Defining the Role of Money in Your Life
Most people have to work hard to develop a relationship with money that works well for them. If you live in the western world, you’re already rich by the standards of developing countries and probably even those of your own forefathers many centuries ago. But you may not feel rich. Gadgets such as cars, mobile phones and computers are within your grasp, but when you’ve acquired the car or the phone or the computer, you may feel encouraged to set your sights on the bigger, better and newer version within a very short space of time. Discontent sets in very quickly if your definition of feeling wealthy is tied into the acquisition of material things.
Perhaps the simplest way to avoid being happy in life is to compare yourself with other people (who are probably comparing themselves with you and getting the same effect, by the way). Such comparisons are at their sharpest and most painful in the realm of money and material possessions. You can easily get blinded by the shiny results of having money and forget what you need it for in the first place.
Money is simply a commodity that helps you to:
✓ Acquire essential things such as food and heat
✓ Buy pleasurable commodities such as fancy new shoes and nice holidays
✓ Enhance the quality of your life by perhaps financing a business venture or donating to your favourite charity
Not having enough money can cause you anything from mild frustration to extreme distress, yet the pursuit of money for its own sake can have equally undesirable consequences and may cloud or dilute the enjoyment you get from the things that are truly important to the success of your life.
Wealth is very different from money. You usually can’t feel wealthy without first feeling that you have abundant money, and entering the realms of the abundant is definitely trickier if you haven’t fully defined the role of money and the meaning of wealth in your life.
What’s the distinction between money and wealth for you? What has to happen for you to feel wealthy in your life? When has money in itself made you feel happier, more secure and more content?
Being Financially Secure
First things first – life coaching to get to abundance starts with developing your basic financial common sense. Enjoying life is pretty hard if you’re wondering where to get the money to pay the bills or put food on the table. You may be familiar with the anxiety that goes with tough times, when outgoings completely outstrip income. Just starting out on your own and taking on rent or a mortgage for the first time, not to mention losing your job, experiencing a business failure or even going bankrupt all contribute to a feeling of financial insecurity. You don’t always feel that you have much control over whatever financial hit is lying in wait.
The constant worry that you may lose your financial security can hold you back from fulfilling your dreams, and not fulfilling your dreams can in turn stop you from generating the wealth and ultimately the security you most want and deserve. You can avoid this vicious circle by putting in place your own lifetime strategy that allows you breathing space and the knowledge that you can always survive financially, no matter what’s round that corner.
Drawing up your Financial Ground Rules
Do you know the critical things you need to do on a regular basis to ensure that you are always financially secure? (You can find lots of detailed information on this subject in Sorting Out Your Finances For Dummies by Melanie Bien.) To get you started in coaching yourself to a new financial plan, here are some tried-and-tested guidelines that can help you think about exactly what’s going to work for you:
✓ Be honest with yourself. Get out of denial. Do you know how much you actually spend? A client of mine decided to declutter and clear out six months’ worth of accumulated paperwork. She was horrified to find that the only envelopes that were unopened were her bank statements. Spend a month writing down every penny that you spend instead of comforting yourself that you only indulge in the occasional bargain impulse buy.
✓ Work out your budget. Happiness is possible even on a reduced budget, but unhappiness seems almost guaranteed if you lose control of your spending, even if you have lots of money to start with. Your budget is a simple formula – your outgoings should never be more than your incomings – so start with two columns and list every item under each.
✓ Aim to spend less than you earn each month. After you set your budget, you can decide on your regular safety margin. By spending a little less than you earn each month, you know that you have some money left at the end of the month to act as a rainy-day contingency fund. You can then, at the end of the month, choose to spend some of the extra cash on a treat or reward if you like. By holding back a little, you reduce the worry that can turn money into an obsession that gets in the way of other, more significant life goals.
Reducing your spending may not sound much fun, but you can take a positive mindset to this and turn it into a challenge or game. Consider the choices you make in the supermarket – do you always go for certain brands when you could select own-label products? You could make a policy of visiting the shop at the end of the day when many products are reduced in price. Make a game out of finding the best bargains and see how much you can shave off your weekly shopping bill.
✓ Try to save 10 per cent of everything you earn. Instead of using the extra cash to indulge yourself at the end of the month, you may choose to let it work for your future financial security by saving or investing the money. Decide what proportion of your income you can save and aim for that. Stashing away a certain amount each month often works better than a feast-and-famine approach where you save like crazy when you get a big bonus and then abandon saving at other times. Make the transaction automatic so that you aren’t tempted to change your mind and simply forget what you promised yourself.
Write down your new financial ground rules in your journal so that you can refer to them easily and reinforce your commitment.
How do you feel about developing a budget, spending less than you earn and saving a set amount of money each month? Perhaps you relish the idea of getting in control again. Or perhaps you recoil in horror at setting such constraints around yourself. Ask yourself what’s causing this recoil. Is it that you value spontaneity and freedom where money is concerned and feel that budgets and savings plans would stifle this? What impact does having this freedom then have for you? If you experiment with a more structured approach, what can it give you that’s better than what you currently have? You can find other financial ground rules that suit you and your life – rules that give you the same sense of freedom yet don’t leave you panicking about final demands and unexpected bills. If other options exist for you, what are they? Whatever option you choose, you need some element of discipline to ensure that your spending stays in control over the long term.
Developing your Financial Survival Plan
Coaching yourself in matters of money may result in a major decision to change your lifestyle or work. Or you may find yourself suddenly bereft of a major source of income through redundancy or business failure. What’s your survival plan? Do you know how much money you need to get by and how long you’re going to need to get things back on track? Financial advisors usually recommend having six months’ salary in savings to tide you over in an emergency, but this figure will differ depending upon your spending habits and your circumstances. You’ll almost certainly need more if you’re thinking of setting up in business unless you’re certain that your new venture will pull in cash for you very quickly. If you’ve already worked out your everyday budget, determining your contingency fund is a lot easier. Here are a couple of suggestions to get you motivated about drawing up your ideas:
✓ Think of doing this as a freedom strategy rather than a survival plan. If security is a strong value for you, then imagining yourself safe and secure when that rainy day comes is very compelling. But you may already be pretty financially secure and not feel the same drive to amass this contingency resource. If so, then allow yourself to daydream about the possibilities your savings give you if/when you wake up one morning and know with certainty that this is the perfect time for you to enjoy that sabbatical from work, go travelling for six months or take advantage of a business opportunity that has fallen into your lap.
You can always think of your nest egg as both a freedom strategy and a survival plan – focus on whatever beliefs support you to take positive forward action.
✓ Get help to design your plan. A trained financial adviser or an accountant can discuss tax and investment issues with you. A trusted and levelheaded friend can help you check your budgeting assumptions.
When Shami was considering establishing her own business, she had a figure in mind of what she needed to see her through the first year of trading when she didn’t expect to be making much money. This was a pretty tidy sum and was beginning to sap her motivation. Exploring the issue with her coach helped her to look more closely at her figures and assumptions. Shami discovered that she didn’t need nearly as much as she thought because of the savings she’d make on travel costs and expenses directly bound up with her current role at work.
Living Your Chosen Lifestyle
No matter how much you enjoy your work, you probably hold the belief that you’d rather be enjoying more leisure time. You look forward to eating out in nice restaurants, or playing a round of golf or lazing by the pool – and often these activities really do enhance your life. Sometimes though, your leisure pursuits don’t give you what you expect. You may have occasionally experienced that flat feeling when you’re on holiday, surrounded by the good things in life, willing yourself to have fun but in reality you’re bored, restless and discontented.
Your lifestyle is an aspect of your wealth; you may need money to enjoy a certain lifestyle, but your enjoyment of your lifestyle doesn’t have to be directly related to how much money you spend. How and where you get enjoyment are like drawing money out of a bank. If you choose wisely and build a lifestyle that connects with what fires you up inside, your leisure time is well spent and pays dividends, creating a feeling of richness to your life. If you focus on things that ‘should’ make you happy but never really fully engage with them, true wealth doesn’t get a chance to grow. You feel empty and cheated. Think hard about your leisure pursuits and the money and time you spend on them. Perhaps you shell out your hard-earned cash on a gym membership that you never use. A weekly run in the park with your best friend would do the job of getting you fit just as well, while feeding the inspiration and energy you get from your friend’s company.
Counting the True Cost of Your Lifestyle
Like all tangible resources, money is not usually unlimited. If you fall into the trap of believing that the more money you spend on immediate gratification the happier you’ll be, you end up being disappointed. And you deplete the financial resource that could be directed to areas to enhance your happiness, such as saving for your dream holiday home. You can probably remember the thrill of your first really big-ticket purchase – a car, a down payment on a house, a holiday abroad – but the truth is, you get used to things. That thrill may have been a little less intense with the second car, the third house move or the fourth exotic holiday. You may feel that you need to spend even more money to recapture that thrill. On the other hand, you may find that you continue to get a real buzz from trading up possessions, and that’s fine too – don’t be guilty because you love the material things in life and get real pleasure from acquiring the money to buy them.
Consider what you lose out on, or jeopardise, by choosing the lifestyle that you have. You may have convinced yourself that you aren’t at all materialistic when secretly you’d love a fancy sports car but don’t think you deserve one and couldn’t possibly afford it. If so, perhaps you need to face up to the fact that money and what it can buy is pretty important to you and start to put strategies in place to attract more money into your life. Or you may swan around in the latest swanky car looking enviously at the couple strolling hand in hand to the bus stop to go shopping. Maybe in this situation you realise that material possessions don’t make up for the lack of a loving relationship in your life, and you may decide to direct some of the energies you currently place in creating money wealth into securing relationship wealth.
Peace of mind concerning money issues often comes down to knowing where to direct your resources and when to recognise that retail therapy is often just a sticking plaster.
When you consider the things that are important to you, coaching reminds you to look beneath the tangible possessions that you have, such as money, to what that possession gives to you. If you love money, you no doubt love the security it offers you, or the joy you get from owning beautiful objects. Few people actually love money for itself – unless they have a passion for coin collecting.
Coach yourself to financial awareness by working through the following coaching questions (refer to Part II for an explanation of each approach):
✓ Powerful opening question: What is the true cost of my lifestyle?
✓ Personal style: How much money do I need to live my life according to the way that suits my natural preferences and my needs? How can I test how much money I need?
✓ Beliefs: What limiting beliefs do I have about money?
✓ Motivation: What does money buy me? What does the pursuit of money give me that I don’t want?
✓ What’s working: What’s good about my attitude to money? What do I want to change?
✓ Exploring options: What ways of being around money help me to achieve my whole-life goals?
✓ Taking action: What’s my first step towards using money to achieve my whole-life goals? How much time can I allocate to planning my approach? How do I know when I am making progress? What can I do to celebrate?
Permitting Yourself to be Rich
What assumptions about money do you hold? You may hold beliefs that stop you from generating the wealth you deserve. Do you think being poor is virtuous? How you manifest that virtue is what really matters and you can find some pretty mean-spirited poor people out there as well as some wildly generous and philanthropic multimillionaires. Do you think you don’t deserve to be wealthier than you are? What cash price do you put on yourself that limits you? Or do you think you don’t have the talent, the commercial acumen, the persistence or the drive to go out there and seek a glittering prize? Where is the evidence for your belief and what contrary evidence do you have? Where do your beliefs about money come from?
Ask yourself these questions:
✓ Can I allow myself to be rich? (Consider your beliefs.)
✓ Can I be rich and remain wealthy in all other areas of my life? (Consider your whole-life implications.)
✓ Can I be rich and keep my integrity? (Consider your overall contribution to your world.)
If the answer to all three questions is yes, you’ve given yourself permission to take the steps you need to take to pursue riches if that’s what you really want. In the case of riches, the old adage to be careful what you wish for lest it comes true contains much wisdom. Acquiring riches isn’t actually the hardest part of the process; deciding why you want money, what you’re going to do with it and then unblocking the thought processes that are holding you back from attracting it into your life constitute the real ground work. After you’re clear on what you want and why, you’re then ready to do the hard work and make the sacrifices that are required to make money.
Giving It All Away
Expert marketer and multimillionaire Dan Kennedy said: ‘Everybody starts out each day with 24 hours to invest as wisely as possible, for profit, for joy, for the benefit of others.’ You can choose to give away your time and/ or money, working towards a belief that the more you give out, the more you shore up for yourself.
Giving away your time or money relates to a combination of two seemingly contradictory statements – ‘speculate to accumulate’ and ‘the giver gains’. These two expressions come from very different places. The statement ‘speculate to accumulate’ is linked with hard-nosed commerciality, saying that money begets money. For your investments to grow, you have to let go of money you already have and hope that doing so pays huge dividends. Yet you accept that you may lose your money for good if the stock market fails, the business crashes or the value of your property plummets.
The statement ‘the giver gains’ says the same thing in a more altruistic way. Giving away your resources of time, talents and/or money simply out of a spirit of generosity and goodwill to humankind can often result in huge dividends in the form of personal satisfaction and fulfilling your sense of purpose. Yet you must accept that people may take advantage of you and leave you feeling depleted and bruised. Like playing the stock market, if your motivation for giving is to receive equal value back, you may be disappointed – and those you give to may feel uncomfortable and that they don’t know how to repay you. But if you reduce your reliance on the return, generosity and goodwill more easily flow back your way, directly or indirectly.
You can cultivate abundance in many ways, big and small, for example:
✓ Donating to a favourite charity.
✓ Doing sponsored walks and runs.
✓ Helping out at school fundraisers.
✓ Giving your time to a friend in need.
✓ Being a good neighbour.
Don’t devalue yourself or your time. False modesty doesn’t have a role in an abundant lifestyle and isn’t helpful. If you’re self-employed, you must set a fair price for your labour and be confident that you’re giving value to receive it. Abundance means that you can be generous when you’ve met your essential financial needs. So you’re then in a position to do pro-bono work (where you don’t seek to make a profit) if you want, or you can gift your time to a good cause.
You can only cultivate abundance if you already have a strong sense of your wealth. Financial experts suggest that you only invest excess money that you’re prepared to lose, not cash that you need for your own security and comfort. You can only give out your precious resources of time and talent when you have first given them to yourself and those dearest to you and have amassed a surplus of energy that you actively want to pass on for the good of others. Being abundant without taking care of the basics for you won’t always make you happy, and may even make you feel resentful.
Financial Advice From the Heart
Jack’s career as a financial adviser had been a bit of a roller-coaster. During coaching, he wanted to let go of a drive to competition that no longer sat well with his values of caring and concern for his customers. However, he also didn’t want to lose opportunities to generate income.
‘I remember the bad old days where we were trained and targeted to sell products and close the deal on the spot. I was quite young then and saw it as a game, I didn’t think too much about the ethics of it all. Things are different now and the industry is so well regulated that lots of protections are set up for people. But still, the reason for being in business is to make money and that potential conflict troubles me at times.’
Jack’s coach asked him what he wanted for himself out of his business:
‘Well, I do want to meet certain targets, but it’s also really important that I feel in myself that I give the right advice. I want to really get under the skin of a client’s wealth needs as if I was advising my best friend or my son. Sometimes it becomes obvious quite early on that buying a product isn’t the right route for a client, but I can see bigger issues that they can address with their basic approach to money and I want to help them. I don’t get commission for this and it can be time consuming, but I feel I’m cheating them otherwise. My business partner says I’m being commercially naive.’
His coach then asked him to consider how he could develop the business so that it was in complete alignment with what he wanted for himself and the world. This took place over a few coaching sessions and the end result was that Jack put in place a new fee structure in his business. He offered a low-cost fixed-fee session for clients who needed consultancy on their basic approach to money. The fee went some way to covering the cost of his time and had bigger benefits because he generated more referrals for more lucrative business as a result. His partner fully supported him and their different approaches became far more complementary, so the reputation of the practice grew. Both Jack’s riches and his sense of wealth and abundance in his life and work increased significantly.