I got to thinking about money after a meeting the other day. It is probably the #1 worry people have. I would say health comes first, but it only seems to outrank money if something is wrong, rarely does it come first from a position of a holistic or preventative mindset. Money has also been the main motivator in too many stories to count – movies, books, theater, art, and in real life. From the humorous to the dramatic, people will do just about anything for it and they let their lives revolve around it.
So if it is THAT important, why do people, especially women, spend so little time really understanding it? While there are exceptions, I would venture a guess that most people don’t know where their money goes or have a solid foundational financial education. Money can be sexy and powerful, so why is it that really understanding how it works and our attitudes towards it don’t make our priority list?
In my personal experience and in my work with clients, money ranks right up there with “no time” as the #1 reason we use for why we can’t be, do, or have what we really want. So, what stops us from getting the education, awareness, and support we need to make money work for us and be an enabler for what we want versus an anchor holding us back and keeping us tethered in place (or sinking) as the case may be?
In a word, fear. Fear gets in our way of doing something about it. And, the beliefs and attitudes we’ve been taught and formed as we marched through the years of childhood up to and including this morning keep us rooted in it. Some of the fears my clients have shared include:
- Not having enough money
- Having a lot money and being successful
- Intimidated by finances and afraid to learn
- Afraid to ask spouse/significant other because he controls the checkbook
- So deeply in debt or out of control and afraid to know the full extent of the situation
Money is more than just money. It has power beyond dollars and cents. The topic of money carries with it powerful emotions. After all, people are driven to do insane things for money such as staying in dead end jobs for decades, murdering, and stealing for it. It is so powerful in fact that it is sometimes hard to keep things in perspective and obey the golden rule – people first, then money.
Where Do You Stand?
Our views and behaviors around money are as varied as we are. I’ve personally known people at all ends of the scale from bankrupt musicians to millionaires who tape the soles of their shoes together so they don’t have to spend money to buy new shoes. There’s nothing wrong with being frugal and there’s nothing wrong with spending money for enjoyment. The key is to understand your beliefs about money and the ins and outs of what you earn and what you spend.
Take some time to answer the following questions (Yes or No) so you can get a handle on where you are right now.
- I know exactly what I earn.
- I know where every last dollar I spend goes and why.
- I know my financial goals and have a plan to reach them.
- I have an independent financial professional who works solely for my best interests to help me understand and navigate the financial maze.
- I spend less than I earn and save at least 10-15% of my income.
- I do not carry credit card debit. I pay cash for everything or pay my balance in full each month.
Now, explore your beliefs by journaling about the following questions:
- What were my family’s attitudes towards money when I was growing up?
- When someone says the word “money” to me, what is the first thing that comes to mind?
- What do I think of people who have a lot of money? What do I think of people who have little money?
- Complete this sentence: To me, money means_______.
What You Can Do To Build a Solid Foundation
Dealing with money is a lifelong affair. There is no quick fix solution or one size fits all. Even winning the lottery isn’t a solution because most lottery winners end up right back where they were (or worse) because their beliefs and behaviors did not change. However, the good news is that you are in charge of and can take control of your financial future. You simply need to take an active role in the process.
The top actions I recommend are:
Invest in your financial education.
You can never go wrong investing time and money in your own education. With the amount of resources available on the Internet and in print there are no excuses for going through life with blinders on. Whether you read books like the ones I recommend at the end of this newsletter, tap into money related websites, or join a group like Savvy Ladies (http://www.savvyladies.com), information is readily available for you regardless of your current level of knowledge and income.
The best activity I ever did was to keep track of every penny I spent for several months. You can achieve the same result by doing this activity for a typical month, but the longer you do it, the better. Simply track every penny that comes in to your life and every penny you spend. You will be amazed at what you learn. Whether you take on this task with a pocket notebook that you carry with you everywhere you go or take the high-tech automated route with software like Quicken or Microsoft Money, it is the #1 thing you can do to take charge of your finances.
If you needed help with a physical ailment, you wouldn’t dream of buying a book and needle and operating on yourself. You’d go to a trained medical professional. So, why fumble through the financial maze alone? Hiring a trained financial professional is a sound investment. Avoid people who make their money selling you stuff, and opt instead for a fee based planner so you know your best interests are at the forefront of their mind (not their next sales commission). You can find fee-only planners online via NAPFA (http://www.napfa.org)
Remember that money isn’t everything. It can never buy love, happiness, or good health. It can however be a powerful tool to help you achieve your goals and enjoy the journey.
Copyright 2005, Paula Gregorowicz and The Paula G. Company
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