Step one in Your Money or Your Life is to figure out how much money you’ve ever made, including income and gifts. This gives you a picture of how powerful you are in bringing money into your life, which eliminates vagueness and self-delusion.
Here are some tips to help you figure out your life’s earnings:
If you’ve ever worked a job before, you have a file with Social Security and you probably get statements from them. If you don’t have your most recent Statement of Earnings form, you can request the information online. The SSA website changed recently but it looks like you can do that here, or call them 1-800-772-1213.
That should give you employment earnings. Here are other forms of income to consider (listed roughly chronologically). Some involve the WAG valuation method, which stands for Wild-Ass Guess. However you figure this out, be thorough and non-judgmental of yourself.
- Under the table jobs or tips, that won’t show up on your Social Security statement. A popular one is…
- Babysitting. Estimate your average pay per gig, number of gigs per month, and number of months you were a babysitter.
- Allowance. Try to remember how much you received per week for the different phases of your life. (Or call your mother, I’m sure she’d love to hear from you).
- College stipend. Were you lucky enough to get one of these?
- Bar Mitzvah, or other life milestones where gifts are given?
- Birthday Gifts. How much have you gotten every year, on average?
- High school and college graduation gifts?
- Other monetary gifts from family members. My folks liked to buy savings bonds in my name, every so often.
- Wedding gifts, if you’re married.
- Gifts you got at the birth of a child. (this is starting to sound like The Game of Life)
- Lottery or gambling winnings
One side effect of completing this exercise is that I realized how generous the people in my life have been to me, and how lucky I’ve been to have had a financial safety net until I was old enough to make it on my own.
Once I added it all up, I found that I’d almost be a millionaire if I’d somehow been able to keep all the income I’ve ever received. Of course that’s not possible, but it’s still amazing to see how much money has come into my life. Next we’ll see what I have to show for it…