2 Lessons Learned From A Financial Advisor
Learning to handle our finances has been a life long process for me. I don’t think anyone likes budgeting or even worse, actually sticking to one. Over the course of my life, I have tried varies suggestions on how to make and stick to a budget, but without much success. Up until about seven years ago, when I met with a Personal Financial Advisor. When I met with Alan, our fiances were really tight. We had tons of medical bills and still four children at home. We were basically living from paycheck to paycheck. This wasn’t the first time that I had visited with someone regarding our fiances, but this time it made all the difference. Here I was sitting across the room from this “wise” financial person (and author), and he said to me “Maria, I think we need to decide now, when you’ll have your mortgage paid off”. I thought to myself “you gotta be kidding me!!! Do you have any idea???” Instead I sarcastically said “really? you tell me how and when, and I’ll do it”. I neither believed him or me. I had read books about the power of visualization, goals and intentions, but I did not believe it was possible for me.
I believe (at least hope so) that most people have good intentions when making financial choices and decisions. Unfortunately sometimes, even with the best of intentions, we don’t necessary achieve what we had hoped for, unless we do something about it. For instance, I don’t think anyone sets out to intentionally overspend or get into debt. I am sure that majority of us, just want to make a living with some flexibility for fun, while attaining a form of financial security for the unexpected. Life happens and we all hope we can be ready.
Years of living from paycheck to paycheck, I decided that it was time to make changes. I bought a finance book from a thrift store and read it cover to cover, twice (lot of reading). I felt determined and committed to find answers I needed. After searching online for the authors of the book, I found that one of them lived locally here in Utah. I decided to contact him and meet up. I spend the next five months being mentored by Alan, and although it wasn’t cheap in terms of dollars (had to use a big chunk of our savings), the value we received outweighed by far the cost. From this mentoring I learned lots of things, first of all, that it’s okay to talk about money and to receive advice regarding your personal finances from someone you trust. Most of us want to believe that we are totally capable, and I am here to tell you, YOU PROBABLY ARE! After all, we had managed very well for over twenty years without any major debts or problems. But this time it was more than just learning about budgeting and smart saving, it was gaining a deeper insight about money and it’s role in my (our) life.
Two Key Lessons
The value was more than monetary. My understanding of the psychological aspect of money and my intentions in regards to financial success increased. There are no “secrets” to financial success. Learning to manage our finances and making a living is something we all have to do. Our employment, how we spend our money or save it, is ultimately an individual or family decision. I don’t judge your choices, and I hope you don’t judge mine(I have sat on the other side of someone’s table where I was harshly criticized for my decisions, – Yap! it’s no fun!). Before we can make and successfully follow a budget, we have to understand our personal values and intentions. I learned, that if I didn’t change my thinking about money, it would be really hard for me to change my behaviors. That’s why gaining an understanding of the two concepts of emotional spending and our intentions, became the beginning of the change I was looking for in our personal finances.
“Getting control of your money is about emotion, not intellect. You must believe passionately in the outcome”
#Spending is Emotional
The first and most important lesson Alan taught me was, that spending is emotional. Emotional spending is when we buy stuff we really don’t need. We may WANT them, but we really don’t need. As a society, our brains are wired to believe that true success is linked to our possessions. It can be for instance, that grand house, that is bigger than we really need. It can be the new upgraded car or latest gadget. Cloths, toys, stuff, sky is the limit of what money can buy. Sometimes emotional spending can be a consequence of a specific emotion or need, such as need of immediate gratification or needing to de-stress. Then there is the entitlement or the deserve factor. I am aware of how “retail therapy” done in moderation can offer positive effects. But for me learning to understand the full picture of our relationship with money and wants, was really important. Often times I think, most of us, are just simply too busy making a living, to have to worry about the emotional aspect of it as well. After all the median salary of a full-time working American in 2018, according to Bureau of Labor Statistic, was less than $45,000.
“It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.”
Changing The Way We Think
For those who are living under or around the median income, it can be real challenging to make ends meet. I am fully aware of this. And actually when we lived on a real tight budget, the only emotion I felt was hopeless. But by becoming aware of my own emotions and intentions, this helped me greatly. First step in learning was, that there are tools that logically can help people to set their finances in order. According to Business Insider, Americans spend majority of their income on housing, transportation and food. Tony Robbins says, “one way to save major money that most people don’t even consider is to move”. Any type of “move” has to first makes sense in our mind. Then we have to believe it, so that we can act upon it. Like Tony says “I know it sounds crazy or impossible but what would happen, if just for a moment…”. There is power in our thoughts. We have to be able to imagine “if just for a moment”. Alan told me “you have to be able to visualize it Maria, and know your intentions”. I gradually started changing my way of thinking. As I did, I also started seeing positive changes I’d been looking for.
“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.”
#Understanding Our Intentions
Realizing that I could accomplish anything I wanted, made me feel empowered and willing to move forward. The next thing I had to achieve was to gain an understanding of what my intentions were. Intentions have a greater impact in our lives than just merely goals. An intention is knowing what I want right now, today and not another time or day in the future, it represents my values. A goal is a destination or an end result that we can reach like a benchmark, such like the day my husband and I paid off the mortgage on our home. But our intention was and still is to sow seeds of gratitude and give back to those around us along the way of our journey in life. It wasn’t until Robert and I understood our intention with our finances, that we could suddenly start seeing the bigger picture and not be afraid to reach for our dreams. Intentions also have to do with the enjoying the journey while reaching for a goal. Without the enjoyment or gratitude for the experience, along the way, all we might encounter is the stress of potentially unfulfilled goals. If we fail (there is no smooth sailing in life) in reaching our goals (like a new job, x-amount of cash in the bank etc.) we might get discouraged and give up. This thinking of failure, will prevent us seeing the endless possibilities in terms of prosperity in all aspects of life, in this case financially.
Intentions Are Limitless
Right intentions are our hopes and dreams in action. It’s the energy and awareness that comes from our very core. But we have to be careful not to allow the everyday setbacks to crush our good intentions. Allow me to explain in gardening terms. When I first started gardening, I wanted to have a beautiful, manicured garden filled with flowers, vegetables, bushes and trees. I’d set up goals only to discover that the weather didn’t always cooperate (if ever). I would constantly encounter bugs, virus and rodents in my garden boxes and flower beds. So often, after reaching my goal of successfully growing veggies, we would loose part of our harvest because of different reasons mentioned. Frustrated, I did this for few seasons, until it finally dawned on me. If my intent with gardening was only to enjoy the final product, then I would be stressing every time the weather was bad and every time the bugs and disease came along (that would mean stress every day, pretty much). Instead I started finding purpose and joy in every step of the way. I started planting seeds of gratitude, not just in my garden, but in every aspect of my life. Suddenly the task of sowing became more enjoyable than the fruit itself.
Money Is Just A Tool
Thru being mindful of our financial intentions, I started seeing opportunities I hadn’t seen before. I started identifying my emotional spending patterns. Consequently roads opened up which ended up making a difference for our financial future. Seeing money as a tool to help us with our intentions, rather than for mere consumption, changed our definition of financial success for both of us. Which resulted in that Robert and I, with very limited experience (in entrepreneurial sense) and funds, took a leap of faith and became self-employed and made all necessary changes towards bettering our financial future.
We still live in our “old” house, drive a “cheap” car and shop for our needs on sale. Because what matters the most to us, is enjoying and being aware of this moment and our intentions. Once I understood these two lessons, the rest became attainable for us.
“When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way.”