Surviving – actually thriving – in our economy

On Friday, our guest on ‘Money In Your Life’ was Meredith Elliott Powell – and what a great conversation it was! The premise of our radio show has been that in the world of money and advice about money, the conversation has been pretty one sided for a long time – for lots of different reasons, but it just has. (pause here while you think about it: how many times have you questioned financial advice you’ve been given if it didn’t feel right to you? How many of you bought a bigger house than you because you were caught up in the frenzy of the housing boom? Now, take a deep breath, consciously relax your jaw or shoulders and read on.). Meredith was a breath of fresh air – urging us to shift our thinking and embrace the “pull” rather than “push” economy (depends on which side of the equation you are on, but, basically, “pull” opportunities your way instead of waiting for them to find you. “Pull” your best deals to you by asking. Give it a try.


“The come from needs to shift”

During this week’s episode of “Money In Your Life”, our conversation got us to the phrase “the ‘come-from’ needs to shift”. And that phrase encapsulated exactly what Brian (my co-host) and I and each of the guests we’ve had on the show since September has been talking about: when we shift where we each come from in thinking, acting, talking and being with money from reacting to or responding to external messages and “somebody else’s” definition of success, something cracks open and giving up “familiar discomfort” doesn’t sound as scary. Find a buddy or a coach – because this work is hard and, as a friend of mine says often “you shouldn’t go into your mind alone” – and see what happens when you shift your come from – over time.

Immunity to change

…what a great phrase this is. The work of Harvard Professors Kagan and Lahey on this topic is both thoughtful and helpful. How many times have you made a promise to yourself that “I’m going to _______” – whether it’s a New Year’s resolution, a promise right after you leave the doctor’s office or come home from a trip or catch your self once again doing something you know in your head is destructive or self-limiting, but momentarily it stops the chatter or makes you feel good or gives you a sense of relief. And that, right there, is it – “you know in your head…”. Our heads can get us in a lot of trouble – or not. Immunity to change is about REALLY listening to what that chatter is – without editing yourself and, most important – without judging. I was at a meeting last month and as one of the three participants rushed in late saying “I’m so sorry to be late, I hope…” – our natural response when we’ve kept people waiting, right? And she shared that one of her goals for 2014 was to be a better scheduler because she was always rushing from meeting to meeting. One suggestion? Schedule 15 minutes between meetings, reflect on the one you just had and shift gears to get ready to be in the next one. How does this relate to money? How many of you are aware of the story you carry around about money – and when was it written? Is it time to rewrite it? Part of becoming aware of an immunity to change is noticing where you ARE. As Lewis Carroll said “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”

A New American Dream – revisiting the definition?

In 1931 John T. Adams defined the American Dream as “the dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” And somehow, the dream has become synonymous with owning a house – because a house is about security and stability and a base to come home to. Or at least that is how I think of it. But what is that dream for you? Is it paying off a crushing Student Loan Debt? Is it buying a home? Is it getting healthcare coverage? Is it owning a home? In the Sunday NY Times yesterday there is an article about Jacob Deng Mach, a refugee – one of the Lost Boys of Sudan – living in Atlanta who says “All I knew was that America was the greatest thing in the world. Nobody knew how people struggle in America.” The perception of the American Dream is alive and well in the world – and we still see examples of the American Dream in action (primarily in Silicon Valley these days). If you want to see a vision for a New American Dream, visit If that dream doesn’t work for you – what does? I’d love to hear from you – because at the base of the answer to each of these questions is the same value that John T. Adams wrote about: a sense of opportunity to achieve safety and stability.

Just one thing

A friend forwarded an email that he had received from the manager of his retirement fund, which included an article about “happiness”, with this recipe:

Practicing gratitude
· Cultivating optimism/hope
· Avoiding social comparison (ruminating on what others have and we do not)
· Practicing acts of generosity and kindness
· Developing deep social relationships (versus an abundance of those that are superficial)
· Developing resilience/endurance through trials
· Practicing forgiveness (even more, forgiveness that is undeserved)
· Increasing “flow” activities – those where your gifts /talents are most utilized
· Savoring life’s joys (versus unbridled indulgence)
· Establishing purpose/setting goals
· Pursuing “spirituality” – acknowledging a power beyond oneself
· Physical and social activity – movement and engagement with those around us

As every media outlet I’m in contact with today is tempting me with all kinds of incredible deals – at incredible prices, I looked at this list – and it’s source – with some cynicism (see? – not cultivating happiness – yet). And yet, yesterday’s Thanksgiving celebration was – for me – a savoring of just one of life’s joys (with “bridled” indulgence): a gathering of friends to share – whatever each of us felt like sharing. So – that’s the point, isn’t it: I may eventually be able to do all the things on the list above, but for today, I just need do do one thing. So I’ll continue from yesterday and move and engage with those around me – though I’m tempted to stay by the fire, protected from the weather outside…

We all make assumptions…don’t we?

Years ago, my cousin Hap and I were talking about financial advisers and financial planners – we were both relatively new in our careers and wanting to do the right thing about saving for retirement – and saving, period. He told me that he had been working with “a guy” at Merrill Lynch for a few years and just that morning, his “guy” had called him to say that he was now a Portfolio Manager (a timeout, while I just clarify: a broker is someone who arranges a transaction between a buyer and a seller and receives a commission, and a portfolio manager is someone who makes investment decisions using money other people have placed under his/her control). My cousin said “So, Bob, what have you done in the last 12 hours that qualifies you to move from being a ‘broker’ to being a ‘portfolio manager'”. “I got new business cards.” Now, it turns out that Bob had the talent and he has done well as a portfolio manager for my cousin. But some of us treat people who manager our money like doctors: do what they say, even if we don’t think it is in our best interest. Do ask questions, check your assumptions, and take the time to find an adviser who you will be with for a good long time – it is worth the effort.

Check out Friday’s radio show:

Just as we thought…

I’ve only been at this radio co-hosting for a month – “Money In Your Life” on VoiceAmerica radio at 7 am PT Fridays – or stream from the site or iTunes – but after every show, I want to know who listened and what you thought.  What I thought when I started this was: this is a great way to have a conversation that’s tough for people to have.  And we hope that’s true.  And what IS the conversation???    Money is on our minds every day: having it, getting it, saving it, spending it and, sometimes it is used for making suits…

Money as ornament - imagine having this in yur wallet?

Money as ornament – imagine having this in yur wallet?

And yet TALKING about money is, as most people tell me, harder than talking about, say, sex.  Why is that? Is it because we’re just supposed to KNOW what to do with it – how to earn it, how to spend it, how to make it last all of our lives?  I have a hunch (which of course I’ll share), but I’d love to hear from you.

And here’s my hunch: we don’t talk about it because there are a lot of people out there telling us that they can’t believe what we’re doing with our money, and if we’d only do THIS, we’d be set for life – and so we say to ourselves  “Everyone else got the memo on how to deal with money – and I didn’t.  So I’m not going to look stupid by asking.”

And then we get busy and things come up and time goes by and – well, you know the story.

But here’s the thing: we HAVE to talk about money and pay attention and ask questions – because we are being asked to make MORE decisions – with less REAL information.

So come back – and let’s talk about money in your life.