’s time to take action!
This week, we’re going to list Your Resources, so find the first section of the Money Map.
Fill out any resources you have under each category:
Income: List the monthly income you earn from working, investments, child support or any other source. If your monthly income is irregular, look at what you’ve earned for the past six months and find the average.
Assets: List high-value items you own, like your home, car, electronics and jewelry. Remember: We’re not suggesting you sell these off to pay your bills! But listing them here gives you a more accurate financial picture than listing income alone.
Community support: Think of other types of resources at your disposal, like government benefits you aren’t already receiving, nonprofits in your area, and support from family and friends. What kinds of needs and costs could that support take off your plate?
Debt resources: What options might you have to borrow money if you need to? Think about what you could reasonably qualify for — list your existing credit limit and home equity, plus student loans or personal loans you might qualify for.
Here’s an important note about filling out the Money Map: You might not be able to think of everything right away. That’s OK.
Take your best guess, get something down, and move on. You can return to any of these steps and make adjustments in the future — and our goal isn’t perfect accounting.
The purpose of the Money Map is to give you a sense of your financial circumstances so you can make informed decisions moving forward.
There’s more to the Money Map, but don’t give yourself too much work this week! We’ll get to the rest of it throughout this four-week challenge, so stay tuned.
I’d love to learn what you uncover about your resources.
Does expanding beyond your income give you a different sense of your financial situation than you had before this exercise?
Did you discover resources you didn’t realize were available to you?
Hop into the comments of this post to share any responses you’re comfortable sharing with the community, or send me an email privately to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ll talk to you again next week!
Next up in the EASY Money Challenge
Image by @RootedColors via Nappy