Learn Where Life and Money Intersect for Money Mastery

I received a call from a gentleman who was referred to me. He was concerned about what his kids would do with his money, once they inherited it.

He told me he spent fifteen years building a company that he sold to another company for a generous profit. He said this new cash and stock infusion was significant to him. It represented an achievement he had worked hard to gain. He knew that the money was enough for he and his wife to live on and enough for his kids to benefit from but that’s not what he wanted the money to do. “I don’t want the money to provide so much security that life becomes a series of reality tv like experiences for my two teen age kids, caught up in the moment without any particular drive or interest. They’re already putting pressure on us about increasing their allowances and buying them new cars. It’s gotten tough on my wife and I to deal with this without feeling resentful.”

As our conversation continued, he revealed that money was never given to him as a child. He had to work for it. His wife also never had a lot growing up although she was given her parents’ car when she was 16 with the knowledge that she would have to turn it over to her brother when she was nineteen and he was sixteen. They couldn’t understand or appreciate their children’s covert and overt demands for money.

After a couple of meetings to understand their concerns and objectives, we decided to put together a 3-part financial program for the family. The first section was the “Financial Conversation.” This gave the kids an opportunity to express what money meant to them, their experience with money and what challenges they had with money. Their parents could only ask questions if they needed clarification on what was being discussed, not questions to judge or criticize. Then the parents had a chance to talk about what money meant to them, their experience with money and challenges they have faced with money.

Doing this in an environment where each participant felt like they could say what they wanted without fear of reprisal or judgment was crucial.  Each member came away from that meeting with a greater understanding of what money meant to themselves and to each other. This created a bond between them which we are now using in an exercise which involves an experience around money that the kids are doing as a team. They will report on their outcomes at the next meeting.

It is important for life and money to intersect so they can support each other rather than conflict with each other. It is critically important to do so in families where money matters so money and life can each be talked about with understanding and purpose rather than with judgment and directives.

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3 Tips to Sustain Family Wealth for 7 Generations

Passing wealth is usually done with the help of well-crafted documents by estate planning attorneys. But is this enough? It is if all you want to do is pass assets. It’s not if you want to keep the family intact for generations because wealth is more than the assets.

Wealth encompasses, in addition to your financial assets, your values, your philosophy and beliefs, your family culture, as well as the story of your significant experiences and how they shaped you. All these are just as important when passing wealth to future generations, as passing assets. Without these additional components, your family runs the risk of losing its wealth and all it stands for, within 3 generations. Studies by the Williams Group have corroborated this unfortunate outcome. Phrases like shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves within three generations have pointed to it.

Families have concerns about how money will affect future generations. Will wealth make their children/grandchildren/greatgrandchildren lazy, spoiled, unmotivated, rudderless?  Many families do not talk to their children or grandchildren about their wealth, their (the children’s and grandchildren’s) roles with the wealth or what the purpose of the wealth is for the family as the family grows from the first to the second, and third generations.

It is difficult to have these conversations without a road map and without the appropriate tools to use when talking about sensitive and difficult topics. How can you start?

First, begin by identifying what is important about the wealth to your family. Develop and communicate the “why” of the wealth. This will include talking about your family values, the purpose for the wealth, how your values impact the use and growth of the financial wealth

Second, engage in experiential teams to develop and nurture leadership strategies for the use of the family money such as philanthropy, higher education, or funding homes.  Educate the family about financial literacy and productive financial behaviors.  If family members are young, start them on a course of financial stewardship. If they are young adults, have them team up and develop a philanthropic family initiative and lead this initiative through its formation.

Third, hold meetings where you use active listening to understand. Let each person speak on the topic at hand without interruption. Make sure intentions are communicated and understood by all family members. Seek to connect rather than to win an argument.

Sustaining family wealth so future generations can thrive is about supporting collaboration, respect, trust, and retaining an environment built on communication that develops the family’s agreed upon common purpose.

When 2 Should Become 1 with Money Allocations

When we partner up with another person, we tend to retain our separate phone numbers, two earning sources, our own credit cards and our unique views on money.  Often, it’s our unique views on money that can create tensions and undermine relationships. After all, money is one of the top reasons for divorce. And as a mediator, I am often called upon to facilitate new money frameworks for families, ones they can agree to and build upon for financial peace.

In dual income families, I find that one person’s salary is often used for basic living expenses while the other person’s earnings are used for discretionary expenses such as vacations, restaurants, entertainment and home furnishing upgrades.

This may work well initially but as earnings, lifestyles, and interests change, conversations about money end up lost, avoided or become weapons of assumptions. Because earnings can change for one person more dramatically, or more often, than for their partner, allocating percentages to the family budget can avoid or reduce the tension that personal finances has on the family’s tranquility.

What is easy in other parts of a partnering life, such as separate cell phone numbers, separate hobbies, and different cars, money needs to become an area in which there is harmony for peace to reign at home.

I recommend that you set up a time to talk about how to use percentages of your separate earnings for more harmony with your blended financial life.

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!

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.”

Putting a Framework Around your $ Spending will Serve you Well

It is no wonder that people do not know how to use money responsibly. After all, money has no intrinsic value. But that is no excuse for us not to put value on our money.

Our mind works best when we can identify with that which we are thinking about or relating to. It is hard to do that with money as money can be used in so many ways and can mean so many things to it. When we do not take the time to understand the meaning of money to ourselves, it is easy for us to be pulled this way and that with money “opportunities.”

It is valuable to us to build purpose and meaning for our money. A framework around our money lets us make choices around that which we want to accomplish or express, and not be tossed about in the wind of money choices bombarding us daily.

Try this two-part exercise to note your response with money: Part 1: the next time you purchase groceries, use a credit  card and note your reaction to spending. You probably will not have much of a reaction as your card represents a promise to pay…later.  Follow that up with Part 2: Purchase groceries using cash. How did that make you feel? Note the difference you felt between the 2 mediums of exchange.

For most, using their credit card is more removed and less emotional while using cash usually produces feelings of doubt, loss, or withdrawal.

Have you ever seen someone eat too much? If not, you should. Why? Because it will teach you something about money. How do you stop? When you are full? When you have ingested enough for your body to efficiently use? How do you know when to stop eating? There are few boundaries to eating. It is the same with money. What stops you from spending? Put a framework around your money behaviors and habits. It will serve you well.

A Ridiculously Brief and Incomplete Historical Perspective of Currency

The ancient Chinese used cowrie shells as currency. Babylonia used barley in their towns and villages while silver (shekel) was used mostly in their cities. As I understand, silver and cattle were used by the Jews for much of their trade while Greeks used silver and ox. The Persian Empire used both animals and gold. Copper and bronze, as materials of trade, were introduced by the Romans, presumably, in the 3rd and 4th Centuries B.C. As you can imagine, trade was difficult on a mass scale or in long distances as animals and barley were cumbersome to move from place to place. Cowrie shells were a lot easier to transport but many villages and tradespeople did  not honor them. They were not valued n their own locales.

Because metal transport was heavy, metal currency stayed local.  Bronzed axes in Gaul and iron swords in Britain were common local metal currencies. By the 3rd Century A.D., the metals in the coins were so minimal that the coins’ value were minimal.  Except for gold. Gold’s value increased to the point when, by the 4th Century A.D., gold was the standard bearer for currency exchange. It too was heavy. As it was also difficult to transport, it was not yet in great quantity. But its value was known, its sources were searched, fought over, and hoarded.

Wampum was a common unit of currency between the English and Dutch in the new Americas. Tobacco notes were issued when wampum beads were discontinued. Metals, such as gold and silver, were hard to come by in the developing territory.

Gold eventually became the standard of measurement for most currency, and more specifically, paper money. Because Its purity could be measured, it had stability. Its size could be measured against its purity. This gave currency a standard and ease in “foreign” exchange, exchange beyond one’s borders. Until recently (the last hundred years), there was a direct ratio between  the amount of gold a country stored and the amount of currency it had in circulation. A modern country “back then” backed its currency by its gold. That is significant to think about. A strong country did not have more money in circulation than it had gold.   Today, that has changed. The gold standard has been removed. Most currency is pegged to the US dollar which, itself, is backed by “the full faith and credit” of its government. More money can be printed as its measure is based on faith and credit. As long as that good “full faith and credit” is supported, its money is valued.

3 Tips to Developing Money Stewards at Home

An effective way to view  money at home is to regard money education as a process rather than as a single event instruction. When money education is set up like this, money behaviors can be talked about, tweaked and managed more easily.

Here are 3 tips to get you started in developing money stewardship at home:

1        Begin by asking your family members what money means to them. Once the question has been asked, listen, without interruption to their response. It is critical that you not interrupt so your family members feel listened to. They do not want to feel this was a set up question for judgement and commands. When your children feel heard rather than feeling like they are being judged, they will more likely be candid with you in their response.

2        Put together an agreed to plan of action to develop valuable money habits in these areas: saving, invest, donating, earning, spending, what we at Focus and Sustain call the 5 S.I.D.E.S. of Money©. You will find your children are drawn more to one or two “sides” more than others. Explore these with them. Create limits and challenges for them to explore their interests.

3        Talk about money. Set up money nights where you talk about topics like: budgets for vacations, issues your children are running into, budgets, how to make money choices, etc.  Open  up the dialogue with welcomed feedback, with parameters around accountability, develop measurability to plans. All these will develop stewards to money at home.

Don’t Let Money Confuse You

Money habits and behaviors have great impact: if you spend and don’t save; if you save but don’t invest, if you invest and can’t share; if you have money but can’t generate money all have their consequences. It may take some time to see the consequences, but they are there. Money issues eventually surface, most frequently when we are in a relationship with someone else and their habits and behaviors differ from yours.

  • If you spend and don’t save, you may find that you don’t have the resources you need for retirement, for medical tests or costs that insurance will not pay for. Strive to save 5% of your net income for that emergency saving. Determine your “zero,” a number you never fall below. Use 5% of your gross income as an initial “zero” if saving is difficult for you.
  • If you save but do not invest, you will find that inflation and taxes will eat away at your savings. Partner with a financial advisor who can help you learn about investing. Make 15-20% of your gross income, your investing objective. Define a purpose for your investment and develop an active relationship with your advisor.
  • If you invest but have not yet helped others with your financial generosity, you might be surprised at how good it feels to assist someone in need. Organizations and causes you believe in can use your generosity in ways that do make the world better. Individuals, down on their luck appreciate your helping hand at an extremely difficult time in their lives. Make 5-10% of your net income a goal for giving.  Find an organization that aligns with your passions and beliefs and enter a giving program with them.
  • If you give money, and do not yet understand the value of generating your own finances, start a project that you personally fund. Become an entrepreneur. You will learn a lot about business and yourself! Alternatively, develop skills that are marketable and search for an opportunity in a field of interest to you. Be creative and bold in your search for work.

Money rocks! Don’t let it confuse you.