It’s tough to be honest. It’s especially tough when everyone around you is lying to themselves.
Amazing trips, parties, booze, cars, boats, off-road vehicles, furniture, and electronics – the list goes on and on. Not a day goes by when I don’t hear about something new from people I know, whether it be in person or on social media. I can’t help but think about how they are having such a great time (or seem to be) living in the present like there is no tomorrow. I honestly get a little jealous and wonder why I still feel like I’m struggling when everyone else is having the time of their lives. It’s pretty amazing because some are unemployed, are in enormous debt, living paycheck to paycheck, or some monstrous combination of them all.
All that while I toil away with nothing to show for it. Or do I have something to show for it? Ah…that’s when I realize the truth behind the smoke and mirrors of a fantastic lifestyle that can’t be kept up for long. In time, electronics become outdated, cars wear out, parties are forgotten, and worst of all – life (and debt) catches up. People who spent their whole lives living for the present will be stuck, only being able to live for the present. Meanwhile, things quickly swing in the opposite direction and I’ll have everything to look forward to.
What Is Financial Integrity?
Financial integrity is having the courage to live your life realistically within the boundaries of what you have earned and what you can achieve. It requires the ability to use money as a function of time while making an effort to allocate resources wisely. Besides being realistic, it’s a holistic lifestyle approach. Having financial integrity means that you understand that you create your own destiny and you are responsible for your own well-being.
Financial Integrity And You
Financial integrity starts with a self evaluation. Take a look at who you are.
- How do your values and ethics affect the way you live your life?
- How did you grow up? Where are you at in life now?
- Where are you going?
Now the hard part. Take a look at the stuff that you have and think about the things that you’ve done.
- Do you truly own it all?
- Are you indebted to someone else for the privilege of having that stuff?
- How about the things you’ve done or the places you’ve been?
- Do you deserve it?
- What do you deserve?
I’m not going to lecture you about the difference between a need and a want. You’re intelligent enough to make decisions between the two. I’m not going to ask you to go to the extreme of comparing your life to one of bare necessities. The problem with people and money doesn’t come from differentiating needs and wants. Money problems happen because we abuse the word “deserve.”
Do these sound familiar?
- I work hard all year and have dealt with so much. I deserve a vacation.
- I have driven this ancient used car for so long and I just graduated from college. I’m getting a new job and I deserve a reward. I’m going to get a brand new car.
- I’ve had my cell phone for over a year and it’s outdated now, so I deserve a new smartphone.
It’s OK to admit it. I’m guilty of it too. We throw around the word deserve quite liberally. We have to start being honest with ourselves, because the things we feel we deserve often puts us in debt.
What Do You Deserve?
If your lifestyle is congruent with the reality of what you have earned, you deserve what you have. Simply, you must earn what you deserve.
To answer the question in depth, you must spend some time exploring your history, your present, and your future. Be honest with yourself. You don’t need to “live below your means,” or figure out how to become wildly rich. I’m asking you to figure out what is important in your life so you can prioritize what you do. If you have an understanding of what your priorities are, you will be able to spend more effort tackling real problems and enjoying life the way it was meant to be lived.
- Don’t become another cog in the wheel of society. Pull away from what seems normal and be yourself. Integrity starts with you, and ends with you.
- You owe it to yourself to decide what you have earned. Once you’ve made the decision, stick to it – no more, no less.
- Be a slave to no one. Live a life of freedom in a manner that can be sustained and that you can be proud of.
- Be courageous. Financial integrity requires courage to navigate between what you deserve and what you have earned.
I know some of you are thinking that it’s just a play on words – deserve versus earned. But, I really think that it’s an essential part of the process of changing your attitude about money and your views on life. If you want to make life better for yourself, to have more time to pursue the things you love, you must reject the consumerist culture that we are are automatically indoctrinated in. Financial integrity will always endure over image and the illusion of success.