Introducing Life Lessons from Literature
Hello! Today I am introducing our new series, Life Lessons from Literature, where I’ll be sharing wisdom from books I’ve read. Instead of your typical book review, I’m going to focus on the life lessons books are communicating or blatantly recommending and my thoughts about them. It goes without saying that ideas from the book as well as my own should not be accepted as fact but, rather, prompts for your own analysis and examination of your biases.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts and book recommendations!
(I was a literature major in university so this brings back a lot of memories. Haha. *gulp*)
- Introduction of Money Grows on Trees
- Life lessons from the book
- My thoughts and constructive criticism/ what you should keep in mind when reading Money Grows on Trees
- Activities from the book that you can do to improve your finances can be found here
Today’s Read: Money Grows on Trees by Clarissa S. de la Paz and Sharon W. Que
This was recommended to me by a friend several months ago after I shared the dire situation of my finances. Money Grows on Trees is the second book of the Lifestyle Upgrade 101 set by Filipinos Clarissa de la Paz and Sharon Que, the first being I Wish They Taught Money in School. I ended up reading Money Grows on Trees first. It’s sold as a standalone book, not as a sequel to the first, so it didn’t really matter. That being said, I also analyzed Money Grows on Trees as an independent work.
Money Grows on Trees has two parts, one written by each author. Both parts share similar ideas but are very much the authors’ individual stories and perspectives. If you notice a similarity in tone and writing style, that’s because both parts are written by the same person, Katherine Tiuseco. So I probably shouldn’t refer to de la Paz and Que as the authors here since they didn’t write it. (I don’t know, honestly. The thought of having someone else write your book for you if you’re not old/disabled/Stephen Hawking is a little unsettling to me. Seems like a very cringe-y rich person thing to do. But maybe that’s just the academic purist in me. *shrug*)
While de la Paz offered tangible steps to follow to improve our finances, what I liked about Que’s part is her acknowledgement (somewhat) of those who don’t have a lot to begin with. The thing about these women is they are obviously from well-off families so there’s only so much they can tell us about handling money when you come from nothing. So that’s something to keep in mind when reading this. The rest of my thoughts and rants have their own section below. Haha.
I got the set for P700 from http://www.lifestyleupgrade101.com/shop/ if you want your own copies. These are more expensive at National Bookstore so I suggest buying them online. The delivery is free! You can have/borrow my copy. Just let me know!
Life Lessons from Money Grows on Trees
If there’s one quote from the book that encapsulates the gist of the whole work, it would be this:
“We first have to recognize that money is neither the problem nor the solution. The problem is in the mind. Most people think that their money shortage will be solved by an influx of cash; but it’s not as simple as that. No matter how much money you receive, if your preexisting patterns are still in place, the problems will recur. Until you examine yourself, find those detrimental views and address them, money will always be an issue.” (Que, p. 18)
Here are other nuggets of wisdom I picked up along the way. I’m doing de la Paz’s half first then Que’s. I don’t necessarily agree with the views below. Most of my thoughts are in the next section.
From Clarissa de la Paz
1. We mimic our parents’/guardian’s money habits
Many of our early biases and beliefs about the world come from the people who raised us. As suggested by the quote from Que above, it’s a matter of identifying our patterns and correcting the unhealthy ones. (That’s what emotional maturity/growing up is about, in my opinion.) De la Paz expressed her gratefulness for having parents who taught her the benefits of delayed gratification early on by giving her a budget to manage even at a young age. Also, by providing a healthy sense of deprivation in not giving her everything, she learned to work harder.
In this post, you will find an activity recommended by de la Paz to improve your money habits.
2. Having healthy beliefs about money in crucial to growing your wealth
* Expand your money comfort zone to accommodate your goals. Many of us feel hesitant about investing, applying for loans, taking on a side job or two, even if we know these will be financially beneficial. Big dreams need big funding, and we can’t expect it to come from just one income.While many financial advisors encourage us to have at least six months’ salary saved as emergency fund, de la Paz chose to use the money on an insurance policy and moneymaking machines. Instead of living within her means, she chose to expand her means. In the end, it’s about figuring out what works for you.
* Avoiding talking about money will just leave us unprepared. The author talked about how Filipinos generally consider it rude to talk or ask about money. She shared her surprise in meeting people who didn’t know that, for credit cards, companies earn from interest. Like sex ed, money matters should not be taboo! I’ve heard many stories about women who didn’t know how they got pregnant (one of them thought you got pregnant by literally sleeping with a man). We can’t be expected to figure it all out and get it right every time.
3. Becoming wealthy is having more assets than liabilities
“Net worth is simply the value of one’s assets minus their liabilities.” (de la Paz, p. 24) (A car is a liability, yes.) We have to remember that savings alone don’t make us rich. Use your savings to earn more money—through business or real estate, for example.
“My definition of rich further evolved into having multiple passive income streams, and no longer how much money I currently had.” (de la Paz, p. 26)
4. “I wish someone had told me earlier that I could choose to work smart rather than work all my life.” (de la Paz, p. 27)
Plan your retirement NOW. Start working toward financial freedom by making your money work for you. De la paz says that, for retirement, we shouldn’t depend on pension or savings only but on passive income we can live on indefinitely. (Because, say, what if there’s an emergency that exhausts our savings?)
“Retirement means financial freedom, when your passive income becomes greater than your expenses, when your hard-earned money continues to work for you and provide enough for the rest of your life.” (de la Paz, pp. 26-27)
A retirement planning activity lifted from the book can be found here.
5. The top habit for achieving financial freedom is paying yourself first
Automatically invest 20% of all your income.
(I finally achieved some semblance of financial stability recently after struggling for 10 years. I didn’t invest 20% to get here. I didn’t have any assets or safety net, like family, allowance, inheritance or property. Tomorrow I’ll be posting what I learned and what worked for me.)
6. Being sick can eat up a huge chunk of your material wealth
Health is indeed wealth. Prioritize getting an insurance policy before investing anywhere else. The younger you get one, the cheaper it will be.
7. Use debt, don’t abuse it
Debt, for many, has a negative connotation. It is a source of worry and, often, shame. But debt can be good if it works for you. Use debt if you can put into something that generates income. De la Paz advises, “Ideally, you take out a loan whose monthly amortization is smaller than your targeted monthly earnings. This way, your moneymaking machine not only puts money in your pocket as extra or passive income, but also takes care of the amount you use to pay it off every month.” In the same light, credit cards are not bad if you use them responsibly. That increases your credit score, making you more trustworthy to the industry.
8. We have to learn to ask
We’ve always been taught that it’s better to give than to receive, but de la Paz believes, “the downplaying of the value of receiving has its own pitfalls, affecting self-worth.” (p. 39) She says we have to learn to ask, specifically when it comes to our salary. Being vague to potential employers or saying “whatever you decide” is “not a productive way of managing expectations. It gives the impression that there is no value for you or your work.” (p. 40)
9. Harness the power of your vision
Constantly remind yourself of the rewards that come with achieving your money goals to cultivate a craving to build and maintain good money habits. De la Paz, Que and many motivational writers/speakers/Youtubers I’ve encountered are big fans of having a vision board. I believe that being reminded all the time of my “why” has kept me going and gives direction when I feel lost, so I am on that vision board train. I think it would be fun especially since we have Pinterest now and don’t have to cut up all the magazines at home.
Here you can find the vision board I made for my ideal life. Make one too!
9. “If you want your life to be different, you have to be willing to do something different first. — Kevin Bracy”
De la paz’s tips for getting started:
* If you want to be rich, don’t bask in poverty. Being broke is not a cause for celebration or something to build camaraderie around.
* Pay for what’s worth paying for. Value other people’s skills and talents.
* Act “as if” you were already wealthy. Imitate the mindset of the wealthy and learn.
* Build your support group. Find like-minded people with whom you can share your visions and who will keep you motivated and accountable. This could be friends, family, your partner, etc.
* Form the habit of visualizing your goals and dreams, affirming yourself, practicing gratefulness, giving, and investing in knowledge.
* Believe you can change.
“You have the ability to renegotiate your reality all along. It just takes practice. — Tim Ferris.” (p. 55)
As mentioned, both de la Paz and Que covered similar ideas about money but present them differently. I liked that de la Paz gave clear steps and activities to follow. On the other hand, Que’s beliefs and advice were weaved with stories about real struggle and deeper insights into how our self-limiting thoughts are formed—and that made me more willing to listen and change. Many studies have proven that we’re more accepting of ideas/advice from someone who we feel understands us/is similar to us versus someone who is from a different background and/or has more privilege.
Life lessons from Sharon Que
(These are generally variations of ideas already presented above, but I wanted to include these points anyway because Que developed her ideas a bit differently.)
1. Our beliefs are rooted in what we constantly hear, see and experience
Even if they’re not true or beneficial, we still hold onto certain beliefs because they are what we grew up with or are constantly exposed to. We have to reevaluate our thoughts, especially those that hinder our success and growth. Here Que quotes Jim Rohn, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” (p. 14) (This idea inspired yesterday’s Self-Care Saturday, in case you missed it!) Knowing this, our job is to observe how our brain has been coded, remove the bad code and reboot as necessary. Que encourages introspection and self-awareness to aid financial growth. I believe the same is the main key to personal growth, too.
2. “Money is just an instrument, no more, no less. It is how it is utilized that determines its value.” (Que, p. 15)
In line with studying our biases, it’s important to remember that money is not the root of evil nor is it inherently good. Like, say, the internet or having a blackbelt in karate, what you have access to becomes good or bad depending on how you use it.
3. We accept the money we think we deserve
Both de la Paz and Que seem to firmly believe that correcting negative beliefs, deeming yourself worthy of an abundant life and then planning for it are crucial steps to actually achieving it. Both have suggested trying on luxury items or having coffee at a hotel lobby to psyche ourselves into not only wanting that kind of lifestyle but also believing that we are worthy of it. While I believe in the importance of growth and thinking ourselves worthy, I think they, as writers of a self-help (it’s about money, but it’s still self-help) book, should have been more responsible about making it clear that worthiness is NOT based on material things and lavish experiences. I’ll discuss this further in the next section.
I quote, “Try going to a jewelry store and putting on some fancy earrings or a classic bracelet. Go to a dealership and test-drive your dream car. Lounge at the lobby of a five-star hotel and have coffee. Allow yourself to feel you are worth their value and more. Give yourself the affirmations that you deserve these fine things in life and that you are equipped to receive them.” (Que, p. 24) — Haha are you kidding me?
4. Positive affirmation is powerful
Tell yourself statements repeatedly and consistently to recondition and empower your mind. Your “subconscious believes what you keep reiterating” (Que, p. 27) and being positive with yourself has a way of making you feel confident and capable.
Some points that should have been mentioned from the get-go but, in my opinion, were discussed too late:
5. It is up to you to determine what abundance means
It is different for everybody. “Wealth is possessing what we find valuable.” (Que, p. 36)
6. Always practice gratefulness
“Acknowledge your real wealth: not the money but your quality of life. You could have all the money in the world, but no family and friends to share it with. You could be so successful in your career, but if you always lack sleep and suffer from ailments, there is no real wealth. Real wealth lies in your values, your skills, and your talents, and they can never be taken away from you.
Gratitude is the key value to having abundance. The more you feel good, the more good things will come to you. If you focus on everything you have instead of what you don’t, and you expend your energies on feeling content, those things will find their way back to you. Try it: acknowledge 5 things you’re grateful for everyday and see how you feel in a week.” (Que, p. 35)
7. “How firm our roots are depend highly on where we were planted. While we did not have control over where we were planted, we can cultivate the land by sifting out the rocks and weeding out the thorns.” (Que, p. 27)
Que’s tips for sifting and weeding:
- Forgive so you will not be held prisoner by a past you cannot change. (I don’t agree with this. I think it’s a case to case basis; some people just don’t deserve forgiveness. The pressure to forgive even when they can’t just gives the one who was hurt or violated undeserved guilt and more shitty feelings in the process.)
- Heal from anger brought by poor choices. Acknowledge your feelings, list them down and transform your energies into plans. Heal and move forward.
- Cleanse. Start everyday as a clean slate. Try meditation.
- Set S.M.A.R.T. goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound).
- Form good habits. Good habits produce good changes. Que recommends starting your money journey small, such as budgeting your daily expenses.
“The abundance channel is best accessed with a clear mind and a clear objective. Awareness of what holds you back and having a goal go hand in hand. It may reach a point when you are completely aware of your psychological roadblocks, but if you have nowhere to go for the rest of the journey, you will remain where you are.” (Que, p. 30)
8. Always give your best
Be patient. Seek the help of a mentor. Find your life’s focus. “Money Grows on trees” is a mindset, with money being one of its results.
My Thoughts on Money Grows on Trees
I admire these women for their achievements and advocacy of financial literacy, and agree with most of the points made in this book. However, my concern is the authors don’t acknowledge their privilege and, in writing from their position of privilege, they are excluding people who do not have the same. Did we just forget that well-off folks comprise the minority in this country? It’s not wrong to cater to the small audience who grew up pretty comfortably, but that should be something you say at the start of your book.
I was trying to be as receptive as possible to their ideas but there was this part almost 3/4 into the book that just made me shut down. In the section Money Bubble, Que tells us about a 17-year-old barista who was a working student, read as many financial books as he could, and seemed passionate and driven to succeed. He shared that he was anxious about having to support his family and sustain their household even if he hasn’t graduated yet. Que says, “The sad reality is that a number of low-income families in our country have this kind of perception, that they should be able to rely on their children to alleviate them from these situations. This is the kind of poverty mentality that this boy was hampered by.” (Que, p. 20)
In the same breath, she proceeded to talk about her trip to Europe with her godmother when she was 20. The trip made her aspire to visit Europe every 5 years but she later realized she could visit more often, two or three times a year, why not? “Not because Europe itself had lost its grandness and mystery, but because I had expanded my bubble and SAW MYSELF WORTHY OF IT.” (Que, p.21; emphasis mine) So are you saying the barista is not? That really made me rage. I mean, yes lady, that’s nice, but you didn’t even pick up on the barista’s story again or give people like him who are reading your book some realistic and helpful advice. Thinking himself worthy of lavish trips is not going to help with his situation and THAT is the sad reality for many of us.
Both she and de la Paz are guilty of developing their ideas in this way and it makes people like me (and probably the barista) feel excluded. Privileged-people solutions like that just excludes so many who work hard and want to be rich but just don’t have the same opportunities. It is discouraging and makes me feel ashamed because it’s like I’m not trying hard enough. (How about you try being a working student with parents who depend on you to sustain the household? Let’s see if frequent trips to Europe will still be your standard for being worthy. Pwe.)
I mentioned earlier that the authors did a poor job of communicating wealth and worth because almost all (if not all) their examples were related to material things and luxury. Again, they have the privilege of having this platform to communicate and build financial literacy among so many so they should have been mindful of not equating wealth with material things. (Que mentioned this later on but, like they said, the mind believes what you keep repeating and they kept repeating material indicators of wealth.)
Our possessions do not make us who we are. Our feeling of entitlement should not be about material things. We should feel entitled to peace of mind, security, safety, love, respect, health, opportunities and happiness. Feeling worthy of P100,000,000,000 does not necessarily mean you have a healthy money mindset.
Let me quote Que once more, “Here’s a way to help you find out how big or small your money bubble is. When you ask the Universe or God for material things like money, how much do you ask for? […] Some people would pray, ‘I need P10,000 next week, please help me produce P10,000 by next week!’ Then when it happens, and they’ve paid off whatever it was for, they grumble about how quickly that evaporated. Well, in the first place, why didn’t you ask for more 0s? You could’ve asked for 100,000.00, 100,000,000.00, even 100,000,000,000.00, but you didn’t. That’s because you are staying within your bubble.”
Look, I’m not saying it’s wrong to aspire for that amount or for luxuries. But it’s limiting to present such a superficial measure for what we think we’re worth. Sure they’re talking about money, but throughout the book they’ve emphasized that being wealthy has everything to do with having the mindset for it. If this is what they’re saying then they should have been responsible enough to say that the standard for worthiness is not just about more 0s. They also should have said we are worth what we are willing to work hard for, because no amount of entitlement and pretending to be already-wealthy will bring you money without hard work.
I, for one, think that I am worthy of having a life where I am safe, loved and no longer scared of going hungry and not having a home of my own. These manifest as having a modest home, a garden big enough for all my dogs, healthy and loving relationships, work I truly enjoy and am inspired by and maybe some extra cash for travelling once in a while. That is my idea of wealth and from those goals I make realistic plans. I won’t make 100,000,000,000, who the f are you kidding, and that doesn’t mean I do not deem myself worthy.
Anyway, I end my rant here. Tomorrow I’ll be posting, “What Being Poor Taught Me About Money.”
Thumbnail photo from Lifestyle Upgrade 101’s Facebook page