I make $10.50 an hour

 Your income, what do you make?  Wait; before you answer you may want to consider how you answer.  This is one of those questions in which the framing of your answer reveals as much about you as the content of your answer.

I had a friend in college who used to say “it’s a stereotype for a reason”, and he was largely right.  Assumptions about people are never always true but the generalizations exist for a reason.  They are not birthed of thin air.

Typically speaking there are two ways in which people answer the income question.  They will answer by sharing either their hourly wage or annual income.  And while the difference between these response types is only a simple math equation, it can also represent a tremendous gulf in mindset.

I will elaborate in 3 Acts:

Ignorance is bliss

By answering with my hourly rate I am tacitly admitting that I do not know my true income.  And frankly, I probably do not really want to know my actual income.  I just know that I work hard and I am rewarded, every hour on the hour.

In some ways $10.50 is a big number.  In all my working days I have never made that much per hour – the closest I have come was when I did landscaping in college for $7.50 an hour.  But in saying that, I must also admit that for many years now I have made considerably more than $21,000 per annum. 

I only trade this for that

I work, I get paid.  I work extra, I get paid extra. I work less, I get paid less.  I work, I get paid.

When I discuss my income in terms of a lowest common dominator, I reveal my views on money.  To me money is only an exchange of time and effort.  In this way, I am creating significant limitations for myself.  If I view $10.50 as an acceptable hourly wage how then can I ever envision a day when I make $20, $30, or even $50 per hour.  The answer, often times, is that I cannot.  The gap is simply too large.

Given this mindset of hourly exchange the perceived gap between $10 and $25 per hour may be larger than the actual gap between $50,000 and $100,000 salaries.

On the other hand, when I view my income is an annualized total – not necessarily a salary as such – I am viewing my relationship with money on a grander scale.  No longer is money limited to an expression of what I do, but it begins to speak to what I am.

I cannot see for all the trees

To be blunt, answering the income question with an hourly rate is using little boy logic to address a big boy issue – the health of your family’s financial future being the issue.  My basis is thus – if the mindset for an activity that consumes well over a third of one’s life’s energy is wrapped around an hourly exchange rate, then how is buying a car anything but a discussion of monthly payments or worse a mortgage anything other than a life time sentence? 

When your income is purposely measured on the smallest of scales, some purchases can only appear impossibly large.

This is not to say anything negative about how your pay is calculated.  A salaried worker can earn a low hourly equivalent while an hourly pay/bill rate can generate great wealth.  However, the challenge is to address your point of view if you ever aspire to change your vantage point. 

Dan Miller, career coach and author of 48 Days to the Work You Love and No More Mondays, talks about the difference between someone looking towards only the end of the week or month vs. someone who looks years into the future.  Clearly one is a poor-spirited approach while the other is grounded in a spirit of growth, wealth, and abundance.  Dan argues that if a broke person aspires to be rich then he or she first needs to adjust their mindset to one appreciative of a longer time horizon.  This shift will empower opportunistic thinking by exposing a vast horizon – take a class, read a book, invest in self today with the vision of a brighter future. 

This is a change so subtle, so easy, so simply math yet so significant and empowering.  Do not financially walk through life with your head drooped down starring at your toes.  Instead look up and you decide which where you want to be and then go… and enjoy.

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