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.

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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.

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?

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.

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.