I am writing this on the heels of an awesome speaking engagement in Sonoma, CA. I presented my signature workshop, “Financial Success Doesn’t Start in Your Wallet,” and conducted 16, 1:1 financial coaching sessions for one of my law firm clients. It was amazing!!
During the 1:1 sessions, there was an unsurprising theme, which was expressed with a very simple statement: “I don’t have time.”
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 and feeling very vulnerable.
So, instead, I take a more subtle (and more helpful, I think) approach: I do (and I did) 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
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.
Lack of Time is Not the Issue
Several times during the retreat’s 1:1 sessions, someone said, “I work really long hours. When I come home and have a free moment, I just want to binge Netflix. The last thing I want to do is think about my money.”
Here’s what people tend to overlook: When they say, “I don’t have time,” 90% of the time, time isn’t the real issue.
Something else is going on. And 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 you might be interested in knowing the questions I would typically ask in this scenario. Especially as we move deeper into the season where time becomes even more precious. This way, when you catch yourself or someone you know saying, “I don’t have time to focus on my money,” you can use these questions 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 the phone, your answers would trigger some additional tailored follow-up questions.
“What is your biggest challenge when it comes to accomplishing your money goals?”
Here’s an example:
One person noted “management and anxiety” as her biggest challenge and mentioned all but one of the areas listed above as causes for her stress. And, here’s how that manifests in her life:
She doesn’t know where her money is going.
She overspends. (Not in the paycheck to paycheck kind of way. More in the compulsive, non-mindful kind of way.)
She doesn’t pay attention to how her money is invested.
She can’t see the bigger picture to assess if she’s making savvy decisions, because she can’t even see a month ahead.
She’s running on autopilot and financial fumes. (Again, not because there isn’t enough money. But in terms of making decisions without tapping into the “best” data.)
After reading about her situation, 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. However…
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: We all have seasons where our time is not really our own. 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 and tone-deaf to the realities of life.
This post is for all the other times!
Just as there’s hope for her, there’s hope for you – or the friend you may be reading this on behalf of -:)
That hope starts with making a key choice: Prioritizing 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: Changing 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. Doing this involves making several other choices, like:
- Determining 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 of money’s role in your life. This way, 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, making time for your money can lead to greater clarity about where you are; it can bring where you want to be/go into sharper focus; and it can help you face and embrace (with more confidence) the trade-offs you’ll need to make.
You’ll have a better understanding of not just how your money stresses manifest, 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.
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.”
I hope you’ll keep this in mind as you round out the year and get ready for the one ahead!