Personal Finance column: Avoid the dark side of entitlement
The privation of, or a plethora of, financial means are the outliers on the bell curve of financial entitlement, but there is a long, slippery slope to either end. We need firm footing lest we fall over to the dark side.
With monetary dearth, an entitlement attitude can rob people of their self-esteem. It can keep people from embracing life’s challenging seasons defaulting to passivity and laziness. It can rob people of the drive to persevere or embrace a teachable moment. It squashes ingenuity and responsibility. It creates victims instead of victors. It confuses net worth with self-worth and has demoralizing consequences.
At the other extreme, copious wealth can create an entitled, demanding nature in interactions with others snuffing out the light that people share. A profusion of wealth can create the illusion that the rules don’t or shouldn’t apply, or rules that are intended for everyone’s comfort can be disregarded because of financial stature. Expectations of others are unreasonably high, and there is no room for failure. It too, confuses net worth with self-worth with self-aggrandizing focus, but creates equally sorrowful and painful outcomes.
Young or old, rich or poor, we can easily be swayed toward the mindset where privileges are mistaken as rights and are then presumed to be the status quo. When we expect something for nothing, or that someone owes us something because of our financial standing, we have stepped towards the dark side. It is a one-sided attitude that is based on taking. It is out of balance with life’s order of giving and receiving.
The entitlement mindset starts as a small bud, but if untended, will grow like cheatgrass, consuming the beauty of relationships, and wreaking havoc on lives. It is a tenacious barrier to a healthy financial future, no matter where you lie on the spectrum of financial wherewithal.
We cannot let an entitlement mentality to engulf us. We see it embodied in the Madoffs and Shkrelis of the world, and sadly it lies await in each of us. We must pick up arms and engage in a daily battle.
Hope abounds. There are strong forces at work to combat the dark side of entitlement.
The simplest, yet most profound defense is gratitude. It needs to be a daily practice. When we look at our abilities, possessions, resources, relationships and experiences as gifts that come from someone outside of ourselves it shifts our view dramatically. Deuteronomy 18 says “You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth.” It helps us imbue humility — a sure inoculation to entitlement.
Actively engage in a perspective practice. “Walk a mile in their shoes.” Take time to look at life from a different perspective. Maybe from the person who is most affected by your decisions. I see Scrooge visiting the home of Bob Cratchit with the Ghost of Christmas Present as a perfect example. Developing compassion and empathy are strong deterrents to entitlement.
Catch yourself in the moment. Practice mindfulness. We all feel entitled at times. If we can catch our thought process, it gives us pause and potential for change. Identify your beliefs and ideals that may be very deeply rooted in upbringing or circumstance. Question them. Are they creating life or stealing it from you? Notice what happens when you tame your tendencies and turn in another direction. Do relationships run smoother? Do people support you because you are supporting them?
“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” Yoda instructs Luke in The Empire Strikes Back Yes, I am shamelessly playing off the movies’ current momentum, but this battle is real and the implications are profound for our families, communities, country and world.
Commit yourself to combating entitlement’s dark side and “May the Force be with you.”
Danielle Howard is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER ™ practitioner. Wealth By Design, LLC, her financial life planning office is located in Basalt where they take a personal interest in your financial well-being. Visit her at http://www.wealthbydesign4u.com. Advisory Services offered through Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., A Registered Investment Advisor. Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., a Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC. Cambridge and WBD are not affiliated.
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