Are you your own boss?

‘You’re not the boss of me!’ It’s a common cry you might hear from a child. But as we get older, and go out to work, most of us do end up with someone we call our boss. Almost 90% of American workers work for someone else.

Early last year, I took out a T-shirt I had been waiting to wear for a while. It was one I designed myself.

Across the front, in the largest letters possible, it read ‘CEO of me’.

Although I wore the shirt to celebrate resigning from my workplace of the past decade, it was a slogan I’d been living by for several years already.

What do you call yourself?

One of my favourite pieces of financial advice is to run your household like a business.

The first post I wrote after we began our travels (in Fiji) looked at the question ‘What do you do?So many of us define ourselves on the basis of our jobs.

What do you call yourself? Doctor? Lawyer? Garbageman(lady)? Housewife(husband)?

I’ve always been interested in money, but much of my current mindset developed in the Simple Savings community. There, I was particularly inspired by members who framed their roles not as ‘only’ as employees or parents, but as the Chief Financial Officers of their own families.

Communication and decision-making

Financial books like How to Survive Without a Salary, and The Millionaire Next Door also demonstrate that efficient households use decision-making processes that are very similar to those used by successful businesses.

Part of this means using the right tools, such as having a budget.

But as a survey of women sponsored by Financial Literacy Australia points out, people don’t just need resources such as budgets and investment planners. The emotions related to money act as a powerful barrier for many couples when talking about finances.

Emotions and money

As one respondent commented:

The conversation is so emotionally loaded… I find there is no way to converse about money objectively. It is always intensely subjective, its loaded with the fact that I have to have a job, so I don’t get paid therefore I have no right to have a say, I don’t understand because I failed maths… and from him it’s that ‘I make the money how come you don’t manage it, why are you asking this – it’s obvious you don’t trust me.’ So it’s just bleeding emotion.

As part of this project, WIRE created a booklet of strategies to help discussing finances (see the appendix). Those who trialed it said it

  • helped them to engage with their partner about money
  • made their conversations more productive and
  • left them feeling better about the future

Here are some of the strategies:

  1. Try to understand your own money story before approaching your partner
  2. Use words like ‘we’ and ‘our’ – remember you’re a team
  3. Acknowledge that the topic is sensitive (say ‘I’ve been thinking about our finances. Could we make a time after lunch on Sunday to have a chat’ instead of ‘We need to talk about money’)
  4. Stick to facts and avoid judgements. Trigger words like ‘always’ or ‘irresponsible’ can shut down a conversation.
  5. Remember that both people should have an equal say regardless of who earns more.
  6. Conversations aren’t competitions – your goal should be to get on the same page, not to win.
  7. At the end of the conversation, be clear about who will take what steps going forward, just like you would at the end of a business meeting.

Treat your household like a business

For me, one of the advantages of treating your household finances like a business is that it provides some distance when making decisions. Framing the choice to go out for dinner or to eat in, to buy a new car or secondhand, to go on holiday or pay down debt as business decisions makes it easier to deal with (and talk about) these decisions calmly, rationally, and with less emotion.

This is true not just of talking to your partner or your family, but making decisions on your own, too. I would encourage everyone – single, coupled, with kids – to try thinking of their household budget as the balance sheet of a company and see how they sit.

Chief Executive Officer

I chose the term ‘Chief Executive Officer’ to sum up my freedom because it encompasses so much more than just finances. It’s a reminder that ultimately, I have to take responsibility for the decisions I make in my life. This doesn’t mean I don’t compromise. It doesn’t mean I don’t try to be sensitive to the needs and wants of those around me. Realistically, even the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company does not have total freedom.

What it does mean is that I try to take responsibility for the decisions I can make, while recognising the constraints that exist and dealing with them as best I can. To say ‘this is my life, and I play a leading role in determining the extent to which I survive, or thrive. That it is my responsibility to enrich my life, while trying to enrich the lives of others’.

You are already your own boss.

Regardless of whether you’re an employee, an employer, or unemployed, remember that YOU are your ultimate boss. Your ‘boss’ at work doesn’t own you – they’re only renting your time and your talent. Those skills and effort are yours to direct to whatever outcome you deem most advantageous. That might be paid employment in your own or someone else’s services. Or it could be unpaid efforts. Or even leisure.

7 Ways to Talk About Money Like A BossIf you have a partner and would like more ideas on how to communicate with them about money, download Strong Beginnings (page 30 onwards)

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Today’s featured image is of my ‘CEO of me’ shirt – now faded, stained with the sweat and curry or almost a year on the road, and with a couple of holes to boot. The stains of true freedom. It’s earned an early retirement to pyjama-only land!

Enrichmentality turns one next week! Let me know what you’d like to see more of in the coming year in the comments!

PS. Tomorrow (July 12), Enrichimentality will take part in the Day Against Net Neutrality.

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