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Want a Brighter Financial Future? See How This Woman Found Hers

Those who have a why to live can bear almost any how- Victor Frankl, Mans Search for Meaning

 It was in the middle of a conversation during our fourth coaching session a client, I’ll call Roberta, paused for a moment and said “I want peace of mind”.  Roberta, I’d learned, was a remarkable woman.   She and her husband had just come through a decade of personal and financial fluctuations.   Along this journey she successfully fought cancer and survived the failure of a business start-up.   Through it all Roberta had never stopped being a supportive mother to her two children.  Roberta had become an inspiration to me.

Now in her mid-40s, Roberta had reached out to me because she knew her relationship with money had to change.  She understood that she and her husband Jeff had made mistakes in the past. She also knew these couldn’t be repeated if there was any hope of achieving a measure of financial independence in the second half of their lives.  

Roberta is a savvy, educated, energetic and growth-minded woman.  She is also, and this is key when it comes to taking control of money, reflective.   Coaches love to work with people like Roberta because she’s coachable.  By that I mean she welcomes and responds to a life coaching approach.  She doesn’t want or expect to be told what to do.  Instead she wants to be challenged. She wants assistance finding her blind spots so she can map a pathway to a brighter future.  That’s exactly what she and I do, over the telephone, for one hour every Wednesday at 10am.

 

A coach has to be responsive to the nature of his/her client.   In Roberta’s case, it was evident
that she needed to retrace the events of the last decade; partly to aid my understanding but more so her own. This was her reflective nature in operation.  At this stage of coaching one of my rolls was to ask the questions that would lead her to greater awareness.   

I recall an exploratory phone call prior to working together when I asked Roberta what she hoped to accomplish.  She mentioned she needed to pay down debt and build savings but said she didn’t know how to do those things.  Goals like these are what I call Outer Why.  Not that these aren’t worthy objectives, but I know that something bigger and more powerful lies beneath, something I call the Deeper Why. Getting to this often requires a bit more patience, more questions, more reflection.   It’s not a thing we will to the surface, it’s something that arises.

It was in the middle of our fourth session when it arose for Roberta.  Seemingly out of nowhere came her Deeper Why – I want peace of mind.  She’d had insights in earlier conversations but this was breakthrough and we both knew it.  Since making this declaration, a lightness is evident in our conversations which wasn’t there before.  Clarity has replaced murkiness.  

Our Deeper Why has an elegance to it.  It’s something that can’t be further divided.  It’s our heart talking.  It’s what we really want.  What Roberta really wanted was less drama and more meaning in her life. That started with a healthier money relationship.  Using peace of mind as her lens, she rapidly gained perspective about things she previously agonized over.   She once thought those things would lead to peace of mind. Now she saw they actually blocked it. 

Simplifying the complications we construct in our lives takes time and Roberta still has work left ahead.  Still, in places where she previously resisted changing, change is now occurring.  It’s natural for people who want to take control of money to wrestle with thoughts of how.  How is an important step, but it’s not the first step.  Like Roberta, I invite anyone who wants a brighter financial future to plumb your depths for the Deepest Why you can uncover.  Once you’ve gained that, the “hows” will appear all around you!

The One Financial Question Everyone Must Answer

The single most important question all of us must answer in our money lives is “How can I build and maintain financial reserve?”  This one ability is the dividing line between money mastery or misery, here’s why.

Those with financial reserve are able to experience a freedom and lightness about their finances that so many search for. Those that don’t remain in the grip of money scarcity and anxiety, always looking over their shoulders for the next financial sideswipe.   Although it’s not obvious on the surface, answering the question of how to build financial reserve by its nature requires that we master our greatest money roadblocks, including:

  1. Managing cash
  2. Paying off consumer debt
  3. Learning to save
  4. Determining what our lives really costs

Managing cash

Managing cash is about having a system in place so that money decisions are mindful and informed.  The benefits of using a system include (i) paying off debt, (ii) saving money, (iii) keeping us connected to what our lives cost, (iv) reducing stress and (iv) better alignment/fewer arguments with partners.

Paying off consumer debt

Debt boot camps, real time credit scores and all the related industries that have developed around debt repayment give the impression that being debt free is the pinnacle of financial wellness.  Wrong! Paying off debt is not our financial endgame.  It is, however, a necessary step along the path to building financial reserve (and by extension net worth).  

Learning to save

The ability to accumulate money is the drive engine of building financial reserve and financial independence.  It’s also a lost skill.  Whether it’s retirement savings (what I call your “Freedom Fund”), an emergency reserve or paying for your summer vacation, the method is the same.  People I’ve encountered with long term money problems were only able to turn the corner in their money lives when they developed a savings ethic.   The most financially content people I’ve met, not surprisingly, are serial savers!

Determining what your life really costs

As any business owner will tell you, You can’t manage what you don’t measure.  Still, many of us are blind to what our lives really cost (about 80% of us in my experience).  This leads to our being blindsided by what we perceive as “unexpected” events.  In most cases, the things we consider unexpected, are more accurately termed – unplanned for.

Taking control of money doesn’t require good math skills (there are calculators for that).  What it does require is looking at things in new ways, trying new behaviours and (surprisingly) creativity!  This work is the sweet spot of coaching which explains why working with a money coach can accelerate breakthrough. 

The 7 Insight System (you can learn more about this here) I developed over the last decade was derived through my interaction with countless households which struggle with the things mentioned above.  It breaks managing money down into bite-sized pieces so users are able to build momentum and quickly make financial progress.   Not surprisingly, the heart of the system is built around answering the question – How do I build and maintain financial reserve? 

Money, Meaning and the Story of Life’s Two Halves

What is a normal goal to a young person becomes a neurotic hindrance in old age. – Carl Jung

This post draws from the book – Falling Upwards – A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr. I came across the book by chance. To be clear, this book has nothing to do with money. At least that’s what I initially thought. As I got deeper into it, what captured my attention was how the idea of life being divided into “two halves” actually had direct parallels in our money lives. More about that in a moment.

Condensing the book’s main message is a bit tricky, but I’ll do my best. Life is divided into two halves (not related directly to age). Each half has specific traits and tasks. Here’s a summary for each:

First-Half
Traits: Kids, careers, competence, consuming. This is the outbound stage of life
Task: Building a strong “container”. By container the author means identity. We build an identity in the first-half to support our deeper journey in the second-half. To quote the book When you get your “Who am I?” question right, all the “What should I do?” questions tend to take care of themselves.

The author’s point is that building the “container” is not life’s end game. We invest so much in doing this work that we may not think anything important could exist beyond it. As stated in the book the two halves are cumulative and sequential.  If the first-half is about the tangible, the second-half moves beyond the tangible to embrace life’s mystery. Here’s more about the second-half:

Second-Half
Traits: Simplicity, completeness, meaning, being. This is the coming home stage of life
Task: “Filling” the container we built in the first-half. By filling the container, the author is referring to our quest for deeper meaning.

A central idea of the book is that for many of us, the way up starts by going down (hence the title of the book). Going down simply means letting go of first-half pursuits. One of the author’s key messages is this – we can’t move into life’s second-half until we complete our first-half work. This is where we struggle. Part of the problem as he points out is we live in a first-half of life culture.

On this point there’s a direct personal finance parallel. My realization in reading this book was that the first-half/second-half arc of life has a corresponding one in our financial lives. I’ll lay out what I see as the financial traits/task of the two halves:

First-Half
Traits: Cars, houses, income, accumulation
Task: Building our financial “container” i.e. our financial foundation

Second-Half
Traits: Living on the financial foundation we created in the first-half
Task: Pursuing deeper meaning, free of financial worries

A first-half/second-half perspective provides insight for our financial lives. A few examples come to mind:

Dealing with debt. For most, the lifetime supply of money is limited. People in the first-half may not feel this limitation but as we move towards the second-half, money starts to take on a more finite quality. Access to easy credit has helped to dull this realization. Escaping the debt trap is a first-half task yet we see the opposite happening. Statistics show that one of the fastest growing cohort of debtors is people over 55

The “Financial Fall”: Some who get stuck in first-half pursuits are only “freed” by a financial setback. For example, job loss, illness, insolvency or divorce. Surprisingly, this is often a good thing. Some of the most contented people I know are the ones who were forced to re-evaluate their lives due to financial limitation! Minus the non-essential, their lives are now filled by the things that matter most

The Active Path: The voluntary approach to preparing for the second-half is always the preferred one. Drawing from my experience as a Money Coach, some of the worst suffering I witness arises in two situations, both of which occur on the eve of the second-half:

Those who realize they have not completed their first-half work
Those who risk second-half wellbeing by refusing to let go of first-half pursuits

The second-half of life is the most fulfilling (sorry first-halfers). Ask everyone in the second-half who’s done their first-half work and he/she will agree. This assertion is captured in this Native American aphorism – No wise man ever wanted to be younger. For first-halfers, the message regarding money and meaning is clear – start building your containers now.
For those in the second-half, a question. Whether you call it arc, stages or seasons, things are about to change. Are there corresponding shifts you should make in your financial life?

Steve Demaray is the founder of the Personal Money Coach Money and an advocate for money clarity.  Steve guides growth-minded people through a money life shift that transforms stress and frustration into simplicity and freedom. He has successfully coached people from Vancouver, Canada to Sydney, Australia and countless places in between.

The secret to abundance in your Money Life.

I want to let you in on an important secret.  If you want to feel more financial abundance, try taking control of your money.  Wait, before you bounce, hear me out….

To explain, I’ll use the analogy of water in place of money.  Imagine how difficult managing water would be if we didn’t have something to put it in, for example a container.  It would constantly run through our fingers.  We couldn’t work with it or manage it.  It would simply leak and drain away.

Switching back to money, when money leaks and drains away, the tendency is to plug the gaps with debt.  Truth be told, at some level, we know that debt isn’t the real solution.  We think the real solution is to make more money!

This is a convenient rational but it’s flawed.  Switching back to water, if I were to pour water into your cupped hands, together we’d watch most of it slip away. Would pouring on more water solve the problem?

Yet, for money troubled folks, more money is often the first solution that comes to mind.  I’m totally in favour of increased income, but in practice, it’s a difficult thing to produce. There are a number of reasons for that:

  • It’s not entirely within our control
  • There’s often a lag between effort in and money received
  • The government will take their share in the form of income tax
  • For “side gigs” there can be initial investments needed for things like inventory, subscription fees, training costs, etc. In other words, we have to put our scarce dollars in before there’s any prospect of money out. Ugh
  • Related to the last point…there’s no guarantee we’ll earn a return on our investment

I’ve learned from my coaching clients, money is not the only scarcity in their lives. It’s very common for them to report being time challenged and energy drained as well.  Under those circumstances, is starting a new income-earning enterprise feasible? How about a second job or putting in more hours at the current one?

I’m not sensing abundance here.

Before going too far down the “earn more money road”, is it worth considering whether existing income could be managed more thoughtfully?  If nothing else it:

  • Is entirely within our control
  • Pays “dividends” immediately
  • Requires little or no investment
  • Is tax free! (Is there anything more satisfying than beating the tax collector?).
  • Is completely legal!

Here’ the paradox:  People resist taking control of money, because they believe it will involve shrinking their standard of living.  For those who push through their resistance, there’s a surprise in store – they find the opposite to be true.   Bringing attention to their money instead of leading to constraint leads to abundance!  It’s what I call – The Money Clarity Paradox.

It seems then that if we build a suitable container for our money (i.e. take control), some mysterious force fills it for us.   This shouldn’t be a mystery though. It’s no secret that what we bring our attention to expands.  Whether it’s school work, raising children or athletic performance, we’ve all experienced the benefits of focused attention.  Why should it be different when it comes to money?  By contrast, the places we deny attention (Note – by attention I don’t mean worry) shrink. This too applies to money.

 

Steve Demaray is the founder of the Personal Money Coach Money and an advocate for money clarity.  Steve guides growth-minded people through a money life shift that transforms stress and frustration into simplicity and freedom. He has successfully coached people from Vancouver, Canada to Sydney, Australia and countless places in between.

Money Does Buy Happiness* Conditions apply….

I’ve been wrestling with the “does money buy happiness” question for some time in part because it seems I could successfully argue both sides of the debate.  Over the holidays, I decided to do a deep reflection on this to resolve it once and for all.  My conclusion –  Money does buy happiness but certain conditions apply.

If your life could use more happiness, see if any of these are getting in the way.

  1. You can’t buy happiness on credit

I hate to be the bearer of bad news.  This is the dirty secret the credit card companies and banks fail to reveal.  In the mounds of disclosure that accompany borrowing arrangements, there is no mention of the simple fact “Debt does not buy happiness”.   The reality seems just the opposite. In my experience, over-indebted people are stressed and unhappy.  These folks may have been searching for happiness but what they got was indenture.  Now they’d settle for relief.

I considered the question – Does the presence of money guarantee happiness?  My conclusion?   Absolutely not.  We all know, or know of, people who have oodles of money and are miserable.   This must be a real puzzler for those who are moneyless. The explanation comes in the next condition.

   2. You need to know what makes you happy

Here’s a little exercise:  Look back at the happy experiences in your life and reflect on:

  • The people you were with
  • The work you were doing
  • The growth you were undergoing
  • The excitement you were feeling
  • The purpose you were fulfilling
  • The mystery you were contemplating
  • The contribution you were making
  • The spirit you were awakening
  • The magic you were experiencing

How central was money to each/any of these?   Yes, we need money to provide for the basics of life and for useful stuff and interesting experiences.  At some point though, we start to ask too much of it and our unrealistic expectations lead to disappointment.  Reflecting on my life, I’ve lived in dumpy dwellings and driven crappy cars while being ecstatically happy (and vice versa).  The source of my happiness likely traced back to one or more of the occasions shown above.   What about you?

   3.  Happiness requires balancing pleasure with meaning

OK, money may buy pleasurable things and experiences which in turn can lead to happiness (at least in the short run).   Does this mean our path to happiness is limitless, self-indulged pleasure (aka hedonism)?  This may sound seductive but I suspect few would permanently choose this life.  Evidence of this can be found in our own childhoods. After a summer of fun, we become bored and eager for a return to school. Another example comes from vacationing at a Caribbean all-inclusive.  By the end of two weeks, we’re done.  Even if we had the money, a life of pure pleasure isn’t our happiness endgame.  This is where we have to read the money/happiness fine print.

It’s easy to get confused about this.  Mythologist Joseph Campbell famously said we should “follow our bliss”.   Many (myself included) have mistaken Campbell’s use of the word bliss to mean pleasure.   A deeper reading of his material shows what he actually meant by bliss was more akin to purpose.   His full quote Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls

Campbell was urging us to follow the path that was uniquely our own (what he referred to as the Hero’s Journey).   The Hero’s Journey is all about the pursuit of meaning as a path to happiness/bliss. You can’t book it using credit card points.

That’s enough deep thinking for now.  It’s time to go have some fun! 

 

My New Christmas Tradition….

This is the year I’ll act on something that’s disturbed me for some time. It has to do with the Christmas gift giving ritual in my family (which is probably similar to the ritual in many western households). More about that in a moment. So, why am I changing this now?

Maybe because:

  • I’m turning 60 next year and using the opportunity to re-evaluate my life
  • I realize how fortunate I am compared to much of the world’s population
  • I still have gifts from last year that were never opened. (On this point I want to stress, this wasn’t the gift giver’s fault – I’m hard to buy for.)

My wife Dorothy and I are simplifying our lives. This started with a downsize 5 years ago. At that time we gave away, donated or discarded much of our surplus stuff. We now have a strict “No new stuff” policy. I’m pleased to report its mostly held.

My family’s annual Christmas gift exchange hasn’t changed. Ever. As I mentioned, I’ll be 60 next year. There have been occasional musings about shaking up the old tradition but we couldn’t agree on a new one. So, on it went. By taking independent action, I’ve gotten around the whole consensus problem.

Here’s my new Christmas Gift Tradition: I ask family members to donate my gift (the cash equivalent) to a charity. I know this is not an uncommon preference but it’s new to me. This year my charity of choice is the local animal rescue. That selection came to me spontaneously when gazing into the face of our dog, Spoggles (pronounced Spa-gulls). I’m so happy (and relieved) with my new tradition. I don’t anticipate any family push back either. There’s only upside, what I like to call an elegant solution.

Gift giving is stressful. So much effort goes into agonizing over what some might truly need or want. Also, there are so many things to choose from. Apparently, this is not a good thing. In his book, The Happiness Equation, Neil Pasricha describes research which shows when we’re overwhelmed with choices we do one of two things (i) make no choice or, (ii) make a bad choice. Since we see gift giving as compulsory the first option is off the table. That means a lot of gift giving results in bad choices.

When gift giving, we’re looking for evidence of joy and appreciation on the receiver’s face. They know we’re looking for it too, which makes things that much more uncomfortable. A gift giving faux pas means both giver and receiver feel, for lack of a better word, yucky. In extreme cases it can actually trigger feelings of resentment. Receiver to him/her: “How could you think I’d ever want this?” Giver to him/hers: Do you know what that thing cost?” How many times will that happen in living rooms across North America this Christmas? Merry Christmas indeed.

Christmas gift giving has become laden with expectation which is what sows the seeds of disappointment. We try to circumvent this by giving more. As a person whose done my share of last minute shopping, I’ll describe what this looks like. It’s evident on the face of a haggard Christmas Eve shopper who staggers from store to store looking for one more trinket. The empty look in their eyes tells us they’re trying to resolve the “Is this enough?” question. Unsure, they stagger on.

By asking for donations vs gifts, all of this is avoided. The double-sided guilt trap is replaced with three gifts being given: the giver to the receiver, the receiver to the charity and the charity to its beneficiaries. I’m so happy I finally clued in!

Readers with young children or grandchildren might be thinking, “Christmas is a magical time for kids. I love seeing the look of joy on the face of a child who’s just received my gift. It brings me joy too”. I completely understand. My question is, when does that magic wear off? Or better yet, when is it time to shake up this tradition with a fresher form of holiday magic? For me, it will be on my 59th Christmas.

I wish you all a magical Holiday Season and a brilliant 2018!

Step 1 for Out of Control Finances – Disconnect the Autopilot!

I started my private pilot’s license in my 30’s at a small air park north of my home. The thing I loved about learning to fly was, from the start, the student is the one doing the flying. Yes, there is an instructor right beside you in the early stages, but you’re the one in the “right seat”. Guided by the instructor, the student takes the controls and works through a list of skills needed to pilot a plane: take-offs, landings, level flight, turns, stall and spin recovery, etc. etc. To earn a pilot’s wings, the student must ultimately demonstrate his/her proficiency in each of these areas with a flight examiner.
Even though the small planes I flew had a basic autopilot system, learning how to use it wasn’t part of the curriculum. To include it would have defeated the principles being taught i.e. basic aircraft control. A plane knows how to fly itself straight and level but a junior pilot does not. When learning to fly it’s all about the student giving the plane his/her direct attention.

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Sadly, autopilot systems have led to many air disasters. Not necessarily because they failed, but because they were misunderstood or used improperly. In times of severe stress, the autopilot can actually lead to cockpit confusion. The lesson from this is that autopilot systems are not a replacement for human intelligence.

The same holds true with money clarity.

I’m often asked if I can recommend a helpful money app. My answer is always the same. No. There are some very creative and interesting apps available. Some are even available for free! If a free app was the solution to our money ills, financial contentment would be the norm in our households. Of course, that’s far from the case. In a May 2017 New York Times article Household Debt Makes a Comeback, it was reported that, in the 1st quarter of 2017, household debt in America surpassed its Q3 2008 level i.e. the beginning of the great recession.

Two-years prior, in a 2015 survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, it was found that worries about debt repayment were the leading cause of money stress for Americans. Apparently, even though debt stresses us out, it doesn’t stop us from ramping up the borrowing. A free app isn’t likely to solve this problem. So, what will?

In my experience, people whose money lives are on “autopilot” have out of control spending, stress-inducing debts and deficient savings. My recommendation has nothing to do with an app. It is just the opposite actually – it’s to be like a student pilot and pay attention!

In her book The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron writes attention is an act of connection. When it comes to managing household finances, this observation is right on the money (pun intended). My coaching clients bring attention to, and build connection with, their money lives by learning to think in new ways, by learning new skills and by taking new actions.

So, if you’re struggling with managing money, take my word for it – you can’t outsource money clarity to an app. Instead, direct your attention to learning the basic skills of money management. Then, if you still feel you need an app, go for it. My bet is, you won’t!

Is Your Money Life in the Critical Zone?

Taking stock of where we stand is the first step to any corrective course of action, money included. To help people quickly get a handle on this, I developed a simple two-variable self-assessment. The two variables are:

  1. Is the household spending more than it is earning?
  2. Is consumer debt present (for example, high-interest credit cards, consolidation loans, personal lines of credit)?

Individuals and households that answer “yes” to both questions fall into what I call the Critical Zone. The word critical is defined as having extreme importance, happening at a time of special difficulty, trouble, or danger, when matters could quickly get either worse or better

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The definition says it all – when in the Critical Zone we are at a turning point. Things could get better or things could get worse. Life in the Critical Zone is uncomfortable and unsustainable. Still, people can get stuck here for years or even decades. To get an idea if the Critical Zone applies to you, see if any of these apply:

Continual tapping into consumer credit – Credit permits the illusion of maintaining lifestyle while diverting us from facing deeper problems. Prolonged reliance on debt can become such an accepted part of our lives that it becomes a normal financial condition.

Looking to debt as a solution – People in the Critical Zone often believe debt is the solution to their problems which usually serves to extend their stay in the Critical Zone.

No money available for needs and wants – With much of income required to pay basic expenses and overhead, spending on needs and wants either doesn’t happen or is funded through debt. Needs and wants include:

  • Clothes
  • Vacations
  • Hobbies/recreation
  • Car repair
  • Home repair and upgrade
  • Health and dental needs
  • Children’s education savings
  • Retirement savings

It may or may not come as a surprise that a substantial number of households exist in the Critical Zone. In some cases, it’s obvious, in other cases appearances hide the underlying reality. Whichever the case, Critical Zoners typically know who they are. Moreover, they are usually stressed, struggling and without a plan to right their financial ship.

So how do they right the ship? First, understand the key challenges:

Willingness to Face the Situation

People of any age, income, education level and profession can find themselves in the Critical Zone. They arrive here when spending habitually exceeds income. This earning/spending mismatch is the primary problem. If this condition persists, eventually debt starts to accumulate which is a secondary problem i.e. a symptom of the primary problem.

It is common to try exiting the Critical Zone by directing attention to the secondary problem i.e. debt accumulation. This may involve things like home refinancing, debt consolidation, credit card juggling and borrowing from friends and family. While these actions may bring short term relief, they don’t address the primary problem i.e. spending that exceeds income.

Deciding on Which of Two Paths to Follow

Passive Path – Not to take action is a choice. Since we are already at a turning point, inaction leaves us more vulnerable to shocks like job loss, death of partner, injury or illness. All these events will worsen our situation. In short, doing nothing doesn’t usually work out well.

Active Path- Making the choice to leave the Critical Zone is, more than anything else, an act of courage. It is also highly liberating. Voluntary exit from the Critical Zone may seem intimidating because it can require us to make changes in spending and lifestyle, but it is usually the most direct and dignified option.

The Search for Deeper Answers

Critical Zone problems are structural in nature, meaning that expenses/spending relate to things which easily cannot be avoided, reduced or eliminated without major lifestyle changes (debt is the prime example). This is what makes escaping the Critical Zone so vexing i.e. the most obvious expense saving measures (for example, cheaper cell phone plans, shopping, car insurance, etc.) aren’t sufficient to produce a meaningful improvement.

As long as outflows exceed inflows every month, debt will continue to rack up. Eliminating this must be the first priority. Providing a detailed prescription for those who are ready to take action is unique to each household and goes beyond the scope of this article. For all the Critical Zoners that I coach, we eventually brainstorm the following question: What would have to happen in my/our household to eliminate the negative monthly cash flow?

Our financial lives won’t turn on a dime, so it’s important to set realistic expectations. Still, it’s important to know this – with time, patience and creativity almost every aspect of household spending can be altered, lowered or eliminated!

My #1 Money Tip

This post’s title is a proven attention getter. We just can’t resist checking out a hot tip because you can never tell if its going to be a game changer. I’d love to know how many tips actually turn out that way. I’d say close to zero.

I digress. You came here for my #1 tip, so here it is: Money tips don’t work.

This tip earned its way into my #1 spot because so many of the people who have sought out my coaching will say things like, “I get these on-line money tips all the time, but they just confuse me.”

People come to me because they want an effective way to manage money. It would be much easier if they only wanted money tips because I could fire those off in endless volleys. What they are asking for (usually) is a method to get a handle on spending, pay down debt and define a path to financial independence (and ideally get that all done ASAP). Doing that requires more than a few money tips.

To demonstrate the difference between method and tips I’ll use the analogy of car buying. Buying a car implies we are looking for a method of transporting ourselves. Let’s say we settle on model X. In its base form, model X does everything we need to satisfy our need. Buying the base car isn’t usually where things end. Car manufactures graciously offer a menu of options to enhance the enjoyment of our vehicle.

If the car represents method, think of options as tips. In theory, it would be possible to purchase car options as stand alone items. Imagine the interesting collection of goodies we could accumulate: leather wrapped steering wheel, seat warmers, 17′ aluminum wheels, park assist, vanity mirrors, etc., etc. The point is, the car (method) is what gives the options (tips) context. Without the car, the options are useless.

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Back to money. To take control, pay down debt and achieve financial independence we need a method. Some people figure this out for themselves while others need a little help. People in the latter group sometimes reach out to me. When they do, acquiring method is the primary goal. Getting that nailed down is a game changer. Still, if they insist, I’ll happily throw in a few tips.

Personal change is difficult, whether it involves losing weight, quitting smoking our taking control of our money. Let’s face it, we could all stand to make some tweaks here or there in our lives but so few of us get around to taking action. When it comes to money, I was recently reminded how quickly movement forward gets stopped in its tracks.

Working on my laptop in a comfy chair one afternoon at the local coffee shop/bookstore a woman sat down in the comfy chair beside me with a stack of 6 or 7 magazines and 5 books. With a satisfied look on her face, she proceeded to wade into her collection.

The magazines were of the glossy fashion, décor, design variety. What peaked my curiosity were the book titles. All 5 books were on cash management/debt repayment. Things like “The Only Budget You’ll Ever Need”, “Building Budgets that Work”, etc. What an eclectic selection of literature I thought to myself. As she started to leaf through the magazines, it was clear she was taking a “pleasure before business approach” to her afternoon reading.

Now I was really curious. How long would it take for her to get to those budget books and how much of her time would she spend going through them? I had to know and I was prepared to wait for my answers.
pexels-photo-256523Through the blur of turning pages, I could see pages of text interspersed with checklists, tables, worksheets; the building blocks of a budget. In a matter of 2 or 3 minutes that book was discarded as she started the same process with the second book. More tables and worksheets. Within 5 minutes she had flipped through 3 of the books. She glanced at the back covers of the last two and moved them directly to the “done” pile. Her coffee was finished and a glance at her watch told me she was ready to move on. Here was the reading time scoreboard:

Glossy magazines: 45 minutes
Budget books: 5 minutes

A colossal loss for the budget side!

At this point I introduced myself as a Money Coach and fessed up that I had been intrigued by what I had watched. I politely inquired if I could ask her some questions. She said yes.

You seemed pretty interested in the magazines, I said, but things really hit a wall when you got to the budget books. Why so little interest in the books? I will never forget her answer “They looked difficult and kind of boring.” Boom! End of story.

That said it all, budgets speak to our heads and have little power to inspire. The resolve needed to take control of our money needs to come from deep within. When I think back on what energized the people I’ve worked with to push through to money clarity, I found it came down to 3 things:

They were ready

Prior to reaching out to me these people fought their demons, fought with each other, experimented with things that didn’t work, experienced the full range of emotions and felt the sting of setback. They had fought the good fight and despite their best intentions they had been denied victory. Now they were surrendering to the reality that they needed help.

They knew the outcome they wanted

They’re not sure what the remedy entails, but they know it can’t be any worse then what they’re experiencing now. Still, that sometimes isn’t enough.

They had a deeper “why”

Knowing the outcome they wanted wasn’t always enough. Sometimes a deeper “why” was needed to trigger change.

In early conversations with new clients, I probe for a deeper motivation, something that tells me the tables have shifted. The question I ask is: You’ve known this was a problem for some time, why have you decided to do something now?”

I find the first answer revealed isn’t always the most potent one. That’s because the real reason can be buried deep within. In fact, it may be that the person has never spoken the real reason. Perhaps it’s scary, perhaps they know things need to change (actually, the change had already begun). In any case, the deeper “why” eventually emerges.

He who has a why to live can bear almost any how. – Friedrich Nietzsche

Here’s the bottom line: knowing exactly what you want may get you started but tapping into a deeper why is what will take you across the finish line.