When I was drowning in six-figure student loan debt, I didn’t feel I had many choices, and on top of that, I resented rich people.
During the beginning of my stint in finance, I dated a Harvard-alum working in corporate law and capital markets. Once, he invited me to meet him out with his friends at a bar called One Altitude in Singapore. It was an expensive rooftop bar where finance and corporate types hung out after work. At thirty, I had never worked in a corporate job. I didn’t even own corporate clothing. I felt so out of place accepting the invitation. Also, I was intimidated by his friends (and actually by him). In the end, I told him I had a birthday party to attend and didn’t meet with him. Instead, I went to a dive bar with my friend. At one point during the night, I sent him a text: “You’re with your people; I’m with mine.”
Is it any surprise the relationship didn’t work? The point is not that I was at a dive bar; it’s that I didn’t think I could go anywhere else. I had become so insecure by what I didn’t have, and the amount of debt I did have, that it was impossible for me to feel comfortable around wealthy, successful people. I had put this guy on a huge pedestal. I thought if I could “get” him, I would be less of a loser. My future might be more secure. He represented a life that I wanted, but ultimately one I thought I was unworthy of.
My limiting belief around worth dictated not only who I associated with, but also where I lived, ate, shopped, and parked. If I couldn’t even go to the same bar as successful corporate types, how was I going to be worthy of any other “high-end” things in my life?
Being rich and being poor are choices. You may not have chosen the circumstances that got you where you are, but you can choose to take the actions to move away from where you are. The implication that I struggled financially because I somehow chose to do so used to make me extremely angry. I thought being rich was a choice but being poor certainly wasn’t.
In 2013, author Dave Ramesy posted an article entitled “20 Things the Rich Do Every Day,” written by Tom Corely. It immediately went viral. A CNN blogger wrote a scathing review, as did the Huffington Post. While I, for the most part, agree that Evangelical Christian Dave Ramesy is not the best person in the world to take financial advice from, I feel he got a bad rap for not simply communicating his point better; the point being [as I can best gather]: spend the free time you have investing in yourself. According to the article, being rich correlates positively with writing down goals, reading books, eating healthy and going to the gym, making to-do lists, networking, and believing in lifelong education and self-improvement. Being poor positively correlates with eating junk food, watching reality TV, waking up late, not reading, and always saying what’s on one’s mind.
Of course, correlation does not equal causation. Engaging in the above activities (or not engaging in them) won’t make you rich or poor. However, if you find it difficult to grasp the concept of being rich actually being a choice, it may be a good idea to start by practicing some of the seemingly unrelated habits of the rich. Just see how it feels.
Bottom line: you’re never going to be out of debt if you resent money and feel you have no other choice than to be in a low-paying job that keeps you stuck in debilitating student loan debt. You should at least go through the motions of someone who enjoys money and sees it for its possibilities.
What’s there to lose (besides your high student debt)?