Hey guys! Got an interesting email this morning from a new reader of the site:
“Hello J. Money – My name is Zack* and I am a chronic Under Earner. I am using a 12 step Recovery program to learn to value myself, my time and money. Regards.”
I couldn’t tell if he was being serious or not, haha, but I thought it was pretty clever regardless :) So I wrote him back congratulating him on being ready to fix the situation, and then promptly hit up Google of course to answer my own question.
And guess what? It’s real!
About Underearners Anonymous
Here’s their take on underearning:
Underearning is many things, not all of which are about money. While the most visible consequence is the inability to provide for one’s needs, including future needs, underearning is also about the inability to fully acknowledge and express our capabilities and competencies. It is about underachieving, or under-being, no matter how much money we make.
According to Wikipedia, members of UA sometimes refer to themselves as “time drunks” because they have a propensity to fritter away their time in useless activities, rather than pursuing constructive goals. (Totally stealing that term – so descriptive!)
Here are all the symptoms of underearning UA lays out (paraphrased):
- Time Indifference – putting important stuff off and not using time effectively to further your own vision and goals
- Idea Deflection – compulsively rejecting ideas that could expand your lives or careers and increase profitability
- Compulsive Need to Prove – even though you’ve demonstrated competence at your job/biz
- Clinging to Useless Possessions – holding onto possessions that no longer serve your needs
- Exertion/Exhaustion – habitually overworking, becoming exhausted, then under-working or ceasing to work completely
- Giving Away Our Time – compulsively volunteering for various causes or giving away your services free of charge without any clear benefit
- Undervaluing and Under-pricing – undervaluing your abilities and services and fearing to ask for increased compensation or for what the market will bear
- Isolation – choosing to work alone when it might serve you better to have co-workers, associates, or employees.
- Physical Ailments – sometimes out of fear of being larger or exposed
- Misplaced Guilt or Shame – feeling unease when asking for (or given,) what you need or owed
- Not Following Up – not following up on opportunities, leads, or jobs that could prove profitable. You begin many projects and tasks but often do not complete them.
- Stability Boredom – creating unnecessary conflict with co-workers, supervisors and clients, which generate problems that result in financial distress
You can see a lot of those in your own life I bet, huh? I know I can. I’m about 50% on 5-6 of them for sure. You’d need to relate to a majority of them however to be truly diagnosed with underachieving I’d bet. Though it’s always good to recognize your short comings so you can start working them out!
Here’s where I stand:
- Time Indifference – I always get my stuff done, but I tend to maintain over build, and usually wait until the last minute to knock out the important stuff. I spend a lot of time on “the little things” vs. the stuff that will either grow my projects faster or bring me tons more money – especially on the latter. I should be making a lot more off this blog than I do, but I can’t bring myself to do it (though, admittedly, a lot of it is lame and would feel like selling my soul…). Does this make me a “time buzzer” vs drunk? ;)
- Idea Deflection – I used to give up before I even started, but mostly just ‘cuz the old me was lazy as hell :) I didn’t have that “fire” you need to really go out there and make $hit happen so I just let my ideas fly out of my head… Not so much anymore.
- Compulsive Need to Prove – Every now and then I’ll feel bad for myself and feel like I suck and need a quick compliment or to repeat something that was just as successful as the last thing, but I’m getting better at not taking myself as seriously anymore. It’s amazing how much better you feel when you’re grateful for how far you’ve come already :)
- Clinging to Useless Possessions – Not anymore, baby! The Craigslist Rule is still in full effect!
- Exertion/Exhaustion – I’m always working to exhaustion, though I guess a part of that could be NOT SLEEPING AT NIGHT due to our 10 mo old hating sleep, ugh… I still work way to hard than I should be I feel like though. Probably ties in to the “time indifference” one.
- Giving Away Our Time – I give away a handful of hours every week responding to questions about money or blogging and all types of things which doesn’t pay, but I also feel like it’s all a part of the game. And while it does get super time consuming, it is nice when you hit “send” and know you’ve just helped someone out. I do need to get back into the habit of saying “no” though since my time has been cut drastically with the appearance of baby #2…
- Undervaluing and Under-pricing – I def. do this, especially with money and blog coaching. I used to do it for free, then started charging $25/session, then $50, and now in the $75-$100 range but it took me 2 years to move it up and finally get comfortable with it. I will say though that my clients seem to take it much more seriously the more they pay which is good!
- Isolation – I do work by myself at home even when I’d rather not, but every now and then I get good about getting outside and chillin’ in coffee shops to do work too. What I really need is one of those co-sharing work spaces!
- Physical Ailments – Nah, not outside some back pains here and there from forgetting to take breaks or go on walks (best activity ever on a work day!)
- Misplaced Guilt or Shame – I do hate it when I’m making less than I used to, like how it is currently, but I remind myself of the overall plan and mission and try my best to not get all “woe is me” up in here. It’s hard to blame yourself when you were the only ones making the decision! :)
- Not Following Up – I’m usually good at this, outside of turning down well-paying offers…
- Stability Boredom – I couldn’t cause trouble with anyone even if I tried :)
Naturally, they have a 12-step program as well: underearnersanonymous.org/steps.html. Some of it I can’t relate to, but then again I’m not in the position many of these people are who could greatly use the support system. We should all be so lucky!
I did like a few of their tools and ideas though:
(Quoted directly off their tools page)
- Time Recording – We must be conscious of how we spend our time. We keep a written record to increase awareness and support our focus on goals and the actions required to achieve them.
- Possession Consciousness – We routinely discard what no longer serves us in order to foster a belief that life is plentiful and that we will be able to provide ourselves with what we need.
- Goals Pages – We set goals for all aspects of our lives, write them down, measure our progress and reward achievement.
- Action Partner – We connect regularly with action partners regarding earning concerns in order to provide each other with accountability, continuity, and support.
- Solvency – We do not debt one day at a time. Debting leads to underearning.
- Savings – Saving money demonstrates faith in the future and acceptance of the fact that money is a tool vital to our prosperous vision. We create and follow a savings plan on whatever scale we are able.
All of which is great for personal finances (and life) in general! Tracking time/money, being careful of what “stuff” you’re bringing into the house, setting goals, having accountability partners, setting (and measuring) your goals, NOT GOING INTO DEBT, and getting into the habit of saving.
Yes, yes, and more yes.
I can get down with you, U.A. :) And now really appreciate how fortunate I am to not need you too! Something good to stop and reflect on today…
Anyways, big ups to Zack for inspiring this post and taking action himself to get to this blog. I hope you successfully make it to overachieving! Actually, that’s probably not all that healthy for you either.
*Name edited for privacy… but speaking of Zacks, y’all see the Saved by The Bell Reunion? ;)
FYI: Our friend Zack also recommends the book “Overcoming Underearning: A Five-Step Plan to a Richer Life” by Barbara Stanny, if anyone finds themselves searching for answers or not ready to do the whole U.A. thing yet.
[To you bloggers reading this – the reason I got this email? I’ve included a question in my auto-response email when people sign up to my newsletter that asks them how they found me :) And it’s amazing how many new friends you make and where they’re all coming from! Highly advise incorporating it yourself if you like this sorta thing… been making blogging so much more delightful.]