Financial Peace of Mind: What’s the Big Deal?

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We’re all chasing something.  It’s what gets us up in the morning, right?

But how much thought have we given to what we’re chasing?  And how do we know when we’ve caught it?

Are You Chasing Financial Independence?

Years ago, I read an article that defined what the author saw as his journey to financial independence.  As I remember, he said the path to financial independence usually looks something like this:

  • I’m stumbling through life, buying more than I should and watching my credit-card debt escalate.  Money is fuzzy, something I guess is important, but that feels pretty disconnected from me.
  • One day something happens that makes me wake up to the realization that, if I don’t stop this behavior, in my old age I’ll end up pushing a shopping cart through the streets and eating cat food.  (Well, maybe not cat food.)
  • I find something or someone to help me understand what I’m doing with my money and, more important, why I’m doing it so I can start turning around my finances.
  • Now that I “get” money, I adjust my behavior and start paying down debt, eventually getting it to zero.
  • In parallel, I start saving and investing enthusiastically for later years so I can live not only “debt free” but also “fear free.”  I won’t have to worry about money in my old age.

That describes a superficial program that leads to “financial independence,” which has about as many definitions as there are articles written about it.  Everything from “earning enough from non-work to support a preferred lifestyle” … to “freedom from fear around money” … to “having enough, plus some.”

So if that’s superficial, what are we really looking for?  Well, I tend to believe that our goal is actually financial peace of mind.

Is Financial Peace of Mind Much Different?

To start with, it’s not related to a specific number.  It goes deeper, primarily into beliefs and values.  It’s extremely individual because it reflects how we each envision enjoying our later years.  And it’s personal because we have to know what makes us tick—what our purpose or intention is in this life—if we’re going to feel fulfilled and if money is simply going to be the tool that allows us to achieve that feeling.

Financial peace of mind begins with our intimate relationship with money:  how we (1) earn it, (2) spend it, (3) invest it and (4) give it away.  And, think about it:  each one of those little phrases is loaded with meaning.

  • Do we earn money doing something we love or doing whatever we have to in order to accumulate it?
  • Do we spend it on things that matter to us and bring us joy or do we squander it on what ends up as clutter or in the landfill?
  • Do our investments have social merit, producing goods and services that benefit the world, or are they made in whatever brings the greatest return, regardless?
  • Do we have causes and belief systems to which we contribute gratefully or do we write charity checks to soften our guilt (if at all)?

Next come our beliefs around scarcity, abundance, prosperity, sufficiency, wealth and poverty.  (Have you ever stopped to define each of those concepts for yourself?  Or are they all a blur?)

What stories do we tell ourselves about “when enough is enough”?  How much of our sisters’ keepers are we?   Can we only be rich if we have endless material possessions?  How much of our lives are driven by outside forces, compared to what’s driven by what’s inside of us?

The goal here is not for us to pinpoint exactly how we’ll put together a lifetime financial plan.  Instead it’s for us to take our thoughts about money beyond whether or not we can pay our bills.  Or how much we’re saving.  Or whether the stock market will reach 18,000.

The goal is for us to realize that our relationship with money is all tied up with our life philosophy.  And reaching financial peace of mind is dependent on all aspects of our lives being coherent with that philosophy.

Let us know in the Comments section below the last time you gave your life philosophy any thought.


Bio: Sharon O’Day fixes financial lives. She is a tell-it-like-it-is money expert with a successful career in global finance, plus an MBA from the Wharton School. Today she specializes in getting entrepreneurial women over 50 back on their game so they can have more money, less stress and more joy. With her “Over Fifty and Financially Free” strategies, they take actions that lead to their ultimate goal: financial peace of mind.

  • I love this article. Thanks a million for sharing.

    • You’re very welcome, Seun. I know that personal development and inward-looking topics are of interest to you … 😉

  • I love your comment that our financial peace of mind comes with our intimate connection with money. The more intimate we are about our finances, the more we know about what we have and don’t have and the better able it is to plan ahead. My husband and I are very open about our finances and it amazes me when I speak to friends who don’t even know how much their partners earn!

    • I just figured that differentiation between “numbers only” and “numbers with values” was important, Carolyn. How sad, as you say, when couples can’t even discuss the numbers!

  • Vatsala Shukla

    It all comes down to our feelings and relationship with money. We can go chasing that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow or stop and smell the flowers and think, I have enough and then some more.

    • It’s that level of money right below the surface of the numbers themselves, right Vatsala? The one that touches our beliefs, values … and joy!

  • Susan Schiller

    Being driven from the inside to create wealth, rather than from the outside, is the biggest change for me… a change that hasn’t solidified yet, but one on which I’m consciously working. I read “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand this past year, and although I don’t agree with her entire thesis, my worldview has changed enough to allow me to release more limiting beliefs concerning money.

    Having been immersed in some intense, “cultish” church experiences, we were consistently taught how evil money is, despite the fact that that teaching not biblical at all. We were taught to give extravagantly, and if it didn’t “hurt” then we were being selfish. We gave and gave and gave – sometimes 3-4 offering were taken up during the course of one day. We were corporately berated if there wasn’t enough giving and individually demoted, shunned, or otherwise disciplined if we didn’t give above and beyond 10% of our gross income.

    What I like about your teaching, Sharon, is that you gently guide us, in baby steps, to root out the belief system that holds us back… whether from family or church or elsewhere. As you mentioned in this article, superficial changes do not work. I appreciate and value your teaching because you teach with the authority of your own education and experience, and it works!

    As a direct result of your teaching and my own hard word, I’m debt-free, have that minimum $1000 savings, the stronghold wallet you recommended with a pocket that has $300 minimum emergency cash. My current project is to build the income quilt… and I know it’s coming – I just wish it could happen a little faster!

    • Sue, my dad gave me Atlas Shrugged around 1960, a year or two after it came out. I’ve read it every decade since then. Obviously there are things I don’t agree with either, but it never let me forget the importance of personal responsibility (Sound familiar?) You’ve taken all the correct steps. The income quilt will come, but be certain you are clear on who will pay you for what you are offering. It could be just a slight tweak in audience, deliverable, or something else. Pretend it’s not yours, and that someone is telling you about it. Question: who would you tell the owner would get the greatest value out of it?

      • Susan Schiller

        Thanks, Sharon… I did as you suggested and just broke down crying… the answer appeared so suddenly and decisively!

        • Perfect, Sue. Follow your “arm’s length” guidance … otherwise, it’s too easy for us to be invested in what we’ve already done, what we’ve clung to, what we’ve told ourselves, what we love. Now, go build that quilt!

  • Anne Allen

    This is a really thought provoking read, Sharon. I appreciate your candor and the questions you ask…

    • I’m glad it has meaning for you, Anne. If you can think of anyone else it might “tweak,” I hope you’ll feel comfortable enough to share it. 😉

  • LizB4

    Sharon, this is such a great post! I am so disconnected with money that I see it only as a means to an end…luckily I am naturally frugal and have a husband who has the check book! I need to figure out my philosophy on money ASAP…thanks!

    • And it IS a means to an end, Liz. Money has no magical power in and of itself. But by being clear on your life values, goals and so on, you can check to see if your are acting coherently with your money …

  • Alexandra McAllister

    Thank you, Sharon. Great post and certainly an eye opener when it comes to money! I learn so much from your posts…it’s never too late. 🙂

    • You’re absolutely right, Alexandra. Never too late. (I was 53 when I started back up at zero …) But this is a family week for you, right? I wish you all the best on your upcoming journey!

  • WoW these are are so interrelated – scarcity, abundance, prosperity, sufficiency, wealth and poverty. I need to reframe my thinking to a more healthy view of money and finances and getting toward financial peace. Here’s to a step in the right direction!

    • Marvia, people use those words without thinking of what they mean to them personally. Like distant, throw-away words. Yet each one has such an intimate meaning, if we’ll just go look for it!

      • So true because if one comes from a poverty mentality then it negatively can impact one’s legacy – as in a person would think they don’t deserve having things of worth and value so why then would they bother taking care of nice things – i’ve seen this, so not pretty

  • Tom Holmberg

    thanks as always for your timely advice Alexandra! We are always finding a way to balance our lives and financial independence. Great reminder

    • Glad it served as a helpful “tweak” for you and Dani, Tom!

  • kathyrobinson

    Thank you for this great post Sharon. I believe money and I are distant cousins. We don’t get together very often these days.

    • You might want to start out having coffee together, Kathy. And then figure out how to get into one another’s back pocket … 😉

  • Yetunde

    Someone once asked me this question: “Why do you want to be rich?” To which I answered: “To be able to help others”. wondered if that was a right answer but I am still work in progress. As someone has said, money is still a distant relative. But thank you for giving us steps to readjust our fiancés. Taking baby steps to get there.

    • “Helping others” is a noble reason, Yetunde. But you might find yourself more engaged if you focused on how it would FEEL for you to be able to help others …

  • Gertraud Walters

    Thank you for your thought provoking post. My Relationship with Money has changed to the effect of these words: I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.Psalm 37:25 KJV

    This does not mean that I’m idle or ignorant of the fact that we all need money to live , and a little bit more to Live Well. But I do have Financial Peace of Mind.


    • “But I do have Financial Peace of Mind.” That alone is a huge statement to be able to make, Gertraud! It means you have found a coherent way of living … brava!

  • MamaRed

    Whoah, what a powerful post Sharon (although given the extraordinary quality of your writing and wisdom I can’t say I’m surprised!). I don’t think I ever thought about it as a relationship…my parents were on opposite sides of the “money relationship” and I’ve done the same. Think it’s time for a rewrite of the old scripts and a renewing of my awareness!

    • Recognize them as YOUR PARENTS’ scripts, and not your own, MamaRed. And let them go. Write your own. We somehow feel a false loyalty to things that didn’t even serve our parents well, but trust me: they would not mind at all if you moved on to something healthier and more joyous!

      • MamaRed

        Amen and amen and amen Sharon and that’s exactly where I am right now, with your help .You rock! And I’m sure healthier and more joyous is where *I* want to be and where they see me!

        Laugh Lots, Love More!

  • This is a great post. I know that I am chasing financial freedom with my blog. So far it isn’t working out so well and it makes me sad. 🙁

    • Christy, I don’t know your blog. But all too often we can be a couple of degrees off in terms of what people would truly pay us for. It’s not that what we offer lacks value; it’s that we haven’t clearly defined how it would improve their lives in a way that it becomes irresistible to them. Let me know if that helps!

  • Robert Manea

    One of my goals is financial peace of mind! Great Article!

    • And something tells me you are on the path to achieve it …

  • Yvonne

    To have any kind of peace is an accomplishment to be savored.

    • You’re so right, Yvonne! But what I find curious is that few people cite that as a goal …

  • Excellent article Sharon – I love the question you pose here about how will we know when we’ve caught what we are chasing! The joy can be found in the journey and that’s important to remember in the chase.

    • The journey IS where so much joy is, Moira. My question was whether that journey was towards numbers alone, or towards the specific beliefs, joys and values that truly fulfill them …

  • Roz

    Many years ago I took a seminar on money & came o see & understand where my beliefs came from & lots of interesting ideas I & others had about money. At the end of the 10 week douse I was clear that Money didn’t use me, I used money.

    • That’s terrific, Roz! That’s exactly what I propose women do: get rid of old messaging and beliefs, get clear on where they are today and even clearer on where they want to be … with a plan of how to get there. Brava!

  • Jackie Harder

    Love this, Sharon. So much of our attention is focused on scarcity, when it should be focused on abundance. Thanks for the great post.

    • You’re right about how easily we can focus on the wrong thing, Jackie!

  • Maureen

    Great article! It’s amazing how everyone has a different concept of financial independence and what it means to them. What a great read!

    • Part of what makes “finances” seem complicated is that we each have our own definition of things … and our own visions of what we want ours to look like. (Individual, as they should be.) But, truth is, it can all be boiled down to pretty simple structures …

  • Solvita Bennett

    Thank you Sharon for sharing with us such a great and useful information. It is so important to feel peace of mind and especially around finances. People often lose it and too often it is only because of finances. Your blog is a great help! 🙂

    • Solvita, those of us a little older than you find ourselves saying, “Remember how simple life used to be?” And it was. Today peace of mind is a little harder to achieve, so needs to be guarded that much more. And finances are a critical component of that peace …

  • You know reflecting on my life’s philosophy surrounding money has really changed in the past 5 years. In my youth I wanted more “things” splurging on best buys and specials all to find them tucked away in the back of the closet years later…yeah, great deal right? Now as a woman who is redefining success after 50 I find I look toward spending quality time at the zoo with my grandkids, enjoying a cold drink or ice cream as they squeal with excitement over the animals. Money is simply a tool now to enjoy the peaceful life full of love and family…yep, I’d say I’ve grown up and appreciate the place money now plays in our lives. Great article Sharon…

    • Indeed you have, Ms. Carla! And it’s been a joy watching your journey … 😉

  • Elise Photini Adams

    Truly love this. I see this whole concept being VERY underserved out there in the world today…either people are pushing a very specific definition and ‘hating’ on those who don’t share it or others are almost unconsciously attaining, spending and even saving money. In my life financial matters are definitely tied up with philosophy, beliefs and old scripts. Today I’m learning to be gentle with myself while I sort all this through. So much of what I LOVE is mission minded and so far I’m very stuck on the idea of monetizing it….however, I love the direction I’m headed with career at the same time…so there is MUCH joy in the journey! Thank you for the permission and encouragement to sort through the roots of our financial beliefs without just glossing it all over with methods and more ‘shoulds’. ~Elise~

    • Elise, most of the damage I see in women CAME from the “shoulds” that they were raised with, whether spoken at them or just intuited. The healthiest turnaround for that has to be so individual, as each of us goes back and looks at what’s still stuck there. All I try to do is make women aware of all the options — that are truly infinite — so they can move at their own pace towards what makes THEIR life fulfilled. I’m watching with great joy as you unravel and reshape things to fit the Elise of TODAY! You know, of course, that those beliefs will continue to evolve as you do …

      • Elise Photini Adams

        Agree 100%… What a beautiful perspective to see financial progress as a journey along with the rest of our lives, instead of some sterile right-and-wrong set of ‘should’s’. So appreciate you bringing this to light and encouraging the journey!

  • Barbara Becker

    Can we only be rich if we have endless material possessions? – less is more. Less is also less stress. It’s easier to clean the house, keep track of papers and items, and the feeling of freedom of not being so attached to “stuff” are the benefits of not having an endless amount of material possessions. Great post Sharon!

    • That distancing between ‘rich’ and ‘stuff’ is a big one, Barbara, not one everyone espouses. But you are absolutely right about the freedom, including from stress …

  • You are right.. my relationship with money is tied to my self-worth and the like..;) Yikes you kick my butt every time I stop by! (and I like it)

    • Happy to keep kickin’ it, Liz, if you’ll keep stopping by! 😉

  • Fantastic insight Sharon. I’ve never really looked at it quite that way but it makes all the sense in the world. I always looked at it as priorities but I guess those priorities are really defined with our life philosophy.

    • Thanks, Brian. The more I work with people on getting their finances under control and onto thriving, the more I realize few of us “naturally” look at money any more than we absolutely have to. Yet there are so many subtleties … and everything’s marvelously intertwined!

  • Norma Doiron ´*•჻.

    Totally makes sense, Sharon. I learn a lot from you about $$$. Thanks. 🙂

  • Pat Moon

    I give my life philosophy consideration pretty much daily during the time I spend considering how I can best serve God in my current circumstances. God has a way of keeping it in perspective. Great article.. thanks for sharing.

    • I can’t think of anyone who could keep things in perspective any better, Pat!

  • Daniele Holmberg

    I don’t really take the time to think of my life philosophy, but I probably should….I always get so preoccupied with so many things throughout the day..I really should take some time to contemplate and focus on a life philosophy. Thanks for the article:)

    • At whatever age, Dani, it’s so easy to get focused on the day-to-day … and we gain so much perspective if we’re willing to step back and look at our “bigger picture” … 😉

  • Meire Weishaupt

    Well, I try to think about my life philosophy once a year, analyze it for readjust my plans. Loved the way you advised us to think in the relationship we have with the money how we (1) earn it, (2) spend it, (3) invest it and (4) give it away, it is an excellent exercise to have peace of mind!

    • Meire, those are the four big actions we take with money. So if we have clarity around those actions and they are coherent with our philosophy, we’re well on our way towards that peace of mind …

  • Oh yes it is in relation with our philosophy! and also important to take time and think about our philosophy. Thank you for this great post.

  • money if very personal. It is about how your parents viewed money and how that translates to how I view money. I do believe that everyone needs a coach and someone to help them manage their money We need people to see what is going on and not be personally attached. Great post and thank you for sharing so much information !

    • Katrina, most of us were not raised to look at our relationship with money objectively … because it was so shrouded in emotion. That’s where a coach can be useful … or at least someone who writes articles that make you start thinking that way! 😉

  • Earn / Spend / Invest / Give … Simple enough in theory. Now to practice!

    That does start with “earn” and it does matter if we are doing something we love and doing what we have to do just to get the income we need. I’ve been on both sides of the equation, trying to make sure I stay on the doing-what-I-love path.

    • It does make a difference, Rob, if you can find the way to earn on the “what I love” path. Sometimes it takes persistence. But if you’ve earned the other way, which it sounds as if you have, it’s sure worth it!

  • Robin Strohmaier

    Great article as always, Sharon! I do think about my life philosophy on a regular basis. Like Rob, it is similar: earn / give/ invest / spend. It is an amazing blessing to be able to do something we love along the way, isn’t it?

  • Lorii Abela

    Just great! Once you learn to handle and master your finances, you are
    on your way to financial peace of mind. So, what was it like when you
    started back up at zero?