Thursday, February 26, 2009

Overcoming Underearning

Book Review: Overcoming Underearning
Posted: 22 Feb 2009 05:00 AM PST

This is a guest post from Jeremy M, who writes about experiencing a full life at Lucid Living. When I asked GRS readers recently which books they’d like to see revieweed here, Overcoming Underearning was near the top of the list. Jeremy volunteered to review it, so I sent him a copy!
Barbara Stanny’s Overcoming Underearning is not what I expected it to be. When I read the title, I expected a book about how to stretch your dollars and how get more from what you do earn. In retrospect, that’s already been done well in More Wealth Without Risk by Charles Givens. This book is about asking for more, creating more, and working your way through the psychological pitfalls that lead to being satisfied with less in the first place.

Secrets of six-figure womenAs a reporter, Barbara Stanny interviewed 150 high-income women and wrote a book about them, Secrets of Six-Figure Women. In the process, she learned that the big difference between highly successful women and less successful women was how they valued themselves and what they were willing to do to get what they wanted. They didn’t think of limits, and they surrounded themselves with people who also were successful.

Stanny started running workshops to teach people this message. She emphasized that success takes some Outer Work (the nuts and bolts of how to succeed, ask for more money, etc) and a lot of Inner Work (re-writing your thoughts on money and your value, conversations with your inner selves, etc). This is her core philosophy — that your inner reality, your thoughts and beliefs, create your outer reality. Or, as she quotes from A Course in Miracles, “A decision is a conclusion based on everything you believe about yourself.”

As a side benefit, Stanny says that many of her workshop attendees reported weight loss, more leisure time, improved health, and enhanced relationships. This comes naturally as you learn to value yourself more and expect more out of life. Like this example, the whole book has a somewhat New Age feel to it — I’ll let you decide if that’s a plus or a minus.

Stanny has done some work to apply this to men over time, but the tone of the book is mostly directed at women. I don’t pay much attention to this kind of duality, but women looking for a woman’s perspective will appreciate this — and some men might be put off by it. Mostly the feminine side comes through in the pronoun “she”, and that almost all the examples are of women.

Overcoming Underearning is also an activity book. There are worksheets to fill in, journaling assignments to do, “Conversations with myself” at the end of each chapter, and regular quizzes and checklists. It made the book more interactive and personal, but some readers won’t like the distractions. I did find that it stopped me occasionally, or interrupted my reading as I felt I should fill in a quiz before I went on.

A five-step processAt the core of Stanny’s plan is a five-step process of Inner and Outer Work. She devotes a chapter to each step, and restates them as follows:

Tell the truth about what’s not working for you, and what is.

Make a firm decision about what you truly want. (What is your Why?)

Look for opportunities to stretch by doing what think you can’t do.

Surround yourself with a supportive community.

Respect and appreciate money by taking good care of it.

The first three steps are your Inner Work.

As a building starts with an idea, grows into a blueprint, and finally becomes a real, concrete thing — so your reality starts as an idea, grows into a belief, and then starts to reflect back from the world around you.

Step four is about building a supportive environment. You don’t have to leave your negative friends; in fact, Stanny has a way to use their feedback as well. Finally, we apply the previous steps in how we treat ourselves and how we treat money.

Exercise: As an example of the last step, Stanny offers an exercise in the book. We say that “time is money”. Write down at least ten more things that money is. My favorite is, “Money is a metaphor of how we value ourselves.”

Overcoming Underearning is a good book, in line with Get Rich Slowly ideals. It focuses on the idea that wealth is thoughts, not things. It offers many practical examples of how to build your supportive community, and how to negotiate for more money.

However, the book contains few actionable steps that will help you make more money or invest well. If you need a “how-to” book, keep looking. If you need to get started, or are started, but have hit a wall and you don’t know why, this might be the book for you.

Barbara Stanny bills herself as “the leading authority on women and money”. You can read more at her website, which offers a quiz entitled “Are you an underearner?

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