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.

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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.

Who is Ready for their Inheritance?

If you have young kids, and you are wealthy, are your children wealthy? What about your grandchildren, are they wealthy? When I ask these questions to clients, they inevitable pause. I can almost see the wheels spinning in their heads as they consider the money paradigm  existing in their lives.

 

I often hear how they want their kids and grandkids to understand the value of thrift, to see and appreciate how hard it once was, not take money for granted, and yet also give their children and/or grandchildren opportunities and advantages available to them. But how can your progeny learn about life’s hardships when they have private tutors, unique vacations, and financial ignorance?

 

Money is not often discussed in families with wealth. The Wilmington Trust, in a poll they conducted,  found that sixty seven percent of respondents said they were uncomfortable talking about eventual inheritances and only ten percent provided complete information to their heirs.

 

Concerned that they might thwart motivation, self-worth, and confidence, wealth holders often will askew conversations about money. Hope, intuition, seat of pants guidance are common methodologies, but they are not recipes for success. Trusts and timelines are common tools to allocate money to next generations but neither of these prepare the inheritors from being ready to receive the money. Let me repeat that: neither of these prepare the inheritors from being ready to receive the money. Maybe it’s time to change that paradigm .

 

Prepare your family for their inheritance. Mentor them to become stewards of that which you worked hard and proudly to accumulate.  Ask them what money means to them. Ask them what they would do with money. Give them a small amount of money to see how they handle it. Let them make mistakes while mentoring them towards stewardship.

 

This is such an important topic, rather than avoid or delay talking about money, use the tools that allow you to create an environment of healthy money conversations and stewardship.   Contact me if you want to learn how to talk about money.

 

Money can become just another conversation. But you need to create that environment so when asked: “Who is Ready for their inheritance?” your children and grandchildren can say: “We are. We are stewards to a legacy. And we are ready in our roles and responsibilities to steward our inheritance.”

Wisdom from the Ages Can Be Accessed from this One Tip

I recently read a recommended book. The author, Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) wrote an autobiography, which was published posthumously in 1868. I would like to share a point that resonates with me and is as relevant today as it was for him, two hundred plus years ago.

To give you a little background, Franklin believed strongly in the attributes virtues had He went so far as to define the thirteen core virtues which were cornerstones to his life.  He defined what each meant to him, and this is insightful,  because he understood that each person defined virtues, individually. His definition was not necessarily theirs and vice versa.

Rather than focus on all thirteen virtues, he isolated one at a time. He started with temperance which he described as: “eat not to dullness, drink not to elevation” and focused on it for a week. He then moved on to the next, which for him, was silence, defined for him as: “speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation”, the next week he focused on order “let all things have their places; resolution “resolve to perform what you ought, perform without fail what you resolve” and so on.

As he focused on only one virtue per week, he could gain greater understanding of it for himself and its valuable application in his life. As the years went by he became dedicated and pronounced with his virtues, refining them in his daily life.   This contributed to the respect he garnished. He took the time to live from his “virtues”, intimately.

Each day he would begin by asking himself: “What good shall I do this day.” In the evening, he would reflect on his morning question by asking: “What good have I done to-day?” using one of the thirteen virtues he was focusing on.

Now, that is Wisdom from the ages.

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.

 

Smart Money Tips for Kids from 3 to 22

Without a foundation of financial competence, people run the eventual risk of squandering, spending, or squabbling over money. Because of this it is essential to impart financial competence directly and early.

Having an early and repeated exposure to real money, gives children a direct experience with money. Collect coins and sort them into various sizes so your children are introduced to money.  Have them count the total of different coins and bills as an arithmetic and financial exercise. The writer downer here is to introduce them to money itself. Kids relate to the direct experience with it.

Observe your children with money and let them experience it. Be informal yet frequent about your dialogue with them about it. Kids from 5-7 age love games. Games that involve bartering are great activities for them. In this age group introduce them to different ways money is used.  Remember the piggy bank? This is a great time to introduce the piggy bank to your children.

8-11-year old children are at a great age to experience setting limits and making choices. Delayed gratification is an important trait to develop. You may have heard of the Stanford experiments to determine the effect of immediate versus delayed gratification. Delayed gratification correlated with higher SAT scores. It also correlated with self- control.  In this age group, delayed gratification can be expressed in self-determined goals/objectives and even incentives from you.

Preteens love to make buying decisions. They can handle the concept of limits. Have them set limits for themselves. They can understand ramification and consequences to exceeding budgets. Have them make budgets, not as tedious chores, but as a fun activity with gratifying outcomes.

Teens feel the pressure of their peers. This need of belonging can tug at their financial behaviors. “But, you don’t understand, I need this…now!” is a common plea. Reinforce their sense of responsibility by having your teens communicate the “why” of their, a “why” with consequences. This is also a wonderful time to Introduce them to the concept of earning, trading talents and skills for money that does not come from a family member.

Spreading their wings and testing their independent lives, young adults are often thrown into a world of a financial tightrope on which they may feel unprepared to take on. They have so many needs and wants tugging at them. How do they decide when to spend, when to save, how to invest and donate?  This is a time for young adults, if they haven’t already, to identify what money means to them and set up a system they can follow to save, invest, donate, earn, and spend.

We Need More Money Nights at Home

At a recent Ivy League School alumnae dinner, the host asked the attendees, to indicate, by a show of hands, if they engaged in financial discussions with their children and/or grandchildren on a monthly or more frequent basis? Of the 100 attendees, how many hands do you think went up?  3 raised their hands.

What did I glean from this? That few families have “money nights” at home. Although 17 states require a “course”, only 5 states require a stand-alone semester in personal finance before graduation from high school. We are not one of them.

It is up to us, the family, to teach kids about money. As Jack Weatherford, former Professor of anthropology at Macalester college in Minnesota, and award the Order of the Polar Star, Mongolia’s highest national honor for foreigners, pointed out: “…money is uniquely human. No version or analog of it exists among any members of the animal kingdom. We have to pass on its meaning to our future money stewards.”

Then how do we talk to our kids about money? Well it depends on their age, inclinations, and maturity. As you introduce money conversations/money nights and money stewardship at home, remember to guide and advise rather than dictate, encourage rather than criticize, be consistent, be flexible, be objective and purposeful about money, keep extended family members in the loop about your financial “rules”, be open to questions, mistakes, and ideas your children might have. Encourage accountability and praise their successes. Money just needs to become another conversation.

When children experience money early they will discover, tweak, and learn from their decisions, mistakes, and challenges. They will become familiar with money and its various facets. They will experience how to use it productively, so they can become stewards of money. This is what we all want.

How is money communicated in your home? Let me know I’d like to know.

Pass the Chocolate, I’m out of Cash: How the Brain Deals with Fairness

I find money and food to be similar in many ways.  It seems to be difficult for many people to gain control over either and it seems that both topics can become emotionally charged, quickly.

Researchers have studied both, finding that the brain can respond similarly to both money and food behaviors. Surprised? Me neither. But I do find it interesting what the neurosciences have discovered. Let me share a little of that with you.

The brain, you should know, responds to fairness. One study asked their participants if they would agree to someone else’s division of money. If they declined, neither party would receive anything. Offers were made, each amounting to receiving $5 but from different totals. Some were offered $5 out of $10 while others were offered $5 from $20+. And here comes the interesting part: the brain’s reward circuitry was activated only for “fair offers.” In this case receiving $5 out f $10 was registered in the brain as being fairer than receiving $5 out of $23.

This part of the brain, one that reacts to “being fairly treated” is the same part of the brain responding to certain cravings, like for chocolate. Why? It seems to that the brain area that is activated in receiving a fair offer is the same area that is activated when we eat craved foods, like chocolate.

For those who are interested, the regions in the brain that respond to fairness are  the ventral striatum and ventromedial prefrontal cortex.

Two Insightful Money Observations

Money is merely a tool, which means that money itself is not THE culprit. If stays where we leave it, it goes where we move it to. With that as a backdrop, let’s look at two scenarios:

  • More earnings mean more wealth       Y             N

Not necessarily as money is easily spent. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that the personal savings rate is at about 3.20% of income with lesser income earners saving more than higher income earners. The data continued to show that we exhibit one of the lowest savings rates of developed countries; only Spain, China, and Australia save less than we do, currently.

  • Money Can Buy Happiness                     Y             N            

Yes, up to a point. Think of what that Powerball lottery could do for you! Science has researched this question and found that how we spend money has an influence on our happiness. Research shows that happiness is increased when we spend money on others more than on ourselves. Does this have to do with experiencing satisfaction? I don’t know, I am merely asking. One study, I remember reading from the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western University, indicated that once people earn more than $200,000, their level of happiness did not increase significantly.

 Money is very personal. Being personal, it is important that you understand what money means to you, so it can be the sharpest tool in your tool chest, doing what you want it to do for you!