When my father started his money lessons with me when I was a teenager, he wanted to help me become emotionally competent when handling my money. In other words, he wanted me to be aware of how my emotions affected my money decisions. His lessons started my journey towards financial literacy, but the prize is not financial freedom as many of you would assume. The true reward is finding your money happiness.
Now some of you may be confused. Financial freedom is what most people seek and work hard to achieve, myself included. But I have also worked with many people in different stages of their financial lives to know that financial freedom alone isn’t enough. Some who have achieved financial independence are incredibly unhappy. Why? Because they haven’t found their money happiness yet. Most people believe financial freedom is the ultimate nirvana. I believe money happiness is the true end goal because financial freedom means very little when you don’t use your money joyfully or with confidence. In order to find your money happiness, you need to get Financially Real.
In my 23 years of working with clients, I have discovered that financial freedom has grown to almost mythical proportions in our minds, making it almost impossible to live up to expectations. Too many believe financial freedom eliminates all of our problems, at least money-related, for good. I hate to burst your bubble but that has not been my experience.
The decisions we make every day create our lives and many of those decisions are money related. We do not always have the luxury of making these decisions in a zen-like state where it is easy to make good, value-based decisions. More often than not, we make them in the midst of chaos with heightened emotions. This can lead to poor choices. The kind that can snatch away your financial freedom.
This is why I want to get Financially Real with all of you. Financial freedom is a worthy goal, but it can be fleeting and not as liberating as you imagine if you are not prepared to make good decisions when life gets complicated or messy. And those things never go away. Life continues on in all of its messy glory whether you are hip-deep in debt or debt-free.
When most people find out I’m a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®), two things happen: they either run away or immediately begin asking questions, expecting a number. With me, they get questions first. I’m really not trying to irritate, but to help on a much deeper level by truly defining what it is you want your money to do for you. Vague, general answers not only make it hard to plan and save appropriately, but they also don’t lead to a very fulfilling life and money happiness will remain elusive. Getting Financially Real means getting honest with yourself, even when facing hard truths.
People want to achieve the financial independence they crave and to use their money in a manner that creates joy, not guilt. We want to do what we want and feel good while we do it. This means being able to make good decisions every day, even when life is complicated. There are four pillars that we will examine as we get Financially Real.
My clients have taught me so much, including how few people actually understand their money, beyond wanting more. They don’t know how they spend their money; they don’t know where their money is invested or why; and most fear money without even realizing it. We’re going to replace that fear with knowledge. You are going to become an expert on your financial lives.
Some of you may be tempted to skip this step because you don’t want to know your financial reality. I get it. It can be scary and easier to not know. What I will tell you is that every single person who came to me scared about their financial situation felt relieved afterwards, regardless of what we uncovered. The shift from fear to knowledge begins immediately, allowing you to take the first step to reclaiming your financial power.
I’ve already touched upon this, but knowing what you want is an absolute must when it comes to money happiness. The reason people feel bad when they spend money, whether they have financial independence or not, is because they lack genuine goals. When your spending is in alignment with your values and goals, it feel measurably different and better.
So many people get caught up in what others think. This can lead to people spending mindlessly to “keep up” or feeling guilty because they want something that others might judge as frivolous or impractical. Authentic goals make you happy and guide your decisions. You stop worrying about others approval, which is truly a game you can never win anyway. We’re going to figure out what makes you happy and identify those emotional triggers that can trip you up.
Our financial lives are a journey full of winding roads, speed bumps and detours, even after we achieve financial freedom. To help you manage successfully through it, you need a roadmap. Otherwise it can be very easy to get lost and end up where you don’t want to be, like consumer debt. Your map will lead you to your final destination with your authentic goals providing the necessary markers along the way. Don’t worry, you don’t have to do this alone either.
The poet John Donne said, “No man is an island.” and that especially holds true when it comes to our financial lives. We are experts on what we desire and want our money to do for ourselves, but we are not necessarily experts on how to make it a reality. And you don’t have to be. You can certainly do-it-yourself, but I get my teeth cleaned by a dentist and my physical from a doctor. My health is too important to even attempt DIY healthcare. I also have a team of people who help make sure that my financial health is in tip-top shape too, and I’m more than qualified to do-it-myself, but I don’t.
Do you see the world through abundant eyes or through eyes that only see lack and scarcity? There is without a doubt lack and scarcity in this world and by no means do I suggest that you ignore it. However, I do encourage you to adopt an abundance mindset where you see possibilities and take action to help make the world a better place. Giving or sharing as we call in our home is one of my favorite things to do. It’s very easy to get lost in the busyness our lives, focused on our own needs and wants. Giving helps us see beyond the four walls of our home and make a difference in someone else’s home.
My life is just like yours, full of ups and downs and wins and losses. Whatever the day may bring, I choose gratitude. It’s not always easy to do on those tough days, but I am blessed and know it. I give thanks for what my money allows me to do as a reminder of the simple principle my father taught me: money is a gift. It makes me incredibly happy to use my money to create joy for myself and others.
I have the unique privilege to sit with people as they make decisions on their best days and their worst days. This is what Financially Real is. The confidence to make good decisions that support your financial well-being every day, even on those messy, complicated and emotional days. It’s my desire to help you find your money happiness. After all, isn’t that the point of financial independence — to joyfully live as you please? By getting Financially Real and giving your honest straight talk is how we can make it happen.