A wise man once said to me: "Honey, you have to stop stressing about having enough money. When is enough enough?"
That man was my husband.
I thought about his question as I began reading the next selection for the Color of Money Book Club. For January, I've selected "The Path to Happiness and Wealth: How to Enjoy Money and Life at the Same Time" by Steve Rhode (Myvesta, $19.95).
I chose "The Path to Happiness and Wealth" to start the new year because Rhode makes the case that many of us need an attitude adjustment if we are ever to become rich -- in spirit.
"Financial success is measured more by your state of mind and internal prosperity than money in the bank," Rhode writes. "Unless you can find peace with the money you have right now, more trailing zeros in the bank will not help."
Most of us have enough.
My husband asked me the question of when enough is enough one night when I couldn't get to sleep. Even though I work from home, I was complaining about my deadline-laced schedule, which includes writing a book. My husband suggested that I was trying to do too much. After all, he pointed out, we have three young children.
A bit annoyed, I snapped back that I was taking on so many assignments because we needed the money. I reminded him that the extra money earned today will help pay for our children's college education. More money, I said, is going to help us retire early.
"Look at you," my husband said. "You're cranky because you're tired. You're tired because you're working too hard. You aren't making enough time for the kids, or me. One of us could stop working right now and we would have enough money to meet our basic needs. We would be fine financially. The kids would get to college, even if they have to take out student loans."
My husband's question, and his arguments, startled me. I didn't have a pithy comeback. The realization that I might have lost touch with what is important in life made me cry. I had been trying to reach for so much that I wasn't appreciating what I had.
I hate it when my husband is right.
For me, having money means financial security. I'm not obsessed with having stuff but with saving enough money for life's emergencies.
For other people, the pursuit of material goods leads them straight into a debt trap.
"When your money takes control of your life, your wants become needs and your needs become wants," Rhode says in the book. "Spending money you can't afford to spend only compromises your future."
I like this book because it's not so much a nuts-and-bolts blueprint on how to pay off your debts but a conversation -- sometimes stern, other times warm -- about the need to understand how the mismanagement of money can be demoralizing. Rhode reveals in the book that in 1990 he and his wife filed for bankruptcy.
But, he says: "From that pain and financial devastation I was able to go on to help others. God gave me a doctorate in financial defeat. And as strange as it may sound today, I'm grateful for the blessing."
Even now, Rhode writes, "after a period of prolonged economic prosperity, our country is packed with people who lack confidence, feel lonely and unhappy, and are trying to have more and more 'stuff' because they think the stuff will make them confident, secure and loved."
"But at some point you have to achieve some peace and satisfaction with what you have," Rhode said in an interview.
Rhode and Mike Kidwell founded Debt Counselors of America in 1994. Six years later, they changed the nonprofit's name to Myvesta.
The name change was prompted by the realization that people kept asking for information to be sent in plain brown envelopes. "Debt Counselors of America" on an envelope spelled money troubles to the babysitter, neighbors and visitors.
Along with the name change came a philosophical change in how Rhode and Kidwell help people in financial trouble. Rather than concentrating mainly on debt repayment plans, Myvesta now offers a wide range of programs and services, including support groups, alternatives to bankruptcy and a comprehensive financial-management service in which people can pay to have a professional manage their day-to-day finances.
Ultimately, Rhode said, the path to happiness and wealth begins by striking a balance.
"If you could get some balance in your money life, then you'd stop squirreling money away out of fear and you'd stop spending more than you can afford because you are bored, unhappy or deceiving yourself," he writes.
And here's how you achieve financial balance, according to Rhode: "Take the money you make, meet your obligations, save some and have fun with the rest. If you simply focus on saving for tomorrow, then you won't be able to live the rich and fulfilling life you want to live today. If you spend everything today, you won't have anything for tomorrow."
That's just what my husband said.
For a chance to win a copy of "The Path to Happiness and Wealth," send me your name, address, and daytime and evening phone numbers on a postcard or blank index card. Please don't put your card in an envelope. No e-mailed entries will be accepted. Send the card in care of the Color of Money Book Club, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Include the name of the current book selection. Entries must be postmarked by Jan. 13.
While Michelle Singletary welcomes comments and column ideas, she cannot offer specific personal financial advice. Readers can write to her in care of The Washington Post (at the above address) or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.