Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Getting The Monkeys Off My Back

In my experience, there are several major problems that can prevent one from building wealth. These problems are like monkeys on one's back. Here are the monkeys I have carried and how I got these monkeys off my back.

Consumerism Monkey. This monkey requires one to have the latest and greatest or the most and the best. This monkey is never satisfied. Once it gets the newest purchase, it can't wait for the next acquisition. More, more, more is its mantra. It causes one to live above one's means. Here's how I got rid of this monkey.
  • Buy only what I need. Want and need are two different emotions. Learning the difference will help one get rid of this monkey.

  • Take pride in myself and not my possessions. I focus on what I am able to do and accomplish over what I own.

  • Debt Monkey. This monkey works with the Consumerism Monkey to cause issues. To satisfy wants, one creates a Debt Monkey. It starts in college, when incomes are low. At first it's just a little bit, and before long using debt becomes a lifestyle. Here's how I got rid of this monkey:
  • Think of debt as paying more than sticker price. How many of us would see an item for $100 and offer the sales person $120 to buy it? I would venture not many of us. However, that is exactly what one is doing when purchasing something on credit at 20% interest and paying if off in one year.

  • Limit use of debt to a few necessary items. For me, it was education, first car, and my home. However, even for these items, debt should be used judiciously. For example, one should make sure educational debt will result is a good paying job.

  • No Savings Monkey. This Monkey encourages living for today, because who knows if there will be a tomorrow. In addition, that life cannot be enjoyed as much when one is older. However, for most of us, saving is our path to wealth. I got rid of this monkey by:
  • Paying myself first. It is the only saving strategy you'll ever need. Target to have 12 to 20% automatically deducted from every paycheck. Invest it and then forget about it. Saving as little a $1 per day can have big returns.

  • Not Enough Income Monkey. The only way to know if one has this monkey is to get rid of the above three monkeys first. Most people who think they have the income monkey are really carrying a combination of the first three. So they work on increasing their income only to find the first three monkeys eat up the gains. Here's how I addressed this monkey:
  • Get an education that leads to a high(er) paying job. It's important to gain skills and knowledge that enable access to a higher paying job. Then take the highest paying job which one is offered.

  • For more on The Practice of Personal Finance check back every Wednesday for a new segment.

    Photo Credit:, Daniel T. Yara


    Anonymous said...

    Super: Excellent post! Sometimes, I wonder if there is a "Procrastination Monkey" to rule them all. :)

    Anonymous said...

    Another way to get rid of the "not enough income monkey" is to compare your income to that of others with similar ability and/or credentials. Otherwise, the "frugality monkey" can convince you that you are doing well because you are living within your means.

    Anonymous said...

    Taking the highest salaried job that is offered is not always the way to go. In my area, there are blue collar jobs that make more money than MBAs.

    Super Saver said...

    @ Golbguru,

    Good point. Procrastination may be a major monkey that keeps people from working on these four monkeys and other things :-)

    @ Steve,

    Thanks for your comments and excellent points.

    For clarification, I would modify to "one should take the highest job offer from their field of training or interest."

    Anonymous said...

    "procrastination monkey" could be good in some cases.
    "procrastination monkey" may be a good thing when applied to buying stuff.

    In terms of trying to always get a better paying jobs - there are other things to consider than money. How interesting the job it, security, benefits, commute, flexible or strict hours, environment are all important. Different people have different views on which of these is more important to them, and they are all right.

    Super Saver said...

    @ Kitty,

    Thanks for your comment. Great points.

    I agree that it is a personal choice on the tradeoffs (higher vs. other elements) to make. For example, I took the lowest paying offer when I graduated from college, because of the type of work and benefits. While I have stayed my entire career at this company, I have consciously accepted assignments which had or lead to higher pay, due to promotion or relocation internationally.