Can You Enjoy Life Broke?

by Neal Frankle, CFP ®

If you had no money now, could you still find a way to be happy? Of course I hope you always maintain your financial security.  But it’s still a question worth asking.  There are two reasons for this:

First, it’s good practice. You already know that the things that matter most don’t have price tags attached to them.  But that’s easy to talk about when you’ve got food on the table and a roof over your head.  When things aren’t so peachy, it’s tough to hold on to that attitude.  If you go through this exercise when things are good, it will be easier to have a good mindset should your situation goes south. And even if your finances stay strong like I hope they do, it’s always good to remind yourself that the most important things in your life have nothing to do with money.

Second, you don’t have to be homeless in order to be devastated by a  financial loss.  Even if your situation is still relatively good after the downturn, you might find it very difficult to bounce back if a loss is large enough.  It’s the idea of making a huge error and having less than we did before that does us in.  It’s not the financial level we’ve been brought down to (that still may be much higher than most other people.)

So how can you find happiness without cash?  I think there are three steps to this.

1.  Identify What Really Means The Most To You

This is simply a gratitude list and I’m a big believer in this exercise.  Right now, go ahead and jot down 10 things you are most grateful for in your life.  Write it down on a piece of paper because this list is going to be your secret weapon if (heaven forbid) things ever take a turn for the worse.

2.  Think About Your Own History

Chances are good that you’ve overcome challenges in the past.  When things get tough we sometimes forget how resilient we are.  But if you jot down a list of the 5 most difficult problems you’ve overcome and how you overcame them, this will serve as a reminder that you aren’t helpless and you’ve fought and won battles in the past.  It will also prove that problems usually find a way of working themselves out.

3. Help Someone Elsebeing broke

I don’t know why this works – I only know that it does.  When most people serve others they just start feeling wonderful.  I suppose we are built this way for good reason.   It’s a good way to stop people from destroying each other.  But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter why humans are this way, it only matters that this works.

When things get tough, the last thing I want to do is worry about someone else.  You might feel the same way.  I get it.  That’s exactly why it’s important to look for opportunities to get out of your head and be there for others even when things are good.  Do this even if you don’t want to.  This way, you’ll be used to that great feeling that accompanies selfless acts and you’ll be able to implement that tool should dark times befall you.

Having a gratitude list, remembering your inner strengths and helping others is a fantastic way to enjoy your life regardless of how much money you have or have lost.   Once you’ve implemented these ideas, you’ll have a positive attitude and get on to the job of turning your financial life around quickly.

What advice do you have for people who have lost a great deal of money?  Have you ever tried any of these ideas?  What was the result?



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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Free To Pursue June 11, 2014 at 6:41 AM

“It’s the idea of making a huge error and having less than we did before that does us in.”

Yes! Great quote. It’s all about our loss aversion, which is far greater than our ability to see the upside to things. We focus on what we’ve lost as opposed to what we have left (which is usually still A LOT).


Neal Frankle, CFP ® June 14, 2014 at 1:12 PM

Thanks! Well said …..


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