Are Your Finances a Bitter Sweet Symphony?

2017 marks the 20 year anniversary of the release of the song “Bitter Sweet Symphony” by the Verve. A smash hit in the U.K., the song caught on in the United States in early 1998 and flew up the charts here as well. I was driving the other day when the song came on the radio. Although being very familiar with the song and the lyrics, as well as the memorable video (link), it really struck a chord with me as I listened. The opening lyrics are “Cause it’s a bitter sweet symphony this life. Trying to make ends meet, you’re a slave to money then you die.”

Bitter and Sweet Moments

The lyrics by writer Richard Ashcroft may seem depressing and gloomy, but they do capture a truth about the human experience. Life is bitter and sweet for all of us at times. We rejoice in new births and mourn the loved ones we have lost. Many of us suffer several setbacks and disappointments in working toward an important goal, then joyfully celebrate the end accomplishment. Perhaps you finally land your dream job, only to be a victim of a lay off a year later. Ups and downs are part of life all of us must accept.

Getting back to the focus on money, the song unfortunately paints a tough reality for many people. Many people do end up battling to make ends meet for a greater part of their life. Instead of being the master over their money, they are slaves to debt and the stress and worry that come along with financial difficulties. Despite the overall quality of life, the majority of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Most have little money saved for the future and struggle to even imagine a comfortable retirement.

Money – Master or Servant?

It is very true that life throws setbacks and unexpected expenses our way at times. However, do not ever think that you have to be a slave to money for the rest of your life. With hard work, discipline, and commitment you can become the master and make money the slave.  You can build the life you want to live and remain within the parameters you establish. While you may never become excessively wealthy, but you can live a happy productive life. You do not have to be remain in the cycle of commercialism with bigger houses, luxury cars, and immediate gratification that can destroy budgets and relationships.

I am certainly not being critical of having nice things and enjoying the finer things in life. If you can afford those things, you deserve to have them! There are times that many of us splurge on something special that makes us happy. However, too many people get blinded by the allure of consumerism and buy things they cannot afford at the time. They get caught with a mortgage they cannot afford in a house that is too big for their needs.  The luxury car they drive takes up a huge chunk of their monthly budget and costs a fortune to operate and maintain. The list goes on and on.

Use Money As a Tool

Money is a tool. It serves a very important purpose in our lives. Think of money like a hammer to a carpenter. It is a tool essential for him to work in his profession. With it he can build marvelous homes, construct beautiful items like handmade furniture, and reinforce the strength of floors and walls. Unfortunately, his hammer can also be used to destroy something very quickly. A wall that took him hours to design and build can be taken down in a matter of minutes. Money operates the same way. It serves so many necessary and useful purposes in our lives. At the same time, misuse can cause a lot of damage and obliterate our finances very quickly if we are not careful.

You Can Master Your Money

Even if you are in a struggle right now with your finances, remember that you can turn things around. There are so many inspiring stories of individuals who have broken the cycle of debt and regained control over their money. Those of us in the personal finance community have a strong desire to share knowledge and examples to support you on your journey. It may require sacrifice and delaying some purchases until your circumstances change. Patience will be important since it may take longer than you hope. Stay committed to implementing positive changes and give yourself credit along the way. The hard work you put in will be worth it!

Life may indeed be a bitter sweet symphony, but you do not have to be a slave to money. Instead, I will refer to another classic hit from my youth. As Sting wrote in the Police song “Wrapped Around Your Finger”, “I will turn your face to alabaster, when you find your servant is your master.” (Yes, I will admit I had to look up alabaster again – here) You can turn the tables and work money to your advantage!  Continue to find effective ways to take control of your money and gain mastery over your finances. Remember, life is much more like a marathon than a sprint.  You may have many ups and downs along the road to financial independence, but the bitter moments can be few as you enjoy the sweet smell of success.

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