The Financial Serenity Prayer

OK – so the first thing to confess here is that I am not religious at all. However, I’ve always liked the sentiment of The Serenity Prayer. If you’re not familiar with it… it goes like this:

God, grant me the serenity to
accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

The Serenity Prayer is most famous for being adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12 step programs to help frame people’s attitude to recovery.

If you think about it, the act of spending money is not so different from taking a drink, over-eating or any other addictive habit. Every time we buy something for fun, the brain releases chemicals which give us a momentary thrill. In moderation, this is harmless and just leads to you having more stuff than you actually need. But if the spending habit gets out of control, life can quickly descend into financial chaos. Just as there are functioning alcoholics, who manage to hide their addiction from employers, friends and even their closest family for years, some spend-aholics can appear to be thriving and even living a dream lifestyle. In reality their expensive lifestyle is stacked up like a house of cards, just waiting for a bump (redundancy, a large unplanned expense) to come along and send the whole thing tumbling to the ground. This is particularly true in Dubai – where the trappings of a millionaire lifestyle are everywhere and the pressure to spend is intense.

“The National” newspaper runs two features that I always look out for. One is called The Debt Panel and it scares the hell out of me.

https://www.thenational.ae/business/money/the-debt-panel-i-signed-up-for-three-credit-cards-because-my-income-did-not-match-my-expenses-1.778722

There seems to be a never-ending supply of poor souls who have been chewed up by the UAE’s easy access to credit (really DEBT). Looking at the desperate nature of some of these stories… I am reminded of those people (usually in America) who have to be cut out of their trailer because they weigh 300 kgs and can’t move any more. I always wonder why there wasn’t a point where that person just thought… ‘OK – I’m pretty big now for what is essentially a land-based mammal. I should really stop eating and go for a walk’. I apologise for trivialising a serious condition, but I want to highlight how far things can slide if the proper checks and measures don’t take place.

The other feature is called ‘Money & Me’ and features a cross-section of well-to-do Dubaians talking about their financial journey.

https://www.thenational.ae/business/money/money-me-i-was-a-cash-millionaire-by-the-age-of-25-1.777096

I like to play a little game of guessing how long it will take for some of the people featured in “Money & Me” to end up featured in “The Debt Panel”.

In my previous posts I talked about not losing all your money into the sands of Dubai, and recognising that our home is a city that DOESN’T WANT YOU TO SAVE MONEY! Today for the first time I want to talk about how we can start to make practical steps towards achieving that. And believe it or not, I think this prayer may be our starting point. We are going to create our own 12 step programme to cure ourselves of the spending addiction of Dubai and set us on the path to Financial Serenity… a state where our finances take care of themselves without worry or constant scrutiny. And just like dealing with other addictions… the first step is to accept that you have a problem.

If you’re reading these blogs in order, your homework before reading the next blog is to get a general sense of where you stand with your finances. At this point we’ll keep it simple and look at:

Net Worth – Assets minus liabilities

Monthly Balance – Income (usually salary but also any recurring payments like rent etc.) minus outgoings.

Next blog: An introduction to the 12 steps.

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