Here’s an excerpt of an email I received yesterday.
I would like to wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving. I know this year’s Holiday Season will be very different than any other, but from what I know of you, I have a feeling that your focus will be on all the things you are thankful for, as you reminisce on times past, cherish wonderful and joyful memories, and eagerly anticipate exciting days ahead.”
To say that I was feeling verklempt after reading those words is an under-statement.
Tomorrow is definitely going to be a weirdly beautiful day for me. It’s Thanksgiving in the U.S. – bar none, my favorite holiday. Friday (11/28) also happens to be my birthday. So, for me this holiday always doubles as a birthday soiree, too.
Although I’ve hosted Thanksgiving for some 20+ years, this will be my first time frying a turkey for the occasion. It’ll also be my first holiday without my co-host – my beloved mother, Fontilla A. Timmons. (The photo to the right is from Thanksgiving 2013.)
No doubt, this holiday will be different than any other. But I’m so happy to continue a tradition of my mother’s and mine – one we started long ago. I am excited to welcome friends into my home and to make sure their bellies and souls are well-fed.
As I’ve been prepping for tomorrow’s dinner party, the holiday rituals of my mother’s and mine are clearer to me now than ever before. Likewise, my awareness of the power of presence (showing up is critical) and the healing power of connections and intimacy is heightened.
Rituals. Presence. Connections. Intimacy. These elements aren’t just present in my relationship with my mother or the one I have with the guests with whom I’m sharing my home and holiday. They exists in all relationships – including the one you and I have. And, I’m reminded that is been awhile since I’ve told you I appreciate you.
So before I go back into the kitchen, I just want to make sure you know…
It’s truly a privilege to be a part of your world and to have you be a part of mine. Thank you!
May you create some beautiful firsts this holiday. And as for those bitter-sweet firsts, I wish you strength and peace.
Wishing you and yours the Happiest Thanksgiving!
At least once or twice a day, I peruse finance.yahoo.com to quickly peruse the latest in financial news – especially to see what’s trending in personal finance. This particular post, “How this celebrity couple bounced back from bankruptcy,” caught my attention not because of the title (some celebrity or another is always declaring bankruptcy it seems), but because of the couple in question: The actor and comedian, Flex Alexander, and his wife, the R&B singer, Shanice.
Perhaps if I had cable, I would have known about their reality-tv series on the Oprah Winfrey Network. Their show, “Flex and Shanice,” debuted this month and chronicles their financial comeback. But I don’t have cable. So the Yahoo post was the first I heard about their story of going from earning approximately $1.3 million a year – for about five years – to losing their home to foreclosure.
The article and a video interview I found promoting their show revealed one of the things I talk about in my book, “Financial Intimacy” – the issue of proximity and perspective. It is a combination that can be so insidious when it comes to your relationship with money and how you manage it.
Often, you’re too close to see what’s coming your way and about to hit you like a ton of bricks.
Your financial reality is changing right before your eyes – in a not so good way. But by the time you notice what’s unfolding, you’ve lost the chance to get ahead of the situation to react proactively.
I really appreciated the thoughtful and measured way Flex and Shanice came to the conclusion to do a (financial) reality show. And, I love their goal of sharing the lessons learned from their journey of financial hardship to financial recovery as a way to help others.
Unlike some celebrities whom you feel just tell their “dirt” because they’ve bought into the idea that any publicity is better than none, I didn’t get that sense from Flex and Shanice. From the 11-minute video clip, I loved “seeing” how they had/have each other’s back — you can tell they were/are in this thing together.
I am known for saying money is an under-utilized communication tool. It’s also a very humbling tool, too.
As “Hollywood” couples go, they didn’t live over-the-top. But everything is relative, right? What Flex made in a month when his show was on the air, some people (barely) make in a year. He talked about money flowing and making $25,000 a week. However, they didn’t adjust their lifestyle when the rhythm of their financial inflow slowed. Shanice talked about being a child star and how others always took care of everything – first her mother/manager, and then Flex. So, she was slightly in the dark about how dire their financial situation was.
With just these two snippets they’re already teaching, by example, one of the behaviors money demands of us: pay attention!
As I continued watching their video, I couldn’t help but think of Shira Boss’ book, “Green With Envy.” A great book about the financial lives we lead and the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. As well as the stories we tell ourselves about what’s going on in other people’s lives. (Hint: it’s not always what it looks like!)
This came to mind when Flex mentioned feeling embarrassed, ashamed, and guilty – reasons that also made him a little weary of going public in such a public way. Granted, you may not have had to declare bankruptcy, but have you made a financial blunder that makes you shrink just a little bit when you think about it? I know I have.
I’d be curious to know how intentional the producer’s were in deciding to debut the show right before the holiday season. If it wasn’t intentional, it was a brilliant accident! Because this is the time of year when a lot of muck comes up for people, in general, and about money, in particular. And if you’re feeling bad or disenchanted, this time of year certainly doesn’t help.
A show about making mistakes, forgiveness, partnership, teamwork, dedication (to each other and the goal of getting your financial house in order), humor, redemption, starting over, faith, reinvention and having a plan of action, certainly gets my vote.
Congratulations to Flex and Shanice for saying, in essence, to hell with money shame! I’m cheering for them, excited about what they’re teaching their audience via their bounce-back, grateful that what’s personal is also almost always universal…and am hoping I can catch episodes online!
In preparation for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, I purchased an indoor electric turkey fryer! (Quite excited!) I purchased it this weekend from Amazon and got a great deal because of their “Countdown to BlackFriday” sale.
Several times throughout the checkout process, I was “invited” to become an Amazon Prime Member. For a split second, I considered it. But after a quick mental audit of how often I order from Amazon, I couldn’t rationalize the $99 annual fee.
The fee made me think of what one client recently said to me:
“I want money to stop slipping through my hands…”
It’s a sentiment I hear often; it is what can so easily happen in our subscription-services economy; and it is precisely what spending $99 on Amazon Prime would have felt like for me.
And it was exactly how I was feeling as I mentally reviewed certain other on-going subscription based fees I incur – whether they are charged annually or monthly.
Perhaps the charge is nominal so you rationalize it by saying, “oh, it’s only $5.99 a month…”
Or maybe you say, “well, if I use the service once or twice, then the annual subscription has paid for itself…”
Or worse yet, maybe you don’t even realize you’re paying for a product/service each month. This happened to a friend of mine; she finished her doctoral thesis six years ago yet she recently realized she was still paying for subscriptions related to her research work that is now complete. To the tune of 320 Euro a year or $400 a year…for six years!!! You do the math.
Subscription services – the “new” new way to consume and buy
Subscription services aka the subscription economy isn’t new. Magazines have been doing it for decades. But today, this model is popping up in all sorts of industries. Including personal finance! Case in point: LearnVest, or a little closer to home…the Financial Intimacy Lounge – a not so subtle plug -:).
In fact, John Warrilow, author of the forthcoming book, “The Automatic Customer: Creating a Subscription Business in Any Industry,” said at Inc. Magazine’s GrowCo conference: “…[subscription businesses] provide the greatest value to both the [business] and the customer.”
[business] and the customer.”
When I think of value, I think of it as expressed in terms of uniqueness, convenience, variety, simplicity, flexibility, affordability and, well, a changing value system with regards to how consumers behave in almost every aspect of life.
I also think of value as expressed in terms of a continuing relationship.
And just like all on-going relationships, when you get lazy about ‘em and don’t pay attention to what is and what isn’t working, well, you know… Someone is really happy and the other one ends up quite unsatisfied.
Don’t be unsatisfied
As we near the end of the year (can you believe it?), now is actually a good time to ask yourself if you are stuck in a recurring payment trap with some of the subscription service/s you use. In other words, is what you are buying and consuming via your subscription giving you the value you want. Or, is it the cause of money slipping through your hands, too?
Maybe the monthly or annual amount isn’t “a lot” in the grand scheme of things. But the financial detox exercise I’m about to propose is less about dollars and cents in the absolute sense. Instead, it’s about being “conscious and intentional” about what you’re choosing to do with your money and whether those funds could be (re)directed to something else that has more value to and for you – whether you measure that based on pleasure or utility.
So here goes:
- Grab your banking and credit card statements for the last three months. If you receive statements electronically, please print them out. (You can always recycle the paper.)
- Review those statements and highlight your recurring expenses. Choose one color for monthly expenses and another for annual ones.
- On a separate sheet of paper (or in a spreadsheet), list the recurring expenses and rank them according to three categories: pleasure; utility; waste of money.
When I did this piece of the exercise, I chose to keep Netflix – even though I don’t use it often. It’s nominal and I like the “option” of having it. Yet, I chose not to renew my ZipCar membership. I’ve rented a lot of cars in the last two years – not one of them was a ZipCar!
- In this same spreadsheet, sum up each category…you just might be shocked at what you discover. In addition to evaluating the total financial outlay, look to see if your automatic withdrawals are spread throughout the month. This will help manage your cashflow and ensure you’re not lopsided leaning more toward the beginning or end the month.
- Make an assessment of each line item.
Anything you deem to be a waste of money, get rid of immediately. Or, downgrade your plan (if that’s an option). Before I sat down to pen this, I did that with a business expense. I’m not quite ready to get rid of the service completely, but I’m also not using all the features of the pro plan, and I’ve decided to stop spending money based on the “maybe, one-day I will thinking.”
- If possible and appropriate, migrate the monthly or annual withdrawals for your recurring expenses to one banking or credit card account for easy tracking.
The beauty of subscription services is that they are really all about YOU. It’s about access the way you want, how you want it, and when you want it. Fundamentally, it’s about choice – your choice. And, with choice comes control.
You are in control.
Don’t abdicate that control by paying recurring fees for products/services you no longer find pleasure in or that have outlived their utility. Because, sadly, some businesses are counting on you to trivialize a “small” dollar amount. Or, for you to be so busy living your life that you completely forget about what you committed to.
If you find money slipping through your hands, at least don’t let it be with regards to subscription services.
p.s. I’m so excited to be a guest speaker in Bari Tessler Linden’s The Art of Money Symposium on enTheos.com – joining some other cool peeps like Barbara Stanny, Mindy Crary and many others. Check us out here: https://www.entheos.com/The-Art-of-Money
Yes, it’s rather bold of me to presume you have an issue when it comes to retirement savings (and planning). But check out these stats:
- According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, just 53% of American workers participate in any type of retirement plan at work.
- A recent TIAA-CREF survey found that 57% of workers did not increase their plan contribution after their last raise. (Millennials were the exception.)
- The Federal Reserve’s Report on Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2013 reports that nearly half of all Americans haven’t planned for retirement and that 31% have no retirement savings or pension.
Given these numbers, I feel pretty confident in my ascertion. Especially when you also tack on the finding from the financial research firm, Hearts and Wallets, that Americans rate retirement planning as the most difficult of financial tasks to do.
You’re probably not getting as much as you could from your retirement account.
A Little History
Today, in general, and at this time of year, in particular, there’s so much talk about 401ks and retirement planning that it is easy to forget that this part of the financial services industry is young – as in approximately 30 years old.
For a variety of business and regulatory reasons, companies started migrating from defined-benefit plans to defined contribution plans in the 1970s. The former guaranteed you a certain income in retirement, but how your money was invested in the pension plan was wholly controlled by your employer. With the latter, you control everything – from how much of your current income you contribute to how you invest/allocate your contribution. That also means, the amount of income you’ll receive in retirement from your 401k rests entirely on your shoulders.
And more often that not, that responsibility comes with very little personalized guidance. Hence, the sobering stats above.
But I believe there are other reasons for these jaw-dropping percentages:
- Retirement planning doesn’t feel urgent
If you have 20, 30, 40 years until you plan to retire, it can seem like you have all the time in the world because 65 (or 70) seem so far away. So, you get that retirement savings and planning are necessary. But it just doesn’t feel urgent.
- Economic realities are not factored in…on a personal level
You very well may be one of the people whom hasn’t seen a raise in five years (or more!). Yet, your cost of living certainly hasn’t stayed stagnant. So, your challenge is being able to *see* how the heck you can save against the backdrop of flat wages and rising expenses.
- Forecasting the future is overwhelming
“How can I know how much income I’ll need when I retire?” “How can I know how long I’ll need that income to last?” “Will my retirement expenses really go down?” “What about healthcare costs?” The premise of retirement planning is based on a variety of uncontrollable unknowables. And if making decisions amidst so much ambuguity seems futile, the alternative of sticking your head in the sand actually seems more feasible
There’s An Alternative
Think about how you currently manage your retirement account?
What would be different if you considered it necessary and urgent?
If you’re in the 47%, what would be different if you started with just 1% of your income?
If you’re in the 43%, what would happen if you made the commitment to save your next raise by assigning some or all of it to your retirement account?
What would happen if you were shown a clear cut process for investing in your retirement account?
Can you now imagine retirement savings (and planning) being easier? Can you now imagine having more confidence about your decision-making?
I can…and it is what I want for you.
There’s still time to join us for the investment training series, “What the Hell Should I Do With My 401k?”
The next live class is Monday, 3 November at 8pm ET.
p.s. when you register, you’ll automatically get the replay link for the session held on Monday, 27 October.
p.p.s. this series is applicable if you have a 403b, IRA, Roth-IRA, SIMPLE-401k or SEP, too.
On the day that I write this, the stock market is up (as measured by the S&P500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average). The S&P is on track for a fifth straight session of gains. Yesterday, the Dow closed up, over 200 points and it is currently up another 35 points.
That wasn’t the case about two weeks ago.
All the major indices were down and many pundits were forecasting a pending market correction.
As a result, Kate* got spooked and did what I describe as the unthinkable. Fearful of losing money in her 401k, she sold ALL her mutual fund holdings and parked her proceeds in a money market fund (i.e., cash).
She made a classic 401k investing mistake, one I’ve seen many people make going as far back as the market crash of 1987 and more recently in 2008. The market goes down, some people panic, and the way they react is to sell. They have temporary amnesia and forget that going up and down is what the market does – it’s how it naturally behaves.
Jess took one of my courses and followed my 401k investing instructions almost to a “T.” She made sure she diversified her portfolio, she just went a wee-bit overboard. When she and I started working together 1:1 and I presented my analysis of her portfolio, she was surprised to discover that most of the twenty mutual funds she owned were investing in the exact same companies.
She made another classic mistake when it comes to 401k investing: confusing having many with being properly diversified.
Angela, now in her fifth year at her current employer, hadn’t been paying much attention to the 401ks she left at previous employers. A combination of disinterest and not really knowing what to do, coupled with the fact that her investments were performing pretty well, she just left them where they were – always with the intent of, “I’ll get to it eventually.”
Leaving 401ks with former employers is another classic 401k investing mistake that people make.
I’ll admit: of the three above noted mistakes, Kate’s is the one that most horrifies me.
Selling when the market is down is often considered a way of controlling loses. It’s an action that eases people’s fears the most. Yet, it’s also the one that tends to be the costliest, in the short and long term – especially in a 401k plan.
Because she sold when she did, she did the opposite of one of the primary rules of investing: buy low/sell high. And her initial action to sell and subsequent action of not immediately getting back in the market implies she’s trying to time the market; she’s waiting for an all-clear signal. Truth is, no one can time the market and if a financial professional tells you they can, run in the opposite direction as fast as you can!
All three of the 401k investing mistakes I’ve showcased are examples of you not winning when it comes to investing.
Having more mutual funds than you need results in you being over-exposed to the risk you were attempting to mitigate.
When you leave 401ks with old employers, you usually give up control because you typically can’t make any changes as to how that money is invested.
These three mistakes are reflections of emotions driving money decisions – whether those emotions are fear, over-confidence, or apathy. And when that happens being rational goes out the window and you unwittingly bet against yourself – even though, on the surface, it may look like what you’ve done is in your best interest.
Winning at investing isn’t about what happens during trading hours, it’s the culmination of choices made before, during, and after trading hours. It’s the result of a disciplined approach – one that is personal and rational.
On Monday, 27 October, I’m kicking off a four-part investment training tele-class series, What the Hell Should I Do With My 401k? The goal: to ensure you don’t bet against yourself and make irrational investing decisions that end up costing you big money.
The first session, “To Win at Investing, Don’t Let Your Emotions Get the Best of You,” is also being offered as a free, stand-alone tele-class.
It’s open enrollment season, which is the perfect time to take a look at your 401k retirement account.
If you don’t know how to select mutual funds or put together a portfolio of funds;
If you don’t know how much to contribute to your retirement account and the funds you select;
If you didn’t get around to enrolling; or
If you’ve been treating your retirement account like you’re a day-trader, I hope you’ll join us for this investment training series.
We start Monday, 27 October. Here’s the link, again, to learn more.
p.s. *all the names are pseudonyms.
p.p.s. if you have an IRA, SIMPLE-401k or SEP, this series is applicable for you, too.
I read somewhere that if you could achieve your financial goals by simply putting your money away in the bank you wouldn’t need a plan.
That’s silly to me. That’s like saying as long as you have gas in a car you don’t need directions to drive to a place you’ve never been to before.
Yet, this way of thinking represents a common mindset when it comes to managing money and preparing a financial plan. And, in my opinion, it is why so many people don’t get as much as they could from their money.
Today is the last day of Financial Planning Week – the 13th Annual one no less! Granted, this factoid may not make your heart stir and go pitter-patter. But, I thought today would be as good a time as any to share what I believe financial planning is really all about. I suspect if more people adopted this perspective, more people would get excited about preparing and editing a financial plan. Imagine that!
Besides b.o.r.i.n.g., what usually comes to mind when you hear or read the words “financial planning?”
In no particular order, I bet you think about some if not all of what’s listed below:
- Your lifestyle
- Your career and current & future earnings
- Children and their education
- Parents and their well-being
- Your own well-being
You may even wonder if and at what point the help of a financial professional makes sense.
I also bet for each of the above bullet-points (and others I may have overlooked), your focus has been on the numbers – the numbers you know and the numbers you forecast. It all comes back to the numbers because the presence or absence of money is what typically drives your decisions.
Financial Planning: The Movie?
But what if instead of looking at financial planning as an exercise in making the numbers work, you thought of financial planning as the telling of a story through a collection of vignettes? Vignettes that when woven together resemble a long-format television series, with many seasons, about your life – the one you have and the one you want.
Not only are you the star of the series, but you also play the role of producer, writer and director. And you become a quadruple threat for the small screen the likes of George Clooney for the big screen. Much more exciting, right?!
You may be rolling your eyes right about now. But hear me out…
There are a number of benefits to viewing financial planning through the lens of making a critically-acclaimed and successful series. To start, you begin to recognize that even if everyone follows the exact same steps (think of all the long- format shows on HBO), the results won’t be precisely the same.
Thus, the reason I say financial planning isn’t supposed to mean the same thing to everyone.
By thinking “story” over the numbers, you’re invited to connect the dots that represent the pieces of your life in a more profound way. The result: You have to bridge the gap between your vision for the future and your present-day reality and consider the tools, resources, and people that will help you close the gap between here and there. That includes:
- Using money as a tool, but not the only tool!
- Remembering that emotions are not black-n-white. And neither are numbers. True, the numbers may be negative or positive, but the “story” behind the numbers is rarely as black-n-white as you might think (or wish).
- Viewing financial planning as less about planning for retirement and more about planning out your entire lifestyle cycle (the on you have, the one you want, and the one that will help you bridge the gap).
- Embracing ambiguity and the practice of scenario planning via story-boarding.
- Using scenario planning to help you identify the likely obstacles you’ll encounter and manage the ones you’ll actually face.
- Learning to objectively observe your patterns, habits, and anomalies.
- Learning to objectively see the relationship you have with money, and how and where you need to work on it.
- Remembering you never do it alone.
There’s a term in the film industry called the “cutting room floor.” It pertains to what’s been omitted from the final footage. The way I connect this to financial planning is how the results you see reflects a lot of the intangible choices and decisions you’ve made but others can’t “see.”
If you’re like most people I know and clients (before they became clients), you’re really much more interested in being with family and friends; focusing on your career; and enjoying your leisure time and a lot less interested in managing your money and creating a financial plan. As a result, you either don’t have a plan or you have a one that was haphazardly put together and may not be current.
However, when you don’t have a plan (or a current one), you don’t know what you need to do consistently and you don’t know when and where you need to evolve in order to achieve your financial goals.
So, in honor of financial planning week, I ask: do you have a viable and or current financial plan? If not, what are you waiting for? And, how might thinking of it as a tool for making a critically-acclaimed and successful long-running series about your life help you get started?
“How strange that the nature of life is change, yet the nature of human beings is to resist change.” Elizabeth Lesser
With the recent death of my mother, my life as I knew it has been completely upended. I feel slightly adrift and a bit unsettled as I negotiate an awkward emotional space and navigate the unfamiliar gray zone that comes with any transition.
I’m dealing with:
- a sizeable dose of uncertainty about new responsibilities and new choices;
- a little bit of overwhelm about the multitude of decisions to be made and actions to be taken;
- some identity adjustments that are afoot.
Talk about having my comfort zone interrupted!
But let’s face it, the “symptoms” of my life change aren’t unique to me or to circumstances of death. They accompany almost any major transition whether it’s been willfully initiated or unwilling imposed – whether it’s of a sad or happy nature.
In truth, the symptoms I’ve described could equally apply to you. So, the question isn’t so much if you’ll experience a major change over the course of your life. It’s not even really a matter of “when.” It is…
How will you manage the impact of the life change on your emotions and your finances – especially when your comfort zone has been dramatically altered?
To begin to answer this question, the definition of what triggers a transition needs to be expanded beyond the usual culprits of death, birth, divorce, and marriage to encompass a multitude of life-stage and life-style changes. Similarly, you need to acknowledge what’s really happening when a life change event occurs: you’re recalibrating your journey. That means you need to adjust your life + financial road and role maps.
Editing these maps will help you (and me) manage the questions that arise during the temporary state between what was, what is and what will be. It’ll help us address the anxiety, indecision, and fear that bubbles up. It’ll provide some structure and guidance to help us re-boot.
In March of this year, I asked Valerie Coleman Morris (former business anchor for CNN) to be my guest for this month’s Financial Intimacy Hour and we agreed that we’d focus on the theme of transitions. At the time, I had no idea the topic would hit so close to home. There’s a part of me that would rather stay in my cocoon and skip this topic. But that wouldn’t be honoring my mother and how she lived and faced disappointments and challenges.
So, on Wednesday, September 17th at 8pm EDT, the Financial Intimacy Hour is coming off of summer break. And I hope you’ll join me and my guest for, “Comfort Zone, Interrupted! How to Thrive In and Through Your Next Major Life Change.”
You’ll learn how to:
- re-gain your focus even as things remain unsettled. A cloudy mind makes poor choices.
- re-prioritize the decisions you make and the actions you take. When you’re in the throes of a transition, managing your energy becomes critically important!
- redesign your road + role maps so that your money supports you as you shift from where you are to where you want to be.
Life doesn’t come with a nicely-bound operating manual. Which is primarily why the problem with change is how change disrupts your comfort zone. Transitions prompt a realignment of expectations, emotions and personal finances. This is true whether your life change causes you to celebrate – like a new job, new client, new relationship, marriage, birth/adoption – or it’s something that causes you to mourn – like death, divorce, lost client, lost friendship, failed business.
I’m excited for the big-picture conversation we’ll have next week about how to manage your money as your life evolves and flows from stage to stage. Likewise, I’m looking forward to sharing with you practical resources aimed at helping you move into your next phase with as much grace and ease as possible.
I want for you what I desire for myself: to feel more sure-footed, confident and clear-headed, and to be more at peace with the unknown.
Even if you’re not in the midst of a major life change, I invite you to join us…you’ll learn how to survive and thrive the next one when it comes.
Unless you follow me on social media or are on my e-list, you may not have heard: my beloved mother, Fontilla A. Timmons, died peacefully on Monday, August 4th.
I miss my mother terribly and am still mad at cancer for what it did to her body, for taking her away, way too soon. In the world according to me, she had so much still to give; she had more years of singing ahead of her; she had more years of volunteering ahead of her; she had more years of playing xbox (something I don’t even know how to do!); she had more years of fussing at her cat, Ella, or giving the Yankees a talking to when they played poorly; she and I were to simply have more years together; she was to walk me down the aisle should I ever get married.
In case you can’t tell, I love my mother tremendously. I was very, very fortunate to have been born to and raised by her – to have been loved so deeply and unconditionally by her. She was an awesome woman and a great mother, and that isn’t a blessing I take for granted.
A petite woman (5’2″) with a BIG personality, my mother was a pioneer in many ways – not at all concerned about trying to fit in. A necessary trait for a woman whom for many years was the only female softball umpire in Western New York!
Her mantra was “love and accept yourself.” Do this, and you can love and accept others just as they are; do this, and you won’t need to seek other people’s approval to live your life. This is how she rolled; this is what she exposed me to as a young child; but it is only as an adult did I recognize her example as such AND as an invaluable lesson and life-skill to have.
To say that my heart remains heavy is an understatement. I may be back in NYC and I may have resumed my work schedule as of this week, but I am walking around in a bit of a daze, still trying to adjust to my new reality.
My mother had been sick for several years, and every day she fought cancer valiantly. I marveled at her grace and gratitude every step of the way – especially the last two weeks of her life, which were a particularly sweet time for us. And, I am forever grateful that when she took her last breath, it was just as when I took my first — we were together.
The celebration of my mother’s life was held on Friday, August 8th. It was precisely how I wanted it to be…how I wanted to honor her.
Every decision I made about her day was filtered through these three words: meaningful, beautiful, and intimate.
- It’s why her services were held at St. Bonaventure’s University Chapel.
- It’s why we opened her celebration with one of her songs, her rendition of “You and I.” (Mommy’s first career was as a professional singer.)
- It’s why the processional was Father Francis walking me down the aisle with me carrying my mother’s urn, with African drumming in the background.
- It’s why one of my dearest friends, Toni Booker, sang my mother and I’s favorite song “His Eye Is On the Sparrow” and “Precious Lord.”
- It’s why every speaker preceded their comments by reading a verse from my mother’s favorite scriptures.
- It’s why “Ave Maria” came after Father Francis’ sermonic reflection but before I read the poem, “A Child Loaned” and shared my “Loving Memories.”
- It’s why all who gathered held hands and prayed “Our Father Who Art in Heaven” in unison.
- It’s why the closing prayer was ecumenical.
- It’s why the recessional music was “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.
- It’s why the repast was a fish-fry dinner…at the Elks Club.
During a moment of quiet reflection, I would realize that the same three words that guided how I designed my mother’s celebration also described the relationship my mother had with me and her/our countless friends. These words also exemplified how my mother handled her affairs.
Talk about having it together…
- Mommy died without a mortgage – her house may be modest but it is paid in full.
- Her consumer debt is negligible.
- I am a single child, yet she still made certain all her legal paperwork was in order: Will, Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, Insurance. Likewise, we held certain accounts in joint-name so that I could easily pay her bills when such a time as this came to fruition.
In other words, my mother made certain that my grieving wouldn’t be interrupted by unresolved financial concerns or unaddressed financial matters. Unlike some who fall prey to poor planning, short-sightedness, and fear, my mother had the foresight, discipline, and desire to plan ahead.
Even in death, she continues to nurture me. Even in death, she continues to shape how I show up in the world and provide an example of how to live…how to rock it out! For this and soooo many other things, my gratitude is beyond measure.
Mommy, I miss you and love you!! And, just as you refused to let cancer steal your spirit and love and joy for life and living, I promise not to let grief steal mine.
p.s. to learn more about my mother – aka the woman who means the world to me – click here to read what I wrote the day of her death (you don’t need Facebook) and click here for her obituary.
p.p.s. It also means the world to me that you read my tribute to my mother. Now, I hope you’ll take action! Please make sure your financial affairs are in order – get your documents together; have the awkward conversations with family members and close friends; schedule the uncomfortable but necessary meetings. Grieving unencumbered is a truly a wonderful gift to get and to give. And if you’re not sure where to begin, start with my interview of Lori Anne Douglass, Esq. Click here to download the mp3.
We are officially mid-way through 2014. True, this isn’t a newsflash. But did you know this a perfect time to do a financial review?
I know, I know, your mind is set on relaxing and having “hot fun in the summertime!” Who wants to (strategically) think about their money right now?
Yet, this half-way point represents a perfect time to do a review of your money and money-based goals. The slower pace is an invitation to pause, evaluate, reflect and perhaps press “reset.” Something you’re likely doing professionally, anyway.
Even if you’re not steeped in a traditional “corporate” work environment, you might be engaged in a mid-year performance review process of some sort. So, why not do the same when it comes to your finances? Why not take a pulse check and compare where you are vs. where you thought you’d be by now – six months into the year?
This makes July the perfect time to apply the concept and exercise of a mid-year workplace performance review to your finances.
A financial review allows you to identify opportunities you may have overlooked up to this point and/or to identify tweaks that will enable you to course-correct for the six months ahead.
Here’s a three-phase “looking” process, along with questions, that will:
- ensure you stay conscious about what’s going on with your money, and
- also potentially set you up to experience (even more) financial success and finish the year strong.
Looking at Now
- Pull your banking, investment and credit card statements – what are your current balances?
- What habits are you practicing daily, weekly, monthly?
- How do you feel – excited, energized, lethargic, dismayed, or something else?
- What goals did you set at the beginning of the year?
- What habits did you commit to changing or developing?
- How do these measure up to where you are now? Are you on/off track?
- What mistakes (in action or judgment) did you make?
- What did you accomplish?
- How proud do you feel about the progress you’ve made? How disappointed do you feel about where you’ve fallen short?
- As a result of the two phases above, do you need to change any goals or any of the parameters you’ve established for achieving them – in other words, is a “reset” in order?
- What new goals or habits would you add to your plate for the next six months?
- If distractions and unexpected commitments threw you off-course, what do you intend to do to minimize how these may negatively impact you moving forward?
- What would make you feel most satisfied when 12/31 arrives?
Performing a financial review is not only helpful for confirming what has happened and shedding light as to why your results are what they are, but it can also serve as a preview for what’s to come.
This exercise can help you objectively assess and adjust the choices you’re making and provide insight as to the ones you’d benefit from making. Additionally, it can highlight if the systems, processes and framework you have in place are as supportive of your efforts as you think they are and need them to be.
Are you dreading doing this financial review because it’s summer; because you don’t want to face what you’ll discover; or both?
Well, remember this: it’s perfectly fine for you to be in vacation mode…your money, not so much! Your money should be working for you 24/7/365.
Second, if you’re concerned about how long this will take, then break it down – carve out three (3) 30-minute windows – maybe during lunch – to address each phase noted above.
Finally, focus on the power you’ll gain from the insight you’ll discover as a result of having a meaningful conversation “with” your money.
Need another incentive to perform a mid-year financial review? Just like any other relationship, your money won’t grow as much as it could without your purposeful attention, direction, and action.
p.s. you’ve completed your mid-year financial review…need help? Join the Financial Intimacy Lounge and let your membership help you finish the year stronger! Click here to learn more to begin your membership, now.
p.p.s. mark your calendar for the next Financial Intimacy Hour session – “The Digital Revolution of Personal Finance: Do Your Apps Know You Better Than You Know Yourself?” Wednesday, 16 July at 1:15pm. Invite available soon.
“My husband lost $100 million.”
Nope that isn’t a typo. Yes, my jaw dropped, too!
This was told to me by the wife of a couple who will appear on “Untying the Knot” – a new reality series on Bravo featuring Vikki Ziegler-Payne as the host and mediator. Vikki is a divorce attorney, a dear friend of mine, and a guest teacher in the Master the Language of Love + Money program.
It’s been several weeks since the premiere party and yet I am still dumbfounded. $100 million…lost…I can’t relate.
Risk creates wealth
I was relaying the story to a friend and expressed my curiosity about wanting to know “the story.” After all, there must be a story, right?!
Very matter-of-factly, he said: “He lost it the same way he earned it.” (I gave him my Scooby Do Huh? look.)
My friend went on further to say this person’s husband was a risk-taker and explained how anyone who has created wealth of any means – but especially to the tune of $100 million – didn’t do it without taking some risks.
Then, he punctuated his point with this:
“Not everyone can be broke.”
In a flash, the gossipy side of my curiosity was replaced by an immense interest in wanting to understand more about how this woman’s husband thought about risk. Specifically, I wanted to know:
- what decisions did he consider “normal” that others viewed as risky and vice versa;
- did he rely on data, instincts or a combination to make decisions;
- when did he realize things were about to go awry;
- what was he feeling and thinking as things were unraveling; and
- how (and when) did get he break the news to his wife. (From my conversation with her at the premiere party, I got a sense of how she reacted…)
When it comes to risk, a common tendency of our culture is to just focus on the two opposite ends of the spectrum, much like a see-saw, where one end represents being conservative (or risk-averse) and the other being speculative (or risk-friendly).
I bump up against this notion often with coaching clients and workshop attendees, and I frequently need to remind people that the prospect of losing money isn’t the only risk with which you must contend. You also need to consider risk in the form of any opportunity costs – and when it pertains to money that is the cost of being so conservative you don’t keep pace with inflation.
But a) there’s a broad spectrum of risk-takers, and b) there’s a lot of space in the middle. And, in my opinion, where you fall on the continuum is in direct proportion to the degree you feel comfortable wading in the water of uncertainty – whether that is about money, career choices or matters of the heart…
Traits of a risk-taker
Choosing to create your own business typically means you’re a risk-taker.
This kind of risk-taker usually has a higher threshold for uncertainty, and is slightly more comfortable with the prospect of going or being broke – relative to someone who hasn’t chosen the entrepreneurial path.
“If money is your hope for independence, you will never have it. The only real security that a man will have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience and ability.” Henry Ford
But, being a risk-taker doesn’t have to mean being reckless and/or impulsive.
Nor does it mean you’re unafraid – it just means you have the fortitude to do it (whatever “it” is) anyway.
Likewise, being a risk-taker in one domain of your life doesn’t mean that you are such in all areas of your life.
In much the same way you may view and approach money monolithically, you may discover you do the same with risk. And just as it is beneficial to peel away the layers of money, the same is true when it comes to risk. So, with this in mind…
- How do you define risk – and not just with regards to money? Is your definition holding you back, or helping to propel you forward?
- What does being a risk-taker mean to you?
- How comfortable are you with uncertainty – with the unknown?
- What role does comfort play in moving you from one end of the spectrum to the other?
- Where in your life do you play it safe (aka “playing not to lose); where in your life are you a risk-taker (aka “playing to win)?
I bet your answers will reflect what is true for our culture at large: you and I have an interesting (and complicated) relationship with risk.
There’s the infinite list of and excitement about what could go right if the risk pays off.
But there’s also the matter of failure, which many attempt to avoid at almost all costs – often forgetting that some of the best lessons come from failures.
Closely related is the fear of embarrassment – shame, guilt, and the preoccupation with what others may think – often prevent us from taking calculated leaps.
For some, the mere thought of going broke (or losing it all) is unfathomable. Actually experiencing it is really unimaginable!
“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.” Soren Kirkegaard.
I certainly know what it feels like to be broke and wonder, “How the hell am I going to pay my rent?” But I’ve never lost it all; I’ve never gone bankrupt; and I’ve never gone hungry or without basic necessities – even during the leanest of times.
Admittedly, I have no idea how much was left over after this couple lost $100 million. But, it’s a dollar amount I can’t imagine losing. So, does that mean I don’t have what it takes to earn $100 million?
Here’s the existential question I’m wrestling with: What, if anything, is the relationship between what you’re willing to lose to what you have or can have?
I’ve been ruminating on this for the past few days – wondering if I would have made different choices if, when things got tight, I would have been able to withstand wading in the waters of uncertainty a bit longer — could I have stood on the edge of brokenness a bit longer…
Granted, none of us can re-write the history of our choices and the consequences thereof. But it’s kinda of enlightening to use takeaways from real-life experiences like this couple’s to learn how to make smart, risky decisions. Especially if they are decisions you won’t regret – regardless of the outcome.