Minimalism, Kakeibo and Happiness

saving money

Minimalism, Happiness and Kakeibo: Minimalism trends have been around at least a decade. They contributed to the rise of the FIRE (Financially Independent Retiring Early) movement, where 20- to 40-somethings shared ways to “retire” before the conventional 60-something age. Much of the movement’s advice questions how much one really needs to spend to be happy.

While staying-at-home one morning in 2020, my husband and I had a heartfelt talk about the future. We began with guessing how the world might change; and then how our microworld-within-the-world might change. We braved scary thoughts about health, family, finances, and society. Then we shifted to how little we need to be happy.

Choosing Wisely

In other words, should scary stuff happen, we agreed to make a choice about our response to it. The pandemic helped affirm that stuff, even money, isn’t our highest priority.

It’s possible we aren’t the only ones coming to these conclusions. Minimalism might enjoy a pandemic-inspired boost. For example, in 2020 journalist Sarah Harvey described her discovery of the Japanese art of kakeibo (“kah-keh-bo”) in this article: https://www.cnbc.com/amp/2020/01/08/how-this-japanese-method-of-saving-money-changed-my-lifeand-made-me-richer.html

What is Kakeibo?

Kakeibo is the Japanese art of keeping a written financial ledger. Writing Harvey’s expenditures down brought their relative need (or lack thereof) into sharp focus for her. It helped her spend less by watching what she spent on. As a result, she chose more wisely in her spending.

For me, I already keep a spending journal, but joining Weight Watchers also worked the same way. By tracking what I ate, I quickly learned where excessive calories came from. As a result, I ate more mindfully. More frequently, I paused before grabbing the next snack. As a result, I chose more wisely in my eating.

So, kakeibo kind of works like Weight Watchers but for wealth.

Paring Down the Excess, Like, a Car

Looking at our spending during the pandemic caused us to wonder, if we are being forced to do without, what won’t we miss? While being forced to stay home, we discovered upsides to more home-cooked meals; more family time (even if on Zoom); more movies at home; and more neighborhood bike rides. More downsides were discovered to driving, commuting, and shopping in stores.

We began to realize – could we slow down, spend less, and actually be a little happier?

For example, because we got outside more, we met more neighbors. We stayed closer to home for socializing as well as shopping and working. In fact, I was using my car so much less that it began to feel like excess. Why were we paying insurance, license renewal fees, and letting it take up room in the garage? So In July 2021, we sold it.

Minimalism, Money, and Mindset

Like an ecosystem hit by a natural disaster, some parts of our old lives may now begin to feel excessive, or may crumble and not come back. Others will adapt and grow to take their place.

Having to make do with less highlighted that happiness is more dependent on our mindset than our stuff and our money.

What discoveries have you made about your spending in the last 2 years? Share a comment below.

For more psychology of money, tax, and funny video tips, subscribe to the award-winning monthly e-letter, “The View From the Porch,” at https://bit.ly/3t2uwfn.

For a short online course on how to speak “finance” about retirement readiness, see Simple Finance Retirement Readiness: https://bit.ly/3p3BkXE

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What’s a Holiday Spending Style?

what's a holiday spending style

What’s a holiday spending style? It’s the approach you take to spending money on others.

How do you decide what to spend at the holidays, and on whom? In her program, Money Habitudes http://www.moneyhabitudes.com, Dr. Syble Solomon breaks down our money habits and attitudes into several different styles. Here are how a few of those styles might apply to holiday spending.

Spending Style: Status

After earning my first real money at 15, I made a list and a budget for each person on it. A few years later, at age 20, I looked at the list of names, each with a dollar sign beside them, and thought “Yikes!” It could appear as if each person had a price tag.

At the time, I didn’t know it, but I was operating under one of Dr. Solomon’s six spending styles, the one involving “status.” In other words, I was too concerned what other people would think about my spending decisions, and as a result, I spent too much.

So next,  I made a “total” budget, and tried to keep track as I went along on how I was doing. Yet that didn’t work very well, since I could always find an excuse to break the budget on something to keep it “fair.”

Spending Style: Security

If you spend very little on others, and on yourself, because you are concerned you may need it for an emergency, you might have the “security” spending style. You might do the bare minimum necessary to get invited back to next year’s turkey dinner. Or you might find ways to celebrate other than spending money.

Spending Style: Idealist

Idealist – If you reject the materialism of the holidays, then you might give everyone something home-made, like cookies, or your own artistic creation. You have the hardest time of all styles making a spending plan, because you despise handling money matters.

Spending Style: Spontaneous

This style can’t wait to see what great ideas are presented each year by retailers. Perhaps you make a spending plan, but you have a tough time sticking to it because of all the fun temptations and opportunities to purchase the perfect gifts presented to you right before checking out.

Spending Style: Caretaker

Caretakers see gift-giving as a way to show how much you care about people. Your spending plan might be more generous than other spending styles (but hopefully not more generous than is financially wise).

Spending Style: Goal-Oriented

Your most important concern is staying within your spending plan. It may take you longer to get your shopping done in order to find the right gift-cost combinations.

What’s Your Style?

If you exhibit more than one holiday spending style, that is a good thing. The key is not to take any one style to an extreme. If you can make a spending plan that is wise for your situation, shows your love and affection for others, and still allows for some guilt-free spontaneity, you have probably found the combination that will bring you, and those you care about, lots of joy this holiday season.

For more on the psychology of money, see The Mindful Money Mentality: How to Find Balance in Your Financial Future.

Or to schedule a call to talk about money matters on your mind, click here.

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Decision Fatigue and Shopping

retail shopping fatigue

Decision fatigue is a real thing. I discovered this poignantly on a recent shopping trip. The mission was simple: Buy a spice rack. I figured the best shot was at Bed Bath Beyond (BBB); a store I had not entered in over a year, much less at the holidays. I had a specific size and type in mind, so there was no doubt BBB would provide all the choices I needed. Little did I know that trip would be the beginning of the end of my day’s productivity.

Upon entering, I scanned quickly, bypassing a cart to stay focused on the single item I wanted. Smugly, I glided past the holiday specials to the kitchen department. Lo and behold, there were spice racks. And all kinds of other racks. An embarrassment of choices.

Because I like choices (or thought I did until this day), before long, I was nose to nose with shelves and shelves of plastic, rubber, wood, aluminum, and chrome gadgets, and doodads for kitchen storage problems I didn’t even know I had. It was an assault on my single-mindedness. More than once, something other than a spice rack caught my eye. At first, I had the mental wherewithal to ignore them.

Decision Fatigue Begins

As the minutes wore on, my brain was presented with dozens of items for which a decision had to be made. Does it look like what I came for? If yes, is it the right size and type? If no, move to next item. As this process continued, some strangely gleeful part of my brain, a la Martha Stewart, said, “It’s not the spice rack, but….is it something I COULD use? Hmmmm…it looks very handy. And sleek, too! After all….maybe it could make even more room in the cabinet?” The cabinet, of course, had nothing to do with the spice rack.

“STOP IT,” another Jean-Chatzky-part of my brain, said. “You are here to get the spice rack. Move on.”

Next doodad. Does this look like the spice rack? No, not quite. Yet, the label showed the entire matching doodad set in a fantasy-organized kitchen. Then that Martha Stewart voice again, “Oh, wouldn’t it be cool if my whole kitchen looked like this doodad’s label?”

“STOP IT,” Jean intervened. “You would have to buy every doodad like it in here, which is a) exactly what you did not come here to do and b) doesn’t even include a spice rack. Next item!”

And so it went….back and forth over a dozen items for fifteen minutes. My mental wherewithal was waning.

Finally, I found exactly what I was looking for and grabbed it.

Decision Fatigue Leads to Aimless Shopping

By then, Martha and Jean had gone 144 rounds. I felt drained. So why did I feel like, oh, taking a look around? Just to see if there was something I couldn’t live without? I got to the bath side and wondered what got into me.

To check out, I had to walk the gauntlet of holiday specials again. I actually pondered chocolates. That’s how beaten-down my willpower was.

When I left the store only $8.35 poorer, I felt like Rocky – beat up, but victorious.

I needed a nap.

Emptying the Decisionmaking Fuel Tank

Dr. Moira Somers, a decision fatigue expert, talks about the mental energy required to make decisions, particularly ones avoiding temptation. It seems we wake up each day with a finite amount of mental decisionmaking energy, like a full tank of fuel. After exhausting our tank, it’s free-for-all shopping, chocolate, smoking, sleeping, nagging, drinking, or whatever your personal favorite fallback behavior happens to be. That devilish irrational voice, (“it’s ok to have it this time” “I won’t do it again” “I can make it up later”) is most powerful when we’re depleted.

To make it more challenging, now we have online shopping. Savvy retailers are perfecting the presentation of temptations on our phones as well as they do in stores. It’s devilishly easy (and I confess, enjoyable) to click and shop.

Finally, stress of any kind (had a little bit of that the last 2 years?) burns fuel in the tank too. When we worry, we erode the ability to resist spontaneous decisions we later regret.

How To Keep the Tank Full

Some solutions? Plenty of sleep. Meditation and mindfulness. Frequent rest breaks. Having someone with whom you can share your struggles.

Also, put fewer decisions into every day by asking whether they can be:

  • automated
  • delegated
  • eliminated or
  • date-activated (meaning putting it on the calendar so it doesn’t take up space in your head).

For more on decision fatigue, see Dr. Somers’ work at http://moneymindandmeaning.com, or Chapter 6 of The Mindful Money Mentality: How To Find Balance in Your Financial Future.

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Letting Go of Money Self-Doubt

Letting go of money self-doubt is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. Sometimes these messages operate in the background, quietly driving decisions when we don’t realize it. Other times they’re front and center.

What does money self-doubt sound like? “I knew I’d screw it up.” “I’ll never be good with money.” “If I can’t manage my own finances, I’m a failure.”  “Why am I so stupid with money?”

Painful statements, these are. While sometimes spoken out loud, they are spoken silently far more often.

Money Self-Doubt Origins

Where does money self-doubt come from?  It could be one traumatic event or a repetition of harmful moments that lead to flawed beliefs about our financial capabilities. Without counterbalancing mantras like, “You’re still good. You just made a mistake,” or “You can do this,” the message delivered can be, “You’re a screwup. You’re a failure. You will never get it.”

Sondra (not her real name) is a highly educated and accomplished professional. Her parents came from Depression-era families where money was tight in their younger years. Money was never talked about in Sondra’s home, although she was given everything she needed. She grew up with the belief that her parents didn’t discuss it with her because they believed money was something she was not capable of handling.

Money Self-Doubt Results

Without realizing these beliefs exist, we allow th to influence what actions we take or fail to take. It can affect who we allow into our lives, and who we don’t. It can affect our choice of career. Or how we spend, or choose not to, on our own needs, wants, and wishes. Ironically, money self-doubt can lead to overspending with some people, and deprivation with others.

Sondra chose a career where she was assured a salary and the chance of a bonus if she worked hard enough. She worked longer hours than she wanted to. She lived minimally, foregoing many comforts and rewards of her hard work. Her dreams of having more work-life balance were put on hold because she never felt financially secure. In her personal life, she chose friends and partners who also didn’t talk about money, leaving a gap in her closest relationships.

Letting Go of the Messages

If you’ve been operating under flawed assumptions, and now you know it, you’ve taken the first step to reset your relationship with money.

What else can you do? Here are two suggestions to start:

1) Be aware of those who are too willing to reinforce doubt-based messages – family members, partners, friends, or even (especially) financial professionals. Instead, seek the company of those who say, “I am confident you can handle this,” and will work alongside you, not put themselves ahead or above you.

2) Be aware of body messages. Self-doubt, sometimes manifesting as shame, has a feeling to it – it might be tightness in the chest, nausea or butterflies. Breathe through the feeling and redirect your thoughts to positive truths. You are smart. This is something you can do. You got this, even if you have to ask for help to get started. Call someone supportive to talk about it.

After talking with a friend, Sondra decided to educate herself about money. She began to read books that explained things simply, and take online courses that took a simple approach. Patiently, she interviewed many financial professionals. The more she talked about money, the more confident she became. In the end, she found someone who prioritized her financial education and independence. She began to feel more secure, and consider a daring career move.

The Gift of Letting Go

Letting go of money self-doubt can be one of the greatest gifts we give ourselves to reach peace and security about our financial future.

For more on unspoken money messages see Chapters 2 and 3 of The Mindful Money Mentality: How to Find Balance in Your Financial Future, or this 5-minute video with mental health counselor Ken Donaldson on Money Shame.

For a short online course on how to speak “finance” about retirement readiness, see Simple Finance Retirement Readiness: https://bit.ly/3p3BkXE

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Straight Talk: How I Faced the Money Taboo

“I HATE dealing with money,” my professor said.

My original piggy bank

A relationship therapist I follow has a tagline: “The top two causes of divorce are sex and money, and I’m no accountant.” Could it be a coincidence that the top two causes of divorce are also the most taboo topics? I am often asked, “How long have you been doing this?” My half-funny, half-serious answer is, “I made my first budget when I was 9.” Money has been important to me as long as I can remember. I still have the same piggy bank from my childhood.

Despite my passion, when it came to talking about money with other people, I used to struggle. The rational part of me would think, “Money is like air, isn’t it? We all need it, so there shouldn’t be anything wrong with talking about it, right?” On the other hand, one of my first boyfriends broke my heart when he said money was too important to me. I got the societal message loud and clear then: much like with sex, it’s not polite to talk about money, and you shouldn’t dare tell other people that you actually like talking about it.

Getting Over Money Shame

It wasn’t until my senior year in college during a semester abroad in India, that my money skills emerged as a source of self-esteem. Our group numbered twelve students from Davidson College and Duke University, led by a Davidson religion professor. The professor had to manage all the group’s expenses; our lodging, our meals and our transportation, while we went all over the country having the time of our lives. Of course, this trip came before much of India had credit card capability, meaning our professor had to organize the budget by keeping track of the piles of rupees and traveler’s checks he would go through.

Towards the end of the trip we were talking about our career aspirations when we got back to the US. I was majoring in economics and bashfully shared that I hoped to help people or businesses with their money. The professor said, “What? I could have used your help all this time with the budget for the trip!” I was flabbergasted and honored. No authority figure had ever said they would trust me to help with their money until that point.

“I would have loved to do that,” I replied.

“I HATE dealing with money,” he said.

It was then I realized two things:

  1. My passion for money help was not something everyone shared.
  2. In fact, there were some people who hated money so much they would rather I handle it for them.

How to Break the Money Taboo

However, just because I gained a level of comfort talking about money at that moment didn’t mean others automatically would too. I needed to learn how to talk about money in a way that was approachable, accepting, and simple.

Years later, when I was starting my own practice, I was glad when one of my former banking clients suggested I call it “Straight Talk Financial Planning.” Although I didn’t take his suggestion, it told me I had made progress toward my goal. I’m proud to say that I got over my own money taboo, and have helped others do the same.

As far as that other unmentionable topic mentioned by the relationship therapist, well, …I’ll leave that one for her.

How about you? What’s your comfort level with talking about money? Drop us a line, comment here, or schedule a call if you’d like to talk more.

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Not Your Typical Legacy

How many Americans over the age of 50, like me, can say they learned yoga from their grandmother? She wasn’t Indian, or Hindu, or Buddhist. Born in 1913, she was raised as a Presbyterian in rural Tennessee. She came of age in the Great Depression. She worked in the same courthouse as Sheriff Buford Pusser (yes, the one from “Walking Tall”). 

She was an athlete. At 5′ 1″, she played the side center position (which no longer exists) on the high school’s basketball team, and received a scholarship to Lambuth College. She was a fierce swimmer, and taught a couple generations of Tennessee townfolks to swim. Then I, the first grandchild, came along in 1965. My parents were living near Tampa, Florida, so she and my grandfather left their small Tennessee hometown. She soon found a local “spa” (what gyms for women were called back then) to swim and attend exercise classes. Around 1973, a yogi started teaching there. At about 60 years of age, she became hooked on health food and headstands. 

As an 8-year-old, although her headstands were cool, I was not enthusiastic. Before the yogi entered her life, we got weekly trips to 7-11 to pick out any candy we wanted, and endless cartoons at their apartment on Saturday mornings. Suddenly there were carob bars, spoonfuls of wheat germ, and mandatory morning Salutes-to-the-sun. Then came the headstands, “Plank,” “Cobra,” and seemingly impossible poses. When we got a sore throat, there was the “Lion.”  I soon learned if I had a bodily complaint, there would be a yoga lesson forthcoming. So I didn’t complain too much.

Looking back now, I am quite sure she was aware of the legacy she was creating. Despite my childhood protests and a young adult period of yoga-resistant dormancy, surely she knew one day I would be grateful. Indeed, with help from occasional classes, I have a morning yoga practice at home that is a cornerstone of my physical and mental wellbeing. When I lift my arms to salute the sun, I repeat a movement, reinforce a discipline, inhale a breath that has been part of me for over 40 years now. It’s an anchor to who I have always been. With every passing year, my gratitude for her gift multiplies. 

In the financial planning business, the topic of one’s “legacy” often comes up in the context of how much and what kind of financial gift to leave to heirs. My grandmother never had a lot of money. But I wouldn’t trade my yoga practice for any other kind of gift from her. 

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Retirement Life: More Than Money At Stake

I knew a man who couldn’t wait to retire from his government job. Because of decades of hard work and wise money decisions, he was able to call it quits at 55. Thrilled with his newfound freedom, he immediately took to cooking, golf, dating (he had divorced at 49), traveling, fishing, and having fun. For the first few years, every time I saw him, I could see the lack of work responsibilities had lightened his step and his heart. After about ten years, he moved to a Florida retirement community where the roofs and mailboxes are almost identical and one of the few ways to stand out is by the cover on your golf cart. It seemed to outsiders that everyone looked the same, dressed the same, exercised the same, but seemed happy with their life in the sunshine.

Yet one day on the phone he said, “Y’know, I really like talking with you. I don’t have anybody to talk to here.”

I was shocked. “What? Surely there are some retired CEOs, executives, people that think like you, that play golf, and that you have a lot in common with.”

“Nah,” he said, “I don’t have that much in common with anybody here.”

I thought that was crazy. He looked like all the rest of them, dressed like them, played golf and pickleball like them. He probably was just as well off, financially, as any of them. How could he not have someone to relate to? Unfortunately at that time, I was unfamiliar with the signs of depression. Five years later, it took his life.

According to writer Mitch Anthony,  there are three myths about the “ideal” retirement:

  1. “This part of my life is going to be about ME.”

Anthony says, “This is a formula for emptiness.”

  1. “I am going to surround myself with people like ME.”

Anthony’s reply: “This is a formula for stagnation.”

  1. “I am going to do nothing but relax.”

Anthony: “This is a formula for boredom.”

Emptiness, stagnation, and boredom. Doesn’t sound much like the ideal retirement. A Mayo Clinic gerontologist told Anthony, “A life of total ease is two steps removed from a life of total disease.The first step is that they get bored, the second step is that they grow pessimistic, and then they get ill.”

This is what writer Robert Laura termed the “dark side” of retirement. For some who don’t think about how to bring meaning and purpose to their life after work, serious mental health maladies, like depression and addiction, await. Florida retirement communities have some of the highest suicide rates in the country, particularly among white males over 65 years old. Women seem to fare better. Anecdotally, several women I know have vibrant lives in retirement communities, filled with volunteering, teaching others, and various circles of friends.

South Dakota financial planner Rick Kahler responded to Laura’s article with several wise suggestions: Ask yourself how much of your identity is tied up in what you do, rather than who you are. Start creating a life to retire “to” rather than simply a job or business to retire “from.” Consider gradually reducing to part time and taking extended vacations, rather than showing up one day, and having nowhere to go the next. In your ideal week, how would you spend your time, and with whom? Have a diverse social network outside of work. Writer Douglas Bloch  complained his parents’ retirement community had no children, while his retired friends were finding fulfillment mentoring youngsters in math.

Want to take it further? Dori Mintzer, Ph.D. has a weekly live interview series – “Revolutionize Retirement,” where she interviews experts on retirement life. Sign up for free at www.revolutionizeretirement.com.

Retirement planning has far more at stake than planning how to invest your assets. For some people, a well-thought out investment plan for their time, more than their money, can be the difference between illness and premature death, and a long, fulfilling life.

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How Do You Balance Savings and Splurging?

“I’d really like that, but I don’t deserve it.”

“It would be wonderful to visit there, but I can’t do it in the foreseeable future.”

“That will be really fun when I’m retired, if I have enough money then.”

Delayed gratification. It’s the mantra of the Puritan work ethic. Sacrifice today so there will be enough tomorrow. (And if you don’t, there won’t.)

Our culture rewards those who sacrifice – to extreme. It seems like our jeans can’t be too skinny and our accounts can’t be too fat.

These messages, ingrained in some childhoods and reinforced by media in adulthood, leave little room for good, old-fashioned splurging. What’s your definition of a splurge? For too many people I meet, it’s the extra week of summer camp for their child. It’s the flight to visit the grandparents, or grandchildren. It’s a toy or exotic trip they’ve dreamed about for decades. It’s the alternative and mental health treatments that nourish their soul.

If these messages are speaking to you, then the message I am hoping you will consider alongside them is, “Trust yourself.” If you don’t have a history of racking up unmanageable credit card debt, chances are one trip or toy is not going to send you there. If you don’t regularly run out of month before money, the occasional treats or therapy for yourself have little danger of becoming your new uncontrollable habit.

In a media world filled with messages about Americans’ overspending and undersaving, there are more than a few who have the opposite problem. And as admirable as it may seem, it has costs – in regret, in relationships with others, and in integrity with ourselves.

How can we know? Ask someone over the age of 90, or who has been given a limited time to live. Our focus on what mattered most to us sharpens considerably when we are told our time and health are now more precious resources than our money.

So if you haven’t taken care of your current self lately because you think your future self will be “poor,”  lighten up and strike some spontaneity in your budget.

I, Holly P. Thomas, Certified Financial Planner(TM), and recovering obsessive compulsive money addict, hereby give all Puritans permission to live more than a little.

And for more on “mindful splurging,” check out this recent article by Susan Johnston Taylor, https://www.headspace.com/blog/2016/05/20/how-to-splurge-mindfully/.

 

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When Does Financial Advice Become Couples Therapy?

I had just finished giving a talk on the psychology of money to a group of professionals, and a participant waited in line to speak to me afterwards. The person before him took quite a while, so I figured whatever he had to tell me must be pretty important to him. With a passionate look in his eye, he approached me and said, “I don’t think any of this emotional stuff about money is my job. I am not a psychology professional, and I don’t want to pretend to be one. In fact, I think I am asking for liability problems if I start bringing up things I don’t know about. I am bound to get myself in trouble, and maybe make it worse for them. Clients come to me for investment and financial advice. That’s what I’m good at, and that’s what I’ll give them. End of story.”

If you work with financial advice, and especially couples, long enough, emotional issues come up. Many financial advisors tread lightly with​​, or even avoid,​ confronting emotions behind clients’​ spending, investing, and sharing decisions. What if a​ couple brings up something the advisor doesn’t know how to handle? What if it produces a big ugly argument? What if somehow they get blamed for starting it?

How does a quantitatively-skilled financial professional understand when they are being helpful, and when they might be causing harm? The best thing I have learned to do is simply help with awareness. There are two possible outcomes from it: 1) the awareness and talking out loud with a third party helps the couple come to their own compromise and resolution; or 2) the awareness and talking out loud helps the three of us realize that resolving it might require more help than I am able to give. In other words, I never presume I have an​ argument’s answer, but I

​am willing to explore whether they have the answer within themselves. The worst that happens is that I’m wrong, but at least then we all know it and own it, rather than ignore it.

How do we​ get to this place of awareness? Trying these questions:

1. Is this normally how the conversation goes when you talk about this issue?

2. How does it normally end up?

3. What have you considered doing about it?

4 (If necessary). It sounds like this is a place where you might be stuck, and could use some outside help to work through. How would you feel about doing more work on it with a counselor?

With two clients in the room, the importance of bringing up these issues is more than doubled. If a couple is handling money disagreements in an unhealthy way, studies show the relationship itself is at great risk. And breakups and divorces cause way bigger money problems than the typical argument subject. Keeping this fact in mind means financial advisors ​might ​have a vested interest in helping couples face difficult money issues. Focusing only on the numbers may seem easier, but in the long run, the story for all three people ​may not​ end nearly as well.

See this post on YouTube here: Advice vs. Therapy – Holly P. Thomas, CFP

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Scared of Financial Success?

At one point in my banking career I was in line for a big promotion that involved a panel interview, and I blew it. People who served on the panel couldn’t believe the same person showed up for the interview who showed up for work every day. Instead of feeling pride and confidence when I first heard about the opportunity, I remember feeling discomfort and anxiety with the new title and bonus potential. It made no sense. Because I thought I might be given the opportunity again, I spent the following year working on the internal and external sources of my fear of success. I improved my inner confidence by joining Toastmasters (see that story here); and I improved my external messages by consciously surrounding myself with people who gave me joy and support. It worked: the next year, I aced it, and got the promotion.

Research on our messages about money has uncovered that some people may have an inner upper limit they have set on financial success. Past that limit, they become uncomfortable. Unknowingly, they will begin to sabotage themselves.  According to Ken Donaldson, LMHC, an emotional intelligence expert in Seminole Florida and author of Marry Yourself First , the upper limit is set by “history, events, programming, parents, institutions and cultural messages.”

Financial professionals often see this with windfalls. When someone has been handed a great deal more money than they have had before, and are uncomfortable with their new position, they may spend it or give it away until they are back in the financial position where they first started. Still others allow the windfall to sit in an account, untouched, unwilling to acknowledge its presence. For some people, the windfall can represent a real or imagined radical change in lifestyle and in relationships. It may give them a new self-identity, and they need time to grieve their old one. Meanwhile, some in their circles will accept them as they are, while others try to drag them down.

To address fear of success, self-made or not, work needs to be done on both inside and outside factors. Two steps in this direction: First, write your feelings about your new position today, then imagine how you would like to be spending your life three years from now. Second, surround yourself only with people who bring you joy and support. This may mean saying “no” to people whom you previously said “yes” to, detaching from them in a loving way.

Keep the messages of confidence flowing – from the inside and out – to embrace success, rather than ruin it.

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