It felt like a stab in the heart. The moment I realised when I was the lowest earner at the newspaper I worked for. Even though I had more experience than my colleagues. I was underearning.
I was angry, annoyed and pissed off. I felt that the reason for this was that I am a black female. There is a lot of evidence proving this is a very real experience for many black women.
I was resentful of the injustice of it all.
It really brought home the pain I experienced as a child around money, which meant I opted not to go on a school trip when I was 10 years old.
For a long time, I wasn’t responsible for the situation I found myself in and there was lots of data to validate my complaints. This was not a great solution as it kept me stuck in a rut.
What is underearning?
According to the author of Overcoming Underearning, Barbara Stanny says that an underearner earns less than her potential despite the need or desire to do otherwise. She adds: “Underearning is a condition of DEPRIVATION in which your emotional and/or physical needs are not being met.”
All underearners share a common trait: a high tolerance for low pay (which in this context is a relative term).
What underearning is not?
- The choice to voluntarily live on less to create a simpler life.
- Or a mindful low earner who enjoys their work because it fits with their core and heart-centred values.
The 10 traits of underearners:
- Underearners talk as if they are trapped
- Underearners give their power away
- Underearners underestimate their worth
- Underearners crave comfort
- Underearners are self-saboteurs
- Underearners are codependent
- Underearners live in financial chaos
- Underearners are vague about money and success
- Underearners are anti-wealth
- Underearners are controlled by fear.
Reading through the above list, compiled by Barbara Stanny in her book, I really learnt how I blamed everyone in my environment for my feelings when I heard the bad news at that time.
Eventually, after many months of moaning, I decided to be clear. I stopped complaining, I set a goal about the amount I wanted to earn – a figure that made me uncomfortable – and I really believed it could happen.
I then got headhunted for a new job. The salary and the performance-related pay meant that I got more than the figure I decided.
However, the story did not end there (read more about me here), I continued to work on my money scripts and creating compelling goals, once I left that job to work on my emotional wellbeing. I am now an administrator in the NHS transitioning away from working 9 to 5 to establish a life on my own terms.
How do you overcome underearning?
Have a wealth action plan
A strong financial foundation means many more options and flexibility.
- Save by paying yourself first when you get paid. You get extra brownie points if you make this payment automatic. If you are in debt save your way out of high interest (consumer) debt. This means paying off your debt minimums and then saving towards an initial emergency fund of £1000 (or $1000). This is to ensure that you do not go deeper into a financial rut if your car needs to be repaired or you have a medical emergency.
- Investing. Putting your money into assets (property, index funds, individual stocks) that grows in value over time. You should understand the financial instruments that you are investing in.
- Budget. To create an effective budget you need to track your spending to create an effective plan. Tracking your spending will highlight areas you could reduce or cut back spending. Then allocate each pound, or dollar, to each item. Also consider creating pots of money (these are also called sinking funds) for one-off larger expenses like car insurance, gifts and Christmas.
- Giving (or tithing). This is to show that you trust in the abundance of the universe. Unity Church minister, Edwene Gaines, says this money should go anywhere you get your spiritual food.
Write down limiting money beliefs
Your money mindset is the number one factor in deciding how much abundance and prosperity you get in your life. By writing down every limiting belief you have about money you can start the process of challenging the limiting belief and creating a new one.
Have an automatic transformative mantra
This is a tip I learnt from entrepreneur Marie Forleo. Whenever she parts with money she always declares: “There’s always more where that came from.” I personally thank and appreciate money when I spend it.
Boost your income
Creating and developing a side hustle or money-making project can boost your income. Some ideas have better ROI (return on investment) in terms of your time like starting a blog or YouTube channel. Others, like freelancing, can develop your skill set so that you can get a better paid 9 to 5 role. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Flip items of furniture for profit
- Sell unwanted items at car boot sales or Facebook Marketplace. Items that could be sold include: CDs, DVDs, clothes, furniture, textbooks
- Start a blog
- Start a YouTube channel
- If you are on the wrong tax code the taxman could owe you money
- Rent out a room in your home (if you are renting check with your landlord if this is allowed)
- Become a TV or film extra
Where am I with my underearning?
Even though I was able to overcome underearning, it is still something I am still working on. money a lot like peeling back an onion. Every new money message I heal, I discover a new one after. But now I have a formula for working through it (and so do you!)
I created Unique Money Mission to share my personal journey and the various techniques I am learning to establish a life on my own terms. To find out more about underearning, saving and investment tips please subscribe to my newsletter.
I have a new set of goals. These include:
- Transitioning away from working 9 to 5. This is a really scary decision for me as I have spent most of my career with a regular job and paycheque.
- Designing a more flexible lifestyle. Where I choose when, where, how I work and still get paid!
The problem of overcoming underearning does not resolve itself overnight. It is a process that takes time – if you need to develop money-making skills – and dedication to remove the blocks that are stopping you from moving forward.
However, taking care of your finances, having a compelling goal and taking lots of steps in the right direction are the keys to overcoming underearning.
Taking imperfect action means that you can overcome feelings of discomfort and overcome obstacles.