The Power of our Values is Distinct

When living a life full of activities, projects, deadlines and other calendar driven things, where can you turn when you ask: “How do I add more meaning to my life?” What can you do when you want to explore the inner meaning, maybe not with as much passion as what is already consuming your life, but at least with some inquiry? Is there something more to life worth pursuing? I think so.

I still remember, when, years ago, a marketing consultant for my business, asked me, in my first assignment, to identify my values. At first, I was puzzled by this request as I was ready for the big idea to implement. But she was right when she said” To build the business, we must begin with you knowing your values, the foundation of who you are and what drives or motivates you.”  I nodded with skepticism as I had no idea of the benefit to looking at my values. She gave me a list of values and told me to identify my top 3 “Oh, that should be easy “I thought, as I looked at the words. But then, as I looked through the list, I found that most of them were significant. How would I choose just three? I did not know my top values.  I do now and for the last 20+ years, every year, I refer to them constantly in both my personal and professional lives. But why?

From that exercise years ago, I learned that values are our guiding principles. They tell us why we are motivated to take certain actions, why we decide to say yes to one thing of seeming import, and say no, to yet another. Our guiding values lead us.  As they lead us, and as we let them guide us, they help us to simplify our lives and pursue that which matters, with passion, purpose and success.

The power in our values is distinct. Think about a person who has had a powerful and positive impact to you, in your life. What is important about them to you? It’s likely a value will come up that is very important to you, one you still key to you today.

Our values act like an inner compass. We decide whether to listen and follow them or not. When we do, we feel more centered; when we don’t, we tend to feel more confused or rudderless.

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Have you been Mansplained? Been What?!

I was recently involved in a robust online conversation on mansplaining. As soon as the topic was raised, opinions started flying in, ranging from irritated frustration at the experience to recharacterizing mansplaining as verbal kidnapping. I would have remained a spectator to the group conversation until verbal kidnapping was presented as a description to mansplainng. That was my moment of: “Wait a second, that seems a little much.”

Mansplain is defined in the online Merriam-Webster dictionary as: to explain something to a woman in a condescending way that assumes she has no knowledge about the topic.

As I have experienced mansplaining, I thought I would bring it up here to gain perspective and understanding. Here, in part, is what I shared with the online conversation.

“I am adding to this robust dialogue as I cannot reconcile the phrase ‘verbal kidnapping.’ (with mansplaining). Kidnapping means: take by force. This is different than taken by surprise or be overwhelmed or belittle or even attempted to connect with.

Having come up in male dominated industries, financial, jazz guitar, and entrepreneurial success, I have experienced it many times, sometimes overt and sometimes covert. For quite some time, I took it personally, like they were exhibiting behaviors because I deserved it/asked for it/put out the vibe/looked like I wanted it/was a target for their unloading. Eventually that turned to understanding that it was not about me, they did not even know me but they needed to wield their power/show me who’s got the upper hand/offer friendly unsolicited advice/want to show off/join the conversation/demonstrate how intelligent they were/demonstrate how keenly aware or observant they were being/ and more.

Initially, I either stood stunned or snorted out a weak comment only to fine I was fueling the fire, the fire of false objectives and false perceptions by the mansplainer. I then shifted to inquiry in my attempt to gain understanding as to their intention with being so directive with me.

So, how do I deal with it today? IT DEPENDS. It depends on the situation, my perception of their intent, that which I want to protect within myself, the point I want to make….

For one person I might cut them short  to end a ‘correction’ or added ‘expertise’ they want to interject.

For another person, I might let them go on until I see an opening and then end the conversation in full awareness that their behavioral habit will continue with someone else. I choose not to take the time to get into the fray.

For yet another person, I may ask them their intent on sharing with me as I want them to be clear as to whether they perceive me as unprofessional/unqualified/not at their level or perplexed at my keen insight which might contrast with my small stature.  😊 These may all come into play.  I can then respond more appropriately with more clarity

I no longer initially judge mansplainers to be foe. And it’s not just mansplainers, there are womynsplainers. The wolf wears either gender sheep’s clothing to get in to the stall!

Tell me your thoughts? Have you been mansplained? How do you deal with it in a way that preserves the essence of who you are, your values?

It’s Important for Women to be Confident with their Money

I have always enjoyed being a steward of money. Even as a kid, I would count my money; I was excited to open a bank account; I would plan on money expenditures, I thought about money and how to best use it.  As a young adult, I thought about how to ensure I had extra saved money; I enjoyed the world of investing, although, as a woman, back then, there was not a lot of support for women in money matters.

So, I was stunned to recently read an article about women and money that included sobering findings from a Fidelity Investments Money FIT Women Study. Surveying 1,500 women, this survey found that 8 out of 10 women don’t talk to family or friends about money. That is chilling to me. The study also revealed that 50% of those interviewed, mostly Gen X and Yers, said they are nervous talking about making financial decisions! What the what the?!

Even today, where so much is available and expected of us, it seems we don’t include financial literacy as an area to master. As a result, and according to the Fidelity study, women have a confidence gap when it comes to financial literacy.

Is this true for you? Do you feel yourself avoiding money conversations? If so, what can you do to change this behavior and mindset. Here are three tips to begin your positively affect your relationship with your money.

  • Take a moment to answer this question: How do you want money to play an active an enabling role in your life? Answering this question allows you to finally understand what money means to you. Knowing this gives you clarity about how you really view money. It may be that you don’t get money, or, you don’t respect it or, conversely, that you want to get a handle on it but don’t know how.
  • If it is easy for you to accumulate debt and spend more than you have, ask yourself: What is in it for you to continue this habit? Really stop and respond to this with clarity. We tend to do things either because there is a benefit to doing so, because we want to sabotage ourselves, or because we are avoiding dealing with the topic of money.
  • What first step can you commit to make a, one, not all, just one, present unproductive habit move into the shadows of your life rather than being in the driver’s seat to your life? Taking a small step can begin a journey of steps that eventually become a pathway to sustainable and successful habits and behaviors around money.

Need more help? Contact me. Having women be successful in life with their money is important to me! I hope it is to you, too.

I would like to speak to Millennials for a Moment

Today, every generation, thanks to the mining of so much data, can be and is dissected for quick sound bites and headlines. I, too, stop and read some of the headlines. A couple of these have caught my eye and wanted to focus on them today.

Recently, I saw two headlines addressed to millennials. The first was about money habits: In a poll from USA Today/Bank of America Better Money Habits, 33% do not have a savings account, 40% have less than $5,000 saved,  more than 50% have not funded their retirement savings. Instead millennials are focused on paying off credit card debt. 40% say they worry about their financial future at least once a week.

I have two reactions: the first is Y-A-W-N. The baby boomers were late to the money responsibility, as a generation, as well. So, not too much of a surprise here. What is taught and acted on in one generation often passes on, in some recognizable manner, to the next generation.

My second reaction is in the form of a question: as a species, are we savers? Or is this a luxury for those in a certain income range? In my 20 years as a financial planner (with three prestigious certifications) I rarely found the dedicated saver. And if stock options were available, it was no better. They seemed to equate more money to higher ticket items. It’s difficult to save when businesses spend a fortune on marketing to us to get us to part with our money.  I am not excusing non-savers, I am just painting a landscape that I see. I built my Money Focus program to address this big problem guide those who want to transform their money anxieties to money stewardship.

The second article I read was about millennials wanting to retire early. The take away in this article is not that millennials, as a group, want to chill somewhere, instead it is more fundamental to who they are: they feel insecure about the future, in general. A documentary: Playing with Fire, explores a millennial’s journey to their financial freedom, where health care, social security and social safety nets seem to be eroding and where individual financial future is now one’s own responsibility. Financial literacy is rarely taught in schools or at home. In 2017, only five states were given an A for their financial education efforts from the Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy’s Financial Report Card. These states: Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia require that their students take at last a half-year personal finance course or its equivalent. At least it’s something.

Millennials, this has been happening for generations. And will continue for generations. But you can stop it. You can take control of your own financial life.  It only takes a willingness to change.

Let me know if you want to explore how.

Thank you for caring for your financial well-being!

A Major Financial Error is to Mistake Money for Wealth

In the mid-20th century, the great Vanderbilt houses were torn down, and while their name lives on at Vanderbilt University, the influence and prominence of the family itself has fallen out of sight almost entirely.

Although my only experience with the Vanderbilts was as school mates, I have seen destructive effects of wealth on families. Seeing these outcomes was a primary reason I decided to focus my career on discovering what works in keeping families together when money matters, and helping families find common purpose with sustained meaning when money is a cornerstone to their dynamics.

In my years of observation, study and working with families, I have made two key observations that come to play when those who amass great fortunes determine how to pass their wealth from one generation to the next.

Families that focus on the assets as the key cornerstone to their family, do what they can to protect the assets. They construct brilliant plans to offset estate taxes, to take advantage of tax laws, to distribute assets “at the right time.” The assets will be protected. However, overtime, the soul of the family erodes, and with it, the family fortune because there has been no attention to its purpose. Individuals further their own agendas which may be in conflict with the long term growth of the money. Squabbling, squandering and over spending become the ingredients to financial wealth erosion. The sole or focus was on the fortune rather than on also preparing the heirs to receive and steward the assets.

Successful families understand that merely providing a healthy checking account to next generations is not enough. They realize that there must be a bigger purpose that all family members buy into and champion. They realize that the family structure can continue strong, lasting generations. They change the focus of their perspective on their money from being owners to being stewards. They build a family culture that is passed on from one generation to the next. The family fortune becomes merely one of the tools entrusted to the family to steward.

As you think about which of these two scenarios you advocate, ask yourself this question: “Are you preparing your heirs to become stewards of wealth or merely preparing the assets to be transferred?” Why is this question relevant? It is so, because it can prevent you from mistaking money as the only component to wealth. Do not mistake money as the only component of wealth.

The Family Story is Powerful to Children

Several years ago, Emory University commissioned a study. The study was hosted by two prominent Emory psychologists, Robyn Fivush and Marshall Duke, and a former graduate student, Jennifer Bohanek. They wanted to understand the impact of family stories to a family’s dynamics with their adolescent members.

“Family stories” the researchers wrote, “…help children understand who they are in the world.” These unique and important stories help children understand who they are and where they come from, in a different way, but akin to the DNA tests available for us to take today. Neither of these will tell us who we are going to become, but they do shed light into that which brought us here.

The power of the important story is its experiential transmission of connectivity. Before this study, researchers had an inkling that family stories contributed to a child’s well-being and identity but had not measured their ideas. Now there was evidence. The study found that the teenagers in the study expressed “…higher levels of emotional well-being, and also higher levels of identity achievement, even when controlling for general level of family functioning.” Wow!

Although this is the first study of its kind to use a Do You Know Scale of measurement, it certainly is, for some, an eye opener, while for others, confirmation, on the power of important family stories.

What is your family’s story; not the where when or how, but the story of who and the why of the family? Your family story is a thread, a  link to identity and connection. Tell it to your family.

Take Action to Avoid the #1 Regret People Have

Recently, I read an article about regret. Of course, it included the biggest regret people have, which I will disclose a little later. But first, what, exactly, is regret?

According to the Miriam Webster Dictionary, the definition of the noun regret is: “1-sorrow aroused by circumstances beyond one’s control or power to repair and 2-an expression of distressing emotion (such as sorrow).” I find those to be interesting definitions and I feel I need to add one more which is remorse or shame  not following up or completing that which I had the power to complete or repair but lacked the motivation, strength, or courage to affect. Let’s look at the etymology of “regret” to discover more about its meaning. Regret appears in old Norse as grata, meaning to weep, or groan, in the Proto-Germanic as gretan, meaning weep and in the French as regreter meaning “ pain or distress in the mind at something done or left undone.” These give me a clearer framework to work with when I hear the word regret.

In the article I was reading about regret, authored by Diana Bruk and published online by MSN, six studies were conducted with hundreds of participants. Each participant was asked what they regretted most in life. While people tended to regret their actions (current behaviors or activities) more in the short term, their inactions (things they did not do or behaviors they did not model) were regretted more in the long term.  We tend to put off, in the short term, actions, which in the long term, we regret having neglected. But all this was merely a backdrop to what people regret most.

The number one regret people have, according to these six studies is: not fulfilling their ideal self. WOW!!!!

You can avoid this regret. By knowing your values, your mission, setting your goals, both long and short term, then having a method of achieving your goals while expressing your mission and values, you will sidestep this huge regret.

And a shout out to those of you who have taken up the Life Focus System, you model the axiom of living your ideal self. You have constructed ways to return to the path, when you stray from it. You live a life of focused purpose. You reap its benefits, both short and long term.

No, Wait, Don’t Quit, You’ve Just Started

I recently read an article where the University of Scranton revealed the sobering news we really didn’t want to hear.

Many people, about 40% of American adults, make resolutions at the beginning of the year. They make them for all kinds of commitments, but the top ones, according to IQuanti and compiled from Google search data, involve getting healthy with weight loss and exercise programs, getting organized, and living life to the fullest.

Lofty objectives are set, to find that, by mid-February, people have parted company with 80% of their  resolutions, according to U. S. News. Apparently, January 12, is the most common day for resolutions to begin to waiver.

Overtime, according to the University of Scranton study, only eight percent of those who make New Year resolutions, fulfill them in a timely manner. Wow, what is going on?!

Perhaps it’s not in the making of the resolutions but in the motivation, payoff and real commitment to these resolutions.

With resolutions you have made, how specific were they? The more specific they are, the easier they are to stick to. Then building action steps to hold yourself accountable to are your best tools. But only make one action item at a time. Do not overwhelm yourself with “THE List” of action steps. Instead create the first step with a timeline, do it, report back, and add the next step. Your action steps will get you to your goal over time.

How is your commitment to your resolutions? Don’t quit yet, you’ve just started!

This Year Money and I will Be Friends

Millennials, 81 million strong, are being scrutinized by researchers to learn about their financial habits and behaviors. One study, from a USA Today/Bank of America Money Habits Poll, found that one in five millennials are not saving money.

Another survey, hosted by Fidelity, found that over half the millennials had not started saving for retirement. Instead this generational cohort are wrestling with a different top financial issue: paying off credit card debt. As Fidelity also discovered, 4 in 10 millennials they survey worry about their financial future at least once a week.

Is this a case of one generation passing on habits and behaviors to another generation? Is this because money has become harder to understand? Is it because it is too easy to spend money?

I know that when I work with people on transforming their money behaviors and habits, there seem to be three main areas around money that cause major problems. They are:

  • the inability to communicate about money without a shroud of anxiety layered over the conversation
  • the feeling of being out of control when there is a constant barrage of decisions to make with your money
  • No reliable system in place to track, tweak and oversee money habits.

My initial recommendation, if money is a source of anxiety for you, is to step back and answer these four piercing questions:

  • What does money mean to you?
  • What do you want it to provide for you?
  • How far away are you from realizing question two?
  • Are you willing to do what you have to do to make question two happen?

These are not easy questions to answer, so give yourself the space to answer these fully for yourself. The responses you come up will not necessarily change your habits with money right away. What they will do is help you to become clear as to the purpose of your money so that you can then direct your attention to the areas of communication, control and systems around your behaviors with money.

As you pursue your mastery of money, make this your mantra for the year: “This year, money and I will be friends, and not part company as easy and as often as we did last year.”

Where Do You Stand on these Two Competing Views on the Future of Money

I recently read two books with similar names: The Evolution of Money, by Percy Kinnaid, published in 1909. and Evolution of Money, by Rupert Ederer, published in 1964. They both contained nuggets very appropriate to today as the authors wrote about money morphing from a value-based currency tied to gold, to one based on credit and good faith.

 

Here is a takeaway from Kinnaid’s book: “Money has evolved from concrete objects of intrinsic worth, used as standards of value, to paper representatives of ‘words’, originated to express the unit of value and its multiples and subdivisions.”  This is a profound change where promise and/or good faith  has replaced intrinsic value.

 

Ederer, in his book, wrote that extending credit would result in more good outflow in an economy which in turn would reduce gold’s supply and reserves. He added that taking us off the gold standard facilitated exchange and progressed the evolution of money to making money more functional and emancipating it from an imposed limit.

 

Ederer also wrote about and distinguished two theorists: the commodity theorists and the nominalist theorists. Broadly speaking, Ederer surmised that the commodity theorists advocate that the nature of money itself gives it value. They appreciate the present through the past, and value the origin of money, tying it to gold. The nominalists advocate that anything can be used for money. They appreciate the present by ignoring the past, and are divorced from money’s association to gold, believing money still has value. They point to the cultures where gold was never part of their money system and yet these cultures flourished.

 

Today, with traditional money, cryptocurrency, bitcoins and other types of currency in development, along with easing of credit, it is fascinating to listen to those on either side of money and its future value. Where do you stand? Should the future of money be based on solid ground like gold or shifting sand like new currencies, when it comes to “money” and its value?