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THE MONEY NERVE
Navigating the Emotions of Money
By Robert Wm Wheeler
Balboa PressCopyright © 2013 Robert Wm Wheeler, CPA
All rights reserved.
Set a New Course
The Money Nerve
It's time to create the new financial you. You are ready to leave the past behind and confront your financial fears. Great news! You've already taken the first step. You are reading this book to get new information and new tools to potentially make profound changes in your financial situation and your relationship with money.
Before you start any journey, you need to know where you want to go (your goal), what you have to work with (your beliefs), and what new things you will bring (your new perspective). The first portion of this book explores your story through other people's stories. It's important to bring your story to consciousness so that you begin to take responsibility for where you are. This, in turn, helps you make clearer choices that will take you where you want to go—and allow you to realize your own power.
Embrace your story; own your story. Be willing to accept that you might be partially responsible for your current state of affairs. Be willing to make necessary adjustments to get where you really want to be. Whether you want to have millions of dollars, own lots of property, travel, save for a Jacuzzi, or stop bouncing checks, you need to acknowledge your goals. After that, you must make the commitment to go for it.
In this chapter, we look at a couple of personal Money Nerve stories that illustrate how dramatically our finances are impacted when our Money Nerve is pinched. We'll see how those people took control of their financial fears by making different choices that better reflected what they actually wanted to have in their lives. We then look at mental mapping, the way in which we have programmed ourselves to think.
Understanding your mental map and learning to make adjustments to it is an important part of this book. Once you get an idea about how mental mapping works, you will have the chance to look at your process and start questioning what you really want ... and whether you are willing to make the changes to get it. At the end of the chapter, you'll find exercises that will help you identify your mental map. Be honest without being judgmental. Let's jump in.
Rich Mind, Poor Body
Andrea fell in love and moved away with her boyfriend, whom she eventually married. He grew up in a very wealthy family in which money was treated as disposable. Consequently, he was irresponsible with money. When money came in, he spent it like he was still a wealthy person—even though, most of the time, he was broke. He was an artist and felt his actions were consistent with being an artist. He was often a month and a half late with the rent and other bills. And then, unexpectedly, he would sell a painting for fifteen grand, pay the bills, and say, "I'm going to the Bahamas." They would live it up for two months and then find themselves back in the same situation, unable to keep up with their bills.
Andrea said, "He always had a no worries attitude, and it stressed me out like crazy!" She realized that, for her to have more money and more control, she needed to go back to school. She borrowed money for school and completed her education to enable her to earn a decent income. Eventually, the stress of their financial situation was too much for Andrea, and it contributed to their divorce.
Andrea took back control of her financial situation by budgeting so that she knew exactly how much money she needed to pay bills and cover expenses each month. Once she knew what had to be paid, she knew how much money she needed to make. She worked freelance and took every job thrown her way. No job was too small. If she earned more money than she had needed the prior month, she put the extra into savings and pretended it did not exist. The next month, she planned on how much money she needed to earn without factoring in the extra money. That way, if she were ever in a pinch, she had a rainy day fund.
Now she is married to a man who is much more in alignment with her financial perspective. He is more practical with his money, and she is much more comfortable because they share the same financial goals and strategies.
Faith Will Provide
John's father was a devout Christian and a pastor of a small church. It was a point of pride that the Lord always provided, even if John's family didn't have a lot of money. Almost without fail, when winter came, a member of the church would approach him and say, "The Lord has put it in my heart to buy your kids winter coats." Thus, the family would get winter coats. John's parents trusted God to take care of the family, and they were always taken care of—just not on John's timetable.
When John was young, his family had a tradition: if you were passed a dime and needed the dime, it was yours; but if you didn't need to spend it, it should be passed to someone else who might need it. They called it living on faith. Looking back, John realized that, as an adult, he hated counting on people because, as a child, he had no control over whether his wants and needs were met. While the experience did not lessen his faith, it did help him recognize that he wanted a more active role in his financial road map.
The fun part here is that Andrea and John are now married to each other. They traveled different roads to arrive at a similar point of view. Because they each had a solid belief system about money and very real models for how they didn't want to live, they were able to move confidently and securely into their financial future together.
How Money Nerves Differ
There are two important pieces of information in these stories. First, neither Andrea nor John blamed the artist or the minister for their different ways of seeing things. Each belief system worked for the artist and the minister, they just didn't work for Andrea or John.
We all have different wants and needs. Some people have a strong desire to save for the future. Others want to live in the moment. We all have different levels of emotional tolerance toward our present financial situation. If your Money Nerve is being pinched, explore ways to release the tension.
Start to question your core emotional impulses when certain money situations come up. How do you react to an overdrawn bank account, seeing your newest credit card statement, writing big checks, creating a budget, buying something on an impulse? Do you always need to pay for dinner? Do you feel scared, empowered, ashamed, proud, angry?
Maybe you spend money to cover insecurities. Maybe you use money to manipulate (for example, hinting to relatives that they stand to inherit large sums if they are in good stead with you). Maybe you give away money to feel empowered. This is your journey. What emotions come up for you when you think about money?
The second important piece of information is that our financial maps—the mental maps we follow whenever we deal with finances-are about choice. Andrea and John both chose to be more active in their finances and to take personal responsibility for what they had and did not have.
If you want to rely on faith or an impulse, go for it—but realize this book is probably not for you. This book is for people who feel their Money Nerve and want to be in the driver's seat.
Finding Your Way
When I first moved to Los Angeles, I assumed the fastest way to travel was getting on the interstate. But instead of getting on the fastest route, I ran into bumper-to-bumper traffic. Still, I was comfortable with where the road was going. There were buffer lanes, no potholes, no twists or turns ... and I knew I would eventually get where I wanted to go. Fifty thousand other people were thinking the same thing, and none of us ever really got up to speed.
When you have a map, there are several routes to the same destination. This book will guide you on your personal financial journey with the help of a mental map. According to A Dictionary of Geography, "[A] mental map is a map of the environment within the mind of an individual which reflects the knowledge and prejudices of that individual." You will identify your current mental financial position (or beliefs) and envision where you ultimately want to end up. Once you understand your financial mental state, it is much easier to determine how you can adjust your route to get you to your new financial destination. You can change your mental map perceptions with the knowledge you'll obtain in this book. Becoming aware of your mental map helps you recognize how you unconsciously divert yourself from your ultimate destination.
Once you are aware of where you sabotage yourself financially, you can begin to change your automatic responses. As you start to consciously hear yourself creating roadblocks, you will be able to consciously reroute your mind to the course you have set for yourself.
Mental mapping your approach toward finances means rerouting the I-can't-afford-it mentality. I like the word mapping because we are all on a path. No path leads the wrong way. Are you taking the scenic route to your financial destination? It might take you three times as long to get there, but that doesn't mean you won't have a beautiful journey.
If you have an interstate mentality toward finances, the only traffic that exists is in your head. On an actual freeway, you can see hundreds of cars ahead of you on the road. The roadblocks you have set up in your mind tend to be less obvious. Nobody is setting out an orange cone with blinking lights telling you to merge your credit card debt.
An interstate mentality takes place when you try to juggle payments on seven credit cards, transfer money from one bank account to another, free up expenses on one credit card so you can charge more on it while you make a payment for another card, and wait for a paycheck to cover checks you just wrote.
If you have a lot of different things going on financially, you have to stop to take a breath. Be aware of all the different moving parts of your financial journey. You can't keep your foot on the gas pedal and think that you don't have to worry about where you're headed. If you move too fast and stay too busy, you can lose track of your destination. With more going on, there are increased chances you'll get off your path and end up in an accident.
Slow down and make conscious choices. "I won't charge my credit card, I'll just skip going out to dinner this week." "Maybe I really don't need three new outfits." "I should balance my checkbook." "Take a breath and focus." (It's good to remind yourself to slow down.)
If you're driving down the freeway and everyone puts their brakes on, you need to be aware of the shift in traffic. On the scenic route, you can fall off a cliff or forget to stop for gas. If you're too tired, you might fall asleep at the wheel. You need to make conscious choices in your financial travels and stay aware of your surroundings ... regardless of the speed you choose.
When we get in a car and activate the GPS, we assume it knows where we are and will get us where we want to go. Yet from experience, we know we can't always rely on it to be accurate. In order to make good decisions before going anywhere, we first need to know where we are and where we want to go. Similarly, to make good financial decisions, we need to break the GPS mentality and start thinking for ourselves instead of staying on financial autopilot. My college was near the Mississippi River. I had a friend who had lived near the river his entire life, and he did not know which way was east! In Los Angeles, I tell people which way is west all the time—I tell them to let the Pacific Ocean be their guide.
You may believe that your financial advisor and your accountant use some kind of financial GPS to get you where you want to go. Even if they do, you are ultimately the driver of your financial vehicle. I have several clients who, in the face of grave consequences, have driven right off a financial cliff despite having been informed of its presence. Collectively, most of us have become unconscious. You, as a reader of this book, are working your way out of that dream state. After you have applied the information in this book, you might begin helping other people approach their finances more consciously.
Create a New Mental Map
Two different people could be riding next to each other in a convertible car with the roof down. One might be thinking, "I love the wind in my hair. This is the life." The other might be thinking, "There is no roof over my head. This is so dangerous. I can't wait to get out of this death trap." They are both experiencing the convertible, but their mental mapping is worlds apart.
You can create a new mental map about money that will help you move toward your financial goals. Your current mental map might tell you that you can't enjoy your present lifestyle if you don't keep using credit cards. You don't care what the interest rate is. You could be paying 20 or 30 percent on your credit card. If you curbed your expenses, that interest percentage could buy you a new car or a trip to Italy. Someone else's mental map might tell them the only way they can have a better life is to stop using credit cards completely.
The Power of Words
What Fuels Your Mind?
Words are powerful. Think before you speak. Listen to what you are actually saying and start to identify what you say consciously. You can't change where you want to be if you don't know where you are. I hear people say, "I need a TV," or they say, "I need to go to Hawaii." But those statements are not true. They are wants, not needs. They want those things. They need oxygen; they don't need the newest cell phone. Once you start to hear your own voice, you can begin to give yourself alternative choices, which will change your mental map.
Little words can be more powerful than we realize. For example, the word but indicates a contrast or exception, and it can also negate everything that precedes it. Many of my clients say, "I want financial success, but I am afraid of it," or they say, "I want to learn healthy financial habits, but my folks never taught me about money," or even, "I want to stand up for myself, but people might criticize me." That one little word packs lots of negative power. I have worked to eliminate the word as much as possible and replace it with the word and. Using the word and allows both situations to exist. It lets you have your fear while also feeling empowered. See if you can hear the difference. "I want financial success, and I am afraid of it," or say, "I want to learn healthy financial habits, and my folks never taught me about money," or state, "I want to stand up for myself, and people might criticize me." You can be overwhelmed by your finances and still move forward with change. Be aware of the words you use. Making tiny changes can shift your views in powerful ways.
Listen to what you say about your finances. "I want to have financial freedom, but I'm broke." You can reword that slightly: "I want to have financial freedom, and I'm in a financially hard place right now, and I'm working toward eliminating that debt." You might hear yourself say, "I want to have money in the bank, but I have lots of debt." Replace that in a positive way by saying, "I'm working toward financial freedom, and I'm eliminating debt along the way."
Are You Really Sorry?
Do you apologize for speaking your mind? There's no need to if you do so respectfully—you're just being clear about where you stand. I have a friend who used to apologize to me constantly. She apologized for things that happened to me that she had nothing to do with. If I lost ten dollars, she would apologize. She even apologized for apologizing. I finally made a deal with her: every time she apologized to me, she had to give me a dollar. The first few weeks we were together, I ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner on her dime, her dollar.
When she started realizing how much she was handing over to me, she became focused. She began stopping herself. She stopped the automatic pilot in her head and thought about what she was saying. She would say instead, "Oh how interesting." Or she would say, "I wonder how that happened?" She changed her mental map of always being responsible for things she was not responsible for. She thanks me to this day for pointing it out, and I appreciate that she's no longer sorry. Changing her mental map took financial incentive.
Excerpted from THE MONEY NERVE by Robert Wm Wheeler. Copyright © 2013 by Robert Wm Wheeler, CPA. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
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