Earn What You Deserve: How to Stop Underearning & Start Thriving

Publishers Weekly wrote in 1994: “The author of How to Get Out of Debt, Stay Out of Debt and Live Prosperously here tackles the problems of another fiscally troubled group, those who are earning only enough to meet their needs. He touches on but does not treat in depth the destructive self-image that makes underearning only part of a syndrome. But he does offer advice for treating underearning, beginning with three cardinal rules: do not incur debt, do not take work that pays less than you require and do not say “no” to money, i.e., ignore opportunities to increase your income. Mundis urges drawing up a “spending plan” (not a budget, which is too constricting) and recommends such relaxation techniques as meditation and deep breathing. In what looks like padding, he also presents an adaptation of the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.”

Here are some of my favorite sections of this Jerrold Mundis book:

* Pain is the messenger. It tells me that something is wrong.

* The first step in freeing yourself from underearning is to accept responsibility for the problem. This doesn’t mean it is your fault. The fact that you are an underearner, if you are, is not a condition you wanted or that you brought upon yourself. You may be completely justified in thinking that you were neglected or terribly abused somehow as a child, and yes, it may truly be a shame, and yes, perhaps anyone would empathize with you. But going over that repeatedly is not going to help you free yourself—no one ever got better confessing someone else’s sins. That you are an underearner, while not your fault, is your responsibility. What you do about it is your responsibility. No one can change that for you; no external event or circumstance will alter it. But by accepting that it is your responsibility, you can begin to free yourself from ever having to underearn again.

* Underearners evade, avoid, and deflect money like running backs hurtling toward the goal line of poverty—touchdown! Do not say no to money. Do not evade it, avoid it, or deflect it. Let it into your life. We are talking, of course, about money that meets the first two criteria: money that isn’t debt, and money that isn’t less than you need. If it satisfies both of these, then do not say no to it.

* We evade money by not following up.

* Early in my own liberation from underearning, the communications director of a large professional association called me from Washington, D.C. She’d heard that I broke writer’s block for people. (I perked up, sensing income.) That was not the problem she had. (I sagged.) Her staff writers were not blocked. (I sagged further.) Their problem was burnout and staleness, caused by having to write about the same topics over and over. (Why was she calling me?) Could I help? (How? What did I know about burnout in staff writers?) They could pay $1,250 for an afternoon session with their four writers. It was truly depressing to know that $1,250 was available, but not for me. I was about to express my regrets and thank her for the call and tell her I hoped she could find an answer somewhere, when—with the force of a hammer blow, nearly taking my breath away, and causing the hand in which I held the phone to begin sweating—I was struck by the realization that I had a compulsion to underearn … and that I was about to turn down $1,250.

Perhaps, I thought, the reason I am about to turn this money down is not valid; perhaps it is a function of my compulsion to underearn. Though it was difficult, though my throat began to close and I had trouble getting the words out, I forced myself to say: “Yes, I think I can help you with it. I’d like to give it some thought. Is there a time tomorrow afternoon that would be convenient for me to call you back?”

Six weeks later, I led a four-hour workshop for that woman and her writers down in Washington. I called it “Word Renewal.”

* Much of your underearning has resulted from distorted attitudes and perceptions you have about money, about yourself, and about yourself in relationship to money.

* On your pad, write the heading Underearning. Beneath it, list all the ways you can think of in which you actively or passively underearned over the last twelve months. (Don’t bother classifying them; the purpose here is to help you see the ways rather than to divide them.) For example: Sought work for which I wasn’t qualified. Spent a lot of time on projects that weren’t going to make me much money [if self-employed]. Incurred heavy expenses.

* Now make a second list. Here, write down all the ways in which other people you know underearn: set low fees, for example, insist on getting things their own way, continue to employ unproductive employees. Now get creative and add every other way you can think of: claiming that emotional problems prevent one from working, arguing constantly with co-workers and supervisors which results in never being promoted, not honoring commitments.

* Things I Could Do to Change My Emotions

Under this heading, list seven things you could do to change your emotions about money. Let your imagination run free: You don’t have to do any of these. The point is only to show yourself that there are ways to change, ways you never even realized or considered before. Some of your ideas will be more desirable than others. When you’re finished, breathe, exhale, and relax.

Now write the heading: Things I Could Do to Change My Beliefs

Here, write down ten things you could do to change your beliefs or attitudes about money, or about yourself in relationship to money.

* Sit down with your pen and pad. Write thé heading, 100 Ways I Could Bring More Money In.

* Sometime within the next seven days, write out a description of your ideal relationship with money—not what you think an ideal relationship ought to be but what it would actually be for you. It’s important for you to have a clear picture of this. This clarity will help you make choices and take actions that are more likely to serve your best interests.

* If you’ve been underearning for any length of time, a fair amount of what fills your life—clothes, kitchen equipment, furniture—can have become worn out, flawed, and second-rate.

* Pick a drawer, a bureau, a closet, or even an entire room in your apartment or house. Evaluate every single article within that space, from an old tie to a television set. Ask yourself: Do I really need this? Do I enjoy and take pleasure from it?

* “When I’m inside my own head,” says Harry, a chef, “I’m behind enemy lines.” What he means is that sitting alone with his own thoughts doesn’t help him—they are depressed thoughts, fearful thoughts, the thoughts of an underearner. He means that he can’t simply think his way out of underearning, or out of the low self-esteem esteem that is part of his underearning, and into feeling better about himself. So how does one improve one’s self-image, lift one’s self-esteem?

* One of the simplest and most effective ways to lift your self-esteem is by doing estimable—or esteemable—acts. Write down a number of things you could do for which you would respect or admire yourself.

* Diversifying was part of my own liberation from underearning… Diversification, then, is a process in which you identify the skills and abilities you possess in addition to those you use in your main occupation—or further ways to apply those you already do use—and then find avenues through which to turn them into income-producing activities.

* Stick with the winners.

* Finally, remain open—open to new and unexpected possibilities of recovery. To any technique, discipline, or practice you might encounter that can help you in your liberation from underearning.

Underearning is a term that makes most of us draw back uneasily . It is embarrassing , unpleasant . We feel that anyone who might be affected by it — whatever it is — might somehow be defective or incapable . Yet underearning is rampant in America

You Don’t Have to Underearn Any More. > Location 180

I am not telling you that the sky’s the limit or that you can be , do , or have anything you want . It isn’t , and you can’t . But I am telling you that you can free yourself from underearning and stay free of it forever : by using the program in this book , which is a clear , simple , and step – by – step guide .

1. In all its Glory > Page 5

And that’s where I was when Jim Roi said to me : “ Jerry , do you think — is it possible — could it be — that you are a compulsive underearner ? ”

1. In all its Glory > Page 6

To underearn is repeatedly to gain less income than you need , or than would be beneficial — usually for no apparent reason , and despite your desire to do otherwise .

1. In all its Glory > Page 8

Underearning is a self – diagnosed condition — and needs to be . No underearner will ever get free of underearning without first perceiving , or accepting , that he or she is an underearner .

1. In all its Glory > Page 8

Is underearning an illness of some sort ? It may be , it may not . Certainly it’s not a physical illness , but the argument can be made that underearning , like other self – damaging behaviors , is a psychological and spiritual illness . ( We’ll deal with those aspects as we go along . ) But ultimately — is it ? For some , it probably is ; for others , it isn’t . But what it is , is less important than that it is . There is a condition of underearning , a state of underearning , an ontology of underearning . So whatever it may or may not actually be , it is perfectly fine , I think , to call it an illness , a malady , an affliction , a habit , tendency , mindset , or anything else you might wish . Whatever underearning may ultimately be , there are basically three kinds of it : Compulsive , Problematic , and Minor .

1. In all its Glory > Page 11

Active underearning involves doing something that results in underearning , from quitting a job , to setting low fees , to turning down work

1. In all its Glory > Page 13

Passive underearning involves not doing or failing to do something that would — if you did it — cause you to earn more . It can be anything from not getting to work on time to failing to meet a deadline or neglecting to ask for help or advice . Passive underearning is more subtle than active underearning and may be more difficult to discern at first ,

1. In all its Glory > Page 16

There are many issues related to the problem of underearning , but they are not the problem itself . The beginning of wisdom , goes an old Chinese epigram , is to call things by their right name . To underearn is to gain less money than you need . Other issues , which either contribute to underearning or result from it , are part of the syndrome of underearning .

2: Underearners > Page 27 · Location 510

Dysfunctional has been employed as a synonym for murderous , hateful , savage , abusive , and even evil . It is not a synonym for any of those . Dysfunctional means “ disordered ” or “ impaired ” ; it does not mean “ awful , ” “ brutal , ” or “ catastrophic . ” I suggest , as a practical working definition of a dysfunctional household , this : A dysfunctional household is one in which , because of alcoholism or a similar affliction , the family dynamics are more hurtful or repressive than those in households that are not marked by such an affliction .

2: Underearners > Page 33 · Location 578

Or you drive yourself mercilessly only so long as seems necessary , or while your enthusiasm is high , and then at the end collapse and are barely able to perform the minimum expected or required of you . During this latter time you feel blunted , sleep a lot , and have little will for anything , not even recreation

(*) This reminds me of Bi-polar disorder

2: Underearners > Page 37 · Location 635

Many venerable spiritual traditions — at least in some of their teachings — suggest that eschewing money , possessions , and other things of this world can be beneficial and is perhaps even necessary to spiritual development . On the other hand , every tradition places great value on helping to eliminate poverty , or the ravages of poverty , from the world — which would hardly be the case if poverty were in itself ennobling or beneficial .

(*) A fascinating paradox, really. Some people misquote that “money is the root of all evil” Yet the apostle Paul actually said: [1Ti 6:6-10 NKJV] 6 Now godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into [this] world, [and it is] certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and [into] many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is a root of all [kinds of] evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

2: Underearners > Page 37 · Location 638

What most people forget about Saint Francis , for example , is that he was an extremely wealthy young man who renounced his family’s fortune , who chose to live a mendicant’s life , who exercised an option . As was , and did , Gautama Buddha . There is a world — perhaps even a universe — of difference between voluntary renunciation and underearning

Part II: Fundamentals

3. Getting Under Way > Page 52

Freedom from underearning means regularly to gain income that is enough to meet your needs in a humane way .

3. Getting Under Way > Page 54 ·

Resistance to surrender , which stems from fear , is based largely on a misconception of what the word means . If you’re like most people , you interpret surrender as meaning a loss of freedom , defeat , weakness . But one of its primary definitions is “To give something up in favor of something else “

3. Getting Under Way > Page 55

Denial is nearly universal at first — after all , no one wants to have an underearning problem . You tell yourself it’s your parents ’ fault , the government’s fault , your wife’s fault . It’s the economy’s fault , the patriarchy’s , the banks ’ , the credit card companies ’ , your boss’s fault , society’s fault . It’s the divorce , you say to yourself , the job market , late – paying accounts , taxes , interest rates , the new roof , high rents . Anything or anyone but you , even though you’re the one who repeatedly gains less income than you need or than would be beneficial .

(*) Its the rationalization. I’m not REALLY an underearner…implicit in this is the belief that “I” am not the problem. Admission and the subsequent surrender is the only basis on which any real change can take place. You can’t move away from something you don’t admit in the first place

4. Reconceiving > Page 74

“ This is a simple program for complicated people . ”

4. Reconceiving > Page 76 · Location 1098

Then I tell them : “ What I did while my eyes were closed was this . First , I thought the worst possible thought I could about all of you . Then I thought the best possible thought I could about all of you .Yet none of you was plunged into despair or got angry at me . Nor was anyone lifted into euphoria or overcome with affection toward me . The point is : What other people think about you cannot possibly affect you . Their thoughts cannot influence your mood . Only yours can — what you think . ”

(*)What other people think of me is none of my business

5. Proceeding > Page 100 And you cannot liberate yourself from underearning by continuing to underearn . Your real job has been underearning . And you have worked hard at it and been very successful at it : at repeatedly gaining less income than you needed , despite the negative emotional and practical consequences that followed. That job is over now . One day at a time , you’re through with underearning . So it’s time to be moseying on — toward work that will pay you enough to meet your needs in a humane fashion .

6. Couples and Families > Page 116

No matter who you are or what your living conditions , this is precisely how difficult your own situation is — more difficult than some , less difficult than others .

6. Couples and Families > Page 125

Acknowledge any legitimate discrepancy that exists between your incomes . A legitimate discrepancy is one that results from the realities of life rather than from underearning — either yours , your partner’s , or both

6. Couples and Families > Page 131

To reach accord is to come to agreement or into harmony .

6. Couples and Families > Page 134

First : Begin by recognizing that your time — as the time of a human being — is neither more valuable nor less valuable than your partner’s time . Your earning power per hour or day may be different , but the absolute value of that hour or day , as a unit of time , is not . Your time , as the time of a human being , is worth exactly the same as your partner’s . One hour equals one hour , regardless of who works it or how much he or she can command for it on the market .

Highlight (pink) – 6. Couples and Families > Page 148 · Location 2022

Finally , live and let live . Live your own life , as you choose , and let your partner , your grown children , and everyone else you know live their lives as they choose — or for reasons beyond your ken , perhaps as they must . Attend to the beam in your own eye ; the motes in theirs are their business . It is your birthright to live as you wish , it is theirs to do the same . Your liberation depends only on you . Theirs , if they are underearners , depends only on them . It is possible that we do know sometimes what is best for another adult . It is also possible that we don’t . To assume that we do is arrogance , to try to force that assumption on someone is tyranny .

Part III: Expansion

7. Growing Stronger > Page 161 · Location 2145

This is an important distinction . It is appropriate to feel fear if a large , savage dog lunges through an open gate at you ; or grief at the death of a loved one . But most fear and despondency stem primarily from your cognitions , from what you think .

7. Growing Stronger > Page 161

The Dhammapada , one of Buddhism’s favorite texts , begins : “ All we are is the result of what we have thought . ”

7. Growing Stronger > Page 163 · Location 2174

Charlotte , a painter who worked part time as a data processor , experienced agony each time she made an appointment for a prospective client to view her artwork . It would look as if she were begging for money , she felt . The client would be contemptuous of her work , think she was incompetent , reject her . She knew she would be humiliated and unable to paint for days . There would be no money . She would have to give up painting altogether and take a full – time job . All this went on in Charlotte’s head — yet her emotions , in response to her thoughts , were as searingly painful as if such events had actually happened .

7. Growing Stronger > Page 166

If any single factor in itself can make liberation from underearning impossible , it is resentment .

7. Growing Stronger Page 170

Allow yourself to experience the emotion purely , completely , without resistance . Be the emotion : Be fear . Be self – loathing . Feel it completely . Be within it ; let it be within you . Experience it totally .

(*) I’m thinking of the scene in Batman Begins when Bruce is in the cave and the bats swarm around him, and he immerses himself fully in the swarm

7. Growing Stronger > Page 170

Most people discover that they can’t experience an emotion — purely , uninterruptedly — for more than one or two minutes , often for no more than thirty seconds . Not because the emotion is so awesomely powerful that they can’t endure it any longer , but because it cannot exist in a pure state much longer than that . It burns itself out , collapses in upon itself , or crests , subsides , and disappears .

(*) This is so very important to get a hold of. Feelings are like weather, only as this points out, quite short in duration.

7. Growing Stronger > Page 174

“ The function of prayer , ” wrote the philosopher Kierkegaard , “ is not to influence God , but rather to change the nature of the one who prays . ”

(*) Prayer is dispositional

7. Growing Stronger > Page 175

Then , as best you can , place your consciousness deep within your diaphragm , in the calm and quiet center of your being . Now ask yourself silently , “ Who am I ? ” Maybe , as your first answer , your name comes to mind : Jerry . Say to yourself , easily , without strain : “ No , that is a name people call me . That is not me . Who is the ‘ I ’ who is called by that name ? ” Perhaps your occupation occurs to you next : A writer . Say to yourself easily , without strain : “ No , writing is something I do . That is not me . Who is the ‘ I ’ who does the writing ? ” My thoughts . “ No , those are a function of my consciousness . They are not me . Who is the ‘ I ’ who has these thoughts ? ” My consciousness . “ No , that is something I possess . That is not me . Who is the ‘ I ’ who has this consciousness ? ” A man . “ No , that is the sex of my body . That is not me . Who is the ‘ I ’ who has this sex ? ” My body .

7. Growing Stronger > Page 178

Money has life , and like other living things — like you , like me — it doesn’t go where it isn’t liked , isn’t wanted . It doesn’t go where it is feared , lusted after , envied , grabbed at , hoarded , resented , and otherwise made to feel unwelcome . * So begin treating money well . Don’t jam it into your pocket or push it into the bottom of your purse . Put it in your wallet , nicely and neatly . Say hello to it . Tell it how pleased you are to see it , how happy you are it’s come to visit . Treat it like a valued guest . And when the time comes for it to move on — as all guests must , and should — bid it farewell and a wonderful journey , happy that it came to visit you and looking forward to your next visitor . Be hospitable . Be a kind , loving , and generous host , into and out of whose life a steady stream of guests are delighted to flow .

(*) What about greedy mean, unkind people who have gobs of money?

7. Growing Stronger > Page

The company you work for is not the source of your money , even though it writes your paycheck . Your clients are not the source , even though they pay you . The stocks and bonds you own are not the source . Nor is the government , your friends , your family , or your customers . Just as the telephone is not the source of your phone calls , nor the mail carrier the source of your letters , but rather the agencies through which those arrive . The real source of your money is God , or the Universe — or , for the determinedly secular , your Self .

Part IV: The Steps

Steps One Through Six > Page 190 · Location 2521

The Steps are not presented in AA or any of the other Anonymous programs as something people must do in order to succeed with whatever difficulty they’re addressing . Rather , they are presented as suggestions , actions to take that will facilitate and strengthen recovery .

(*) There is a problem with this proposition. “This simple program” i.e. the steps are the path to recovery. It’s true no one in program will require or compel any member to take the steps, its clear that they were understood ss ” a new blueprint for living.” The framework within which transformation/recovery comes about.

8. Steps One Through Six > Page 191

If I would change what I experience to be the world , then I must change myself . The Steps are helpful in this.

8. Steps One Through Six > Page 192

As a rough guideline, aim to work with a Step for a least one or two full months before moving on to the next one . ( This is a very rough guideline . Ultimately , you’ll rely on your intuition . )

8. Steps One Through Six > Page 220

Even if I am highly imperfect , scored by a multitude of defects , that does not mean that I am defective , wrong , somehow no good . No more than a car is defective , or wrong , or somehow no good , because it has a defective turn signal . It is simply a car with a defective turn signal . If the defect were removed , the car would be easier to operate and less likely to cause damage to itself or anyone else .

9: Steps Seven Through Twelve > Page 227 · Location 3006

how might it do that ? Instantly . Or at the end of the day . Or over a long period of time . Forever . Or for a month , an hour , or only a few minutes . By direct and recognized divine intervention ( whatever that means to you ) , or by your encountering a good therapist , or through reading some sentences in a book , or the birth of a child , a phone call , or a conversation overheard in a restaurant . In as many ways as you can imagine and a great many more that you can’t , a God as you understand God , or a Higher Power as you understand it , might remove your shortcomings . They’ll be removed , that’s all .

(*) If you’re heading in that direction, you’re likely to get there.

9: Steps Seven Through Twelve > Page 234

No matter what kind of harm you have done in your life , you are not a terrible and hurtful human being ; you would not be reading a book like this if you were . Nor , conversely , are you someone so gentle , timid , and sweet that you have never harmed another human being . It’s not possible to have lived long enough to become an adult without having harmed others along the way .

9: Steps Seven Through Twelve > Page 248

“ Those of us who have come to make regular use of prayer and meditation would no more do without them than we would refuse air , food , or sunshine . ”

9: Steps Seven Through Twelve > Page 249

The fear I had of this Step , and the fear of practically anyone who’s ever been reluctant to approach it , was that God’s will would not be consonant with my own . In other words , that I wouldn’t get what I want . It is very difficult to pray only for a knowledge of God’s will for you and the power to carry that out when you fear that this might mean something you don’t want : suffering , being hurt , being deprived , punished , not getting what you want or think you need . But it’s not difficult to pray only for a knowledge of the will of what is best in you and best in other people and the power to carry that out . Take a moment to sit quietly and identify what is truly best in you and in the people you know .

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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