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Shifting My Scarcity Mentality

Shifting My Scarcity Mentality

When I was a teen and young adult, I experienced some years of rather significant scarcity, wondering if the electricity would be turned off and eating government cheeze (as a cheesemaker I must use a z here, since alas, what is provided to those in need isn’t actual cheese). After college, I got married and we bought a house that was a huge stretch for us – every penny went either to the mortgage or into fixing it up. I sewed curtains with fabric I found at thrift shops, my husband knocked down walls and replaced windows, and we grew our own food. Eventually, the kids came along and we continued to live a wonderfully happy, but sometimes paycheck-to-paycheck life. For me, I felt a constant backdrop of worry around not being able to pay the bills (even at times when those worries were unfounded). I had allowed early years of not having enough create a foundation of financial anxiety.

Fast forward 30 years, the kids are grown and my husband is retired. What is true for us now has probably been true for some time: we can afford to relax around money. But until recently, my scarcity mentality still lurked. What’s up with that?

Looking back, good money habits over the years helped us get where we are now: we maxed our retirement contributions even when it seemed impossible, we opened college savings accounts, and chose inexpensive camping trips for much of our family travel. But until recently, I never really felt at ease about money and unfortunately missed opportunities because the foundation of scarcity pervaded my thinking.

The fact is, we probably have had room for this ease for some time now. Two things helped to change my thinking to catch up with our circumstances:

  1. An updated financial plan: It was not until I crunched our data the same way I do for my clients that I was able to see it for myself and shift out of my habitual place of scarcity to one of having enough to meet our goals.
  2. I attended several conversation circles about money and was able to crack the foundation around the money messages I was holding. The conversation circles provided a safe space for me to explore my relationship to money. In fact, they were so transformative that I decided to complete the training, so I could facilitate these conversation circles for others.

My husband and I still do most of the work around our house and garden because we enjoy it. For us, having enough means travel with family or friends as much as it means having homemade pickles in the pantry. I also feel able to be more generous with charitable giving and can relax into some splurges, long denied. Letting go of my long-held anxiety around money has made room for some deep breaths to appreciate my abundant, creative, fulfilling life.

What are your goals? What does “enough” mean to you? How do you know you have enough? Maybe you are on your own path to create a life of relative ease and space to thrive. For me it took hard data and some inner work to feel freer around money.

Consider contacting your advisor to refresh your financial plan if it’s been a while to see where you are on the path toward your goals. And if you’d like to participate in a conversation circle around money, call your nearest Abacus office and let us know you are interested!

Susan Olson

Susan Olson is a financial advisor with Abacus Wealth Partners.

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