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The Psychology of Work and Money

Updated on October 31, 2015

Inventing "Easy Money" the Hard Way


All Things Are Relative

Most people have slipped downward in the past recessionary years and have had to make money doing things they did not plan to do. It's a first lesson in how to revise one's estimation of "wealth."

Going forward doggedly without expectations of any particular type of work, source of income, or rate of pay does not come naturally to the pre-recessionary man or woman.

There is no shame in collecting Unemployment Compensation as blasphemous it may be to say that in a capitalist world, America. But that is and was lesson number two for many people. When the chips aren't there to put down, people will do what they have to do to survive.

In general, there should be no disappointment in working beneath one's educational level, as defeatist as that may sound in an ego-maniac society anywhere. With pride and ego out of the way, the money you make will be easy money and not so hard to take home, regardless of its quantity in relation to what you might have made at any previous time. This third lesson is especially applicable to middle-aged workers in the targeted, recessionary, prime lay-off category.

Job Hunting--After being laid off (along with just about everyone else in town) people often think they know exactly what to do next to find a job, to do even better than the one from which they've been laid off, because they were underutilized there anyway (and, if they would admit it, overpaid as well for what they did). People are optimistic in America where disaster often turns into opportunity because there's often a lot of opportunity going around.

But the most predictable kind of work did not come about for most people due to the recession and also the simple, mechanical reason that cut-backs everywhere in town has the overall effect of raising a brick wall, making it impossible to penetrate into the job market anywhere.

Frustrated and naive at first due to the newness of this discouragement, people normally may even pay money to an agency to help them find work. That is often a mistake leading to lesson number four, because the main reason someone can't find the kind of work that he or she thinks is right and appropriate just may be the fact that unbeknowst to the inexperienced job hunter, he or she really doesn't fit into the norm of employees who work in that field, a different field from the activities of the previous job.

This only compounds the overall problem of job scarcity in the recession. Years later, a recessionary job hunter may realize that he or she was trying to force something to happen that was not natural when attempts were made to land jobs that required a completely different personality, background, and set of values.

Getting Lucky--However, it's inevitable that one day someone will offer to help the earnest job seeker to get a job in a field that may be low paying compared to the previous job. The pay may be a joke, but the out-of-work person will take the job, perhaps figuring it is only temporary.

A decade later, however, that person may still be working in that unexpected line of work. With humility, he or she may have to admit that finding the job was a stroke of luck in disguise. It kept the person going, paying bills, surviving with a little extra income from other sources here and there. Former employees often become independent contractors, piecing together part-time work, temporary jobs, and various gigs. Life becomes an adventure.

The Importance of Money--Money is relative. It's not always the amount that matters. This is lesson number five. What's more, it's not the most important thing in life. But then, most people knew that already. Money, for example, wouldn't be as important as your health, including your mental health, or the health of your loved ones, or your ties with your family, friends, and people at work, in the neighborhood, and new people you meet who bring knowledge and empathy into your life.

If you make too much money, your expectations actually tend to become too high. Once you settle down to reality on a lower level, things are more peaceful. Although that's lesson number six, it's still a hard landing, if you were used to flying high when you were living on a bigger paycheck.

The Toll of the Recession--Some people have lost their marriages in the recession, others regained their marital commitments, and still others have suffered trauma, even physical disabilities, or became addicted to prescription drugs, alcohol, and consuming vices, while many have known the severity of stagnation, living in a sort of lethargy, a paralyzing state of depression. But most of those same people somehow have found a way out, a way to survive.

Some were lucky and weren't out of work completely very long. The lucky ones always made their payments for housing, transportation, food, and family necessities.

Money is like easy-money when it's easy for someone else to pay you. This situation comes about when you don't ask for too much, and have patience to wait for luck to find you without trying too had to find it first.

Believing that any work is good work when the alternative is no work at all is a good attitude to have when times are tough. With the exception of work that places someone under so much stress that it's impossible to be happy at the end of the day, or illegal, or dangerous work, it's better to be out there doing something than sitting home or doing nothing anywhere else.

Many times the type of work that pays a lot is too stressful and can ruin someone's life, regardless of the size of the salary. Many people have learned the hard way to avoid certain jobs in their profession.

Making money and keeping your sanity in the recession are both distinct possibilities. It seems that no one knows how to change the economy overnight, but people do know how to change their attitudes and expectations about money.

There eventually will be some kind of job that will turn up for just about everyone. When it does, it's best to take what has come your way rather than holding out for something better, because someone's having a rigid, narrow view of what he or she should be making for salary, and someone's dwelling on whatever salary he or she had in the past, is counterproductive.

It takes time to adapt to the present so that your decisions will be based on what is relative today, not yesterday. Adaptation is more than a mere lesson. It's wisdom.

Money's Bottom Line--There is too much psychology attached to money; it bloats money out of all realistic proportions. For example, people happily give $100 to their children, but will avoid spending $3 instead of the usual $2 on some product at the supermarket. It makes someone's day to find a $5 bill on the sidewalk, but that same person will spend $50 on a nice shirt just because someone else looked good wearing one like it. People are thrilled to win $10 in a contest but gladly buy a round of drinks for just because they may feel silly and gay.

The best way to deal with such absurdities and threats to economic security is to get a clear picture of what you really need in life according to your true values. Stop and analyze the difficult situations, and afterward stick to whatever logical and rational decision you make as a course of action.

Money can be an implement for use in obtaining something, but it can be addictive when you never can get enough.

Finding peace, psychologically, by calmly deciding money issues for yourself rather than allowing other people to decide whether you should be content, is the way of wisdom.

Money is an undeniably emotional topic, linked with self-image, marriage, and comfort. Showing others that you will not let them judge your financial attitudes and decisions takes courage and self-confidence.


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    • sam3m profile image

      sam3m 6 years ago from New York

      you must be congratulated for surviving your ordeal. but, with all due respect, your emphasis on money is a bit troubling, especially if both your marriage and health were effected. i am sure your situation is far more complex than you've described, so my concern is probably ill-conceived.

      good luck to you.