Book review: Overcoming Underearning

This is a guest post from Jeremy M, who writes about experiencing a full life at Lucid Living. When I asked GRS readers recently which books they'd like to see revieweed here, Overcoming Underearning was near the top of the list. Jeremy volunteered to review it, so I sent him a copy!

Barbara Stanny's Overcoming Underearning is not what I expected it to be. When I read the title, I expected a book about how to stretch your dollars and how get more from what you do earn. In retrospect, that's already been done well in More Wealth Without Risk by Charles Givens. This book is about asking for more, creating more, and working your way through the psychological pitfalls that lead to being satisfied with less in the first place.

Secrets of Six-Figure Women

As a reporter, Barbara Stanny interviewed 150 high-income women and wrote a book about them, Secrets of Six-Figure Women. In the process, she learned that the big difference between highly successful women and less successful women was how they valued themselves and what they were willing to do to get what they wanted. They didn't think of limits, and they surrounded themselves with people who also were successful.

Stanny started running workshops to teach people this message. She emphasized that success takes some Outer Work (the nuts and bolts of how to succeed, ask for more money, etc) and a lot of Inner Work (re-writing your thoughts on money and your value, conversations with your inner selves, etc). This is her core philosophy — that your inner reality, your thoughts and beliefs, create your outer reality. Or, as she quotes from A Course in Miracles, “A decision is a conclusion based on everything you believe about yourself.”

As a side benefit, Stanny says that many of her workshop attendees reported weight loss, more leisure time, improved health, and enhanced relationships. This comes naturally as you learn to value yourself more and expect more out of life. Like this example, the whole book has a somewhat New Age feel to it — I'll let you decide if that's a plus or a minus.

Stanny has done some work to apply this to men over time, but the tone of the book is mostly directed at women. I don't pay much attention to this kind of duality, but women looking for a woman's perspective will appreciate this — and some men might be put off by it. Mostly the feminine side comes through in the pronoun “she”, and that almost all the examples are of women.

Overcoming Underearning is also an activity book. There are worksheets to fill in, journaling assignments to do, “Conversations with myself” at the end of each chapter, and regular quizzes and checklists. It made the book more interactive and personal, but some readers won't like the distractions. I did find that it stopped me occasionally, or interrupted my reading as I felt I should fill in a quiz before I went on.

A Five-Step Process

At the core of Stanny's plan is a five-step process of Inner and Outer Work. She devotes a chapter to each step, and restates them as follows:

  1. Tell the truth about what's not working for you, and what is.
  2. Make a firm decision about what you truly want. (What is your Why?)
  3. Look for opportunities to stretch by doing what think you can't do.
  4. Surround yourself with a supportive community.
  5. Respect and appreciate money by taking good care of it.

The first three steps are your Inner Work. As a building starts with an idea, grows into a blueprint, and finally becomes a real, concrete thing — so your reality starts as an idea, grows into a belief, and then starts to reflect back from the world around you.

Step four is about building a supportive environment. You don't have to leave your negative friends; in fact, Stanny has a way to use their feedback as well. Finally, we apply the previous steps in how we treat ourselves and how we treat money.

Exercise: As an example of the last step, Stanny offers an exercise in the book. We say that “time is money”. Write down at least ten more things that money is. My favorite is, “Money is a metaphor of how we value ourselves.”

Overcoming Underearning is a good book, in line with Get Rich Slowly ideals. It focuses on the idea that wealth is thoughts, not things. It offers many practical examples of how to build your supportive community, and how to negotiate for more money.

However, the book contains few actionable steps that will help you make more money or invest well. If you need a “how-to” book, keep looking. If you need to get started, or are started, but have hit a wall and you don't know why, this might be the book for you.

Barbara Stanny bills herself as “the leading authority on women and money”. You can read more at her website, which offers a quiz entitled “Are you an underearner?

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Venki from ReadandRise.org
Venki from ReadandRise.org
11 years ago

Nice review Jeremy. I think this book is worth buying.

We should realize our value and believe that we can do. Actually, I have written a post recently on achieving dreams. And one of the main point I focused was to believe in oneself (something similar to this) . I have received a tremendous response from the readers.

Beth
Beth
11 years ago

Thanks. I’ll have to check this one out… I know I’m undervalued in the workplace, but not sure what to do about it in this economy.

Maria Killam
Maria Killam
11 years ago

“A decision is a conclusion based on everything you believe about yourself.”

I love that quote! It is so true. Thanks for the great writing!

Lady J
Lady J
11 years ago

I don’t really want/feel the need/desire to make a six-figure salary or become a high-powered executive. I currently work for a non-profit and imagine that throughout my career, I will stay in this field. Having said that, however, I do struggle with some aspects of my job that seem to devalue me and/or my work. I think this book would be helpful for me and I will put it on my list of books to read!

Lisa
Lisa
11 years ago

I bought a used copy of this book from half.com. Enjoyed this review. I’ll have to reread the book again soon.

rrpf
rrpf
11 years ago

nice review. I’m going to check the book out. One minor quibble though. I seem to recall reading More Wealth Without Risk and found it to be heavily dated with tax strategies that no longer work and was mostly a shill for Givens’ informercial empire (now defunct? since Givens passed on quite some years ago). Am I remembering this incorrectly?

TopazTook
TopazTook
11 years ago

Great timing! I just finished reading this book yesterday and was wondering why I hadn’t seen it reviewed on any of the personal finance blogs.

Personally, I found it very inspirational and am considering whether to purchase a copy (for $4, from the http://www.bookins.com book trading service, of course) to replace the library edition so that I could actually write in the exercises — I tend to skip those on the first reading of something.

Anne Ferguson
Anne Ferguson
11 years ago

Also read Mikelann Valterra’s book: Why Women Earn Less. http://www.womenearning.com

Chickybeth
Chickybeth
11 years ago

The quiz listed at the end was probably the most worthless thing I have ever spent 5 minutes on. The results do not even make sense. I’m wondering if the book is as bad…

Jeremy
Jeremy
11 years ago

@rrpf No, that’s the book. I’m a little outdated on taxes myself, having lived overseas for most of the last 15 years. but I’ve just gone through some of the trainings insurance salespeople go through, and have seen that a lot of More Wealth Without Risk is true. One of his steps – increasing your withholdings for each $600 a year in returns is also found in Dave Ramsey’s writings. I found a lot of useful tidbits in it. @Chickybeth As a quiz, I’d agree with you. To me, it’s really a sales letter, and a list of common reasons… Read more »

Jen M.
Jen M.
11 years ago

Wow! Thank you for this review! (Jeremy, I’m now following your blog.) As always, GRS delivers! This book sounds very much in line with the work I’ve been doing on myself (and within myself) for the last 2 years. I just started a business, and I’m starting to see it grow (sort-of.) This book sounds like it will help me to evaluate and re-evaluate my goals as a business owner and probably to grow my business in a good way. I completely get the tone and the idea of wealth as a psychological concept. I’m adding this to my Wish… Read more »

Annie
Annie
11 years ago

I agree with Lady J. 6 figure income is not in my future. I am an enviromental specialist in Florida, have been for 25 years. I enjoy the work but the compensation is what it is. I would just be happy with a cost of living raise. But I will check the book out, everyone has some insight to offer and I need the help. Thank you for the review!

Jeremy
Jeremy
11 years ago

To Lady J & Annie, Then maybe you’re looking in the wrong place. Also read Michael Masterson’s Automatic Wealth for ideas in starting a side business, investing, or other ways to make money. I work part-time writing articles for people through oDesk.com, for example. Maybe a 6-figure salary would take you away from what you love to do, but perhaps a high 5-figure side income would truly give you the freedom to invest your efforts in what you love, whether it pays or not. One of my dreams these last few years has been to help a friend set up… Read more »

barbara stanny
barbara stanny
11 years ago

Thanks for the great review, Jeremy. I so appreciate your excellent description of my book…and all the great comments it generated.

I invite everyone to my website: http://barbarastanny.com…there’s lots more info about underearning.

By the way, Annie and Lady J…underearning has nothing to do with the amount of money you make. You can make 6 figures and still be an UE. You can make far less and not be. Overcoming underearning is really about achieving financial freedom by doing what you love.

Again, Jeremy, deep thanks for doing an excellent job.

Barbara Stanny

AJ
AJ
10 years ago

This book is going to have a permanent place on my bookshelf.

janet444
janet444
3 years ago

I’m only in the middle of chapter 2, but she states early on that an underearner is NOT someone who chooses a satisfying career that doesn’t pay six figures. As long as you’re doing work you enjoy and are satisfied, you’re not an underearner. But she does say that people who are not underearners can benefit from the book. Even after less than two chapters, I’m finding the book very helpful.

Pg
Pg
1 year ago

I loved this book- it was huge for me. I had read several other personal finance books, but this one dug deep into the psychology of why I had very specific issues with money. Not money problems, but issues with money there’s a huge difference. I think all women should read this book and anyone who works in nonprofits or education.

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