Dealing With Under Earning

by anne on July 11, 2006

Under earning can be defined very simply: not having enough to meet your expenses, over and over again. Under earners may go for years without paying taxes, learning how to fly under the radar. They have a true poverty consciousness, often feeling they aren’t worth much pay and taking temporary, poorly paid jobs, or what I call “throw away jobs.”

I know all this because I am, among other things, a recovering under earner.

There are two 12 Step Programs that help many under earners – Debtors Anonymous and Underearners Anonymous.

Debtors Anonymous

Some of the finest help for the under earner is through Debtors Anonymous. Although the name sounds like they only deal in debt, under earning is actually a significant part of the part of their approach as well. DA is a 12 Step Program and as such, uses a spiritual approach. But it’s wonderful to discover you’re not alone in the crazy way you handle money, and the spiritual program works, even if you don’t actually believe in God as such. And, of course, DA is free, supported by passing the hat.

In addition to meetings and the 12 Steps, DA also offers a set of tools that help members deal with money troubles. They help people learn to track both their income and their expenses with spending and earning plans. The Pressure Relief Groups and Meetings mean you work with two other more experienced members and begin to learn good decision making about money.

One of the things I love about DA is they work to help people move out of deprivation. For example, if fresh flowers are really important to you, you’re encouraged to  plan spending $x amount each month on the flowers that make you feel good.

The DA site lists face-to-face meetings and phone meetings.

Underearners Anonymous

There is also a new 12 Step Group called Underearners Anonymous (they make under earner one word -your choice). The focus here is under earning which they say leads to debting, and I think they’re right. Although like DA they advise against unsecured debt, they are more interested in helping people find and break up the thinking and habits that lead to underearning. In addition to the 12 Steps, they have both a set of tools and a set of symptoms. Where DA suggests tracking every cent in order to have real clarity about your money, UA encourages people to track their time, again with the goal of clarity.

One of the most effective tools is what’s called an action partner – another person, preferably in the Program, you meet with regularly and describe how close you came to meeting your goals of the last week, and planning goals for the coming week. These meetings help people be accountable and provide a sounding board.

UA is a new program; most of the face-to-face meetings are on the east coast, although more and more are popping up around the US and else where. They also have a good long list of phone meetings.

12 Step Programs are, I think, worth a try, and if earning and spending are an issue for you, these might help. Certainly can’t hurt to try.

Love, blessings and abundance,

Anne Wayman

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Ed March 30, 2009 at 11:32 am

It sounds as if you are awfully close to blaming the victim for under-earning. Debtors Anonymous tries to duplicate Alcoholics Anonymous or Gambler’s Anonymous, which aim to help people who cannot stop drinking or gambling. The cure for debtors is not a self-help group, but a shift in thinking regarding jobs. What is needed is a liveable wage mandate, which requires companies (no, not the two-person mom-and-pop) to pay employees enough to keep a roof over their head and food in their stomach. What is needed is health care reform, allowing people to go to a private doctor, rather than an emergency room. What is needed is the rebuilding of the social welfare safety net that has so assiduously been dismantled over the past few decades.

anne March 30, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Ed, I’d go for both a living wage mandate and a single-payer health insurance program.

In fact if it were up to me I’d roll back the whole Ronald Reagan mythos – he did too raise taxes! He was anti-working people and if government scared him it was because he had some notion of how he was misusing it.

That said, self-worth issues also can play into underearning… a 12 Step approach can work… and btw, there is now a 12 step group called, you guessed it,

(I’m an inveterate 12 stepper and even I want to sometimes develop a 12 step program for those of us who may be addicted to 12 step programs.)

Alex January 18, 2010 at 1:19 pm

I live in New Orleans where we have one DA meeting. I just talked to the organizer and learned they meet on the one night I have a student, i.e. income, so I can’t go. (If lack of funds is the problem, seems counterproductive to cancel that student). She told me a little about DA which does NOT sound like what I need. Keeping track of spending? Easily done since I have only one source of income and only two expenses. Income=$400, Expenses=$725.

I’ll check out underearnersanonymous…

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