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If I Were 22: Never Let Money Define You by Suze Orman

I talk about money. A lot.

Years ago when I was just starting to appear on national television, a woman stopped me on the street, turned to her friends and pointed: “I know you. You’re… the money lady!”

What she didn’t realize is that I only became the money lady once I learned to downgrade the importance of money in my life.

Don’t get me wrong — I fully appreciate the need to have a base level of money to be able to live a safe and healthy life. The hard part is recognizing that once you have the basic necessities covered, what you do with money can get in the way of becoming truly content and happy, and present for those you love.

After spending my 20s waitressing and never earning more than $400 a month, my 30s were a drastic shift. I built a successful financial planning practice and was making more in a month than I used to make in a year. But here was the problem: the more money I made, the more I wanted other people to see how great I was doing, financially speaking.

I spent so much money — on fancy cars, watches and clothes simply to impress other people — that I got myself heavily into debt. If I were a guest on my CNBC show today, I would have given myself one serious smackdown.

My finances were a mess, but more importantly, my money was a mess because I was a mess. I had it all wrong — all the things I was spending my money on added nothing to my self-worth.

It didn’t happen overnight, but I dug deep and realized I needed to make a major change. What I eventually learned, and what continues to drive me personally and professionally some 30 years later, is this central truth:

Money will never define you. You define your money.

When you are starting out in your 20s, it is natural to think about all that you will have and do once you start making money, and making moremoney. That gives money way too much power over your life. It’s not about how much you make, but the life that you make with the money you have.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that I met the love of my life when I was 50. My 25-year-old and 35-year-old self hadn’t yet figured out what truly matters. Part of that journey is never forgetting that who you are is far more important than what you have. I will say it one more time:

Money will never define you. You define your money.


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