July 12, 2023
Today I’m talking about one of the most controversial yet seemingly intriguing topics known to humankind: money, along with a nasty concept called “scarcity”.
Money influences your decisions, shapes your dreams, and sometimes, imposes limits on your potential, yet the discussion around wealth often skips over a crucial aspect: your personal relationship with money.
Rarely do you also hear about how bad a scarcity mindset can be to your ability to maintain wealth and happiness, nor what you can do about scarcity and how to fix that mindset.
Scary as it is, I challenge you to alter your perception of money and engage with it differently, to rethink your ideas about wealth and financial freedom. What you're about to read isn't a lecture about budgeting or investment strategies. Instead, it's a discussion about morphing your entire approach to finance from the inside out.
To do this, I'm going to explore below the detrimental effects of a scarcity mindset on your financial choices, lifestyle, and overall sense of well-being – a concept I really didn't fully understand until my mid-30's when I read the book Killing Sacred Cows (more about that book in this article), but that has since served me tremendously for wealth building. You'll find that frugality and scarcity aren't the only road to riches and that striving without purpose can be perilous.
As the alternative, you’ll learn how to lead a balanced life, where financial wealth doesn't mean sacrificing your personal happiness.
You'll uncover a concept of financial independence that goes beyond money: a holistic approach that incorporates your time, relationships, and personal passions.
Instead of experiencing money as a restrictive force, you'll instead discover how money can empower you, so brace yourself for a fresh take on money.
Meet Garrett Gunderson: The Comedic Financial Genius.
The perspectives in this article are primarily based on concepts I first discussed in a previous podcast with Garrett Gunderson, my friend, a stand-up comedian, and a monetary mastermind whose principles heavily influence my own views of finance.
Raised in a coal-mining family in rural Utah, Garrett created wealth not from inherited riches, but from sheer determination and smart financial strategies.
He is the author of the renowned financial books Killing Sacred Cows and its equally powerful sequel, Disrupting Sacred Cows. His ventures, The Wealth Factory and Win, Then Play, are designed to guide business owners toward economic independence, breaking free from the cycle of scarcity, but Garrett's expertise isn't limited to finance.
After two decades in the industry, he’s intertwined his financial knowledge with his passion for comedy. In his comedy special, The American (D)ream, he turns common myths about money on their head with gut-busting humor that is matched in its hilarity only by its utility.
I encourage you to listen to my podcast with Garrett after you finish the article. In the meantime, here’s my take on Garrett’s work, intermingled with a few opinions of my own.
Money Mindsets: The Miser, the Striver, and the Renaissance Person
Garrett defines three personas to illustrate different relationships with money: the Miser, the Striver, and the Renaissance Person.
The “Miser” is someone whose actions are dictated by scarcity.
They perpetually cut costs, save every penny, and deprive themselves of any pleasures that spending might bring. The Miser believes in amassing wealth – living a frugal present to secure a richer future. This approach, while it can result in significant wealth accumulation, also creates dissatisfaction and a lack of fulfillment. As a Miser, your relationship with money is driven by fear and constraint, not a means to accomplish your aspirations.
Then there's the “Striver”.
This person doesn't hold back on spending but is continuously striving for more. Motivated by ambition, Strivers work tirelessly to pile up wealth, frequently at the cost of their personal life.
They delay holidays, skip family moments, and sideline their hobbies to stay focused on their economic goals. Strivers see money as a measure of success and tend to associate their self-worth with their net worth. Despite achieving financial success, they often find themselves trapped in a cycle of constant striving without feeling a sense of accomplishment or satisfaction.
Finally, there's the “Renaissance Person”, a persona that represents an ideal relationship with money.
This person understands that wealth is more than just hoarding or tirelessly striving for money.
They believe in a balanced life that appreciates the arts, fosters creativity, and values experiences over material possessions. The Renaissance Person sees money as a tool to enhance their life, not as the sole purpose of life. In the following sections, I'll share more about how to transition from a Miser or Striver to Renaissance Person.
The Impact of Family History on Your Money Attitude
Start by understanding how family narratives and generational histories can shape your attitudes toward money.
As Garrett Gunderson explained on our podcast, his great-grandfather’s journey from Italy to the United States, filled with hardship and scarcity, became a part of his family's narrative.
This narrative was passed down through generations, ingraining in them a sense of scarcity and fear associated with financial security.
You might wonder how such narratives might be operating in your own life. Perhaps your family's financial history is filled with boom-and-bust cycles that have made you apprehensive about investing, or a constant struggle with debt has instilled in you a fear of taking on any form of credit.
These inherited narratives can significantly shape your attitudes and behavior towards money, often without you even realizing it.
Consider Garrett's own journey. He grew up in a blue-collar family, learning scarcity from his great-grandfather’s experiences. When he decided to become an entrepreneur, his family was understandably scared.
This fear, based on their inherited narrative, almost held him back. However, when he was able to demonstrate his success to his grandfather, it represented a moment of breaking free from the long-held family narrative. In a moment where he could have given up and perpetuated the same fearful story, Garret instead changed not just his own, but his family’s relationship with money.
So, how can you break free from these inherited narratives?
Begin by recognizing them.
Reflect on your family history and identify the narratives around money that you've grown up with. Then, question the narratives.
- Is your family afraid of debt, pinching every penny, and hoarding their wealth?
- Did your parents set aside experiences for work, and chase bigger and better financial success at the expense of a life well-lived?
- Do your parents have a balanced relationship with money and live from abundance?
- Which patterns do you exhibit that originate from your family when it comes to money? Are you experiencing the same patterns? If you went the opposite way seeking something different, is your pattern healthy or did you simply trade Miser for Striver?
Ask yourself these questions. Identify your narratives. Then ask: are these narratives helping me find abundance or are they an expression of fear and scarcity?
If the latter, it's time to consciously choose a different narrative, one that supports a healthier, more abundant relationship with money.
I’m not saying it’s easy. Changing your relationship with money involves a deep process of self-discovery and intentional decision-making, but remember, just like Garrett, you too have the ability to rewrite your money narrative and, in doing so, potentially change the course for future generations.
It’s not easy, but it’s possible, and worth it.
The Shift from Scarcity to Abundance
The first step towards healthy financial relationships is recognizing the ways scarcity mindsets have limited you.
Operating from a scarcity mindset often leads to fear and stress, which then impacts your financial decisions negatively.
You might find yourself stuck in a cycle of saving and scrimping, never really enjoying the fruits of your labor. On the other hand, your family narrative might send you the other way. Seeing the fallacy of their habits as misers, you might become obsessed with money, always chasing higher riches and never taking time for yourself.
This was exactly the case with Garrett Gunderson; his scarcity mindset, inherited from his family history, mixed with an obsession to escape his small town, and he became a Striver.
Garrett became a life insurance salesman while attending South Utah University’s Governor’s Honors Academy. He made more money than his professors but felt like he was selling network marketing more than financial advice.
Continuing to chase riches, Garrett went on to careers in the stock market, real estate, and eventually, founding a business with two partners aimed at finally doing something helpful they all loved. However, in each of these, Garrett found himself in a losing game either when the market slowed down, or when, tragically, his two business partners died in a plane crash early on in their venture.
Rather than slow down and grieve, Garrett took on the classic Striver mentality and doubled his workload. He didn’t cry for 4 months, neglected his family and friendships, and entered into a deep depression. Finally, when enough became enough, Garrett pivoted and wrote Killing Sacred Cows, based on the conversations he’d had with his business partners before their passing.
From here Garrett began the shift from Striver to Renaissance Person, living the principles he and his partners originally built their company on.
Over the years, he would go on to create The Wealth Factory and eventually began his stand-up comedy career (which included what he claims to be one of the worst comedy sets ever performed at Burning Man.)
Garrett’s core lesson was that any time he neglected his own life, be it his family relationships or his just-for-fun hobbies, his financial life suffered. In essence, treating life as though it is abundant and prioritizing experiences is what unlocked freedom both financially and otherwise for Garrett.
Now, imagine the power and potential of an abundance mindset. Shifting to this mindset can open up a world of possibilities, not just in terms of financial prosperity, but also in terms of overall happiness and fulfillment.
Nurturing an abundance mindset is an ongoing journey. Here are a few steps that can help you along the way:
- First, as you should have already done, recognize and challenge your scarcity beliefs.
- Second, practice gratitude daily. Focusing on the good in your life helps cultivate a sense of abundance.
- Third, invest in experiences over possessions. As Garrett's journey demonstrates, a life filled with rich experiences can bring a deeper sense of fulfillment than any material possession.
- Fourth, find a hobby that doesn't pay you but is something you enjoy and lose track of time doing. According to Garrett, this unlocks gifts inside of you that lay dormant because of business and exhaustion.
- Finally, surround yourself with positive influences, individuals who embody an abundance mindset. Their attitudes and behaviors can serve as a positive reinforcement as you work on nurturing your own abundance mindset.
The Value of Investing in Experiences
Investing in experiences, hobbies, and personal interests can greatly contribute to your personal growth and creative thinking.
Garrett pointed out that one of his secrets to success was pursuing hobbies that didn't pay him, hobbies he simply enjoyed.
When he allowed himself to pursue what truly made him happy, he unlocked gifts inside that had lain dormant. It's not just about taking time off or leisure activities; it's about wholehearted engagement in activities that stretch your creativity and curiosity.
These experiences enrich your life, opening up new insights and ideas that could even contribute to your financial success. Garrett found that the more he explored his interests, the more opportunities he discovered.
You might be wondering, “How can I incorporate this concept into my life, especially with financial constraints?”
Prioritize experiences over material possessions. It could be something as simple as exploring a new hiking trail instead of buying the latest tech gadget. The key is to find joy in experiences that don't necessarily have a price tag attached to them.
Here are a few cheap, or free, examples you can experiment with:
- Start going to a free Saturday group fitness or workout class. Many gyms offer community classes.
- Check out Meetup.com and find a meetup you're interested in, such as plant foraging or snowshoeing.
- Go for a hike somewhere new.
- Into a hobby like playing the guitar or skateboarding? Look for someone selling your instrument of choice at a discounted price on a site like Craigslist, or visit a pawn shop.
- Break out from the ho-hum, non-fiction, self-improvement categories if you're stuck in those and start reading or listening to fiction.
- Go volunteer at your local animal shelter if you love critters.
- Start a weekly movie night, watching old classic films for a mere $2 rental fee or less on a website. If you're like me, you can mingle your movie or TV time with foam rolling, a massage gun, or some other form of body therapy. Or a stationary bike.
Those are just a few examples. Ultimately, you know what you enjoy. I don’t need to tell you what hobbies made your heart sing back when you made time for them.
Just find one that you really love, one that fits the question “If money and time were no object, what would I do with my time?” and get creative about finding a way to access it.
It might beggar belief, but the feeling of a hobby you’re truly passionate about that has no economic agenda or business relevance is magical for your health, happiness, and by extension, ability to make relaxed and intelligent financial decisions elsewhere.
In essence, enjoy your life first, then build up your finances.
Discover Your Investor DNA
Understanding crucial financial concepts like “Investor DNA” is vital for financial success.
You can have all the tools in the world, but without a foundation for making sound financial decisions, the house you build will crumble.
Think of Investor DNA as your unique financial blueprint. It guides your investing strategies based on your unique strengths, passions, and skills. Investor DNA is about understanding your values with regard to investing, reducing risk, and focusing on the things that align most with you as an individual.
You can discover your own Investor DNA using the equation: Your Values + Your Core Competency + Focus = Win.
Do your investments properly reflect your values and fit into your plan?
When you identify your top values, you can use that to optimize your investments. If that doesn’t make sense, think about it from the opposite end.
If you don’t value something, you’re not going to pay attention to it. How much more are you likely to pay attention to an investment in a company related to improving the world vs. an oil investment if you deeply care about the environment?
Sure, oil may be a more popular investment than guitars or music, but if it goes against your values, you’re not going to pay as much attention to it.
Invest where you have competency.
Like areas that align with your values, areas where you have competence and skill mean areas where you understand what’s happening.
You’re much more likely to make money investing in technology if you’re a software developer or an engineer than if you are a chef.
Focus, don’t diversify.
I know, I know, so many financial firms promote diversification to mitigate risk.
However, Andrew Carnegie said, “I put all my eggs in one basket, then I watch it like a hawk.” Now I’m not saying only have one investment, but instead focus on investing in a few things where you have an alignment of values and competence, and then be diligent about them.
Diversification may be safer, but over-diversification can become overwhelming fast, is more difficult to make money, and takes up much more of your time to truly manage.
Discover The Value of Protective Expenses
Before speaking with Garrett, I’d never thought about protective expenses. In fact, I thought they were a waste of time. After reading Killing Sacred Cows I changed my strategies. In my book Boundless Parenting, you can read more about how I spend as much money as I can afford on protection, insurance, preparation, and the like, and how I structured my trust and my will to pass much of the wealth I build to future generations through strategies such as whole-life insurance with paid-up additions (more on that below).
Protective expenses are expenses such as:
- Asset Protection
- Risk Management and Mitigation
Protective expenses are expenses that keep scarcity, and by extension scarcity mindset, at bay. For example, you might be healthy. You may go through many years without spending a dime on health insurance.
But the sanctity of mind of knowing you have health insurance or an emergency medical expense fund pays dividends in happiness and reduction of stress.
There’s nuance to using insurance as a protective expense. It's not about simply getting coverage for everything in your life and making your many insurance agents very happy.
When purchasing insurance as a protective expense, insure the most catastrophic possibility first.
For example, if you have car insurance with a very low deductible like $250, you might increase your deductible to $500 or $1000.
Move the savings over to your liability coverage. If some minor damage happens to your car, you’re more likely to be able to afford a couple of hundred dollars out of pocket, rendering your previously held $250 convenient but non-essential.
However, if someone were to sue you or you got in a major catastrophic accident, higher liability coverage saves you from years of potential financial disaster.
Proper design means transferring risk so that you don’t have a mindset of being exposed.
So what’s a basic outline of what this looks like?
- Use life insurance, car insurance, and other high-liability coverage to keep your mind from feeling scattered or letting scarcity creep in.
- Get certifications, or education that gives you a clear fall-back plan for income.
- Design life insurance properly as medium-term storage for your money.
On that last point, here’s how to use your life insurance as a medium-term tax-free investment fund.
Using Whole Life Insurance As A Bank
Most people who used whole life insurance 20 years ago looked at it as a hole to throw money into.
Because most whole life insurance accounts are high commission and low cash.
Garrett looks at whole life insurance (with paid-up additions, in particular, also known as overfunding) as medium-term storage for your money. This is something that when the right opportunity comes along, you can act on it.
For example, if a company came across my radar tomorrow that is in the health space and aligns with my Investor DNA, I can take my money out of my life insurance account in 72 hours to acquire that company. Unlike an IRA where you'd have to pay a fee, I don't have a penalty taking money out of my life insurance.
You can also avoid paying taxes on the gains by either only taking withdrawals. You can take out any money you invested tax-free first. With most investments, you take your interest out first which makes it taxable.
Or you can use the cash value as collateral, continue to earn interest on it, and have the insurance company give you a loan (often with an identical interest rate.) You can then pay it back on your own terms, and if you don’t pay it back, it will come out of your insurance benefit when you die.
This is just one of the ways you can use your life insurance as a bank for yourself.
Garrett and I go even deeper on strategies like this in our podcast together, talking about how you can use your insurance policy’s death benefit to render other assets essentially tax-free.
See how this all supports a highly safe, low-risk, abundance-minded wealth plan? These are the tools you can use to escape the rat race and free up your emotional capital by creating true safety rather than constantly chasing riches or running from scarcity.
Create A Legacy
I've been quite high on the concept of family legacy lately.
And by lately, I mean for the past several years.
You see, what you pass down is perhaps the only thing more important than what you experience. You live on through your family, right the deepest traumas of your familial past, and influence the future.
I've already talked about how your family's past can influence you to have a poor relationship or a healthy relationship with money. Now it's time to think about how you can pass down good habits to your kids and grandkids. The problem is that if you're like most family leaders, you don't have a structure for passing down your values that extends beyond parenting your kids.
This is where Legado comes in. Legado is the best program I've found for codifying your family values into a communicable legacy that can be passed down for generations. It teaches entrepreneurial skills to your kids, helps you maintain connection throughout their lives, and guides you through the creation of your own family constitution to pass down through the generations.
It's not enough to simply learn how to do all this cool stuff yourself if you don't pass down the lessons. Legado is how you do just that.
I interviewed the creator of Legado Rich Christiansen on the podcast, where he discussed all manner of tips, tools, and tactics related to building family legacy.
Many of these tools made their way into my book Boundless Parenting including, but not limited to:
- Developing a family logo, symbol, and crest.
- Defining your family doctrine based on your values and morals.
- Traditions for your family, such as an annual trip or specific ceremonies.
- Life-defining events, such as rites-of-passage or coming-of-age events.
- Putting all of it together to create your family legacy.
I know that may seem like overkill, but trust me, creating your family legacy is one of the most powerful things you can do. Since joining Legado, my own family has come together in ways I never could have imagined, despite how close we already were before.
In the words of Rich Christiansen during our podcast, “You're not raising your children. You're raising your children's children.”
Realigning your relationship with money means first understanding your money habits, attitudes, and mindsets, and then taking steps to make them more constructive.
This journey is crucial in achieving financial freedom and holistic well-being.
It's important to remember that this is not a one-and-done process. It's an ongoing evolution, requiring continuous reflection and adjustment.
As you navigate through a money mindset transformation, remember these significant takeaways, serving as guideposts that trace the steps you've taken:
- Understanding money personas: Acknowledge the different money personas — the Miser, the Striver, and the Renaissance Person, coined by Garrett Gunderson. Emulate the Renaissance Person, who has a balanced and healthy relationship with money.
- Impact of family history: Recognize the influence of your family history and generational narratives on your attitudes toward money. Strive to break free from these limiting beliefs and form healthier money habits.
- Shifting from scarcity to abundance: Make a conscious shift from the scarcity mindset to the abundance mindset. Remember, abundance is not about having more but making the most of what you have.
- Investing in experiences: Understand the value of investing in experiences, hobbies, and personal interests. These can contribute significantly to your personal growth and creative thinking.
- The importance of financial literacy: Learn crucial financial concepts like understanding your Investor DNA, the importance of risk mitigation, and using tools like protective expenses to create your own bank and remove you from scarcity. Boosting your financial literacy empowers you to make sound financial decisions.
- Make your family legacy. Come full circle from re-writing the stories of your family’s financial past and pass down your new renaissance relationship with money to your kids and grandkids.
The journey of transforming your relationship with money is a continual one.
I want you to keep revisiting and reassessing these points to maintain a balanced and healthy relationship with money, leading to a life of financial freedom.
How do you feel about your relationship with money? Are there points in this article that resonate with you? Leave your comments and questions below – I read them all!