On Friday, I was on a panel as part of the Practising Law Institute’s 2022 Attorney Wellness event. I had a blast (I’m really enjoying being back in-person again!), and I really appreciated the opportunity to make a case for why financial well-being needs to be “at the wellness table.”
Reflecting on the conference is the inspiration for today’s missive…revisiting a topic I’ve talked about before, but that always deserves our attention:
I hear this frequently when it comes to money, and not just from high achieving attorneys. And perhaps it is not just something you, too, have said in the past; maybe it is something you’ve said as recently as today.
From where I sit, every time I hear this statement, my first thought is: You’re using time as an excuse. And a rather convenient one, at that.
Thankfully, I have enough grace and professional experience to never actually point this out in the moment. Because that would be like rubbing salt in a wound – as the adage goes. Plus, no one who wants to be reminded of the obvious when they are least open to hearing it.
Instead, I take a more subtle (and more helpful) approach (I hope): I ask a ton of questions.
Because the thing about money that you don’t have time to do – well, that isn’t going to fix itself.
- Uncertainty doesn’t going away on its own
- Frustration and stress don’t dissipate on their own
- Shifting from failing to meet certain goals to achieving them doesn’t happen without effort
- Challenges don’t automagically get solved
- What’s difficult or unpleasant doesn’t quickly become easy and agreeable
Money demands you take charge and pay attention to it. It is funny that way.
And if you don’t…well, you may not like the consequences too much.
But Really, Time is Not the Issue
On Friday’s panel, I shared how an associate at another event at which I spoke privately said to me, “I work really long hours. When I come home and have a free moment, I just want to have a glass of wine and binge Netflix. The last thing I want to do is think about my money.”
She’s not alone in how she feels. However, what people tend to overlook is this: When you say, “I don’t have time,” 90% of the time, time isn’t the real issue.
Something else is going on. Call me crazy, but I LOVE diving in to discover what this is exactly.
As with a lot of things regarding my work, it starts with questions. The purpose of the questions I ask is to unmask what’s really behind the tendency to not make time for money (beyond earning it and paying bills).
So, I thought I’d re-share the questions I would typically ask in this scenario. This way, the next time you catch yourself or someone you know saying, “I don’t have time to focus on my money,” you can use them to dig deeper and uncover the real issue at hand.
One of my first follow-up questions is this: “What area(s) of money is causing you the most stress?” Is it:
- Earning money
- Saving money
- Spending money
- Managing debt
- Investing money
- Romance & money
- Something else
If we were speaking in person or over phone/Zoom, your answers would trigger some tailored follow-up questions.
“What is your biggest challenge when it comes to accomplishing your money goals?”
Here’s an example:
If someone says “spending money and anxiety,” she/he/they:
- Likely doesn’t know where their money is going;
- Maybe overspends. (Not in the paycheck to paycheck kind of way. More in the compulsive, non-mindful kind of way.);
- Doesn’t pay attention to their cashflow and/or how their money is invested;
- Can’t see the bigger picture to assess if they are making wise decisions, because they can’t even see a month ahead;
- Has everything on autopay. But the convenience of running on autopilot has turned into an obstacle when it comes to making insight-driven decisions.
After reading these examples, did your body tense up and did you notice a change in your breathing pattern? Either because you could relate, or because you were experiencing the equivalent to the social mirroring effect of yawning?
Yet, there’s hope
The reason I say time isn’t the real issue is the same reason you constantly hear me say, “You don’t manage money.” It’s all about choices.
And this is a distinction worth noting because the thing about making a choice is that it can be simultaneously frustrating and liberating.
A caveat before I continue: Do we all have seasons where our time is not really our own? Absolutely! It could be due to a pressing project or client-oriented deadline, or crushing responsibilities that consume all our energy and attention. It could be due to health challenges – our own or of a loved one. So, I’m not being insensitive to the realities of life.
The point of today’s post is for all the other times!
And, there’s hope…for you, me, and everyone who says, “I don’t have time for…”
That hope starts with making a key choice: Prioritize yourself — the whole you, which also means your financial life.
It’s great that you pay your bills on time. But that task is only a piece, albeit an important one, of your financial puzzle.
The next key choice is this: Change your attitude about time.
You’re not going to get more than the 24-hours you have each day. So, it’d be more helpful not to “wait until you have more time” and instead create the time you need. That involves making several other choices, like:
- Setting a limit of how much time you’ll commit to focusing on your money — is it 15-minutes a week; 30-minutes every two weeks; 60-minutes a month; another increment altogether?
- Scheduling that time limit on your calendar
What makes these two “simple” choices so powerful is that they can help you accomplish more in the time you have (on the task front). On the money front, they help you to be more engaged and, thus, mindful about what you are (and are not) doing with your money.
Making the choice to make time for your money helps you to take charge so you can be proactive and strategic (as opposed to passively hoping things will fix themselves). For example:
While there is always a degree of uncertainty at work, it diminishes somewhat because you have greater clarity about where you are, it brings where you want to be/go into sharper focus, and it helps you face and embrace (with more confidence) the tradeoffs you’ll need to make.
You’ll have a better understanding of not just how your money stresses are manifesting, but what the real source behind them is.
With data and greater insight, you now know if you need to (re)prioritize your goals, and whether you need to adjust how you’re saving and investing for them. (Goals are an incredible filter for making choices about both your time and money!)
Your tool-kit now has more depth; you have more to pull from that can either help you get ahead of a challenge you see on the horizon and/or help respond to one you’re already facing.
Making the choice to make time for your money reminds me of the British adage — “Preparation prevents piss poor performance.”
It also reminds me of this: When it comes to money and you say, “I don’t have time,“ what you’re really saying is that what you want money to do for you isn’t really important enough to you – right now. If that’s true, cool. But if it isn’t…