I still get stressed before meeting other financial professionals about my personal numbers.
This time it was before a meeting with an insurance broker to ask some questions about disability insurance, and I was gathering some information about my income for the last two years.
I pulled up my 2015 and 2016 tax returns and I was hit with an unexpected wave of shame.
Turns out I had forgotten that my net income for those years was $21,000 and $24,000 respectively. And even though I knew that, I had forgotten.
It was kind of intense.
I almost canceled the meeting because I was embarrassed.
In that moment I felt that no one could call themselves successful with a net income of 24,000 last year.
Numbers seem like black and white truth… but are they?
The thing is that I know that feeling is wrong.
Yes, that income is low, and there are a bunch of reasons for that… but they really don’t matter right now.
The question is more about the feeling of ‘success’ and its attachment to income.
We use income as a measuring stick for success all the time. I was just sitting around a table and looking up famous actors’ networths in order to compare them and see who was still ‘doing well’.
In some cases the word success is synonymous with income earned. Who doubts the ‘success’ of Warren Buffet or Bill Gates? Not me.
But where does that leave me for the last two years?
Because I know that mostly I’ve felt quite successful, even though the numbers don’t show it.
My own success defined as a whole bunch of little things
My focus in the last two years has been a total reorganization of my life. A move away from 100% singing to include a new life as a financial planner.
That’s meant training, but those costs come off before reporting a net income so I’m going to ignore all that.
The real success I’ve managed in the last two years is to afford the time I need to refocus. To learn new skills, to meet new people, and to just get my head around not being ‘just a singer’.
I’ve afforded that time while still paying my bills on time, accruing no debt, and spending $12,000 fixing my teeth.
I’ve afforded that time while still finding resources for multiple trips to see friends and family around the world.
When I look past the ‘net income’ number it’s very clear that I’ve lived a very fulfilling last two years.
That feels successful to me… at least it does most of the time.
Success moving forward
I know those things.
But I still felt that shame.
Honestly, I still feel a bit of it now. I’m afraid that the amount of money I make speaks to my competency as a financial planner.
I feel that even though the lion’s share of my clients this year will never pay me a cent.
I know that in order for me to feel fulfilled I can’t define my success by my income. I can’t fall into the trap of thinking that a line 150 (net income) of $72,000 is all I need for complete happiness.
Even as I move to grow my business, make more money and move toward that goal (because it is a goal of mine), I think it’s important for me to remember what made the last two years so fulfilling.
That even though all my socks had holes in them and I lived with a bunch of roommates I felt successful.
Even on ‘just’ a net income of $24,000.
Rags to Reasonable Community Outreach Coordinator
Emily Nixon is an actor/writer/director/filmmaking Swiss Army Knife. She is also a big money nerd and Community Outreach Coordinator for Rags to Reasonable.
She came to this work after becoming completely fed up with living paycheque-to-paycheque and being too afraid to look in her chequing account. She is passionate about empowering other artists and variable income earners to keep doing what they love and feel confident about their finances.
Email Emily at email@example.com