Choosing Peace over Profit can be Expensive

Ripple Effect

Ripple Effect

At some point, I realized that there is no such thing as “normal”. Working with families means understanding that what’s perfectly reasonable and an inherent ‘fact’ in one family, may be unreasonable in another. 

Despite all our financial differences, there’s a theme that is common in many conversations. It was recently explained in a perfect way by a client. They said, “My spouse and I have chosen ‘Peace over Profit’.

What they were describing was that they had both known for a while that despite good income and a wealth of assets, they were on an unsustainable financial trajectory. They also knew that if they discussed it or asked each other (or their children) to change their financial habits, it would cause turmoil in the family. It was easier to stay with the status quo than it was to make changes to their financial habits that would benefit them in the long run. Well, easier until it wasn’t.

Issues that keep being swept under the rug will eventually need to be addressed. The longer we wait, the harder it will be to have the conversation and the harder it will be to change habits.

It’s nearly impossible to separate money from emotions. We all bring our own history, stories, and biases into the decisions we make. But, when we take the time to have meaningful conversations and develop a plan to address our biggest dreams and worst fears, we gain freedom. We gain the opportunity to have peace AND profit.

This family has already taken some bold steps to get back on track and has included their children in the conversation. I have no doubt this transition will continue to be difficult for a time. I also have no doubt that they’ll never regret their choice to take back control!

 

Your Calendar and Wallet Don't Lie.

 Art Photo by Chris Florence

 Art Photo by Chris Florence

I’m sure that the saying, “your calendar and wallet don’t lie” is not new, but I heard it for the first time at the NAPFA conference I attended in October. It kicked me in the tail pretty hard.

This time of year always lends itself to setting goals and intentions for the coming year. As I’ve reflected on what I’d like to accomplish, this quote keeps coming back to me. How we spend our time and our resources (money or otherwise) become our lives. The problem is that they may not always be aligned with what we’d write down if we were asked to make a list of our priorities and values.

I tend to apply this quote to how it relates to personal finance, but honestly it applies to nearly any aspect of our lives (work/life balance, family/friends, wants/needs, nutrition/health/fitness, faith, etc.).

When I think back to clients that have really struggled to achieve what they want in their lives, it’s often because of a mismatch between how they spend their time and resources, and what their priorities and values are. For example, I’ve had a client that made several hundred thousand dollars a year, but was constantly bouncing checks and was constantly stressed. He had lots of flashy “stuff”, but was always disgruntled about something. He could have made 10x the salary, but I bet he would have still had the same issues. The problem wasn’t his income, but his habits didn’t align with his values (or maybe they did and he had an entirely different issue…).

On the other hand, I have clients that have never made ‘a lot’ of money, but live within their means, and are deliberate with their choices. They don’t have conflicts about their spending habits because they have a sense of purpose. If you want to see a really inspiring story of someone that’s done A LOT with a little, watch this: He's my hero! So, the problem isn’t always a matter of the amount of income.

Habits are hard to break or build. But the good ones are worth working toward. Here’s a simple (but not very easy) assignment that I’ll be tackling and hope you’ll join me:

Think through the following questions
(from Kinder):

  1. Imagine you are financially secure, that you have enough money to take care of your needs, now and in the future. How would you live your life? Would you change anything? Let yourself go. Don’t hold back on your dreams. Describe a life that is complete and richly yours.
  2. Now imagine that you visit your doctor, who tells you that you have only 5-10 years to live. You won’t ever feel sick, but you will have no notice of the moment of your death. What will you do in the time you have remaining? Will you change your life and how will you do it? (Note that this question does not assume unlimited funds.)
  3. Finally, imagine that your doctor shocks you with the news that you only have 24 hours to live. Notice what feelings arise as you confront your very real mortality. Ask yourself: What did you miss? Who did you not get to be? What did you not get to do?

When you’ve answered, you should have a pretty good idea of what your priorities truly are. Now, take a look at the last couple of months of your calendar and bank statements. What story do they tell? Are they the same?

If they are – congratulations, you win! If not, how will you make decisions in the coming year to bring you closer to your ideals?

As you spend time thinking through the possibilities for 2016, I hope you’ll find alignment with your priorities, values, time, and resources.

 

Best Wishes for a Merry & Bright New Year!

Jennifer B. Harper

 

P.S. – I’m still working on adjusting my habits too!

If you’re looking for a great book that is aligned in a lot of ways with this post, check out Essentialism by Greg McKeown.

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