Outside of work, I write and perform spoken word poetry. This hobby sees me attending several events each week, either to perform or to watch others perform. The worlds of finance and poetry are not noted for their overlap, and this happy fact allows me healthy time away from both during the long mental traverse from one world to the next. Recently, however, I was visited by a rare moment of confluence. Allow me to explain.

I was in London watching a lady named Joelle Taylor perform, with no fleeting thought of the financial in sight. And then it happened. Looking directly at me, Joelle uttered:

“How your pockets were tunnels, and you were lost in them.”

I bristled; wide-eyes pleaded ignorance. If my exterior game-face was poor, which I suspect it was, then my inner-game was penniless. Nothing could remove recent purchases from my thoughts; “Did I really need that?”.

Poetry as a precursor to thought is unfailing; poetry as a precursor to self-examination is unnerving.

Financial Wellbeing is attained by working out what you want from life, and then using your money to get there. It is important to spend money on things that make you happy, but only if you are certain about that money being disposable. The happiness from material goods will neither exceed nor outlast the misery of having overspent.

There is a cycle, vicious in nature, within which overspending can land you. When too much emphasis is placed on material goods, the stress and guilt caused by having spent more money than you can afford to will often trigger one of two reactions:

  • Wishing the problem away. This takes the form of refusing to study your bank statement and refusing to create and/or stick to a budget. Result: stagnated or deteriorated Wellbeing.
  • Overspending to deal with the guilt and stress caused by overspending. When you consider happiness to be something outside of you which must be earned / purchased / worn / eaten (or otherwise consumed…), you will not only spend too much money on material goods, but you will then seek refuge in material goods when the stress kicks in. Result: deteriorated Wellbeing.

Both of the above seem to me to be examples of being “lost in the tunnels.”

Stretching the metaphor a little (something about being a poet and having a license), a good Financial Plan is comparable to the ball of thread exploited by Theseus to trace his way out of the Labyrinth, having slain the Minotaur. The bedrock of any good Financial Plan is “Know Thyself”, and this means knowing what brings you true happiness. Cast your aim toward meaningful, lasting Wellbeing and follow your plan – like thread – to find your way out of the tunnel.

Just be sure to change the sail.