“Money cannot buy peace of mind. It cannot heal ruptured relationships,
or build meaning into a life that has none.” – Richard M. DeVos, businessman
“I’m embarrassed at how much income I have and how poorly I manage it.”
Patricia was a young looking, but retired, high school teacher. She had divorced her abusive, alcoholic husband, Bobby, ten years earlier, and had been on her own since. They had no children but Patricia had several close friends with whom she socialized regularly. She was deeply religious and her other top priority was her pet poodle, which was aptly named, Precious. She had a nice house with a garden in the back yard, which she enjoyed tending, faithfully.
When I asked, Patricia said her biggest challenge in life was money…she still struggled to pay her bills each month, even though she had a good income. She said she grew up poor but now had a good pension, and had also inherited some property from her deceased parents. But still, money issues plagued her constantly. She said she worried so much it even interfered with her sleep. She was very stressed out.
What brought things to a crisis was her new boyfriend, who she really liked, named George. She said he was a kind and considerate man, but actually poorer than she had ever been. He was widowed recently and had two children and three grandchildren to whom he was very devoted. Patricia and George had been seeing each other for over a year now. He wanted to move into together which would mean sharing living expenses.
Then, she said, “Ken, I’m embarrassed at how much income I have and how poorly I manage it. I’m always in debt…I can’t manage money. And if George finds out how bad I am with money, he being so poor all his life, I’m afraid he will won’t want to be with me..and that scares me even more. I think we could have a future together…I’ve never felt that way about a man for a long, long time.”
“In most successful relationships, there is a spender and a saver…”
“So you are afraid George will think less of you if he finds out how you manage your wealth…is that correct?” I asked.
“Yes, exactly! He is so frugal! Ken, he was recycling from necessity, long before it became popular. And, to this day, I can tell by the way he talks…he is very conscious of every cent that comes to him. How do I deal with that, knowing I blow the money I get on trips, clothes and other silly stuff!”
“I can see why you are so worried. As you probably know, money management is behind a lot of relationship difficulties because each person has their own values and perspective. Interestingly, in most successful relationships, there is a spender and a saver, who counterbalance each other and so maximize the growth of each. So take heart, this may be just the challenge you need.” I said.
“I find that hard to believe but I am willing to be proven wrong!” she replied skeptically.
“Well Patricia, let’s start by helping me understand your current attitude toward money.
What would you say is the purpose of money?” I asked.
“Money is to buy things…food, jewelry, clothes, hairstyles, trips…that kind of stuff!” she replied quickly and in a kind of ‘off the cuff’ manner.
“Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish,
but it will not replace you as the driver.” – Ann Rand, author
“Money is actually a tool we use to exchange goods or services…”
“Patricia that is true…but only partly. Money is actually a tool we use to exchange goods or services with other people. So you give your grocer money in exchange for specific foods; you give a clothing store cashier money in exchange for specific things you want to wear; and you give your hair dresser money for a certain hairstyle, and so on. So there is always some form of exchange for goods or services.”
“I suppose that’s true, but I never thought of it that way before!” she replied with a measure of uncertainty.
“I described money this way to emphasize it is an exchange in which both people involved think it is a fair exchange…that each got what they wanted equally…just in different forms. So your hairdresser received $50 and you received a new hairstyle…both of you satisfied with the exchange.”
“What has that got to do with me managing my money, Ken?” Patricia asked getting confused.
“If you infatuate or resent money…it will run your life.”
“It is vital to manage money that you understand it is simply a method of exchange of goods or services between people…if you infatuate or resent money…it will run your life. But if you start seeing it as a tool of exchange…you can start using it more wisely because you will use it like any other tool..such as a hammer, a saw or a screwdriver.”
“What does it mean to use it like a tool? I don’t get it!” Patricia replied.
“What is the most important tool you have in your house Patricia?”
“I was going to say my Phillips screwdriver I use to put stuff together…but, actually Ken, my most important tool is my dishwasher. I have hated doing dishes since I was a kid, and now, I use it every evening after supper.” she replied smiling at her own humor.
“That is a great example Patricia. Let me make a few guesses about how you treat your dishwasher…your favorite tool! First, I bet you take good care of it and get it repaired whenever needed. Second, I bet you bought a good quality one so it would give you long term service. And third, I bet you appreciate it almost every time you load it. Do those attitudes reflect how you perceive your dishwasher?”
“That is exactly how you need to treat your money…just like your dishwasher!”
“Ken, yes it does…that is exactly how I treat it. I even got the warranty, so they come and check it annually, so it doesn’t break down!” she added, laughing.
“And I bet, knowing you have that warranty, gives you peace of mind so you don’t worry about your dishwasher very much…is that also true?”
“Yes indeed!” she said smiling broadly with pride.
“Patricia, that is exactly how you need to treat your money…just like your dishwasher! First, you have to take good care of it. Second, use it to buy what gives you long term service. Third, appreciate it every time you use it. Then you’ll stop worrying about it because you’ll be managing it wisely.”
“That does sound sensible, but how do I do that, Ken?” she asked, clearly perplexed.
“Well Patricia, there are several basic principles to managing money but the first one is really simple and straightforward. Tell me how you bought your first dish washer…did you pay cash, cheque, credit card…how?”
“Ken, that was years ago when I was first married. But I remember. What I did was set aside $10 every month until I had enough to buy it outright…and I bought a good one, too!”
“There are people who have money and people who are rich.”
– Coco Channel, singer
“When you value something, you set aside part of your income for it.”
“So, you are already experienced in this principle, that’s great! When you value something, you set aside part of your income for it. What is the most important thing you own, Patricia?”
“My house, Ken, is the most important thing I own today!”
“Not even close to the true answer, Patricia! Try again and it is something really close to you!”
“Then it is probably my poodle, Precious!”
“I know you love Precious, but no, she is not actually your most important object. The most important thing you own is, not Precious, but you Patricia…yourself. Without you there is no Precious, no one to value and care for her…so if you don’t take care of yourself first, who will take care of Precious?”
“I never thought of it like that before…you know it is true because no one loves Precious like me!”
“So, are you saving for your future Patricia…are you saving at least 10% of your net income for your future…so you will know you will be able to take care of yourself, so then you can take care of Precious?” I asked.
“You are proving to yourself, you are the most important thing in your life.”
“Ken, I spend money as fast as I get it…sometimes so fast, I don’t have enough to pay my bills…that is what I have been talking about from the start…I just blow it away…and it is so embarrassing, and scary at times.” she said, the guilt like old, caked on mascara, stuck to her face.
“Since, you are the most important object you own, you must pay yourself first, at all times…that is what savings are all about…you are proving to yourself, you are the most important thing in your life. Does that make sense?” I asked her.
“It sounds like it makes dollars and cents for me, Ken!” she said, laughing again at her own wit.
I laughed with her and then added, “Patricia if you start saving ten percent of everything that comes in you will start building three things. First, a financial cushion for your future, second, a new attitude about managing your money and third, more peace of mind and less stress for yourself. Would that be helpful to you, as you consider your future, with George?”
“They will charge you interest…to keep you interested in paying them.”
“It would be a great start Ken. But I have a question. If I live on 90% of my income…I will not be able to pay one or two of my bills…what happens then?”
“They will charge you interest…to keep you interested in paying them. But remember, they trust you to pay them, but, they charge you for it…a fair exchange again! And, as you keep saving your attitude towards money starts to evolve…you start feeling more in control of your wealth, and so you worry, less. Remember this is only the first step in managing your wealth. You will be learning other steps as we continue your work. But, this is an excellent first step, and a very powerful one, on the road to managing your money.”
“I was just thinking of ways I can make this happen and I realized I can put my electricity and fuel bills on an annual payment plan where I pay the same amount every month…then I can plan how to use the 90% more effectively.” she said smiling at her own insight and creativity.
“Now, that Patricia,…is managing your wealth! That is a great idea! So, when are you going to set up your savings plan…and how?” I asked her next.
“If saving money is wrong, I don’t want to be right!” – William Shatner, actor
“Learning, to manage your money, reduces your stress…”
“ I was thinking about that as well. I will arrange with my bank to automatically take ten percent of my monthly pension cheque and move it to a high interest savings account. That way it will just happen, and I can focus on using the other 90% on my other expenses.”
“Smart idea…very smart! Notice, Patricia, how learning, to manage your money, reduces your stress and anxiety about money right away.”
“Ken, yes, I feel better about it already, just knowing I am starting in a more wise direction. It is like I am finally starting to get some control of my financial future. So, once I have my savings account in place and living on the other 90% what is my next step?” she asked, getting more excited about the prospect of being in control of her wealth.
“Patricia that’s the topic of our next session. I want you to bring in a list of all your current debts and expenses and you are going to set some priorities for payment. How does that sound?”
“I like that because I often struggle with who to pay first!” she replied.
“We are going to establish who gets paid second, third, fourth…”
“Now remember, we have already established who gets paid first…that’s you and your savings account. What we are going to establish next time is who gets paid second, third, fourth and so on!” I said smiling at her.
She laughed too, and then said, thoughtfully, “Ken, there is something that feels ‘right’ about putting myself first…it’s like a part of me already knew it,…but hesitated to act.”
“Patricia, your intuition, gut, instinct, heart, whatever you would like to call it, already knows the truth of this, it is part of your genetic or biological history, you are just helping your head to catch up.”
“Ken, I am looking forward to our next consultation! Thank you!”
Patricia went on to get increasing control of her spending and her wealth which enabled her to make decisive decisions about how she wanted her future to be with George. They eventually moved into her house, where she and George, share the garden work and Precious.
“A simple fact that is hard to learn is that the time to save money is when you have some.” – Joe More, astronomer
Until Next time…
The ANXIETY, WORRY & STRESS theme continue into August. We have now dealt with four of the seven forms of: spiritual, mental, vocational and financial (today’s topic). Still to come are social, which is next, and then, familial and physical. And remember to look for the related videos for each of the anxiety, worry and stress topics here on our website in the days ahead.
Please remember to send us your feedback and monthly theme suggestions…we love to hear from you! If you have a specific question about dealing with the worrying, anxiety or stress, feel free contact me.
POINTS TO PONDER AND REMEMBER are:
- Financial stress is a common conflict in relationships.
- Financial anxiety comes from not understanding the purpose of money.
- Money is a tool to exchange of goods or services.
- Money, infatuated or resented, is a financial and emotional handicap.
- Exchanging good or services must be perceived as fair by both parties.
- You are the most important object in your world.
- You are genetically wired to protect you and your future.
- Savings are one essential way you protect yourself and your future.
- Saving at least ten percent of your net incomes creates more stable finances.
- Savings help you learn money is a tool of exchange.
- Seeing money is vital to creating and maintaining your wealth.
- Savings are a critical method in managing financial anxiety.
Further information: www.kenpiercepsychologist.com