Think about the relationships in your life that are truly important to you. Most likely you nurture these valued relationships and treat them with the care and attention they deserve.
Now, think about your relationship with money. And instead of thinking about this relationship as purely numbers and account balances, step back for a second and assess the state of your relationship with money as if describing a relationship with a friend.
If you had to choose one word to describe your relationship with money, what would that word be?
For those of you that have never conceived of describing your relationship with money or weren’t even aware you had a relationship with money, this exercise may at first feel odd. “How can a person have a relationship with money?” Putting on my holistic financial planning hat, I would respond to your question by suggesting; if you've had problems, hated or loved, feared, struggled with, enjoyed, cursed or worried about money, whether consciously or unconsciously, you are indeed in a relationship with money. The trick, as in all relationships, is for it to be a healthy, supportive, trusting and honest relationship.
Below are three essential tips for optimizing your relationship with money. The more you observe and are able to understand the dynamics of this complex relationship, the sooner financial freedom will become your personal reality.
1) Assumptions & Belief Systems Around Money
If you’ve read the seminal book on money, Your Money or Your Life, you know that one of the first steps towards transforming your relationship with money and achieving financial independence is to become conscious of all the assumptions and beliefs around money you’ve been dragging around since you were a kid.
Part of this crucial transformational work is letting go of outdated assumptions and beliefs that no longer are relevant in your world or worse, create dysfunction and chaos in your life.
- Take an inventory of all the assumptions you have regarding money, especially in these four areas: earning, saving, spending and investing.
Now, observe this list of assumptions with mindfulness and non-judgment. What patterns, if any, stand out to you? Do any of them remind you of your mother or father’s assumptions that you’ve unconsciously adopted as your own? What limiting beliefs, if any, are embedded in your assumptions?
Bring your full awareness onto the assumptions that are outdated and or hinder your personal and spiritual growth. In this garden of your mind, mindfully replace these outdated assumptions, these ‘weeds’ that have overrun your garden, and replace them with seeds of abundance. Be patient with yourself as these old beliefs and assumptions will not disappear easily.
Optimize your relationship with money by playing the observer next time you have or make a financial transaction. The more self-aware, the more you stay conscious when dealing with money, the more you recognize your patterns and demons that are never far away - the sooner you’ll feel in control of your money and your life.
2) Trust & Faith with Money
Think about a relationship you have with someone close to you that you do not trust. Think about how challenging that makes your relationship with this person. How difficult it is to let your guard down around this person and not feel suspicious of their motives.
Trust in any relationship is essential if the relationship is to grow and prosper and your relationship with money is no different. Consider the following tips which can help you gain back or strengthen the trust you need for a successful relationship with money.
- Flex your frugal muscle - Next month, promise yourself and then commit to it, that you will spend 20% less than you did the previous month. Then, take that 20% savings and apply 100% of it to your emergency cash fund.
There is no better way to strengthen or rebuild trust in your relationship with money than to make a promise to yourself and honor that promise. Think about it as making a deposit in your spiritual bank account. Nothing, and I mean nothing builds trust faster than knowing promises made around money are promises you can trust yourself to keep.
- Increase Your Emotional Intelligence (EQ) - The next time you feel the need or desire to make an impulse purchase - stop yourself. Become conscious of your behavior, play the observer, understand your emotional triggers (stress, sadness, exhilaration, etc.) and take control.
When your emotions dictate your financial behavior, it’s often referred to as being ‘emotionally hijacked’. Take control of your emotions around money and you’ll feel what it’s like to experience authentic power.
3) Core Values, Your Money AND Your Life
The choices you make around how you spend, earn, save, and invest your money are all essential aspects of your relationship with money.
To feel empowered around money, to feel and see abundance all around you, to know that you’re able to manifest your deepest desires and turn those dreams into reality requires your core values be in alignment with how you spend, earn, save and invest. When those choices are in alignment with your core values, your relationship with money feels effortless.
- Dig deeper and discover what’s in alignment and what’s out of alignment in your spending, earning, saving and investing habits. If the gap is wide between these and your core values, that’s ok, but know you’ve got work to do.
Take baby steps toward reaching eventual full-on alignment. Start with one aspect at a time, set monthly and quarterly goals that are doable yet push you out of your comfort zone. Monitor progress, course correct when needed, do your personal best, accept setbacks and start again.
Bottom line- Just keep moving forward, as every positive step you take will get you that much closer to your ultimate goal: an effortless relationship with money that provides all the abundance and security you need and desire and the ultimate goal: financial freedom.
image credit http://www.flickr.com/photos/hfiguiere/
When was the last time you dreamed about the life you imagine yourself living, the career or business you see yourself owning, the soul mate you see yourself marrying and loving, the abundance you see yourself manifesting?
One of the intangible casualties of a great financial crash like we experienced in 2008 is the amount of faith and confidence it zaps from our lives. And as a consequence of that lack of faith in the future, our once mighty and powerful dreams fall by the wayside.
Perhaps because I’m a financial planner who needs clients to share their dreams, hopes and aspirations when co-creating their financial life plan, it’s become obvious to me over the past few years that people are having a hard time dreaming and imagining the life they desire.
Of course, if you’ve been kicked around by the downturn in the economy, whether losing a job, career or business, seeing your net-worth plunge or watching your home value sink like a lead balloon, picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and getting back in the game is easier said than done. Yet I respectfully suggest it’s time to reengage the dreamer inside you and set her free, again.
Faith vs. Fear
Part of what holds dreamers back is the fear of the unknown. Will the stock market crash again? Will the euro zone collapse and bring down the global economy? Will I be able to hold onto my job if the economy goes into recession again? Will my business survive another downturn? Will I have enough saved up by the time I want to retire?
All valid questions for sure, yet think for a second how you feel when you read these questions? Underlying all these questions are doubt and most importantly fear and uncertainty. Remember, fear constricts your life energy, faith and hope expands it.
Do we know what tomorrow brings? No. Should that be a reason we don’t allow ourselves to dream? No. But can we use our thoughts, our dreams and our imaginations to visualize the life we so deeply desire? YES! Is it easier to play it safe, to not dream big, to lower our expectations, of course it is. But is that how you want to live your life? My guess, the answer is no.
To dream, especially to dream big, requires courage. That’s because many of your dreams will never materialize. For some, the disappointment of a setback or many setbacks, especially financial setbacks, will cause you to never want to dream again. The loss of a dream you held near and dear to your heart is a painful experience. But the dreamers that never gave up, that kept dreaming again, and again, that’s the human story of resilience and perseverance that we all share in common.
Don’t Die With the Music Still Inside You
In Dr. Wayne Dyer's Ten Secrets of Success and Inner Peace, he reveals secret #2:
"Don't die with your music still in you. Find your passion and follow it even if it means marching to your own drumbeat when it's different from what everyone else or society says you should be doing."
Everyone has dreams. Dreams are powerful indicators of what you have the capacity to manifest into your life. To not allow yourself to dream is to do a great disservice to the divine and powerful being you are and will continue to be. It’s never too late to dream big. See yourself and know deep in your heart and soul that you have the divine capacity to manifest and attract all you need or desire, and be mindful that it all begins with a dream…
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
Photo credit http://www.flickr.com/photos/big3news/
How much money does it really take before we consider ourselves to be rich? Based on net worth and income, this infographic by Mint.com, which is based on a recent Gallup poll reveals just what we Americans believe the 'rich index' is.
Some of the answers regarding income are really interesting:
How much money would you have to earn annually to consider yourself rich?
A - $150,000 (all Americans)
A - $150,000 (men)
A - $100,000 (women)
A - $200,000 (college graduate)
A - $100,000 (college non-graduate)
See full infographic here
This whole survey gets me thinking about the 'enough' factor, our relationship with money and the bigger question of what being rich really means.
Unless you’ve taken the time to honestly contemplate how much is ‘enough’, you’ll be buffeted by forces that have one aim in mind; keeping you striving but never arriving.
There is nothing wrong with working hard, playing by the rules and winding up ‘rich’. But if your desire is to feel financial freedom
sooner rather than later, than the sooner you decide on your ‘number’, your number in this context being the amount of money you wish to accumulate by the time you retire, the sooner you’ll arrive at your destination.
And remember, being rich is a state of mind. I come in contact with potential clients all the time that have accumulated millions of dollars. And at the same time I meet potential clients that haven’t accumulated anything close to that amount. And it’s often the case that the people I meet with a lot less feel much ‘richer’, so to speak, than the person with the large bank account.
Infographic by Mint.com
If you’re someone that has a hard time making decisions when it comes to money and you find yourself in perpetual procrastination mode about your personal finances, chances are you’ve got part tyrant and part rebel inside of you fighting for control.
Do you ever hear that voice in your head telling you to get your financial house in order, but somehow you never get to it? You know the feeling of empowerment you would get if you just stop using your credit cards in excess, balance your checkbook and review your investment strategy. Yet you put it off – again. That voice in your head, your inner Tyrant, is your voice of reason. Sometimes sounding pretty harsh, the Tyrant tells us what we should and shouldn’t do. The voice is about rules and rigid expectations and can be a controlling and demanding voice.
Which is why the other voice in your head, the Rebel, reacts in total rebellion to the Tyrant’s controlling influence. The Rebel refuses to do anything it’s told to do and trusts no one. When the Tyrant says, “stop spending so much money,” the Rebel refuses to listen, and likely spends even more.
For some, the Rebel is the dominant force in their life, for others it’s the Tyrant. The Rebel learns to distrust and ignore anything remotely controlling, including your internal demands (the inner Tyrant). The Tyrant wants to be heard and wants cooperation. If ignored or rejected, this voice will become frustrated and it will grow louder and more demanding until it’s heard.
What you have in the above scenario is the Tyrant and the Rebel doing battle within you. One part of you says you should really get serious about your money and develop a comprehensive financial plan and the other part shows no interest or downright opposition. Neither the Tyrant nor the Rebel are listening to YOU, they have taken on their own personalities and are working in reaction to each other. When this happens, people feel stuck. Life energy cannot move in a situation where two parts of you are doing battle.
The most valuable action you can take to get positive energy flowing again is to step outside of yourself and observe what you are doing. Shining light on both the Tyrant and Rebel, seeing them as they really are, will lessen their power. You will realize that neither one of them is your intuitive voice talking to you. They are old reactionary voices that continue to run your life. The sooner you can see this, the quicker you can let go of what they are saying to you.
The true source of power that will attract abundance into your life is always going to be your inner voice, receiving guidance, and acting on it. Your inner Rebel and Tyrant will not go away easily. Yet the more you practice being the observer and steeping outside of yourself, the sooner these internal conflicts will fade and allow your true divine power to come shining through.
voices photo by The Textile Blog
For most people, a conversation about stocks, bonds, index funds, 529 plans, IRA’s, 401K’s, financial planning, etc, is the equivalent of a sleeping pill. For many it’s also a necessary task but not high up there in terms of joy and fulfillment.
That does not have to be the case nor should it be. Inspired Financial Planning is about reaching a higher level of awareness and consciousness around your money and your life. Think for a second about what or who inspires you? What is it that makes the person or object inspiring? Now think about how you feel when you’re inspired. It’s that positive energy you summon that takes financial planning to a whole other level.
It’s in this state of consciousness, when you see infinite possibilities all around you, that financial planning feels practically spiritual. When you feel inspired, you have no doubts, no worries, and no fear. Instead of obstacles ahead, you see opportunities. Instead of seeing scarcity, you see abundance. Instead of feeling disempowered, you feel powerful and empowered.
Living in the Light
There’s no doubt that we’re going through a gloomy and some would say dark period in our country. All the arguing and pettiness in Washington, all the talk about debt, being broke - it’s a real bummer at times. Something we should all remember is that news is all about ratings. And good news stories are ratings losers, bad news stories are ratings winners.
One way to cope with all this doom and gloom is to take ownership of your financial future right now. And the way to begin that process is first to understand that financial planning is not just about investing. On the contrary, financial planning is about designing your life plan. It’s using your imagination as well as your intuition to plan a future you dream about and desire.
I’ll be the first to admit that financial planning takes courage. It’s hard enough to take inventory of your current financial picture, let alone plan for your future. But the alternative of keeping your head in the sand is much more difficult as it increases your anxiety, stress and fear around money.
If you can dream, then you can plan your financial future. Imagine designing a financial life plan that inspires you. Think about the sense of accomplishment and fulfillment you would feel and the peace of mind you will receive knowing your financial house is in order.
So what stops you from living your dream?
There are essentially two ways you can accumulate wealth.
The traditional and familiar path requires hard work, exacting plans, or driving ambition. You’ll outwork or outthink the competition, you override the inner voice that tells you to stop once and a while and smell the roses, you sacrifice and struggle to accumulate more and more things and your hope is that all this hard work will eventually result in a huge payoff one day.
The less familiar route to prosperity involves more of a spiritual quest. This is the path of least resistance, where you understand your true nature, where your money and your life are in perfect alignment with your core values - and wealth, abundance, a sense of well-being, good health, fulfilling relationships, energy and enthusiasm for life, and material abundance will spring forth easily and effortlessly.
There is no “right” or “wrong” way to accumulate wealth. What’s important is to understand what motivates you and what makes you tick. Many of us make major decisions regarding our work lives in our late teens and early 20’s and often never look back or reflect on the choices we made. It’s usually in our 50’s, the zone of time where the so called “mid-life crisis” occurs when we stop and wonder - how did I get here?
My preferred path to prosperity is the spiritual quest, using your internal power instead of external force. If you’d like to take that path, start with these 5 tips to begin attracting abundance into your life:
1) Be Here Now
In a society that values the multi-tasker, living in the present moment - not the past, not the future but now - requires practice and discipline on a daily basis. Living in the moment allows you to be open to receiving the abundance you’re seeking.
2) Karma Bank
This is where all your good deeds are stored. Think about all the ways you can make deposits to your spiritual bank account. The more you deposit, the more you receive. Pay it forward.
Your imagination is the engine that drives your desires and is the source of your passion. Practice visualizing your success. You’ll see it when you believe it. (Dr. Wayne Dyer wrote a book with this phrase as the title – it’s an oldie but goodie and I highly recommend it.)
Your emotional energy is powerful. How strong is your desire to fulfill your dreams? Use your imagination, your emotions and desire to attract into your life that which you seek.
Start each day with a sense of gratitude and go to bed at night with the same feeling. As you think, so shall you be. When you feel grateful for all the material abundance that constantly shows up in your life, more of the same will continue to manifest.
As part of my on-going series on presenting excerpts from this seminal book on money, Think and Grow Rich. Here is yet another small slice from Chapter 2 - Desire: The Starting Point of all Achievement.
Throughout the book, you’ll read about people that exemplified many of the characteristics Napoleon Hill talks about so passionately. The book was revised and updated recently to include stories about people such as Bill Gates. One of the stories on Mary Kay Ash, the founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, how she got started, is fascinating. Below are some tips she offers from an article she wrote titled: Personal Excellence.
Imagine Yourself Successful
Always picture yourself successful. Visualize the person you desire to become. Set aside time each day to be alone and undisturbed. Get comfortable and relax. Close your eyes and concentrate on your desires and goals. See yourself in this new environment, capable and self-confident.
Reflect On Your Past Successes
Every success, be it large or small, is proof that you are capable of achieving more successes. Celebrate each success. You can recall it when you begin to lose faith in yourself.
Set Definite Goals
Have a clear direction of where you want to go. Be aware when you begin to deviate from these goals and take immediate corrective action.
Respond Positively to Life
Develop a positive self-image. Your image, your reactions to life and your decisions are completely within your control.
I came across this passage in the book: Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, written by Sarah Ban Breathnach. It really makes you think…
No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit - Helen Keller
“It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job”, Harry Truman observed, “and it’s a depression when you lose your own”. As downturns in the economy disturb more and more households, we begin to question seriously the financial yardstick by which we have been measuring our personal net worth and therefore our happiness.
Perhaps the recession has personally affected you and yours. It’s hard to believe there’s anybody that it hasn’t touched, at least indirectly. Millions of women are scaling down their expectations of what constitutes the good life, redefining their values, reordering their priorities, and accepting the challenge of making a virtue out of necessity. But it’s very easy to surrender to an emotional depression when a financial one occurs. It’s easy to be pessimistic about tomorrow when today seems so bleak.
It’s time we put thoughts of lack behind us. It’s time for us to discover the secrets of the stars, to sail to an uncharted land, to open up a new heaven where our spirits can soar. But first we’ll have to make changes. And lasting change does not happen overnight. Lasting change happens in infinitesimal increments: a day, an hour, a minute, a heartbeat at a time. And the change I’m encouraging you to make with me is fundamental. Take a deep breath. We’re going to learn to become optimists.
Now be reassured. Optimism, like the happiness habit, can be learned. Start today with a little experiment. Smile at everyone you meet. Today expect something good to happen to you no matter what occurred yesterday. Realize the past no longer holds you captive. It can only continue to hurt you if you hold on to it. Let the past go. A simply abundant world awaits.
Imagine having peace of mind. How does that make you feel? What image or thought enters your mind? I think for many people, it’s a feeling of abundance, of having enough of what you need and then some. Perhaps most importantly, in this state of consciousness, money worries are non-existent and you feel financially secure. So how do you get here?
First, you need to ask yourself how much is enough? If you have a significant other, this is a money and lifestyle conversation that offers you both an incredible opportunity to set common goals and work as a team.
It’s not an accident that if you ask most people how much they need to accumulate in savings in order to be financially secure for the rest of their lives, you’ll get lots of confusing and unsure answers. There’s an entire industry built on keeping consumers in the dark about this. You’ve heard the phrase striving and never arriving; in many cases, not knowing your “number” and believing perhaps incorrectly that you need to save much more that you actually do can cause you tremendous stress.
Now, let’s imagine you know your “number”. You know exactly how much you need to accumulate in savings in order to have work be optional. To arrive at this place means you have asked yourself the tough questions? You’ve questioned every assumption and belief around your relationship to money? You’ve stress tested your number and played devil’s advocate. You’ve asked yourself all the hard what-if questions. You know your cash flow like the back of your hand.
It means you’ve looked with new eyes at your career or business and asked yourself if you feel inspired by your work? If the answer is no, you have the desire and self confidence to make the necessary changes. You know peace of mind is your destination and you’re ready to do what it takes to get there.
Will all this be easy? Not a chance - it’s going to require challenging all your assumptions around money and harnessing the courage to be absolutely honest with yourself. It means moving out of your comfort zone and making major life decisions. It’s setting an intention to always attract peace, love and abundance into your life.
Need help with your relationship around money? Pick up the re-issue of Your Money or Your Life, and start with the Nine Steps to Financial Independence.
“To thy own self be true” - that’s the energy you’re seeking. There’s never going to be a better time than now to begin this process. You may have many starts and stops along the way, that’s ok, just don’t lose faith. Have a knowing deep in your heart and soul that the reward at the end of this journey of self-discovery is peace of mind. If for nothing else, it’s worth it for that reason alone. Plus, you deserve nothing less.
I was back on the East Coast for a couple of weeks. The humidity was on full display. Who needs a sauna when you have 90% humidity? But allow me to digress.
On the plane ride back to the West Coast, I sat with a woman that was very social. Once she discovered I was a financial planner, she had a lot to talk about. What was really interesting about our conversation was her description of how she manages her personal finances. As she said, money scares her. She gets sick to her stomach every time she has to deal with it or make a decision about what to do with it. She is 72, recently widowed. She was married for 52 years to her soul mate-her words. Gulp! I’m the sentimental type so she sensed I was about to feel sorry for her, or cry, or both, and she wanted no part of that.
What I found fascinating was her story of how she now needs to understand money, how it works, how to invest it, how to plan, etc. She comes from a generation of couples where it was very common for the man to handle the finances. She raised the kids and kept the household running smoothly. Now she faces a world of uncertainty and does not know where to turn for trusted advice. Her two daughters both live outside of the U.S and she does not want to burden them.
Well, sensing an opportunity to be of service, I spent the next 3 hours reviewing her finances. I pulled out my laptop, loaded her numbers into my software, (she had everything written down in her notebook) and designed a basic financial plan for her. To say she was grateful is a vast understatement. Today I received a heartfelt thank you note from her. I will cherish this note for the rest of my life.
Financial planning is a profession of givers, people that love to be of service. So my story of helping this wonderful woman is by no means unique. What I take away from this experience is how many of our mothers are out there in a similar situation. If you have some business savvy or finance savvy, lending an ear and offering some helpful guidance can go a long, long way.
I have believed for a very long time that the more you give, the more you receive. This is the power of money and spirituality combined with intention. Next time you imagine attracting more abundance into your life, think about how you can be of service and watch the magic happen.