You might be broke if…
1. You’re living paycheck to paycheck. If you’re spending every dollar you take home, you are, by definition, broke. More than 75% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck (with little to no savings), which means that, right off the bat, at least three-quarters of us are impecunious.
2. You have credit-card debt. There’s no such thing as “good” debt. The debtor is always slave to the lender.
3. You have student-loan debt. Read our lips: THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS “GOOD” DEBT, DAMMIT!
4. You have a monthly car payment. Ahem.
5. Your income dictates your lifestyle. It should be the other way around: we should work to earn enough money to live, not live to earn enough money to buy shit we don’t need. Until he breaks free from consumerism, the hoarder is slave to his hoard.
6. You aren’t saving for the future. We know, we know: you’ll start saving “tomorrow.” But of course tomorrow never comes, because tomorrow will be today tomorrow, and tomorrow’s tomorrow will never be today. Ergo, begin today. Your life literally depends on it. See 5 Difficult Steps Toward Financial Freedom.
7. You’re not healthy. Unhealthy equals depression. Yes, if you’re unhealthy, statistics show that you’re likely depressed. If you can’t enjoy life, no matter how wealthy you are, then you’re broke in a different way: you’re broken. The richest man in the graveyard might have the most lavish tombstone, but he’s still dead.
8. Your relationships are suffering. Too often we forsake the most important people in our lives in search of money or ephemeral pleasures. We believe that our loved ones will always be around or that “they’ll understand.” But when you’re careless with something for long enough, it breaks.
9. You argue over money. Troubled relationships tend to end for one of two reasons: arguments over money or arguments over sex (or both). Even if the relationship doesn’t end, it is difficult to grow if y’all’re constantly bickering about finances. (P.S. If you’re arguing over sex—or the lack thereof—then something’s broken.)
10. You’re not growing. It doesn’t matter how much cash you earn: if you’re not growing, you’re dying. We feel most alive when we cultivate a passion, drudge through the drudgery, and live our lives with purpose, autonomy, and mastery.
11. You don’t contribute as much as you’d like. Your worth isn’t determined by your net worth: real worth comes from contributing beyond yourself in a meaningful way. It was MLK who said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: what are you doing for others?” Giving is living, and it’s much easier to give when you’re no longer worried about money.
Being broke is okay. Being broke without a plan to break the cycle is not. You see, given the above criteria, we’ve all been broke at some point in our lives—everyone has been broke or broken.
True, we all need money to live, but you are not the contents of your wallet. What’s more important than income is how we spend the resources we have. We personally know broke people who make six (or even seven) figures a year. We also know families who live on $25k per year but aren’t broke at all—because they live within their means: they live deliberately.
Real wealth, security, and contentment come not from the trinkets we amass but from how we spend the one life we’ve been given.
Read this essay and 150 others in our new book, Essential.