I continue to live in a world where monetary income is predicated by a combination of one’s rank and longevity. Some might say that contributions, expertise, and commitment to the team inform one’s rank and length of service over time and I don’t disagree, but that is a conversation for another day. There are other worlds where monetary income is completely dependent on outcomes generated. Given that my world is one where pay is a constant, I long ago started to focus on variable income but not from a monetary aspect. The last couple of weeks I have made an extra effort to make deposits in my psychic income account.

Psychic income is defined as the nonmonetary or nonmaterial satisfactions that accompany an occupation or economic activity. We all have different ways to add to our psychic income stockpiles. As I begin to more deliberately ponder life after uniformed service, the value of psychic income continues to increase. I have found that my psychic income rises, the more I can (in no specific order)…

  • Serve others
  • Be present with loved ones
  • Enjoy the company of inspiring people
  • Write
  • Speak publicly
  • Read
  • Learn/experience new things
  • Exercise
  • Meet new people
  • Enjoy temperate weather

As I look at that list, I receive monetary income for only a small portion of those actions mentioned, but I receive psychic income from each item on the list. As I contemplate military retirement, I recognize that I will receive monetary compensation for the rest of my life whether or not I do any these things. At the same time, I recognize that a life that doesn’t include these things isn’t much of one (at least in my book). As life goes on it’s increasingly important to recognize the criticality of controlling that which we actually can control. In my world, we can’t directly affect that which we are monetarily compensated for, but we completely control our psychic income.

My son recently returned from an 11-day training trip to Maui with his swim team. It was a trip that I did not support. Why does a 15-year-old need to go all the way to Maui to swim? If you are going to be in the pool training six hours a day, how much of Maui are you actually going to see? What else could we do as a family with the thousands of dollars spent on this trip? He returned a changed person. He is more confident, has stronger friendships with his teammates, is more committed to reaching his potential as a swimmer, and even has a special friend. Investing a portion of my monetary income returned far more in the way of his psychic income. Money spent with zero return in the minds of some. An investment made with an exponential return in my book (at least now).

We look at our bank statements and see a number. Some are good with having enough to provide for family, while some see it as a measure of personal worth. We rarely take stock of our psychic income accounts. Though I check my bank accounts regularly just to ensure checks don’t bounce, I am increasingly fixated on growing my psychic income. As my mom likes to say, “If it makes you smile, do it.” At the end of the day, life is less about the dollars than it is the smiles. I’ll never be rich in dollar signs, but that isn’t the goal.

  • What does your balance sheet look like (dollars/smiles)?
  • Are you too fixated on your monetary income?
  • What are you doing to grow your psychic income?