Money

Your Personal, Complicated Relationship with Money

When I was in seventh grade, I went shopping with a friend and her brother. They were from an affluent family and encouraged me to buy a pair of Guess jeans even though the Guess jeans were much more money than anything my family normally bought.

I had been earning my own money as the most-sought-after neighborhood babysitter, so I had enough money to buy the jeans. Upon returning home, I proudly shared my purchase, to which my mom took one look at the price tag and made it clear that she thought I had paid way too much for them. I immediately felt ashamed. I took the jeans back, but the memory of them remains.

I talk often about the importance of our personal money stories. These stories aren’t just made up of one event, they are created from numerous experiences, some of which can seem contradictory. I think of this Guess experience as being one of the first moments that taught me spending and how I felt about it. My parents and grandfather would become additional contributors to my money story – teaching me about saving, borrowing, and working for money.

Sharing Your Story

Sharing your money story with relevant individuals means you’ve taken the time to identify and understand those influences within your life. Let me continue to share mine to help you understand where you may have been influenced throughout your life.

As I indicated previously, the experience of spending came early on in seventh grade. Truly understanding the principle of saving came when I was sixteen working for Marshall Field’s. It was my first W-2-type job. Not long after I started work, my grandfather said, “If you save money into an IRA, I will match whatever you put in.” My grandpa loved chatting about money. He worked for a utility line, but he was frugal and loved talking about his ability to save. This was taboo in my family where money wasn’t discussed much.

Which leads me to the influence of my parents. They were incredibly hardworking – a value that was instilled in myself and my sister. My dad worked several jobs to earn extra for our family and my mother worked as well. Education was a priority to them, which is why my parents paid to put me and my sister through Catholic school. They made sacrifices in other areas to do it. One example was the beater cars my father would drive around in order to save money.  I remember as a teenager asking him to drop me off a block away from school, so my friends wouldn’t see his latest cost-saving vehicle.

When I chose an out-of-state college, my parents took a loan from my grandpa to pay for it. This struck me as odd because I knew they didn’t like my grandfather’s readiness to talk about money. The loan caused tension in the house because my parents didn’t want to talk about money, but my grandpa did, and the loan tied them together financially. My grandpa also had his opinions about how my parents should spend their money, which they didn’t like either.

These four specific incidences constitute as my money story – framing my views on spending and saving: (1) buying and then returning the Guess jeans (spending), (2) watching my dad track every dollar that went into and out of the house (spending), (3) investing in an IRA with my grandpa (saving), and (4) watching what happened when my parents took a loan from my grandpa (lending).

Understanding the Stories of Others

Understanding the stories of those closest to you, namely your spouse or partner, is just as important as identifying and sharing your own. Despite the need to share and talk about finances, we don’t do it.  A survey conducted by Wells Fargo in 2014 revealed that Americans find talking about finances much more difficult than death, politics, religion, taxes or personal health. In addition to us avoiding the topic, the survey indicated for nearly 40% of respondents reported money was the biggest cause of stress in their lives.

Consider the correlation of the amount of stress one area of life is causing and our inability to feel like we can talk about it with those around us.  It’s time to embrace our financial stories and be encouraging, as well as empathetic to those who share theirs.

A fairly recent article in the New York Times addressed the very problem with not talking about finances:

We’re discouraged from talking about money at every turn, but if you want to fix your financial situation, talking about it is necessary…Even setting aside that social taboo of discussing money, there are practical hurdles in your way to getting better at money: Learning about money is intimidating, and there’s no structural system in place to teach us. Further still, we look at poor money skills as something to be ashamed and embarrassed of, which can keep us from being honest about money and seeking out the right kind of help… All of these forces — the social taboo, the intimidation factor, embarrassment — conspire to keep us from talking about money and improving our circumstances.

Study after study confirms that money is a leading stress and cause of divorce– and it comes down to either couples not talking about money at all, or not talking about it in a productive way. It’s for this reason that identifying our personal money stories is so essential and that we then invite that same introspective dialogue to occur with our partners. Even if you are 100 percent in touch with your own values and money story, if you’re sharing a life with someone, you need to understand how that person views money as well. If you don’t, compromising and achieving joint financial goals will be challenging, if not impossible.

Each and every story is unique, which makes each individual’s approach to finance vastly different. Your set of experiences will be influenced by a number of factors, just as I shared from my life. If your relationship with money is complicated, your spouse’s will be as well. On top of that, it’s not uncommon for partners to have polar-opposite money stories – which is crucial for both of you to know, understand, accept, and work with those varying priorities and emotions.

A Washington Post article published a couple of years ago cited a “Love & Money” survey conducted by TD Bank which found, “…couples of all ages are happier when they talk about money. Seventy-eight percent of couples who talk weekly about money say they are happy as opposed to 60 percent of couples who talk every few months and 50 percent who talk even less frequently.”

There is happiness found in sharing our stories with each other and continuing to communicate with one another on such a significant topic. The reason being, how we deal with and feel about finances will impact every other aspect of life.

How These Stories Influence Financial Decisions

When we take the time to understand why we feel certain ways about money and are open to sharing that with relevant individuals (e.g. spouses), we can better understand how these experiences influence the choices we make.

Each of us have moments that have contributed to a personal “money story” – helped shape how we view and spend money. No matter what these stories are, they will affect how you spend, save, and invest. By understanding your own money story, you can also recognize the emotional components that drive each of your financial decisions.

Emotions are a powerful force in everyday decision-making, which includes decisions that involve money and spending. When we understand the powerful influence, these emotions can have over our spending decisions, we can practice greater control over our choices in those moments of emotional weakness or temptation.

Through the process of identifying your money story, you’ll inevitably recognize emotions that you associate with those experiences. It’s those emotions that will continue to influence how you feel in financial situations. The following are four common emotional states that tend to influence decisions:

  • Fear – This emotion stifles our ability to consider the long term. It can paralyze us to move forward, and it can cloud our judgment and cause us to make decisions out of perceived necessity rather than choice.
  • Responsibility – People can feel heightened responsibility for their finances when they are forced to be accountable or aware of money at a young age. Or perhaps someone grew up in an environment where financial prudence was discussed, practiced and required.
  • Excitement – When money begins to accumulate, and you have expendable income, there are several things that can be done with it: you can save it, spend it, share it, or invest it. Some people get excited by the prospect of spending money and end up overspending. They don’t just overspend on frivolous purchases; they sometimes overspend on seemingly practical investments. While excitement causes some to overspend, it causes others to over-save. Some people love watching their hard-earned dollars accumulate and grow. However, this can also lead to poor financial choices.
  • Sadness – Sadness due to money problems can be debilitating. Sadness from other sources can impact financial decision making as well. It can prevent individuals from making any decisions whatsoever about their financial future. Grief can also cause people to make illogical financial decisions. Sadness frequently affects financial decisions during difficult life transitions such as divorce or death.

Seek to Understand to be Successful

There are many indicators for success in life; however, many would argue that financial security is an important component of feeling successful. Perhaps that success isn’t measured in terms of whether you are wealthy or rich, but it can be measured on how secure, safe and confident you feel.

As I’ve mentioned before, uncovering our stories, emotions and motivations that contribute to the relationship we have with money will be critical for personal financial success. Identifying these experiences will help you understand your worldview and the view of your spouse (and others).

I previously shared the experience of buying my first pair of expensive Guess jeans in seventh grade, only to return them out of shame for paying too much. All these years later, those Guess jeans still resonate with me – it’s part of my complex relationship with money. Your money story is the history of financial decisions and financial influences that define how you view finance today.

As an adult, I continue to mirror behaviors I discussed in the Guess jeans story. I make my own money because I value financial independence, and I buy designer brands for the allure of them and also for their fashion. However, the Guess jeans experience taught me to be very conscious of the relationship between value and price.

While your money story might be affected by bigger life transitions such as an inheritance or a job loss, more benign experiences like my Guess jeans will also impact your relationship with money. These experiences big and small contribute to the complex relationships you and everyone around you have with money. Make the decision to address your personal feelings about money and address it with those you love, in particular, the person you share your life with – it’s too important of a topic not to.

To understand how to better recognize the stories, emotions, and motivations that contribute to your relationship with money, get your own copy of Flourish Financially: Values, Transitions, and Big Conversations here.

Gaining Perspective on Your Partner’s Money Story

In a previous post, I spoke to the importance of identifying your “money story” – a memory or set of memories that helped shape how you feel about and approach money. Your first experiences with money set the tone for the emotions and motivations you attach to money, which affects the financial decisions you make.

Each and every money story is unique, which makes each individual’s approach to finance vastly different. It’s no wonder money matters are the leading stress in marriages…you’ve got two people with two completely different approaches to one of the most important aspects of life.

Even if you are 100 percent in touch with your own values and money story, if you’re sharing a life with someone, you need to understand how that person views money as well. If you don’t, compromising and achieving joint financial goals will be challenging.

Understanding your partner’s financial story explains the motives behind your partner’s approach to spending and saving. And when both partners understand where the other is coming from, it can help facilitate more compassion and compromise.

It’s not uncommon for partners to have polar-opposite money stories – which is crucial for both of you to know, understand, accept, and work with. Like the questions you ask yourself in order to better understand your relationship with money, there are a number of questions to start the money story conversation with your spouse or partner, including:

  • What is your earliest memory of money?
  • How did your family handle money when you were growing up?
  • Whom would you describe as a role model in managing money?
  • What are the best financial decisions that you have made?
  • What decision about money do you regret?
  • What early money messages did you receive that have stuck with you (e.g., “time is money”)?
  • How would you describe financial freedom?

Understanding your partner’s money story and values will help clarify how and why your partner makes financial decisions. This can help bring you both to a common ground, which is necessary when you start looking at your joint financial future and minimize disagreements. Visit www.kathylongo.com to learn more about getting on the same page financially to achieve great things.

finances

Getting Excited about Your Finances

You might be thinking, “who gets excited about finances??”  Instead, many people dread them and hope to avoid dealing with them altogether.  Therein lies the problem – when you don’t look at and deal with them, that’s when things don’t improve.  However, when you decide to not avoid them, approach them head on and actually – yes – get excited about what you can accomplish, you will be amazed at the power you’ll have over your current and future financial outcome.

Getting in that headspace can be difficult for many. However, it’s possible to get passionate about your finances when putting them into the proper perspective.  Here are some ways to get excited about your finances and start getting ahead:

  • Break your cash flow into bite-size pieces and focus on these three components:
    1. mastering the day-to-day bill paying, living within your means, and understanding your income
    2. understanding both short- and long-term goals
    3. saving and investing to match those goals
  • Psychology is more important than dollars and cents. Return to your money story and understand where your feelings about money come from.
  • Substitute industry jargon for comfortable conversation that you understand and that doesn’t involve negative triggers.
  • Identify steps that can be taken on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to achieve your goals.
  • Schedule time to review your investments and financial plan on a consistent basis. You’ll find that if you check on it regularly, you’ll avoid getting derailed and be able to make adjustments that help as time passes.
  • Create a connection with a professional advisor – as much as you may know and understand about your own finances, a professional will provide a perspective and tools that you weren’t aware of previously.
  • Turn to online and workplace education, get more involved by understanding the intricacies of your financial obligations now and in the future.
  • Talk to trusted friends to understand how they’ve approached their personal budgets and finances. You may not always identify with what others are doing, but it could provide ideas and inspiration for how to improve your situation.
  • Connect to other professional providers who can help, such as an accountant, estate attorney, and personal insurance agent. Again, the more help you can receive, the better off you’ll be.

Your finances don’t have to be thought of as all budget and restriction. With some reframing, this can be an exciting conversation. Your finances are a tool that allows you to take control of your life and achieve life goals and dreams. Learn more about how to achieve your life goals and dreams by visiting, www.kathylongo.com.

Avoiding Lifestyle Creep: Do’s and Don’ts

Finally! You got the promotion! Time to celebrate with going out to dinner…and maybe the next night or more just because it’s no big deal now. And look, you hadn’t noticed before, but you can add your favorite entertainment package to your streaming tv account for only $40 more per month. It’s been a busy couple of months, you’d prefer not to spend your extra time on the lawn, maybe you can add a lawn service so that you don’t have to worry about it – for only $100 a month that seems worth it! And man, your car has seen a lot of miles…perhaps you should look into trading in/up for a newer car, you’ve got the room to afford more, right?

Maybe not. Before you know it, that raise you received has disappeared. But how?! Lifestyle creep.

“Lifestyle creep” occurs when we increase our spending as our income increases rather than choosing to save some of that additional income, and occurs for three reasons:

  1. People don’t have a plan for what they want to do with additional income
  2. People live too much for today, so they think of ways to spend “extra” money rather than planning for the future, or
  3. People spend far too much time comparing themselves to others

I can’t tell you how many people come to me and say, “Well shouldn’t we be able to do that? So-and-so said that they’re able to take this trip (or buy this fancy car) and they make less than we do.”

The comparison trap is dangerous. There are unknown circumstances going on behind the scenes financially for every individual and family. It’s impossible to tell whether your neighbors can actually afford whatever it is they’re buying. Perhaps they are thousands of dollars in debt. Maybe they’re about to start foreclosure proceedings. Maybe they inherited a large sum of money. The point is you never know what others can truly afford or why they can afford it.

Don’t let “lifestyle creep” sneak up on you and disrupt a comfortable financial future. Purchasing and acquiring things/experiences is a part of life; when done responsibly it can be a wonderful thing. Just remember to be deliberate and smart about your money and any increase you receive. Learn how to successfully manage your money by visiting, www.kathylongo.com.

Why We Lie About Money

Why We Lie about Money

Why We Lie about Money 

We tend to lie about things we’re uncomfortable with, embarrassed about, or ashamed of.  It’s no different with one of the most significant forces in our lives: money.  My passion and focus is helping individuals truly flourish financially.  To do this though, people need to be willing to have real, sometimes uncomfortable, conversations about money and life.  

After working in financial planning for more than twenty-five years, I’ve noticed that there’s a deep-rooted resistance in our culture to talk about money. Talking about money requires a willingness to be vulnerable and most people are not confident in their money choices. They’re embarrassed about making poor choices or not having the know-how to make good ones. This is unfortunate for many reasons. Chief among them is the fact that money is a source of stress for most people.  

A 2017 PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Employee Financial Wellness Survey, which tracks the financial and retirement well-being of US working adults, showed that 53 percent of all employees are stressed about their finances.  Over half of this country’s largest source of stress is money, yet for most of us, it’s the hardest thing to talk about.  This weight of perceived expectations around money can cause us to be dishonest with ourselves and others about the true state of our financial affairs.    

An American Express study found that 91 percent of couples find reasons to avoid talking about finances and only 43 percent discussed money before marriage.  A UK study reported that 44 percent of people don’t feel comfortable managing their own money.  It also showed that 39 percent of parents don’t feel confident talking about money with their kids. We are not honest with ourselves about money and we avoid talking about it with our spouses, children, and siblings. 

Being Honest with Ourselves  

To financially flourish, it’ll require necessary and sometimes uncomfortable money conversations with yourself, and key people in your life so you can make the best financial decisions for your family.  In order to have effective and honest conversations, it will require having an understanding of your personal relationship with money and how that has been shaped and influenced throughout your life.  In previous posts, I’ve discussed the importance of identifying your “money story” as well as the main emotions that drive your decisions.  The more you understand yourself and what fuels your thoughts, feelings and behaviors, the more honest you can be with yourself and the greater success you can have now, and in the future.   

Learn more about how to honestly address your financial situation so you can experience greater success by visiting, www.kathylongo.com.