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.