One of the greatest traps in the world and one's life, is the trap of living from paycheck to paycheck, month to month. Worse is when you can't afford to change your job or get fired/laid off because you're barely making enough to survive.
Louise and I were in a situation like that from about 2008-2011. We often ended up just having enough in one month, or if we didn't have enough, we'd live off our credit card (just very little, because we didn't want to start paying for interests and things like that). Sometimes we would have just a little more, and we would keep that aside for more "volatile" months.
This is actually much better than the situation we were in before that. At least we're not sinking into debt as fast, or as much as before. To reduce our expenses, we started preparing our own meals which we had at home, and we brought them to work. We started looking for cheaper alternatives to almost everything, from groceries, to public transportation, to stationery – everything counted.
Alright, technically, as we're both self-employed, it wasn't quite a paycheck-to-paycheck living, but really, we were living like that. We worked super hard. We were just making much money – only enough to cover our basic expenses but not enough to build any safety net or invest or anything.
For staying with me, being alongside with me, this makes Louise a woman I really respect, have admiration, trust, love and faith for, in all I do and venture. That's why I trust her entirely with the money we make today. She's the CFO, I'm the COO and God's the CEO/Senior Partner. That's how we roll. =)
I have been going through so much downs and depression that entire time. Sure, we were happy, laughing, contented…but we were young. And as I grew older, I started realizing for more things. I gained understanding and a measure of wisdom that we needed to put systems in place to be prepared. During those three years, if anything bad happened to us, we would be in bad shape.
Slowly but surely, we got out of that situation and left it behind, not just by taking certain financial actions, but I'd think it's more to be accounted by a paradigm shift in mindset and values.
Here's some suggestions based on what we had learnt back then for people who struggle with similar financial challenges.
The first and foremost to do is to take full responsibility for your current financial situation or problem. It doesn't matter if someone had taken advantage of you, a disaster struck, you had a poor education, poor experience, whatever.
Yes, those factors had a place in getting you where you're now…but it's not helpful for you to just dwell and blame them.
I have gotten screwed in many business deals, by seemingly trustworthy people, even had good deals with good friendships gone bad. As long as I focused on the problems of the past, I can't progress forward. I had to let all that go and forgive everything and everyone first.
Do that now. Think of everything and everyone which you hold in your heart and mind and let them go. Say "today, I release ____ and ____ (name everything and everyone until complete) into God's hands. I release total forgiveness and set them free."
You must take full responsibility for your finances and for your financial life. This means a full 100%, nothing short. If you want to improve your financial situation, you have got to put the full financial burden on your own shoulders – hold yourself responsible first.
Even if you share your finances with someone else, like how I share it with Louise, you sill have to be 100% responsible for your situation. I give my all, everyday, every moment I can. Think about that. If you take but a small portion of it and pass it to someone else…you're relieving yourself of that. And this will work against you further down the road when you use it as a milestone to slack off in a moment of weakness. If you try to push your responsibility for your situation to anyone else, you're being irresponsible.
This point is very, very important, eventhough it sounds outdated – because it's where people fail. They fail because they think that 80% is good enough. Or 90% is good enough.
You can't put in 80% of effort and expect to receive 100% results, especially when results often is 1 paycheck as an employee. 80% of 1 paycheck = doesn't work. You cannot allow yourself to blame the world, blame the economy, blame your family, blame your spouse, your dog or what/whoever for their inability to get better results.
Taking responsibility isn't about blaming yourself. Nor is it about looking to the past and talking about it only. It's about taking control over your situation. It's about realizing that ultimately, you have the ability, capability and responsibility to choose your response and action.
It's about accepting the fact that if anything's going to change, you're going to have to be the change agent.
Without a 100% attitude to responsibility, you will be totally powerless. If you want things to move and change, you will have to step into your full responsibility and power fully. If you can't do that, you're just in denial.
I'm not saying that you can and must control every situation or circumstance in your life. I'm just saying that you have the ability to respond and make a change. Yes, sometimes your responses may not be the best, they may be limited or not as effective as you'd like it to be, but you still have the power to choose and respond at any given circumstance.
Even if you're a housewife relying on your husband for 100% of your family's income. If you want to change your financial situation, then the responsibility to make it happen is entirely your own, not your husbands. You're not a weak, helpless and powerless person.
You're a powerful, creative being. You can come up with ideas and solutions and ways to get around it. Don't put the blame on your spouse for not holding up his or her end of what you think and believe to be your financial bargain. If you don't like the situation you're in right now, then you change it. That may include communicating and discussing with your spouse the possible options and avenues. It may include generating some income on your own. Regardless, it's you.
Usually people in tight financial situations focus on cutting their expenses. I know, I did that too. Why start with frugality/cutting expenses is because it works immediately, quickly, and is very practical – I agree with it.
Only to a certain point, because there's only so much to frugality. I mean, an egg is an egg and an egg will cost what an egg will cost. What I'm saying is frugality is a good start, but it's not all that is to it, so don't go crazy on every single detail e.g. going 10 different places for grocery shopping because "they all have different cheaper stuff". The opportunity and petrol cost will likely undo all the savings you've taken.
If you were really living the high life of spending, you will/may benefit from a couple of rounds of expense cutting – go ahead and cut out whatever you can. If you're looking to save money to start, you can take out the designer clothes, the fancy restaurants, the fast cars, cable TV etc. We started by putting a stop on all taxi rides and opting for public buses instead, and opting to make our own meals, all which were reasonable cost deductions then.
Unreasonable deductions happen when you start to reduce your quality of life, effectively trapping yourself in a scarcity mindset. I'm really okay with zen and minimalistic living and lifestyles, but if you're not really that big into minimalism but you're forcing yourself into it just because of cost savings, then you'd be quite conflicted within especially if that's not what you want. If you like to have stuff in your place, and to live in abundance and overflowingly so, then be honest to yourself and admit it. Don't pretend you want something else just because you think that you cannot have what you want.
How to tell the difference between reasonable deductions versus unreasonable ones? Reasonable deductions are logical, and they end up with net positive. It makes you feel better, relieved. Unreasonable cuts makes you feel bad. They have a net negative. It's a more "I really hate to take the bus eventhough it's cheaper, because it's slow and it stinks."
I know people who will go really out of their way spending 2-3 hours to save a couple of dollars. That's…creative but I don't think that that's the best use of one's time. You can make more money by making $7.50 per hour even in MacDonald's. Don't waste your time trying to save a couple of dollars. If you find that you're starting to do things and stuff that would pay less than minimum wages/pay (how much you save compared to how much time you spend), or if you're cutting your food budget to the extent where you're really just eating rice and some gravy, friend, you're going a tad too off-tangent.
You can cut cost to give yourself a measure of breathing space whenever you need to, but please don't set yourself up for long-term destitution by removing things from your life that makes your more effective, such as healthy food, work tools, home appliances etc.
Remember that expenses are recurring items, so when you cut expenses, you actually bring on long-term recurring savings. This doesn't really mean that you're selling stuff to raise funds (there's a limit to how much you can make to selling stuff of your own because there's a limit to how much stuff you can really have). Unload the junk you don't need, but keep the stuff that you do need and still use.
You don't have to spend too many hours fussing over your expenses and what to deduct. It's not that worth it, in my opinion (because I realize that some people really go in-depth and detailed here in this area). I mean, if you're only spending about $150 per week on groceries and perishables, there's only so much room you can do to tweak and cut costs. Also, many times the cheapest stuff often breaks quickly, which can end up cheap stuff = costly recurring replacements.
It's very tough to try to cut down on expenses because the best you can really do is to get your expenses down to minimum (you CAN NEVER REACH ZERO, because all homes would need to be maintained with groceries, household perishables etc) so it's gonna be very tough. Cut out whatever is unnecessary, focus on how much you actually can save but in the long run, it'd be best to put 80% of your effort on increasing income instead of just cutting down expenses. Why do this? Because there is no limit to how much you can earn, but there is a limit to how much you can save.
You can make reasonable deductions in your expenses, but you don't have to go all crazy. If you want to make your finances better, it'd be best to devote most of your time and energy creating income.
People really earn what they believe they deserve to earn. This means that the real reason why you're not earning more is because you believe you don't deserve to earn more.
I'm not here to strike you…it is a truth that's hard to accept and understand. Chances are your ego and emotions will not like this very much, and you might have already come up with a few arguments why this is not true.
Regardless, put those thoughts aside for a while, take a deep breaths.
Take whatever you're earning right now, and multiply it by 2. Then instead, multiply it by 5. Then by 10. Then by 20. Then by 100. Imagine yourself earning the numbers after each multiplication. You'd probably feel very uncomfortable. Maybe it's scary. Maybe you're stressed. Maybe you feel that it's exciting. Or complicated. Or maybe it's too high in the clouds for you at this point in time.
And that's the reason why you aren't earning that much. You're making those numbers too much into a deal.
The people who are earning 10x – 100x as much as you are don't really think about the figure the way you do. It seems normal and natural to them like breathing. It is not such a big deal to them at all. One of the reasons why you're not earning that amount is because it's still a big matter and big of a deal to you. If you want to get there, you must reach a point in your heart and mind where that level of x100 is no longer a big deal. It's okay if it's somewhat exciting, but it shouldn't be so incredible that you can't believe it.
When I first met in 2007, she was earning something like $3xxx a month. That's what she felt she deserved to earn, and that was normal and reasonable to her. Today, she makes a good 3-5x what she earns then. Though it's not a 100x like above, but as a physiotherapist, that figure is a very, very good figure, but we're just beginning. I assure you =)
Today what she earns in an hour is what used to take her about 3 days to earn. And yes, her clients actually pay these rates and are happy to do so.
What's interesting is how different people react to her rates. Some look at her rates and say "oh I can't afford it" and they don't make a booking or don't turn up – these people aren't a match for her services. They cant afford it. They can't even imagine how she can charge the price she charges. But they want her free consultation when meeting in person, which is free.
But then, she has her real and actual clients, who simply makes appointments, turn up, get treated, get well and better and make their payments – no complaining, no bargaining. To them, it's no biggie. They want to get better, and they know that Louise's treatment work, so they afford it. To them it's not a big deal. Louise's rates are normal and reasonable, and even below market price.
For her to earn these higher rates, Louise had to go through a mental process of giving herself permission to earn more. One of the things that helped was to establish that other therapists in her field were earning around that level. She watched them and learned from them, and as we established that she was at least as good as them (or more so, but I could be biased just because I'm in love with her =p). But before that, it freaked her out to charge anything more than 20-30% of market price.
This is not a process of internalizing or justifying why you should earn more – this is not the important part, because most of the time, I'm pretty sure you know you should earn more. It's more of a gaining permission, gaining access to earn more. It's not a business plan or a sales pitch approach. You're just deciding that you'd like to earn more, and you're finding a way to accept that it's okay to earn much, much more.
When you raise your rates, your new price may cause you to lose a market segment…but you'll find that you'll price yourself into another market, which is market for your new price. For example, Louise's clients don't want a $30 physiotherapy session. They wont trust someone who only charges $15, believing such therapists to be cutting corners or not really good so they undercharge. They want a premium physiotherapist who knows what he or she is doing. Recurring clients who pays market rate demonstrates that her work and service and skill is approved by the market. Also, as Louise is attracting higher-income clients compared to when she first started, she now has more leverage to do good – if she can help a budding/successful business person be encouraged, strengthen their faith in God etc, that has a much greater cascading effect compared to helping a student decide which module to take or where to go for a holiday.
The point is that you shouldn't feel that by raising your rates you're providing less service – it's likely to be the converse.
Sometimes, the process you go through to give yourself permission will be more spectacular and elaborate. Sometimes you can see the manifold level of changes and cascading effects it has in your life. Sometimes you may feel that you need to take some kind of action just to reach the point where you think and feel you deserve to be paid much more.
When I wanted to move from earning a low four figures to a healthy five figures, I tried to envision myself as a five-figure-a-month person. This was when we first started. The challenge was that I don't believe that I was providing a valuable enough service to deserve that level of income. I could only give myself permission by agreeing to increase my services – I attracted more niche and premium clients, found a way to see them at a better time and location, and soon after that I reached my goal.
It's very important to understand that I began this process with giving myself permission to earn that much.
Often, thinking that we don't deserve more is a very common stumbling block to us being able to earn more. In fact, it's so common that we don't even notice it anymore – we just think it's normal to earn whatever amounts we're earning right now. But really, it's only our thinking and thoughts that makes it seem normal. Someone else would consider your current paycheck quite bad/sad for the work you do.
Thing is, can you accept that you're being underpaid right now?
When I first went into private practice, I made about $25-35 per hour, with a maximum of $240 in a given day. And that was really something I was very happy about, as previously I made about $80 per day. Just last week, I had my first $1000 day. And it was a very pleasant feeling at discovering it at the end of the day, and to think that I only saw 4 patients that day. So effectively, I've multiplied by hourly rate to 10x of what I used to earn.
Interestingly, I wasn't so shocked, more surprised because most of the time, Louise has way much more patients than I do. I have the same issue with raising my rates. I face the dilemma of wanting to charge market rate…but I always draw back for fear of patient complaints etc, so I'd always panic and ask myself "how can my patients afford me then?" In the past four years, we've been through this cycle more times than I can imagine but I'd still have the same reaction. If we never raised our rates, we'd probably have a super long waiting list of a decade long by now….or so burnt out that we'd quit entirely.
The focus here is that it's useful to get a second opinion from someone who takes the time to evaluate and give honest and updated feedback. Spend time with people who strongly believes that you should earn more, and that you deserve it, and ask them why they think so. I've been very blessed in having a faith and a loving heavenly Father who encourages me whenever I read His word, biological and church family that always pushes and encourages me, friends and doctors who also supports us and pointed out what I should be earning and why we were grossly underpaid. These few times they helped us helped us up our incomes each times.
I find it very interesting and fun to gradually raise my financial expectation and to "level up" in my finances and financial vibrations – I love it. I like to level up, experience that full level, then work on going up the next level. I don't regret a moment where we had to pack our meals and where KFC was a luxury. Even way back then I considered my financial life as a challenging experience and adventure meant to be enjoyed.
When Louise and I married and got our own space, our luxuries were $2-$3 crisps/chips and chocolates and $1.35 green tea. We used to eyeball people who'd buy the really expensive chips that costs $8-15 per bag. These days, we'd have pork steaks, potato chips…and crisps. Hehs. Somewhere down the road, we'd up the level again. Every level is a fun experience to me.
At this point in time your idea and attitude may be something like "yeah right, give myself permission to earn more. Whatever. Ok. I'll give myself some permission." If that's all you're going to do, you might as well stop reading right now and go away. If you're serious about it, it can take weeks. It takes time, effort and strategy to work through financial blocks and to thoroughly give yourself full permission to level up without holding back to excuses to hold back.
You may want to consider using a journal or a blog to work through this process. Try starting by creating a list of why you believe you're not earning as much as you'd like. Put them all down in writing. Then ask yourself what it would take to let these limiting beliefs go. Ask yourself if they're sound. Are there other people with the same stumbling blocks but are earning more? Are you really only giving yourself excuses? Are you ready to level up in financial abundance?
Do whatever you need to do to put yourself in a state of abundance and readiness. If you work through this mentally and psychologically, it will also prepare you emotionally and physically.
In the end, giving yourself permission is really about making a decision in your life to receive and make more. You don't really need a full set of pre-requisites and criterias to level up financially. But if you already have them in your mind, then it'd be good to work through them.
You'd likely have some people in your life who likes you the way you are. They may not be financially dependent on you, but they have gotten comfortable the way you are now. And this means that if you made some changes, they'd be uncomfortable.
If you make the decision and take the actions to financial abundance, they may feel like they're being left behind. Be prepared for this, it happens.
Can you identify anyone in your life right now who'd have a problem if you increased your income by 2x, 5x or 10x? If you do, then it'd be better if you can deal with that as soon as possible – do this by talking things through, or decide to part ways (this is impossible for family, but with friends…). Why do this? If you don't, they may try to sabotage your increase by making negative comments and connotations to make you feel bad for earning more.
On the flip side, there will be lots of people who will be very happy and excited to see you grow financially and in abundance. This is so true amongst entrepreneurs, but it's really dependent on which field you're in. I have friends who are very encouraging when I talk about boosting my income…but I have other friends who'd be intimidated, fearful and threatened. The difference is not with how much they already make, it's got to do with their attitude towards financial abundance and increase in their lives. Those who encourages often has a positive outlook and hope for the future. Those who discourages are often negative and are dissatisfied with their own financial situation.
One of the best things that you can do now is to make friends with people who have a positive and hopeful financial outlook in their lives. It doesn't matter how much they're making right now. It can be more, or less than what you're making – what matters more to look for people who are 100% responsible for their own financials. People who don't blame others for their own financial situations.
Then again, entrepreneurs would be the best bet here, as well as salespeople who gets commission-based incentives. Investors of any kind would be good too. Employees (salaried or hourly) don't usually have the same level of financial enthusiasm as these groups of people, that's why they're willing to trade hours for dollars and still claim the results they generate are because of support by others.
Money is a medium where value is exchanged. If you want to make or have more money, then you can create more value and deliver more value to more people in return for more money.
One of the best ways to improve your services is really by putting it into a permanent form. This approach allows you to constantly provide value even when you're not physically present there.
An example is if I give a speech to a 100 people today on a life-changing knowledge, I'll deliver value to the 100 of them, assuming they all receive what I had said. But unfortunately, it's a one time off event. Everytime I give a speech again, I'm starting from scratch again. And this is the approach that employees use most. They don't build anything that they retain ownership of; instead, they trade their hours for dollars, so in the end, someone else ends up having ownership of what they helped to build, and reaps all the mid and long term benefits of ownership. Which is super generous of the employees, but not that good if you'd like to get ahead in your finances.
From an educational and historical perspective, there's a game that's being played around us that is controlling the educational, business and commerce platform that focuses on creating stable workforces for the richer and more well educated. Like what Robert Kiyosaki shares – there is two forces, the rich and the poor, and they are divided by an ever-increasing gap due to a lack of financial literacy. This is introduced and enforced by a team of unseen-powers that convince the masses that getting a job is the best way to go, which really helps in providing a stable pool of workers for the businesses that the rich own. If you stand for getting a job and being employed, then you cant really complain about the rich growing richer, because your job whilst employed is to help the rich get richer.
You're doing the cogwork and legwork that someone else owns and controls. How does that really help you in the long run? All you're doing is to tend to someone else's property and business. If you hate going to work every day and have a hard time motivating yourself to turn up and work, then you maybe should consider stopping work.
There are better solutions out there.
Back to the speech example, now consider if I take the speech and pen it down in writing and publish it online on a website such as NigelChua.com. Now this speech can and will provide value every day, 24 hours a day, without rest, by thousands instead of just 100. This is how a long term intelligent entrepreneur will think. Instead of trading hours for dollars, the idea is to invest your time building something that will provide value for life, even when you're no longer around.
If you can provide value even though you're not physically around, then you've created passive value. With passive value, you can create passive income. An example is that I could sell a collection of my best works on personal development, or quotes on a greeting card company in exchange for royalties, or set up a "inspiration of the day" subscription service and sell advertising.
If you're an employee now, the word "business" and "entrepreneurship" may sound scary and complex. But it's really not a big deal to generate income from self-employment if you give yourself permission. Even school going students are making money this way today.
I recommend that you don't start by thinking about passive income. That's akin to putting the cart before the horse. I think you should focus on creating and delivering passive value first. Create something, put it into a permanent form and get it into people's hands. Start small. Write an article. Write a recipe. Start a website. Share it. Do it again. And again.
Focus on the giving, and the getting will take care of itself. I know and understand that that can be quite scary if you're financially tight right now, and it'd be tempting…but I plead with you to not do that. Focus on creating and sharing. You must give before you can get.
Share something that you enjoy creating. Put it into a form of physical and tangible media, and pass it on.
I know of several therapists that started their business because they provided therapy to some people who then shared with others and that sparked a snowball effect. Then as they receive more and more request, they had to charge more and more, and that's how their businesses started. If people like it, they will share it.
The same had applied to other businesses, such as restaurants, tuition centers, schools, cooking classes. The list goes on.
It's really that simple. Don't overcomplicate matters.
I really like writing and sharing what I know, seek and pursue to help not only myself but other individuals to grow spiritually, mentally and emotionally. When I started this website in 2009, I earned approximated $9.62 from adsense. Why? I was and still am focused on sharing value, not just on making money. So focus on delivering value. The simple truth is that most people who are struggling financially are not creating and delivering much value. Maybe you can try to convince people to pay you for nothing, but that approach isn't one that I feel good and natural about.
Putting your work into a permanent form is very, very important. If you don't do this, you'll have to keep recreating your value over and over again, taking you back to the employee mindset. Even if you're technically self-employed, you'd just create a job for yourself.
If you'd like to escape and overcome the rat race, it's a very good idea to build your own distribution network. My favorite way of doing this is to give away value for free, especially so if it's good quality free.
Building a good distribution network isn't that hard these days…I believe and think that the best way to do it is to build a website because having a website and a digital address is very cheap compared to the alternatives. My friends have to travel around in a country and from countries to countries to distribute their values. All I do is click "publish" and see patients in my clinic.
The current solutions I recommend for most people looking to build an online business or to take their business to the next level is Site Build It. Follow that link if you wish to read my review of the service and why I recommend it. If you're very savvy in computers and the internet, you'd likely not need the service, but it's great for those who don't understand the ins and outs of internet marketing and want someone to guide them through it step by step.
To move beyond living from paycheck to paycheck, it'd be best and more long term if you focus on shifting your paradigm and your mindset first. If you get your mind right, the right actions follow. Of course you can choose to take the right actions ala Tony Robbins, but for cerebral people like myself, it often causes me too much paralysis to work effectively. If you remain stuck in the wrong paradigm, it doesn't matter how long you "take the right action" – the best quality doesn't show.
What really helped me most is the realization that I'm not doing anyone much good by holding myself back financially. Heck, it doesn't even do me good. How does limiting my income actually help anyone? All it does is really make it harder and harder for me to create and share value. It limits my ability to serve. And I'm pretty sure it'd make me much miserable too. I'm definitely able to serve more people today as compared to when I was just merely surviving. I now can share from a place of abundance instead of scarcity.
If you resent the work you're currently in, or the situation you're in, you're poisoning yourself and your outcomes – you may actually be doing more harm than the good you think you're doing. If you're merely surviving and feeling lousy and poor about it, you're likely not doing the best or the noblest you can too.
The only person who can level it up is you. Do you want to keep living at your current level, or are you ready to level up?