wealth


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
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
www.barbarastanny.com

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I feel like I’m entering new territory here.  I’m usually the one answering your questions.  But now, I really need YOUR advice.  I sincerely mean that.  I’ve got a dilemma… and I’m not sure what to do, if anything.

As I vowed last month (http://barbarastannyblog.com/2009/07/17/the-retreat-to-), I am using this blog to be more authentic, especially around money.  So here I am… revealing myself and requesting your help.

Here’s the situation.  I’ve been dating My Man for a year and a half.  We’re talking about moving in together.   He’s definitely the love of my life, the person I want to grow old with, perfect for me in so many ways.  We don’t want to get married.  I’ve already done that twice (he, once), and we see no reason to do it again.

Here’s where I’m struggling.  At what point do I have “THE TALK” with my  boyfriend? Or do I even need to?

I’m referring to The Money Talk.  You know, that point where I show him mine and he shows me his… networth, that is.

My income is decidedly more than his… which makes sense since he was laid off earlier this year and is starting a whole new career.  While he’s never been a good saver, he’s a very frugal spender and quite responsible financially, with no credit card debt.  Neither one of us have a problem with the fact that I have more money.  But neither of us knows how much the other one has.

If we were getting married, it’d be a no-brainer.  We’d be baring our bank statements before we ever traded “I-Do’s. ”  But does co-habitating, when there’s no co-mingling of money, require the same financial transparency?  I figure, if I’m wrestling with this, others must be also.

Talk to me people… this is a tough one for me.  I need your feedback!

Barbara Stanny

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

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I did a massive closet cleaning yesterday.  Gave away bags of clothes to Goodwill.  I’m a big believer in letting go to create space for something better (see my blog post about it!).

As I was tossing stuff into garbage bags, I found a framed certificate I’m definitely keeping.  It declared that I’d completed the “Financial Recovery Counseling Training” in 2000, and was signed by founder Karen McCall.  The training was intense and life-changing.

Karen McCall is THE pioneer in the field of overspending, underearning, and chronic debting… and my long-time mentor.

She was one of many professionals I visited in those early desperate days of my own financial crisis.  She was, however, the only one who told me I was an “underearner”.  Initially I balked at the accusation.

But she broke through my denial, and I became her client… then her student. I often wonder, if it wasn’t for Karen, would I be doing what I’m doing now?

If you are a coach, looking for a rewarding new career, or simply want to make changes in your own financial life,  you need to know this — In  early September, Karen is offering her final training program this year.

As she told me; “This is very likely the last class where I will personally be doing the majority of personal mentoring with my students.”

The cool part of this extensive 6 month program is that Karen not only trains you in her Financial Recovery process, but mentors you on starting a successful business.  Check it out.  There are only 4 slots left. http://www.financialrecovery.com/training-int-req.html

Barbara Stanny

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

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Just as the cherry blossoms were bursting into bloom, Obama was issuing instructions to his cabinet:  cut $100 million from the budget.  Three months later, mission accomplished — $102 million in expenses had been slashed.

When I read this in the Wall Street Journal, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124882436513388423.html,  my immediate reaction:  “Why hasn’t the media made more of this fact?”   We hear, ad nauseum, about the stimulus (read: spending) packages, dragging the nation deeper into debt.  But what about these recent efforts to save money?  Now, in my mind, that’s news!!

Granted, that $102 billion is a microscopic portion of the general deficit, 0.0006%.  But the real story is how quickly and seamlessly government made those cuts… and the public never even felt the pinch.  If a giant bureaucracy can do that, certainly each one of us can too.

Washington called this program “The $100 Million Savings Challenge.” Imagine if you began your own “$100 (you determine the zero’s) Savings Challenge?”  Imagine if you started today, right now, shaving small amounts from your spending every month.  Then imagine if you took it one step further, and stashed the savings in the bank.  Imagine what that would do for your personal fortune!

There is a saying; “It’s easier to find 500 ways to save $1, than one way to save $500“.  That’s exactly what these government heads did: found all kinds of ways to trim small amounts.  For example, making double-sided photocopies, emailing documents instead of printing them, cutting unused phone lines.  Small.  Simple.  Painless.  Very effective.

I’ve always said, small steps consistently taken create remarkable results. Now what about you? What teeny-tiny cuts can you begin making right now? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Barbara Stanny

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

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This will give you cause to pause… especially if you’re in debt.  Have you ever looked up the definition of  “debt”  in Webster’s dictionary?  Try it: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/debt

A client of mine did recently,  and,  in her words,  “I was absolutely shocked!”  Merriam-Webster’s first definition of debt –  Sin.  Yes… SIN!!!

Do you realize that a whopping majority of people are “living in sin”?  Are you?

Barbara Stanny

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

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