What to do when you feel financially hopeless.
In this episode you’ll learn:
- When to hire a financial advisor.
- The true value of Social Security.
- Four ways to find hope when feeling financially hopeless.
- A new way to connect and get your questions answered on Money For the Rest of Us.
Finding Hope When Feeling Financially Hopeless
I have a friend in prison in Alabama. His sentence is life without parole. He has been there over 25 years.
He did not kill or physically harm anyone. He had two drug offences and participated in an armed robbery as the driver.
He admits he made mistakes and committed some serious offences. He has written apologies to the robbery victims.
Michael and I exchange letters every month or so. He has opened my eyes to what prison life is like—the ongoing violence, the boredom, the arbitrary and ever changing rules, the overcrowding and the discrimination against those with life without parole sentences, who are thought to have nothing to live for so their privileges are limited.
I’ve also learned how someone who supposedly has nothing to live for is indeed able to live a meaningful life.
I occasionally get emails from listeners of my podcast who write about being financial trapped.
They feel imprisoned by past mistakes and the future seems hopeless.
I am no longer a registered investment advisor so I can’t give them specific advice as to what to do. Each situation is both unique and complex.
Still, there are things I’ve learned from my friend Michael about dealing with apparently hopeless situations that might help those who feel trapped.
He has given me permission to quote him. Here are four ways Michael deals with prison life:
I’ve known Michael long enough to become familiar with the patterns and seasons of his life.
For months leading up to the 4th of July, Michael looks forward to and prepares for the prison’s annual Scrabble tournament. He also anticipates that day because it is the only day all year when they are served ice cream.
Michael is also a huge college football fan, and he eagerly awaits the beginning of each season, studying Phil Steele’s College Football review, and weighing the prospects of his team, the Georgia Bulldogs.
There are other highlights each year that Michael eagerly anticipates.
Academic research, such as studies by Cornell psychologist Thomas Gilovich, indicate humans derive more happiness from anticipating experiences than they do waiting to receive a material possession.
When things seem hopeless and don’t appear to be going our way, having something small to look forward to can often help us press forward.
2. Find ways to serve.
Prison is an unpredictable place, especially during the heat of Alabama summers. There is an undercurrent of anger that often erupts into violence.
Michael says he makes a point to not argue with anyone, even when he knows he is right. It’s just not worth it, although he has to catch himself sometimes when the news is on and politics is being discussed.
Because life without-parole inmates are considered dangerous, they are not permitted to help out in the prison.
Instead, Michael serves by listening and counseling other inmates who are feeling discouraged, such as when a loved one dies or when a parole request is denied. Michael is religious so when he has the opportunity he shares his faith.
While Michael’s legal standing seems hopeless, he continually researches different legal arguments and new court rulings that might help his case. He follows the annual state legislature session as elected leaders attempt to address what is considered the most overcrowded prison system in the country with prisons routinely housing almost twice as many prisoners as they were built to hold.
Taking smalls action in the face of what seems like insurmountable odds helps Michael maintain hope.
4. Never give up
After the Alabama legislature recently allocated $60 million to add 2,000 beds to existing prisons instead of revisiting sentencing standards, particularly for those who have served decades in prison for drug offences, Michael wrote,
“After I learned of this I did a lot of meditating about it. Naturally I asked myself where do I go from here? At the moment I can’t give a definite answer to that question, but I do know to live without dreams is to live without hope, to live without hope is to live without purpose and my purpose motivates me daily not to give up and to just get up off the ground and knock the dust off and climb back on the horse and ride again.”
“Some think I’m crazy for my way of thinking and that I’m not living in reality. I think they are off their rockers for not thinking like me. One thing is certain, there is no fight to fight if you quit.”