Tag Archives | Financial Foundation

How to Financially Simplify Your Life

I feel it fairly ironic that I’m about to share what is a relatively simple process to financially simplify your life. However, I suppose it makes sense too that simplifying should be simple, yes? There are so many tips out there about how to get out of debt, how to save money, and even how to create a budget (what I prefer to call a “savings and spending plan” or a “financial plan” since I hate the icky “b” word) that even to me it often feels overwhelming. Which tip should you implement first? Which one is a “magic bullet” to wealth? How the heck are you going to get it all straight and keep it straight?


When I talk with people about their biggest money concern, it typically is around the fact that finances feels like such a BIG topic and they don’t even know where to start addressing the challenge. They feel reactive to anything and everything financial in their life and they feel financially overwhelmed by it all. What if just by asking yourself a few questions you could get started on being more financially proactive and empowered?

For me, it begins with getting back to simplicity. Not just in your finances, but also in your life as well. If you’re anything like me before I really started to intentionally focus on building my life on purpose just a few short years ago, you’re running around like some version of a chicken with your head cut off on most days and you can barely catch a breath. You might have a hectic job or career, you might have 10,000 activities to shuttle your kids back and forth to, or you might be busy helping everyone else and their mother with different things while neglecting to take care of yourself and/or your loved ones. Do any of these resonate with you? I know I used to resemble this picture myself (minus the kid shuttling since I don’t yet have any adorable rugrats of my own!).

So how do you begin to simplify so that you can really begin the work of simplifying and designing your life on purpose which eventually leads to strengthening your money management skills and building your financial foundation? I’d suggest 3 steps to begin shifting yourself out of financial overwhelm and moving toward financial empowerment:

1) Choose your attitude

When thinking about simplifying your life or your finances, the most important place to start is with setting a positive intention and if necessary, adjusting your attitude. I see many people try to start addressing their financial challenges with thoughts of “this is so hard, I don’t know how I’m going to figure this out” or “I’m no good at money and I never will be.” There are numerous versions of these self-fulfilling prophecies and if you don’t acknowledge them from the start money and life will always feel hard like you’re always charging uphill, and never simple. I love this quote from Jim Rohn, a well-known motivational business mentor:

It’s our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome.”

So choose your attitude wisely, and take the time to become aware of any self-limiting beliefs that you may have about money and your finances. I suggest that you set the intention that you will create your life purposefully and intentionally (instead of by default and just grunting it out through each day, reacting to everything), and perhaps this becomes your new money mantra instead: I can more proactively and easily handle money in my life with the right amount of time dedicated to learning what I was never taught about money.

2) Find out what IS working well and what IS NOT working well

Sometimes when we’re impersonating the busy chicken with his/her head cut off we forget to slow down enough to hear ourselves think, and we almost always forget to stop and consciously look at what is going on. Honestly, sometimes doing this can be painful because we realize there are a lot of things that aren’t going as planned or as well as we would like. In my experience, being relentlessly aware and present to what is going on in your life is key to anyone’s recipe for a happy life and it’s also an important part of stabilizing your financial life as well.

Start by taking time to appreciate the positive things in your life and notice what is going well – a job you love (if that’s true for you), family, friends, hobbies that fulfill you, a cause that matters to you, etc. etc. The list of things for which you can be grateful is endless, you just need to take the time to notice!

After you’ve reflected on what’s going well, only then should you take a good and honest look at what isn’t going well. This is where a lot of shame and guilt is likely to show up, whether specifically about your finances and money or perhaps about another area of your life. It’s ok, keep breathing – to paraphrase a famous quote “the only way out is through” and in order to improve something in your life you must first become aware of it. It’s only after gaining awareness that you can work to understand what the issue is and move forward into taking steps to shifting toward more of what you want (and less of what you don’t want). It can be helpful to focus these small steps on simplifying and streamlining.

3) Systemize, Systemize, Systemize!!

While I enjoy spontaneity and “going with the flow,” I swear by the fact that my life is most productive when I have systems in place. I typically have systems in place for 2 things: 1) things that are going well in my life that I’ve figured out and want to replicate and simplify (i.e. getting up early to have some quiet time; working out before the day starts (it almost never happens later in the day); Friday afternoons off to run errands and get personal stuff done so I don’t have to wait in lines on weekends); and 2) any new habit that I’m trying to adapt to that needs some structure around it so that it actually becomes a habit that stays.

You can use this approach for your life in general, of course, however with respect to your finances I would suggest the following systems to start off with if you don’t already have them in place:

  • Weekly “money date” –Establish a weekly appointment to pay your bills, transfer funds (if applicable), and call to address any other financial matters (i.e. unusual charges on bills; banking matters; legal matters). It’s amazing what just this one habit can do for simplifying your financial life and calming the typical chaos that most people have around money.
  • Monthly review of actual cash flow vs. planned cash flow – If you understand your monthly cash inflow and outflow (i.e. you have a budget or a cash flow plan), it’s always good to track your actual activity each month and then compare how you did versus what you planned. This will help you to identify how good your plan is and whether there are any areas where you tend to spend more that perhaps you’d like to spend less (or vice versa – perhaps you need to increase spending to make you happy).
  • Bonus for couples: Schedule regular time to discuss money – Most couples think that it’s not sexy to talk about money, however I find time and time again that it is truly the #1 reason for arguments in relationships (and ultimately sometimes divorce). So do yourself a favor and just set aside 15-20 minutes a week to meet about financial matters, and if there’s nothing specific to discuss then simply use the time to get on the same page about your goals and dreams and whether you’ll need financial resources to support those goals and dreams. At the end of the month, you’ll want to do the monthly review of actual to planned cash flow together (see item above) so you can make sure you’re on the same page as to how you want money to work for both of you.

Quite obviously, the steps above aren’t everything that you will need to do in order to systematically simplify your financial life. However, these are the steps that I always work through with clients so that they can get a solid start in understanding their financial opportunities and challenges. If you settle down long enough to set a positive intention, gain awareness on what’s going well and what could be improved, and then focus on streamlining good habits and new habits then you’re well on your way to establishing a solid foundation for future financial success!

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Financial Infidelity: Are you keeping financial secrets in your relationships?

I could sit here and quote statistics all day long about how money is the #1 reason for divorce. I won’t bore you with that, however we all know just how true that is, don’t we?

Money is serious business sometimes. When one person is challenged by money management, that’s one thing. Add two people into the equation with different approaches to managing money and different upbringings and experiences with money, and you’ve got yourself a witch’s brew bubbling over that’s potentially a ripe environment for keeping secrets.

Financial infidelity can show up in many different ways and it can slowly and quietly tear at the fabric of trust in any relationship (husband and wife, parent and child, sibling to sibling, best friend to best friend. etc.), however for today I’m going to focus primarily on how it can impact your relationship with your significant other. It’s a dicey subject, and not a lot of people want to talk about it (and most people certainly don’t want to hear about it). However, it keeps coming up in the course of the conversations I have with my clients and also when I speak with couples about money in relationships. And I feel that if I don’t take responsibility for shining some light on it, it may significantly impact your relationships before you know it. So I’m diving in…head first.

It starts with just a small white lie or “untruth” (my made-up word for when you’re not sharing the whole truth), never intending to hurt anyone. Someone loans you money for an intended purpose, and you use it for something completely different. You buy new clothes or a new gadget and when your significant other asks “is that new?” you say “oh, this old thing?” There’s a separate bank account that you keep and your beloved doesn’t know that you keep it. You can’t seem to get on the same page with your spouse about how to use the money, you’re tired of fighting about it, and so you throw up your hands and simply just do whatever you want to. It may be even be so bad that you unconsciously (or perhaps consciously) give your significant other the “financial middle finger” just to get back at them because they ticked you off somehow and didn’t agree with something you wanted to do financially. OUCH.

I’ve personally heard every single one of these scenarios (and more) with either my private clients or from people with whom I’ve had a “money confessional” moment. It doesn’t have to be this way if you’re committed to having authentic and truthful conversations about money with your loved ones. Trust me, I’m not saying it’s an easy feat to have those types of conversations…I’m simply saying that it’s worth it to have those types of conversations. Honest and open financial conversations can change your relationships with your loved ones forever, and the added bonus is that they strengthen your financial foundation too!

So how do you start to heal your relationship(s) if you sense that financial infidelity is an uninvited house guest? There are 3 steps that I would suggest you start with to begin to weed financial infidelity out of your life:

1)  Be honest with yourself

There’s an old saying that “people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”. Before you start to think about what your significant other might be doing to impact the level of financial authenticity in your relationship, look inward to see what you might be doing that isn’t on the “up and up” and could be considered hurtful if your significant other found out about it. How are you behaving with money that if your spouse/significant other found out about they would be hurt by or upset about? What might you be embarrassed about if someone found out about it? While I’m a huge fan of financial independence and creating your own financial rules (even if you’re in a relationship, you don’t have to always 100% agree with each other on how to handle the money), it’s always best to be up front and honest about your thoughts and approaches when it comes to financial matters. So start with being honest with yourself, and see if you’re contributing in any way to having financial secrets in your relationship.


I can’t stress this one enough (were the capital letters a good indicator of that one for you?). This is the really, really brave step. It’s time to step forward with your loved one, and let them know that you want to have a really honest conversation about money and how you can be doing things better…together. Share what you learned about yourself and your money habits when you were honest with yourself (yes, it’s time for a confessional). Ask them for their opinion on what they think you could be doing better, what they could be doing better, and what you could both be doing better together when it comes to being proactive with your money and designing a financial plan to support your life. (Don’t forget to breathe, OK?) Sometimes this can be scary stuff, but if you ask the challenging questions and then step back and really listen to what your other half has to say you might be surprised at what you hear. Make sure you respectfully give them the space to speak their peace, even if you don’t agree with what they’re saying when they say it. Be inquisitive, ask questions when they say something that you don’t agree with or understand. It’s amazing what can happen when you genuinely sit down with the intention to listen and hear out the person in front of you. Put yourself in the shoes of your loved ones, and do your best to compassionately hear another person’s perspective!

3) Get on the same page

Once you have been honest with yourself, and taken the time to understand the perspective of your loved one, you’re ready to think about getting on the same page with him/her. Let me be clear, this does not always have to mean that you have to compromise about everything – it just means that you have both decided that it’s time to put everything out on the open in terms of your goals and what you want your life to look like going forward. No more secrets. Dream big together. Once you have goals, you can then incorporate them into a financial plan that will support achieving those goals by budgeting and saving money in advance! Being ahead of the “financial 8-ball” allows you to strengthen your financial foundation, and thus the foundation of your relationship.

I never said this would be easy, and I hope that you’re still breathing at this point (if you’re not, please start again….deep breaths in and out, in and out). I know this can be hard to look at, yet I know from having worked with many couples that when you tackle the big elephant in the room and address financial secrets head on that it only serves to strengthen your relationship for the better. The communication grows, the trust grows, and the love grows.

So if there’s any chance that financial infidelity may be impacting your relationship, is it worth it to you to think about beginning to repair the tiny tears of trust that may ultimately lead to a large crack in the foundation of your happiness? Only you can answer that question for yourself.

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A New View on Wellness

MONEY – it’s a word that strikes fear in the hearts of many however it doesn’t have to be that way.

Even worse than the word money is the word BUDGET. It’s like the swear word of money. This one word sends people into a state of financial overwhelm unlike anything else that I’ve seen.

So when people talk about wellness, I find it ironic that financial wellness is often overlooked. Financial stress and overwhelm runs like a virus in your mind subconsciously impacting how you show up at your job and in your life, and many people carry this stress and overwhelm like an unwelcome sack of financial waste on their back. When people don’t feel financially well, it only adds to the mental, emotional, and physical wellness challenges that they may already be experiencing.

What do you think all of that is doing to your mind, body, and soul?

The world that I live in and see every day includes people paralyzed with financial fear, embarrassment and guilt. All of these people were never taught how to properly manage their money, yet they feel they’re the only ones who didn’t get the “money memo” despite the fact that at least 70% of people are living paycheck to paycheck (including people who earn really good money and would consider themselves to be successful).

I’m here to start a revolution and share the good news that personal finance can be taught and it can be friendly and fun while being an empowering part of the overall wellness in your life.

Financial wellness isn’t just about having a savings and spending plan (this is my preferred phrase to describe a budget!), getting out of debt, or saving money, it’s also about aligning how you use your money with what matters and what’s important to you. When you use your money in a way that’s aligned with what matters to you, you’re living a financially authentic life and this is the platform for financial freedom, financial independence, and financial peace of mind.

And it doesn’t stop just at financial peace of mind, either. When you have financial stability and clarity, you then have choice in your life. As you make choices to do more that makes you happy and really matters to you, those choices inevitably lead to opportunities to contribute in a bigger way to other people in your life, to your community, and the world at large. And if everyone were contributing something that mattered to them in a bigger way, imagine how truly connected we would all feel instead of the negativity we see and feel all the time. Clarity leads to choice, choice leads to contribution, and contribution leads to connectedness.

As you can see, being financially authentic and empowered isn’t just about the money. It’s about a pivotal point that we’re at where we have a choice right now to be, do, and have more in our lives. We can have more freedom, more choice, more connectedness, more wellness and more happiness.

As I’ve seen and experienced, living a financially authentic life results in at least 3 key benefits when wellness is considered:

  1. The chaotic energy around money in your life is reduced – Have you ever stopped in the middle of the day to worry about whether you paid that bill on time? How about wondering whether or not you can afford something in your life that came up unexpectedly? When you take the time to be financially authentic and you have a solid financial plan that includes the things that matter to you, you know where you are and you know where you’re going when it comes to your money and your life and there’s substantially less chaos when something unexpected arises. It’s like your “financial GPS” is fully operational and you’re driving in the right direction, so a short detour off of the financial road isn’t such a big deal.
  2. Money decisions are suddenly simpler – I hear all the time how people don’t know what to do when a financial “emergency” comes up, or when they find something that they want to buy but know they probably don’t necessarily need. There’s a lot of energy that goes into trying to make these decisions, and when it’s a “want vs. need” decision there’s a lot of guilt sometimes too. When you’ve taken the time to plan ahead, you’re ahead of the proverbial money 8-ball by having clear intentions about how you want to use your money which simplifies the decision making process. You’re no longer spending days going back and forth on making purchasing decisions, and if you’re married (or in a long term relationship) those money arguments suddenly become a lot less frequent!
  3. Financial stress decreases, and finances become more friendly and fun – Financially authentic plans help to decrease stress and take the sack of financial waste off of your back, and when your money has a purpose and a place to go then you can resume breathing and focus on having more fun in your life. If you’re like most people I talk to, there’s not enough fun igniting your life is there? Financial clarity has been a constant in my life and it has allowed me to take risks, enjoy myself, and live a life that I’ve only dreamed about.

As you spend time thinking about your wellness goals for 2013 and beyond, I would encourage you to start that process by reflecting on and being grateful for all of the awesome things that you already have in your life. Then, ask yourself whether the pillar of financial wellness in your life could use a little attention – what could you accomplish with the extra time and energy that you would find if once and for all you empowered yourself to be financially authentic and clear?

Could you stop working in a job that was no longer a good fit for you? Could you see being laid off as a blessing to have the time to reconnect with what you’re passionate about instead of being fearful about it? Could you be brave enough to start your own business doing something that you loved that made a difference to others? I was blessed to be able to say “yes” to all of these questions because of the financial clarity and wellness in my own life.

The options are never-ending really…is it time for you to choose what wellness really means to you?

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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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