It was 1996 and I’d just graduated with a Master of Public Administration (MPA). My classmates and I were all scrambling to find jobs but the job market was depressed. I thought my first “real” job would pay me $30,000 a year, a realistic salary for MPA grads. Girl, I wasn’t even close.
My first full-time job paid me $11.23 per hour for 32 hours a week.
That’s $18,687 a year working as a volunteer coordinator for an organization focused on eliminating poverty. Yep, the irony is not lost on me.
I could have told myself, wait until your next job—it’ll pay more and you can save then. I so wanted to do that! But every money book said to save for retirement ASAP, so I did it. I opened a retirement account and started saving.
When I got my first paycheck, it was a little smaller, but it was what I needed to learn to survive on. It was challenging but I kept living like a student and made do with what I had.
When I left this job seven months later, I had $600 in my retirement account. I was 25.
I’m now 48. The excerpt you just read is from my new book, Rebel Millionaire: Get Rich on Your Own Terms.
If I hadn’t started saving small amounts of money–$46.71 per month to be exact–to my retirement account 23 years ago there’s no way I’d be writing a book about money today. And I sure as heck wouldn’t be talking about becoming a millionaire when I turn 65. No fookin’ way!
It’s only because I realized that it’s never a good time to start that I began saving and investing despite scraping by and making just enough dough to pay my bills.
What I’ve learned over the years is that it’s never a good time to start. Your mind will always convince you that next week will be better, next month it’ll be easier, and next year will be just the right time. But then that perfect day never comes and you still feel just as much hesitation as before.
For me, it’s fear of the unknown. My hesitation to begin anything new (e.g. writing a new story, traveling to a new place, saving for retirement) stems from that fear.
My mind wants to protect me. It hates the unknown. So, in times like this, I have to turn to something else, specifically two other parts of my body: my heart and my gut.
It’s difficult to make good decisions when you’re feeling fear, anxiety, or outright panic. I’ve discovered over the years that when faced with a big decision, it helps to calm my body and nervous system as much as possible, and then let my mind, heart, and gut wander together to Decision Land.
For me, the times when I’m most calm and relaxed are right after I wake up in the morning and am still lying in bed, during the middle of my daily meditation, and while I’m taking a shower. It’s no surprise that I get my best ideas, and have the most revelations about an issue or problem I’m working on, during these times. These are the times when I can tap into my intuition and make decisions that truly reflect who I am and what I most want.
If you’re struggling with making decisions during this pandemic, please know that you are not alone. We are all having troubles with it. It’s okay and perfectly normal to feel listless and at sea. We will get through this. In the meantime, if you’re wrestling with a major decision or starting something new, why not give this technique a try?
Calm your body by doing an activity that feels good and doesn’t require you to think (e.g. taking a bath or shower, having a cat nap, digging in your garden), then let your heart and gut take your mind by the hand to wander around. In time, they will work together to point you towards the decision that feels right.
It might take a few days (or weeks or months) to get the hang of it. We’re all so used to thinking, thinking, thinking all the time. But when you can get to a place where you stop thinking and your body is relaxed, it’s amazing what messages will come through. It is then that you’ll know what to do.
Remember, it’s never a good time to start, but it’s always a good time to begin. Why not begin today?
ps. If money is one of the issues you’re wrestling with, check out my book Rebel Millionaire. It takes less than 30 minutes to read and just might be the financial encouragement you need right now.
Peg Cheng is the author of Rebel Millionaire: Get Rich on Your Own Terms, a guide for how to retire as a millionaire even if you make a modest income; an intuitive career adviser combining the practical with the metaphysical; and the creator of Fear & Writing, a workshop for procrastinating writers from all walks of life.