My Action Plan for Joanne

Joanne on bench

Within minutes of talking to Joanne, my advisee for the Money Fix, I knew that if she wanted to be a high earner, she needed to start thinking and talking like one. Otherwise, no matter how many resumes she sent or interviews she scheduled, she’d inevitably sabotage her success.

My first assignments for her: 

Stop telling her old story about why she can’t earn more. I wanted her to observe how often she put herself down or insisted “it’s so hard.” Self-deprecation was her way of self-sabotaging.


Repeat the affirmation, “I can do this.” When Joanne inadvertently said that, I told her to make it her mantra, “even if you don’t believe it,” I said. I suggested she substitute that phrase every time she found herself whining or making excuses.


Read Overcoming Underearning and do the exercises (which include exploring old beliefs, dealing with resistance and discovering your “earning ceiling”). I wanted her to dig down to the roots of her low self-esteem and discover the payoff for earning less than she needed. Then I asked her to journal about her insights.


Welcome feelings of fear. To a high earner, fear is a sign that that they’re going in the right direction. Success in anything always lies just outside our comfort zone. I encouraged her to see fear as a positive sign that she’s changing.


Track expenses. I had Joanne write down every penny she spent to get out of vagueness, one of the major traits of an underearner. Also, even though she has no credit-card debt (which is impressive), she has been borrowing from her HELOC. So she needed to cut expenses to live within her limited means.

During our second phone call, I felt I was talking to a different person. I heard Joanne’s powerful, confident self emerge. On a 1–5 scale of “feeling worthy,” she gave herself a 4. She reported realizations that came from doing the homework: 


Much of her spending was on junk food that she didn’t need.


Underearning served as a distraction from taking scary risks, like “being 100% financially responsible for myself.”


She told me: “I need to start making choices based on fact, not stories I’ve made up about myself.” She’d been stuck in a pattern of low self-esteem since childhood.

Plus, she got bonus points for: 


Setting up a monthly automatic $50 deposit to savings (her idea). I suggested that once her husband’s out of work, she should lower the amount to $10 so she doesn’t have to raid her emergency fund.

Reviewing her IRA, 401(k), and annuity. She had those all in place. I was impressed by how well she’d been managing her money.

Her next assignments: Exercises to get clarity on her career choice and where to cut spending.

    • Personal profile chart. I asked her to identify a series of past achievements—things she did really well, felt good about, and thoroughly enjoyed doing. (A pattern of her natural skills, interests, motivation, and talents will emerge.)


    • Current job chart. List what she likes and doesn’t like about her retail job.


    • Continue tracking and categorizing her expenses. Then she can identify where to shave spending without going into deprivation.

Aim high. How have you overcome under-earning?


  Barbara and Joanne