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Building a Powerful Financial Team

As I’ve continued to interview the experts for The Financial Health Telesummit, one theme has consistently come up that I realized I haven’t written about yet – the importance of having a strong financial team to support building and strengthening your financial foundation.

One expert even put it like this – why do we expect ourselves to ask for help in all of the other areas of our lives (i.e. car repairs, house repairs, etc.), yet we don’t always think to ask for help (or feel ashamed to do so) when it comes to our money?

I couldn’t agree more.  Having a strong financial team in place is a critical component of becoming financially literate and powerful.  Even someone like me (who was raised in a household where proactive money management was taught and who is a CPA herself) has people on her own financial team – a CPA (who specializes in taxes because I don’t), a financial advisor, insurance professionals, and attorneys, just to name a few.

So, who are the key players to a solid financial team and why do you need them?  Great question!

  • CPAs – Certified Public Accountants (or CPAs) are individuals who are trained in understanding the specific rules and regulations in a variety of different areas (i.e. audit, tax, etc.).  In terms of the most commonly used CPAs for individuals and small businesses, CPAs who specialize in understanding taxes are often the most helpful.  CPAs can help you keep more of the money that you make by helping you to legally take advantage of each and every tax deduction for which you’re eligible.  I typically recommend considering working with a CPA in two instances: 1) you simply don’t understand how to effectively fill out your own taxes and would be better served by having someone to help you with them (many people fall into this category) or 2) your particular situation is complicated and you may miss an opportunity to reduce your taxes because you are not a tax expert.


  • Insurance professionalsLicensed insurance professionals can help you to manage your risk in a variety of different areas, with different types of insurance including (but not limited to): property, casualty, life, disability, health and long-term care.  Each person’s situation will be different in terms of the amount and type of insurance that they need, and having someone who can help to ask you the right questions and make decisions with you on what serves you best can prove to be very helpful to protect you and your loved ones.


  • Estate planning attorneys – Attorneys who specialize in estate planning are often looking to help you with drafting legal documents such as wills and trusts in addition to other specialized legal documents that you may need to protect your assets or your loved ones.  These attorneys may also specialize in certain areas of the law (including family planning or elder care) as they seek to understand your particular situation and help you legally document your wishes and communicate those wishes effectively with your loves ones and with the courts.


  • Financial advisors/planners – Financial advisors and planners help you to take a look at the entire picture of your financial health from insurance, to investing, to looking forward to retirement to see what your income sources will be.  These professionals are great at helping you to understand your entire picture and to assess any “gaps” that you may have in your financial plan (short-term or long-term), so that you can patiently work through and address those gaps to be able to sleep well at night.  They also help you to focus on protecting and growing your financial assets.

And now that we’ve addressed who the key players are, another question I’d like to address is this – where do I find someone that I like and how do I know they’re the right person for me to work with?

If you’re not sure who to reach out to for help, I recommend 2 approaches: 1) ask a financial professional that you have an existing relationship with to recommend someone to you, as they often have a close knit group of people they know, like and trust and would be happy to connect you with; or 2) ask people around you (friends, family) who they work with and would recommend.  As you’re considering who to work with, I also recommend interviewing more than one person in each category so that you can find the professional best suited to your situation and who aligns well with your personality.

In terms of how to know whether someone is the best person for you to work with, there are usually 3 key things to assess from my perspective: 1) there’s a sense of ease in your conversations with the professional (i.e. you feel as if you can trust them); 2) it feels as if the professional is talking with you and not at you (if they’re talking too technically or with too much financial jargon and they seem to be annoyed when you ask questions, it’s time to excuse yourself and look for someone else); and 3) they have a service mentality vs. simply seeing you as dollar signs (if you get that icky “pushy” feeling from someone, it’s time to find someone else!).

In the end, there are a lot of fantastic professionals out there waiting to serve you and get you in the best financial shape of your life – you just need to know who to look for and how to find them!

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Redefining Success on Your Own Terms

There’s an underground epidemic going on in our society, and I’d like to talk about it since it’s impacting many people’s ability to see money for what it truly is – a tool to support your life.

Too many people are working too hard to chase success and in the end, they are still miserable.  As we run the proverbial rat race and try to keep up with the elusive “Jones’ ” we have a tendency to define our success based on how much money we earn and even worse than that, we compare what we earn to what other people earn.  The end result?  We never feel good enough about where we are in our life or who we are.  This is happening to many people, including people who are earning 6-figures and are therefore in the top 10% of income earners.  I know because I see it in almost every one of my clients and in the “money confessionals” I hear very often.

It’s time to start redefining success in our culture and on our own individual terms.  Why bother to work so hard if the outcome of that work is making you miserable?  Life’s too short, it’s time to reevaluate and get off the hamster wheel of life.

How do I know all of this?  I used to be running at the front of the rat race, working a job that paid me well but I was miserable doing it.  And bless their hearts, I have a lot of extremely talented friends and colleagues who work hard every day to move themselves forward and they come home empty, exhausted and miserable every day after trying to work harder and earn more money in roles that don’t suit them well at all.  For me, this felt like I was a square peg trying to shove myself in a round hole – I didn’t fit and deep down I knew it.  I was meant to do something else, and each day I chose not to seek that “something else” I was losing a part of my soulI felt stuck though because how could I ever leave my high-paying job and a career I had invested almost 12 years in?

Many people say that they have no choice but to stay in their jobs given “the economy.”  To me, that’s a bunch of crap.  Yes, it’s not easy right now in the job market and I wouldn’t suggest that you give caution to the wind and just quit your job.  But I will suggest that you consider making a huge mental shift from reactively accepting what’s in front of you (what I call living life by default) and instead become more proactive in moving yourself toward greater happiness (what I call living life by design).  If you truly hate your job and/or simply want to be doing something different, what are you doing right now to take a step toward fixing that (even if it’s a small step)?

Start with what you can control.  You can make it a priority to set aside time to gain control of your finances to build a strong financial foundation that gives you freedom and choice in the event that another role that’s better suited to you comes along (but that perhaps pays a bit less).  You can set aside time to think about what you do want instead of spending so much time on what you don’t want.  Because when you keep thinking about what’s wrong with your life, all you’re doing is attracting more of the bad stuff toward you – remember the basic principle of “like attracts like”?

As I’ve done my own work on redefining success, I’ve done 3 key things that have helped to fundamentally shift how I view my own success. My hope is that by sharing them with you that you’ll find at least one way that will be helpful for you to start seeing success as being more than about your paycheck!

1)     Find or create a definition of success that makes YOU happy:  According to my trusty dictionary, “success” and “successful” can be officially defined in a few ways:

Success (noun): 1. The achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted. 2.a. The gaining of fame or prosperity. B. The extent of such gain. 3. One that is successful.

Successful (adjective): 1. Having a favorable outcome. 2. Having obtained something desired or intended. 3. Having achieved wealth or eminence.

Now I tend to like the definition of success as “the achievement of something desired, planned or attempted”.  Setting goals is healthy and can help to keep you focused on learning and growing.  However, sadly enough society tends to lean heavily on the more financially-oriented definitions of “gaining fame or prosperity” and “having achieved wealth or eminence.”

For me, I’ve considered many different definitions of success over the last few years, and I’ve concluded that success for me is really a state of mind and that I get to decide what my goals are and how I’ll work to achieve them.  That’s one way I think of success, and yes – sometimes I am financially rewarded for working toward a goal and I enjoy that.  However, my favorite all time definition of success comes from Paulo Coehlo:

“What is success? It is being able to wake up every morning with your soul at peace.”

It’s taken a really long time to get there and a lot of personal work, but I can finally say that each morning I wake up at peace.  I’m no longer a square peg in a round hole whose spirit feels dampened – I’m one of few who get to do what I love for a living.  A lot of that has to do with the fact that I was brave enough to realize I am more than my paycheck.

2)     List 50 ways that you are successful that have nothing to do with money: This is an awesome exercise that I just recently completed for myself after a colleague suggested it.  I’ve got to be honest, I struggled after the first 10-15 ways but I stuck with it and ended up with a big smile on my face.  It was peaceful and liberating to see the other ways that I evaluated my success – I am authentic and real; I am an AWESOME aunt to my two adorable nephews; I am well-spoken and communicate effectively and efficiently; I use my skills and abilities to help others build a strong financial foundation and begin to create their own personal economies; I live in (and with) integrity.

3)     Get your financial affairs in order to stop the fear:  Ultimately, we are all human and need to know that we are safe and secure before we can consider making any major changes in our lives.  One of the ways that my clients and people I talk with feel unsafe is that they feel financially unstable and/or financially misaligned with how they are using their money.  However, I typically find that once people have a financial plan that helps them to align how they use their money with what matters to them that the financial chaos and resulting fear in their lives disappears.  They’ve taken control back of their lives, and they have a complete understanding of their resources and opportunities to start moving forward.

In the end, redefining success on your own terms can have a tremendous impact on how healthy your relationship is with money.  You are not just how much you earn, you’re more than your paycheck and you’re a divine creation who was put on earth to contribute in your own way like no one else can.  Your only job is to reflect on how it is that you’re meant to contribute with your unique skills and abilities, and to break through your barriers to true success!

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How to Make Your Own Financial Rules

It’s confession time again.  I am a classic “Type A” and overachiever in recovery.  For the most part, I like rules, I like order, and I like structure and systems.  There, I said it out loud.

But can I confess something else?  In the last few years, I’ve broken a lot of the financial “rules” that the financial experts say I should adhere to.  When you start a business like I’ve done, sometime you have to break the rules to get yourself on the fast path toward a longer-term goal.  So yes, I’m currently carrying debt related to the business. And yes, I’ve taken money out of my retirement account to fund the business (I can hear the experts screaming now “noooooooooo!!!!).

When it comes to financial “rules,” there are lots of financial experts out there telling you what you should do with your money.  Pay yourself first, save 3-6 months of living expenses, don’t carry credit card debt, etc. etc. etc.  And in general, I think they have solid ideas that should be considered when you’re building your financial plan.  I incorporate many of these ideas in the plans that I design for my clients.

But the one big thing I find that these experts are missing is that people want CHOICE in their lives when it comes to how they live it.  People want to live and be happy now, and not wait until they “get to retirement.”

Can I tell you a secret about these financial experts? Sometimes they drive me nuts.  They have a lot of good intentions and are doing their best to teach you what has worked in the past to be financially “safe” and end up with a boatload of money when you retire.  It’s what I like to call the “accumulation method” where you save up a ton of money and for the most part, wait until “someday” to have fun.

Well you know what? Life’s way too damn short.  And from my perspective, life is to be lived NOW and experiences are to be had NOW (not when you retire).  It’s time for us to create our own rules!

Now, before everyone starts to go off the reservation spending all their money and racking up credit card debt to live a life that they can’t afford and saying that I said it was ok to do that, that is NOT what I’m saying.  What I am saying is that it’s in your best interest to invest some time in developing your own financial rules that work for you and your life and that will help you to achieve your goals and choose what is important for you.

Be intentional with your money.  Be intentional with your life.  Sit down and take time to decide which of the traditional financial rules will serve you well and which ones you want to redefine a bit more for yourself so that you can enjoy your life here and now.  It’s important to have a financial framework that allows you to build financial freedom for yourself while also experiencing life joyfully.

Establishing your own financial rules can be a bit tricky if you’ve never tried before, so here are the 3 steps I would recommend if you’re wanting to reconsider your own rules:

1)      Ensure your financial stability – I’ve had clients that get really excited when they hear that I’m not afraid to break some of the more traditional financial rules that most people would suggest.  However, let me be clear – while I am not afraid to bend and mold the rules to meet each client’s need, it is critically important to be working toward a basic level of financial stability before changing the rules in any substantial way.  The reality is that life takes money to live, and money is a tool to support goals.  So first and foremost, develop a financial plan to suit your life that allows you to handle your commitments (i.e. bills, etc.), save some money, and pay down your debt, if applicable.  Having a financial foundation will allow you to absorb future unanticipated bumps in the road.

2)      Consider the rules of the past – Many of us learn things about money from the people around us while we’re growing up (parents, grandparents, neighbors, etc.), and we never stop to really think about whether these rules or beliefs actually work for the lives we are building for ourselves now.  In my household, both of my parents worked as employees and while they taught me many great things about money, I absorbed the belief (or rule, if you will) that financial security came from a paycheck and benefits.  It wasn’t until I realized that this little gem of a belief was rattling around in my head (unconsciously rattling, I might add!) that I could examine it and decide consciously whether it was still true for me as I considered entrepreneurship that would require me to be responsible for my own paycheck and benefits.  So, ask yourself this question as you think about changing your own financial rules – what beliefs or rules were you taught that may no longer serve you where you are in your life now?  Once you gain awareness of what these beliefs and rules are, you can spend time understanding them and begin to choose differently and consciously.

3)      Balance short-term goals with long-term goals – If you listen to many of the financial experts, a significant portion of them are highly focused on saving for retirement as the “mecca” of all times in our lives.  While I agree that long-term saving for retirement is indeed important and that there are smart ways to do that, for me life is also to be enjoyed now and money is to be used to experience the present as well.  As you’re considering new financial rules for your life, think about some of the experiences that you say you’d like to do “someday” and think about whether you should fast track those things to do sooner rather than later.  Should you save for that vacation to Italy 3 years from now instead of when you retire in 20 years?  Perhaps you’d enjoy date night with your husband or wife once a week to keep your marriage strong?  Maybe you love a certain place to vacation and you’d like to buy a small second home for regular time off to rest and relax with friends and family? Each of these choices might make you happier now and result in a better balance between fun and financial responsibility.

As my mentor would say, live life like you mean it and go for your dreams.  I know I live a much happier life now that my paycheck no longer defines my worth and I balance my retirement goals with living in the present, and I’d love for you to have the same for your own life!

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Things My Parents Taught Me about Money (and Life)

Have you ever had one of those moments where you had to admit to yourself that your parents were actually right?  And perhaps beyond that even that they were really smart (or if you’re from Boston like me, “wicked smahht”)?  It’s humbling…I have one of these moments at least once a week if not more often.  And as much as I may hate to admit I might be wrong about something, I’m so grateful that I’ve had my parents to show me the way (financially and otherwise).

As I reflected on what I wanted to write about this week, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about exactly what it was that my parents taught me about money and life that have made such a difference in how I was able to build a strong financial foundation that has afforded me financial freedom and choice in my life. I also thought it might be helpful to share what they taught me so that you could not only learn from what they taught me, but also understand why it’s so important for me to teach others how to plan for their financial futures and use their money efficiently and effectively.

While there were many lessons that my parents taught me, I’ve boiled it down to 3 key lessons that have impacted how I handle my money and to a larger extent, my life.

Lesson #1: Failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.

This phrase was (and still is sometimes!) one of my Dad’s favorites.  Any time I used to try to rush him to do something that I needed quickly (a ride to the mall, a decision about something I wanted to do, etc.), this gem of a statement would pop up.  And while it annoyed me when I was younger, I’ve come to appreciate the importance of looking ahead at where you want to go and establishing a roadmap on how to get there.

From a financial perspective, this lesson also applies.  I’ve had clients in the past who tell me “so-and-so did this” or “so-and-so wouldn’t let me XYZ” and that’s simply putting the power in someone else’s hand when perhaps you didn’t take the time to plan financially in advance on your end.  When you understand your “money map” and know how your money is being used, you can use money as an effective tool to live your life and avoid situations where someone else has control over the decisions that you make.

Plan ahead, and you’ll be less likely to run into an emergency where you’re dependent on someone else!  As I say to my clients all the time, focus on developing your own personal economy and you’ll understand what true freedom and choice is all about!

Lesson #2: Live within your means

This one may seem obvious, and it’s said often by lots of financial experts, yet I find that the true lesson in these words is often missed since they are repeated so often (and people get tired of hearing the same things).  While both of my parents used this phrase and lesson often, since my Mom was in charge of the family finances it was primarily her who taught my sister and I what this really meant, both in word and in reinforced action.

Let me share a story from when I was about 17 or 18 years old.  (PS – My Mom doesn’t remember this story, but I absolutely do because it taught me powerfully about living within my means.)  At this point, I had a license and my parents had given me a credit card that was an extension of one of their cards.  This was as much to learn how to use a credit card responsibly as it was for my parents’ convenience for me to be able to buy certain things on my own that I needed (with their approval in advance).  One day, my mother told me I could buy new basketball sneakers for the upcoming season and I could spend $80.  I headed off to the mall after school that same day and found a pair of sneakers that cost $100.

I rationalized to myself, “what’s another $20? This newer brand and color looks better so I’ll go with the $100 pair.”  Time went by, and a few weeks later my mother showed up at my bedroom door holding her credit card statement and said “do you have $20?”  I looked at her funny and said “yes, I do – why?”  She said “if you want $100 sneakers then you can pay the difference from the $80 I asked you to spend since you work and earn your own money.

Now, this might seem harsh to some of you but I have to tell you it was one of the best lessons my parents ever taught me about money.  It wasn’t about the fact that my parents couldn’t afford the additional $20 (they totally could).  This was a lesson that taught me the importance of planning and sticking to a plan because without one my parents would not be happily and successfully retired in their early 60s with the opportunity to spend several days a week watching their 2 beautiful grandchildren.  Those small $20 differences add up over time when you start to think about the freedom that our daily choices can provide for us, don’t they?

Lesson #3: Always be ahead of the “financial 8-ball”

While my mother didn’t necessarily explicitly teach us this lesson, her financial habits and actions of sitting down each weekend at the kitchen table to pay the bills and attend to financial matters showed us everything we needed to know. Sometimes it was simply writing checks and paying the bills, sometimes it was following up on charges that didn’t make sense (i.e. medical bills, odd charges on monthly bills), or perhaps even transferring money into a savings account.  No matter what she was doing, it usually involved about an hour to 90 minutes of her time and for the most part we never saw her sit down with the checkbook and the bills again until the following weekend.

I use this habit with my clients all the time, and I call it a “money date!”  It’s amazing how impactful and freeing it can be to sit down just once a week and handle all of your financial matters for the week ahead.  You stress less about money knowing that you have set space aside to pay your bills, transfer funds between accounts, and look ahead to make sure you’re always ahead of things that you need to address. 

So what does all of this boil down to? Having a plan, living within your means and being ahead of the “financial 8-ball” doesn’t just happen without some effort on your part.  In my mind, having a cash flow plan (a.k.a. “budget”) that helps you to be in control of your money is a critical piece of being on a path toward financial freedom and independence.  But here’s the catch – you have to start somewhere, yet many people were never taught and don’t know how to develop a plan that works for their life.

If you’re looking for a place to learn how you can get started on your own path, make sure you take advantage of the FREE CALL this coming Tuesday to get the information you need to move beyond financial overwhelm and stress into a world of financial peace!!

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How to Get Started Building a Financial Plan

If I’ve heard it once (or some version of the following), I’ve heard it 1,000 times: “I don’t like numbers, they scare me.  I can’t seem to sit down and put together a budget even though I know I really should.”

So let me get this straight – you’re scared (which means you’re not thinking as clearly as you’d like to), you think you’re “supposed to” put together a budget (which is like the universal swear word of money), and you are “shoulding” on yourself that it’s an exercise you have to go through (and be tortured it sounds like to me).

C’mon….how about a little compassion for yourself please?  Is it possible for you to see that maybe it doesn’t have to be torturous and if you just had the right tools and information it would be easier?  I’d like to help you shift your perspective to have building a financial plan be a more joyful experience so that you can have the financial freedom, independence and choice that you’re seeking.

The way I see it, there are 3 steps that are required “pre-work” before you ever start looking at numbers to develop your financial plan.

1)      Retire the word budget from your vocabulary – I would say eliminate it, but since other people still use it frequently and we need to be able to recognize the word (I can only educate so many people at a time!), we’ll “retire” it for now.  Why retire the word budget?  Energetically speaking, budget just feels awful. It feels like you’re choking and like if you have a budget you’ll never be able to buy a cute pair of shoes or the newest technological gadget ever again.  Sounds pretty miserable and life-sucking if you ask me, no wonder no one wants to put together a budget! 

Instead of the word budget, I suggest using the phrase “savings and spending plan.”  As one husband reminded me across the kitchen table during a session with his wife one day, “Beth, it’s the same thing, why get caught up in semantics?”  My response? “Well your wife seems to be much more willing to participate in the conversation when we call it a “savings and spending plan” than when we call it a budget, right?”  The husband smiled and said “excellent point.” Sometimes it really is the small tweaks in life that make the difference!

So stop thinking about budgeting as something that weighs you down, and instead start thinking about a “savings and spending plan” as something that is just a financial illustration of how you want your money to move in the world that will help you get from “here” to “there.”

2)      Get really clear on what you want for your life – Before you plan your money, you need to spend a considerable amount of time thinking about what you want for your life.  Money is nothing but a tool to help you move from your present to your future (from “here” to “there” remember?), and without some sort of path to follow money will just exist without purpose.   Unless you tell money where to go it will go just about anywhere it wants to!

Being financially authentic means that you use your money in a way that aligns with what matters to you in your life.  When you’re financially authentic, a financial plan is nothing more than the full expression of what is important to you and all of a sudden the energy around money becomes much less chaotic, and financial decisions are simplified.  You have a road map for your life and your money and it provides you with clear guidance and direction.

In the end, a solid financial foundation and a good financial plan simply requires that you’re intentional, authentic, and proactive with managing your money.  Get clear and get real about your life, and using your money efficiently and effectively will become much easier, I promise.

3)      Set some specific goals with timelines – Now that you’ve gotten some clarity around what you want for your life, it’s time to set some specific goals so that you can then determine whether those goals will require money to support them.  Not all goals need money, although many goals do need some level of financial support at some point in time.  

When setting goals, I encourage people to think about them in 3 different time-based groups – short-term (1 to 3 years); medium-term (3 to 10 years); and long-term (10+ years).  This is important because depending on the goal, it can impact whether or not it’s a goal that needs to be reflected in the current financial plan or whether it can wait to be included in a few years.  Remind yourself when you’re setting your goals to be realistic – saying that you want a Ferrari in a year isn’t likely to be something that you can achieve (unless you randomly hit the lottery, and the lottery isn’t a financial plan it’s a fluke!).

Once you’ve determined which of the goals need money to support them, consider the short-term goals first and state the goals in a very specific and measurable way.  For example, saying “I want to save more money” isn’t very specific, whereas “I want to save $1,200 in the next year to take a vacation in spring 2014” is very specific.  The more specific goal allows you to measure out that you’d like to save $100/month toward that goal ($1,200 total / 12 months), whereas the more general goal doesn’t give you a solid target.

So before you even start to concern yourself with looking at the numbers, take some time to sink deep into your head and your heart to think about what you really want for your life.  Are you happy as you are?  Do you want to set a really big goal that needs financial support (i.e. like starting your own business)?  Do you want to simplify things and live more peacefully and calmly without as much “stuff” cluttering up your life?

The options are endless, it’s simply up to you to choose and design a financial plan to match your life!

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