September 2009


Just hung up from talking to a man who’d hired me to speak to a large group of employees.

The purpose of the event, he told me, is to reach out and educate these people about their Deferred Compensation Benefit Plan.

The problem, he explained, is that members were only putting in the small minimum amount each pay period. They wanted to encourage participants to increase their contributions and understand what they’re investing in.

The real issue, he admits: “How do you break their inertia?”

Isn’t that the Big Question for all of us when it comes to money?  (And a lot of other things, I suppose!)

How do we break our inertia?

Most people do it the way I did—by waiting for a crisis. There’s nothing like a catastrophe to kick us out of our stupor. For me, it was a whopping tax bill following my divorce.

Why didn’t I take action when I first found out my husband was grossly mismanaging my money? Why did I wait and put my whole family in jeopardy?

Truth be told, inertia, like ignorance, can be bliss. But the penalty for procrastination is not pretty.

So I ask you:  How have you overcome inertia in your financial life…without waiting to be hit over the head with a sledgehammer? What advice would you give a roomful of foot-draggers?

In fact, let’s make this a contest. A prize goes to the winner with the best suggestion.

The prize: a bright red mouse pad that boldly declares: Scare Yourself Every Day.

Come to think of it, that just might be the best solution for fighting inertia!!

Barbara Stanny

The leading authority on women & money
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I did it!  I actually did it!  I showed My Man my financials…and he did the same.

And you know the biggest lesson I learned (yet again) from all this?  The fear of doing is always worse than the actual doing! Now, in hindsight, I wonder, “what the hell was the big deal anyway??”

The second biggest lesson: resistance wanes the closer you get to the root of it. The moment I realized it was my childhood fear of feeling different and not being accepted, those old demons didn’t seem nearly so threatening.

So here’s what happened:

We were sitting around the kitchen table. He had just made me eggs.  (Gotta love a man who cooks!!)  I showed him the recent blog about my old journal and my epiphany. http://barbarastannyblog.com/2009/09/17/my-man%E2%80%A6my-money%E2%80%A6and-me/.

He read it thoughtfully, then looked up at me and said, ever so gently:  “I totally understand.”

Without even thinking, I walked to the stack of mail on the kitchen counter and tore open an oversized envelope. How perfect that my August financial statements had just arrived the day before. I pushed aside the dishes, spread out the papers, and said, “This is what I have.”

He listened, asked a few questions, and told me he was proud of the way I managed my money, especially given my history. Then, he described what he had in each of his accounts, I asked a few questions, and praised him for being so responsible.

I got up, washed the dishes, and we took a walk. That was it. It was a non-event.

But at the same time, it was clearly a turning point. We each realized, without saying a word, we’d taken our relationship to a new level of intimacy and trust.  And it felt really good!

Barbara Stanny

The leading authority on women & money
barbara@barbarastanny.com
www.barbarastanny.com

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I just ran across a brand new blog…and am eager to share it with you.

Admittedly, I “ran into” it  because the writer credited my book, Secrets of Six-Figure Women, for motivating her to blog. (Google sends me an alert whenever my name appears on the web.)  But enough about me…

If you’re looking for an extra shot of courage, I urge you to visit  http://amanda-whatareyouafraidof.blogspot.com/ Especially if you’re an aspiring writer…or an aspiring whatever….

All her life, Amanda wanted to be a writer…but never did anything about it, other than make excuses for why she couldn’t.  After reading my book, however, she had an epiphany–she was just plain scared…of failure, of rejection, of not doing it right, of what others would think.

At that moment, Amanda realized, “We would rather stay exactly where we are—even if we’re miserable—because the thought of taking a risk and shaking things up scares us far more than a life of being comfortably numb.”

And at that moment, Amanda knew she had the “perfect subject for a blog—fear.”  She started blogging with 2 goals in mind: 1) to overcome some of her fears, and 2) help others do the same.” And you know what? She’s actually doing it!!!

If you’re wrestling with fear (and who isn’t, to some degree?), I invite you to check out  Amanda’s blog and let me know what you think!

Barbara Stanny

The leading authority on women & money
barbara@barbarastanny.com
www.barbarastanny.com

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I think I just hit pay dirt…the reason I’ve had such trouble talking money with My Man.  It happened last night.

I’ve been an avid journal writer since the 5th grade. Every once in a while, I’ll go to the big cardboard box that holds my old journals and randomly pick one to read.

Last night, I selected a green spiral Mead notebook. It was from 1993… a very painful period when I was struggling with money…not long after the government told me I owed them over a million dollars (for back taxes my ex didn’t pay, for illegal deals he got us in).

As I read what I wrote on February 7, 1993, my jaw dropped:

I think I just made a discovery. Why I have money problems. Watched a video with Susan [a girlfriend]. A woman comes on who says she’s having trouble with finances because she’s afraid people would be jealous if she had too much.

“Susan looked at me. “Can you relate to that,” she asked?

“Could I!!! I instantly felt the shame and secrecy of having money growing up, of being different from everyone else…and the almost pride I now feel when I talk about all my money problems. I can see how my need to be like others, to be accepted, has me sabotaging my success.”

I’ll be damned! The same discovery…16 years later! I had forgotten how self conscious I was, as a kid, about being rich. Sure there were advantages to living in a big house, having a famous father. But, at the same time, I was embarrassed.  I never felt like I fit in. I was never quite sure if people liked me for me, or because of my family. I was always trying so hard to be just like everyone else. If I’d ever told anyone how I felt, which I rarely did, they’d always say: “Gee, I wish I had your problem!”

No wonder I was so scared to reveal myself to My Man. It suddenly made sense. In fact, writing this now, it seems downright obvious. I’m afraid of being different from him…of not being accepted.

Isn’t it astounding, how unconscious, irrational fears like these take hold with such an irrepressible force, it feels like we’re going against gravity?

So, here’s my current question: Now that I’m enlightened, will the conversation be easier? I’ll definitely let you know!

Barbara Stanny

The leading authority on women & money
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If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost;

that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.
Henry David Thoreau

Had a brief, but interesting conversation while shopping  in Costco with My Man and his son a few days ago. His son, a senior in college, is a sheer delight. He’s ambitious and charming, with a vivid imagination and a quirky view of life. We were walking down the home furnishing aisle when he made an announcement.

“I’m going to live in a Castle one day, “ he declared, and proceeded to describe how it would have a gym, a pool, a hula hoop court (he’s an amazing hooper!), and all the amenities castle’s typical have, including lots of turrets. The boy was dead serious.  I was intrigued.

“Good goal,“ I assured him, and meant it. But even more, I saw it as a wonderful metaphor for the big dreams many college kids have for life  after graduation.  Problem is, like most his age, he hadn’t really thought through how to make it happen.

“If you start now,” I suggested, “You can definitely make it happen.”  He asked for my advice. I was ready to give it, but standing in the middle of Costco, there were too many distractions.

So this blog is meant to help him (and anyone else) build a firm foundation under their future castles.

16 things I wish I knew about money when I graduated college:

1.     If you can’t afford something, don’t buy it. Delayed gratification is the gateway to wealth (and a sign of maturity).

2.     Despite what you’ve heard, money is NOT power. Money is simply a tool. The trick to getting the most out of any tool is to know how it works and to use it responsibly.

3.      Understand the miraculous power of compounding—where your money earns interest, then your interest earns interest, and then that interest earns interest, and before you know it, you’ve got a lot more than when you started.

4.     Make savings a habit. Every month, have a small amount–say $5 to $10–automatically transferred from your checking account to a savings account.

5.     Consistent savings, no matter how tiny, adds up quickly.

6.     Always have a Safety Net…just in case—accumulate at least 6 months of living expenses, to be used for emergencies only.

7.     Create a Fun Fund for short-term purchases, like a ‘gotta-have’ video game or a weekend getaway—open a separate savings account, or simply drop spare change in a jar.

8.     Begin now building good credit. Apply for a credit card and use it responsibly, which means paying it off every month  (refer back to #1!)

9.      Never, I mean NEVER, get into credit card debt (not for a castle or the carpet or even a couch).  Mounting credit card bills destroys your peace of mind and your quality of life. What good is a castle if you can’t enjoy it?

10.    Keep your checkbook balanced. Even better, put everything on Quicken. Clarity (knowing precisely how much you have) is power.

11.     Learn about investing. Take a class. The only way to make sure your money grows (enough to buy a castle and also maintain it!) is by putting at least some of your cash in long term assets (like stocks & bonds) that will grow faster than inflation and taxes will take it away.

12.      Never invest in anything you don’t understand. Otherwise, you won’t know what you’re buying; you won’t know when to sell; and you can’t accurately evaluate the advice you’re given.

13.     Don’t put off investing until you’re older. If you start now, regularly investing small amounts (in mutual funds), that money will grow into millions. Really!!!

14.     Own and respect your value. Never settle for less than you deserve or desire. Always ask for more than feels comfortable.

15.     The biggest financial risk you can take is to ignore your money, and do nothing at all.

16.     Read biographies of wealthy, successful people. They’ll inspire you to think bigger about what’s possible, and give you the fundamentals for making it happen.

That’s my advice. But it’s certainly not a definitive list. I’d love to hear from others. What would you add?

Barbara Stanny

The leading authority on women & money
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I sent him my blog the moment it was posted… the one about  sharing our financial statements before he moves in.  I made him read it while still on the phone.  I was nervous for his reaction.  After all, I was  putting him, and our relationship,  in the (kind of) public eye.  His response was typical of a man with high self esteem.

“This is great,” he said and meant it.

“So,“ I said taking a deep breath, “Do you want to have The Talk?”

“Sure,” he replied without hesitation. “Let’s do it this weekend.”

Two weekends later, we still haven’t “Talked.”  My Man and I are extremely close.  We discuss everything, unabashedly.  Yet when it comes to money, we keep tip-toeing around the topic.

What we’ve done is have a tepid conversation sprinkled with some tiny revelations.  I threw out a vague number about how much I’m worth.  He did the same.  I mentioned something about diversifying my assets, but being heavy in cash.  He, in turn, shared his disciplined approach to making retirement contributions.   He even said he’s looking forward to seeing how I’ve invested.  But we’ve both been reluctant to reveal specifics.  I consider the conversation we had a good starter step.  But why haven’t we ‘gone all the way?’

Truthfully,  I’m mystified by my avoidance.  All I have to do is take my latest financial statement out of the folder, hand it to him, and say “Here it is.  Let’s talk,” and there’s no doubt in my mind, he’d do the same, in a heartbeat.  But I haven’t.

Reminds me of the letter to Ann Landers from a woman who wanted to ask her boyfriend to help pay for her birth control, but didn’t feel she knew him well enough to ask!

I laughed when I first read that.  Sure, it’s scary for most people  to talk money.  But I never put myself in that category!!!  I mean,  for the last 12 years I’ve been writing about money, consistently telling women:  “It’s our secrecy and silence that keeps us stuck.”

Now, here I am, doing the secrecy-and-silence-thing… and I’m truly shocked. Is it because he’s so resistant?  Or is that my projection?  Does our mutual reluctance come from our disparity in income?  Or is there a lot of old baggage weighing each of us down?

I think it’s time to walk my talk!  Stay tuned.  As always, your insight and advice is welcomed.

Barbara Stanny

The leading authority on women & money
barbara@barbarastanny.com
www.barbarastanny.com

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It’s been several weeks since I asked for advice on the ‘right’ time to  share financial statements with my boyfriend.  Well you gave it to me!!  And as a result, I had three big “Aha’s.

  • 1st Aha:  Clearly this subject touched a nerve.  I was astounded by how many of you responded— by email, on my site,  and in Facebook.
  • 2nd Aha:  I’m still amazed at my reticence.  I  sent my boyfriend the blog, which stimulated an interesting discussion… but we have yet to “go all the way” (by sharing our statements).
  • 3rd Aha:  I’m noticing how easy (and apropos) it is to use sexual metaphors when describing money discussions between couples.   Hmmmmm… perhaps the subject for another blog?

As for your responses…

First, deep thanks to all who replied!! It was beyond fabulous to realize how many of you could relate to my dilemma.

What I found most fascinating, however, was the vast range of comments. They were all across the board— from one extreme; (“Say nothing!” and “It’s not his concern”), to the other; (“Never hold back anything” and “If you can’t come from a place of profound honesty, you’re not ready to make the commitment”).   Several of you suggested drawing up an agreement with our respective lawyers, kind of like a prenuptial for live-ins.  And quite a few of you remarked that the conversation about sharing expenses was far more important than sharing financial statements.

Without a doubt, the overwhelming majority were in the “full disclosure” camp, warning me that intimacy requires openness.

My favorite came from author Manisha Thakor, whose new book (due out this December) is aptly titled: Get Financially Naked: How to Talk Money with Your Honey. You gotta’ love that title!!!  And it’s hard to argue with her premise.

“If you’re willing to take your clothes off together one way,” Manisha wrote, “you should be prepared to take them off financially speaking as well.”  (This gives a lot of credence to my 3rd aha!)

Her advice:  “Go for it.  Do the thing that these days is even more intimate than sex — talk about money together.  Get the pink elephant of money out into the center of the room and demystify it.  Otherwise, like termites eating away at the foundation of your relationship, little nagging doubts or questions about each others finances could end up destroying what is currently a beautiful home life.”

I agree with every word she says.  Yet, I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t open up and spill the whole can of beans to my boyfriend.   Nor could he.  But we did take a few baby steps… and I’ll share some of them with you in my next post.

Maybe, by then, I’ll figure out why neither of us were willing to “go all the way” yet.

Barbara Stanny

The leading authority on women & money
barbara@barbarastanny.com
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