With practice, you can learn to take some typical financial concepts and see them as positive, rather than negative. For example, we are taught to set aside money for an “emergency” fund implying some sort of disaster could be looming around the corner. Instead, call it an “opportunity” fund and you can see that the same money could be used to take advantage of investment opportunities, “once in a lifetime” experiences or to support you through a rough time financially with more calm. You can also use the “opportunity fund” to take time to find new work if your existing employment ended, or an opportunity to do repairs or renovations to your home if needed.
What other common situations are there like this example? How about “bad debt” replaced with the belief that has the benefit of the purchase already been realized? Is it “risk” or “opportunity,” “spending” or “investing in your lifestyle”? These might not resonate with your experience, but the idea is to become aware of the way you speak and to think of more positively about common financial situations. There is more than one way to see everything.
Your ideal lifestyle must have a dollar figure attached to it. It’s not okay to say, “I want to be rich”; or “I want to be comfortable”; or “I want to own a house”; or “I want to travel,” etc. Your ideal lifestyle must have a price tag in a monthly amount. If you want to live in a certain house, how much will it cost to own and maintain? How much would you need to set aside for annual holidays; for someone to clean your house; for you to drive the car you want; to wear the clothes you like to wear; for you to give the money away you want; to do the things you like to do, etc.
How? Start shopping – not to buy – but to do research, to become informed. Go to open houses, visit travel agents, sit in cars, look in stores you wouldn’t normally shop in, research charities, go online, talk to people, go places, write notes, keep files, and do what any informed buyer would do. If you have an idea, you’d like to take a year off with your family and live in a foreign land, then find out the cost. Find out who and how you’ll have things looked after at home; where you’ll go; where you’ll live, and all the prices if you were to do it today. Even if you think you won’t live out your vision for five to ten years, you can find out the costs today, then update your figures later, or learn to apply financial math calculations to project likely increases. You need to know the price of your dream, of your desired lifestyle, of your life outside of your current working and income situation; otherwise you’re giving up control and working with “averages” at best. Is your life just average, or is your life unique and personal? This is not a hard step unless you make it about lack, regret, fear, and self-pity. This is about making it happen. Without this step, even if you won a lottery, you wouldn’t know how to use the money. Enjoy this process. It’s far easier than living a life of “coulda, shoulda and woulda.”
The general theme in the world of personal finance is fear. I’ve worked in the industry for a long time and more than I can ever remember people are afraid of loss. And, if they’re not afraid of loss, then they’re afraid to make a decision (which is really the same thing because that means they are afraid to do anything for fear they’ll make the wrong choice). EESHK – it’s exasperating. The dark cloud of negativity is hardly conducive to wealth creation – and this is the message we want you to hear this week: that you can learn to make decisions in any market. You can feel secure regardless of the media alerts to the contrary.
The Good – the Bad – and the Reality… okay, seriously now, we are not ones to like the word ‘realistic’ much because it is so subjective. However, there is a big difference between realistic and reality. You might not see a direct path to your destination, and therefore, conclude that it is not very realistic. However, the reality is that if someone ever has done something remotely similar, then the reality is that the thing you are presented with is indeed possible. This means that your use of the word realistic needs to be used with caution.
Here is an example: suppose you have worked for a company your whole life and are now 47 years old and looking at your finances. You still have a mortgage, two children to complete college or university, a line of credit with an outstanding balance, and your combination of pension and retirement savings barely totals your annual income when you add it all up. Furthermore, you have been at the job for 20 years and the possibilities for advancement are nominal at best. You have contemplated starting a business manufacturing widgets, something you have tinkered with for years, however you barely have money available at the end of the month to put anything aside as it is – you certainly don’t have money to start a company. The very idea of starting a company at this stage of your life is ‘unrealistic’. Or is it?
Has anyone in those circumstances ever started a successful business? Sure they have. Therefore, the reality is that you are afraid you might fail, and therefore, have instead justified your fear under a mask of ‘realistic’.
The reality is that if you have the vision and commitment, you can put plans in place. You can work with others who have done something similar so that you take one step at a time. Perhaps starting with the plan including cash flow forecasts so you can see how much money your project will take, and over what period of time, and what your return on your investment will provide you if you are successful in following through on your plans.
The view from the top always looks beautiful. From the top of a mountain, you can breath in the sights of the world below while enjoying the fruits of your labour from the climb you have just completed. On the ground is reality – the day to day hustle bustle of everyday life. From the bottom looking up, you know it will be beautiful and relaxing, but you also know that the climb has to be planned, scheduled, and carried out. And, when you get to the top and you are looking down, the view is great… but, you also know that the busyness of everyday life is exhausting.
No one really wants to lose the feeling from the top just like no one really wants to do the work to climb in the first place. That is why the windfall is always so appealing – success without the effort. This is also why a slow decline can be stressful. With a mountain climb, it is easier to follow a path around the mountain than it is to go straight up. And, with money, it is easier to plan and implement a sideways plan for financial independence than it is to go straight up. And, it is easier and less stressful to build a path that meanders up the mountain and stays there than it is to receive a windfall, and have to watch it dwindle away as you deplete the money through spending.
If you are interested in exploring options to earn money in other ways besides your current employment or career, a great place to start is to really evaluate your interests. Often we discard the things we are really interested in because we have preconceived ideas that they won’t be able to provide the income we want. For example, why is it that the term “starving artist” is so common? Are all artists starving or broke? Are there some artists who do earn a great living? What are the ways in which an artist can earn money? What are the different ways that an artist earns money from their trade? Can they license their material; create multiple products from their artwork; have someone else create multiple products from their artwork? Can they work as an artist in a corporate environment; as an instructor; as a consultant; in a field or for a company, which supplies their industry? And on and on!!
How do you start to explore alternative ways to create income from your interests and talents? You can do this exercise in any industry by starting to ask questions and exploring options. If you truly have an interest in anything and have discarded the idea of earning money from that interest, start asking different questions before you immediately eliminate any possibility.
Make all financial decisions based on what is important to you, not simply because you want to make more money. Why? What will more money mean? Why are you making that purchase or the investment? What will it mean to you in your life today and in the future?
Because: If you are not focused on what you truly want, then it’s too easy to make decisions that “feel good in the moment,” but aren’t really supporting your long-term vision. It’s too easy to make decisions because you have a sense that you “should” do something; or to make decisions because you feel guilty about what you have or have not done with your money in the past.
As we all would prefer to never lose anything, loss is a fact of life and one that needs our attention in terms of how it affects our lives financially. From a financial perspective, consider the following categories of potential loss:
• Material loss (stuff)
• Personal loss (death, divorce or moving away)
• Health loss (sickness or injury)
• Financial loss (investment, fraud or income)
Within each category, there are obviously many different ways that we are affected. The common theme though is the impact loss has on us from an emotional perspective. Whenever there is a significant emotional upset in your life, there will be a negative impact on your ability to make decisions and function effectively. And this is where a solid financial foundation will help you prepare for the inevitable losses that are part of life.
We know that no one wants to face loss, which is why procrastination seems like an easier option. This is the same fear and emotional response to avoiding setting goals: you are faced with the reality of where you are compared to where you could be. From a risk management perspective, this means you have to come face to face with the reality that risks are present in your life. From a goal setting perspective, you have to come face to face with your current situation compared to where you would like to be, and both situations are like the ‘yawning chasm’ that seems daunting and overwhelming.
When you can recognize this emotional block, you can take charge. And, it is in these decisions to build your foundation to prepare for the future that the losses are minimized and the rewards become real.
How you look at money is how you see life. If you see money as scarce, that scarcity mentality will be reflected in other areas of your life such as eating, spending (or not) and time. If you see money as an obstacle, it will likely be difficult in one way or another. If, instead, you see money as exciting, interesting or as a tool to living life, your approach will be very different.
Mastering the tool of money first requires you to understand that is just that, a tool not unlike any other household tool that we use on a regular basis. Using a fork, for example, we learn to master at a young age because of its usefulness for eating. A pitchfork for gardening, however, might never be used unless you take up gardening. And, if you do garden, you will quickly realize that a pitchfork is far more useful for digging a larger garden than a smaller hand fork. You will also ascertain that a garden fork serves an entirely different purpose than a fork you eat with even though they look very similar.
Using this analogy, you can easily see that if you’re looking at a large garden bed that needs the soil turned over it would be a long, tedious task to use a smaller potting fork to prepare the soil. You turn over the soil in a garden to prepare it for planting and to facilitate growth. You use an appropriate tool to prepare for the change necessary for the new growth. The secret to successful gardening is to first prepare the soil beginning by selecting an appropriate tool.
The key to successful finance is to recognize your perspective, and understand that you can plant seeds that, with nurturing, grow into a beautiful garden. But, before you do, you must realize that at some point you’re going to have to dig into the dirt of your current thinking that has created the current situation, then use an appropriate tool to plant and grow your garden before you can harvest the crop.
Okay, so if money is almost as important as oxygen for survival in our society, then what does it really mean when you hear people say, or perhaps you say yourself, that you don’t like money? If anything to do with money issues creates stress for you, or every time something to do with money comes up that you would rather avoid, then stop and ask why? Consider some of the following questions to determine if your values, beliefs and priorities around money are serving you in your life or holding you back from what’s really important for you:
• What don’t you like about money?
• Why don’t you like dealing with money?
• What about money causes you stress?
• Why does money cause you stress?
• What do you associate with money?
• What do you like about money?
• What does money mean in your life?
Without question, more money is preferable to less money. How much more, however is a concept that must be able to be articulated in actual dollars and cents. If you have a vague idea of how much more money you would like; or what and if more money will do for you in your life, then it is not real. If it’s not real, then it is not believable. And, if it is not believable, the tendency is for the money in your life to stay at the level that is believable because this is what is comfortable. Besides doing the research to specifically document the cost of your desired lifestyle, a powerful exercise you can do to ‘try on’ different amounts of ‘more money’ is to add zeros.
How? When you are shopping, imagine that the purchase price for your groceries had another zero on the end. For example, if your bill was for $100, could you imagine spending $1,000 for groceries? If your monthly income is $3,000, could you imagine it at $30,000? If the value of your home is $300,000, could you imagine living in a $3,000,000 home? Do you have a personal comfort level with how much you think is ‘appropriate’ or ‘realistic’? What is the most money you could imagine spending on yourself for say a pair of shoes? If you are comfortable with $50, could you image spending $500? What is the amount of money you could imagine giving away? If you are comfortable with $10, can you imagine $100, $1,000, $10,000, $100,000 or $1,000,000? At what point do you get uncomfortable? Pay attention to the zeros, and your response to them, and you will learn a lot about the connection between your comfort level and your belief which is what will ultimately determine your results.