This is International Women’s Day. A day to celebrate the significance of women, in their own communities and all the way to the international stage. This year’s theme is #ChoosetoChallenge.
The request is this, “A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change. So let’s all choose to challenge.” We, humanity, both men and women are being called to choose to challenge whenever bias affects the economic, racial, gender, or other aspects of well-being for women. Where women thrive, families thrive. Where families thrive, we all thrive.
Recently I was in the company of a group of women business owners, entrepreneurs, and corporate leaders, many of whom had experienced significant career achievements. Sadly, for many of these women, their advancement had been hard won at great personal cost. Some, in career positions, called out the continued inequity of pay and advancement opportunities in the corporate world, even in consulting contracts, that continue to this day.
It was clear that many of these women, although they expressed satisfaction, even pride, in what they HAD achieved, have not yet consistently experienced peace with money.
The blessing is that things ARE changing. Many more opportunities for women exist today than did at the beginning of my career in the late 1960s. However, they haven’t changed nearly quickly enough.
When I broke through a glass ceiling in 1977 to become the first female real property tax appraiser in the State of California, paid equally with my male counterparts, Women’s Lib was in full flower. Women were burning bras, demonstrating, and refusing to allow men to open doors for us. I thought I’d made one more significant stride for women’s equity.
Yet more than 50 years on from the Women’s Strike Day march on Washington in August of 1970, the cause has not been met. The demands then were for equal employment and educational opportunities, as well as for childcare assistance for working parents. Today, still, many more families headed by women live in poverty than do those headed by men. Equal pay could help to remedy that, as could a revision upward of the national minimum wage, which would help those households led both by women and men.
Peace with money includes the sense that what you are paid for your work is equitable. That you can earn enough to meet minimum expenses and have something left to fulfill dreams and goals. Or, perhaps, just for doing things that give pleasure. Peace comes when we feel our contributions are appreciated, acknowledged, and compensated fairly.
This is a call to you, my friends, and readers. When you see inequities, for women or in any other circumstances, look to see what action you might take that could make a positive difference. Then #ChoosetoChallenge. The more of us that make the effort to challenge, the more effective and lasting will be the change.
Think of forgiveness as emotional house cleaning.
Often people I’m coaching speak of how someone else’s attitudes about money influenced their own behavior and beliefs. Frequently, though not always, the “someone else” is a parent, teacher, spouse, peer, or spiritual leader. Sometimes that influence brought positive ways of being with finances. Frequently, however, the other person’s impact resulted in financial havoc.
If you find you’re ill at ease or in chaos around money, look to see if there is someone (yourself or another) that you might want to forgive in order to gain, as Edwine Gaines says, an emotional house cleaning to gain peace with your finances.
Hauling the baggage of emotional stress, blame, shame or anger, does no one, least of all you, any good. More likely, it is damaging to your relationship with your money, self, and. Looking at the situation objectively you may see that some of the people currently in your life had nothing to do with the original event. Yet whatever happened affects how you act with your money. This affect touches those closest to you, whether or not you are aware of it; no matter how much you try to hide your money challenges.
In my book, Make Peace with Money, I speak of how I did well with money as a child and through my early teen years. Then at the age of 17, I married a man whose money practices were, shall we say, less than ideal. More, he was threatened by my knowledge of money and set about to systematically undermine my confidence.
I started to think I was bad with money. As the marriage unfolded I fell deeper into that illusion. By the time we divorced, that belief had become deeply embedded. Understandably, each time I was faced with money decisions, paying bills or addressing large expenses, I felt defeated. And my behavior with money showed it.
Years later, my financial coach helped me realize the shattering effect that early marriage had had on my beliefs and actions. With her encouragement, I took a solid look at the beliefs that stood in the way of my peace, with money and in my life. I discovered I wasn’t actually bad with money, but I had taken on bad habits. As well, there were some things I didn’t know about it that I needed to learn. My journey since has been an adventure of forgiveness, for him and for myself, and of discovery so I could come to the peace I so deeply desire.
Beyond situations that revolve around money directly, the actions of others when not forgiven can keep us in a state of turmoil that impacts how we treat our finances.
Mark, a man I coached several years ago, had been hazed by his college fraternity in a way that endangered his life. Some of his fraternity brothers suggested that his harrowing experience entitled him to spend his money (and credit and loans from family) any way he wanted.
In his late 30s when he started being coached, his emotions were volatile and, as he readily admitted, he blew up, “Much too freely.” Whenever he felt anxious or angry, which was often, he would buy new sports gear, off-road vehicles, and expensive outdoor clothes and boots. This was done with no thought about the consequences.
He was nearly $100,000.00 in debt when he realized he must change things up. His motivation was that, though he’d been married before and divorced in large part due to money conflicts, he wanted to remarry. He didn’t want money to get in the way this time. As we looked for where his money predicament had started, he realized he was still deeply troubled about the event from his freshman year in college. He’d buried his feelings and had never come to grips with it.
We discussed some possible solutions. Mark chose that he wanted to let go of his rage. To him, forgiveness seemed the best path. During his next few coaching sessions we worked with that, and also identified behaviors he wanted to change, including a five-year plan to get out of debt and how he would talk frankly with his fiancee about his debt and the plan. Sixteen months later I was graced to attend his wedding. While he was still deeply in debt, he had made significant headway in paying it down. Mark and his wife recently celebrated their 12th wedding anniversary, debt free. I received the following note acknowledging the work we’d done.
“I realized I didn’t have to excuse the perpetrator’s actions, but I did need to let go of my rage and fear. They were young and so was I. I still know a number of them and, by and large, they are fine contributors to their communities. As for me, I treat my wife so differently than I acted in my first marriage. Now I’m grateful to be able to forgive and let go whenever something gets in the way of our happiness.”
Key Steps to Forgiveness
- Seek out and recognize whatever you have not dealt with. Look for events or people that when you think of them you experience anger, frustration, pain & hurt, or some other strong emotion. Make the decision to let it go. It won’t disappear on its own. You must make a conscious decision that you are ready to be done with it and let it go.
- Admit your pain. And your responsibility. After all, who is it that continues to hold on to whatever happened? Write down what occurred with that person or event, especially the feelings you have about it.
- Realize that in every moment you have a choice.
- To continue to feel blame, shame, hurt, rage or some other negative emotion.
- Or to focus on the here and now, what you want your life to be instead. Wouldn’t you rather have the clarity and joy of being fully alive, fulfilled, compassionate and grateful? Choose.
- Forgive them – and yourself. Completely. If the feelings come up again and they probably will, remind yourself, “I have already forgiven them, myself, and the situation. I choose not to carry this weight any longer.” Then breathe in and out slowly and deeply. Let it go. Repeat as often as needed until you begin to feel some peace about the situation.
Bernard Meltzer, respected radio host, said, “When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future.” Why not let forgiveness light your pathway to the future you desire?
An excellent resource to forgive yourself and others and step into the relationship you desire around money is to do the exercises for Lesson 14 in the Make Peace with Money Workbook, downloadable free at www.makepeacewithmoney.com. Another powerful forgiveness process is in the book The Energy of Money by Maria Nemeth, Ph.D. – the forgiveness process, pages 210–217.
In creating an abundance mindset, the power of giving is not to be underestimated. In a world where we so often focus on what we need, you may from time to time find yourself longing to give. Giving and receiving are two equally important actions, part of the flow of the energy of money.
When you are at peace with money, you are likely to be more at ease when invited to give. Ample opportunities to give money exist, charities and causes, and people to help. Yet when you aren’t at peace with your money, a request for a donation can feel annoying.
Being at peace with money means being free to look at whether giving is right for you at that moment. Should you choose not to give money, you can still wish the person or the venture well, giving of the energy of your good thoughts instead of, or in addition to, your monetary wealth.
A long time ago I was going through a particularly stressful period. Laid off from my job I felt depressed. My demeanor, I know, was dour. My coach challenged me to give something away each day. I baulked, “Don’t you recall? I’ve just been laid off. I’m broke!” She smiled broadly as she replied, “Of course, I know that.” Then she asked me to find at least one smile to give away each day for thirty days. To say it was difficult at first would be an understatement. I didn’t think I could do it. It felt forced. Yet I stayed committed.
To my surprise, I was soon looking for opportunities to smile at people, discovering the delight I felt when they returned the smile. About three weeks into the challenge, a harried-looking older woman stopped me saying, “Do you know how long it has been since anyone really looked at me and smiled? I can’t recall the last time. You’ve made my day, dear. Keep smiling.” I’ll never forget that. What is the cost of a smile, after all? A mere moment? To boost a person’s mood for the day? Sweet.
Recognize the power of giving in your own life, and the joy you take in giving to others. Contrast this feeling with the fear and need to grasp or hold on in perceived “tight” times. Which is more expansive? Which brings more peace? Generating gratitude and letting it guide you is a powerful tool available to everyone in seeking peace with money.
If you would like to up the ante, create a “Giving” journal and write daily for one month. Note at least two things you gave each day, even if only a smile, a hug, or listening to a friend. Challenge yourself to give regularly of your belongings or money, and also challenge yourself to give things that are not money-related.
A big reason many of my clients feel at war with money is because they have never figured out with any clarity what they really want with it. They may focus intensely on money, but the focus is on everything that is wrong in their relationship to money and not much on what is right. There is clearly no ease and little grace in this scenario. In my post of May 24 “What Creates Money Peace?” I promised I’d write about clarity and focus in regard to money.
When we have clarity, we can see what is there before us. Both the useful and that which is not so useful. Clarity with money often begins with looking, eyes wide open, at where you stand financially. This means discovering how much money you have, how much you owe, both in monthly expenses and debt, and realistically assessing the value of what you own.
Clarity also means becoming clear about what you want money to do for you. What is your vision for your life and money? What are your goals around money? And how does money fit into the plans you have? What amounts will you require? Where do you intend for it to come from (in-come)?
Once you have some money clarity, it’s time to focus on what is needed to get to what you want. Imagine you want to hit a target with an arrow, but you are in heavy fog and don’t know which direction to aim. You can focus all you want, but until you know where the target actually is, you’d more than likely miss it. So too with money goals. Unless you are clear where you are aiming and THEN apply your focus to take steps to get there, you would be likely to miss. In fact, you might go muddling round and round in a fog.
As you gain clarity, though, and begin to take focused steps, aimed in the direction of what you truly want, you’ll make progress. Staying true to the path, even when there are distractions, takes focus. But the reward is there at the end. You may discover obstacles or challenges that need to be overcome. As you address those challenges, ever keeping your aim at what you want, you will make progress. And the more obstacles you clear, the more you’ll find yourself experiencing greater success. And all this contributes to ease. But only if you let it.
There is grace in keeping your word – knowing what you want and pursuing it with clear intention and integrity. So, really! What do YOU want with your money? If clarity and peace are among the things you want, include it in your vision and plans for your life. And, especially, ask and then hold for clarity and peace with money.
What brings peace with money can be quite variable from person to person. Let’s look at a couple of examples.
A woman I know lives very effectively on about $700.00 each month. You may wonder how she does this. Out of her modest income she saves 10% and donates 10% to causes she supports. She buys insurance and gas for her car, a supplemental health plan, pays for a cell phone, and uses the rest for food and incidentals. You may notice she pays no rent or utilities. Instead, she lives in her car when she is not house sitting for one of her many acquaintances. She counts herself blessed and is wholly at peace with money.
Another person I know has income of just over $7000 per month. He, too, is at peace with money. He hasn’t always been, though. For years he was driven by fear that he didn’t have enough. He strove to earn greater and ever greater amounts. This at the cost of sleep and peace of mind. Once he realized he was allowing money to be in the driver’s seat he decided to change things up. He developed a plan to use his money in more satisfying ways. He quit working so hard and gave up about $3000 per month in earnings. This required a lifestyle adjustment but now he is delighted to be spending more time with his family. He says he is happier than he’s ever been in his adult life, knowing his money supports his and his family’s genuine well-being.
- Determining your values around money and live within them
- Defining what peace with money would be for you – not pie in the sky, but reality-based
- Knowing what role you want money to serve and making sure it serves that role
- Living within your means
- Learning to manage any scarcity or entitlement or other challenging thoughts about money
- Beginning to take small, sweet steps toward realizing your money peace
- Acknowledging or celebrating when you achieve milestones
My mentor coach, Maria Nemeth, PhD, says, “Financial success is doing what you said you would do, with money, with clarity, focus, ease and grace.” I’ll say more about those qualities in my next blog, however, I’ll say this now.
When I started doing what I said I would do with money, which presupposed clarity of thought about it, I became more successful. And, even better, I started to experience calmness and satisfaction about my money. This has led to greater peace as well.
“Peace with money. Do you think it’s even possible?” a new acquaintance asked not long ago. For far too many of us, the mere thought of having any kind of composure, much less peace, about money seems akin to scaling Mt. Everest – a stretch just too far. And stepping into my friend’s shoes for just a moment, I understand why she’d asked.
Until about 10 years ago I could have been the one asking the question. I had sought a peace-filled life, but the one area where I continued to experience conflict consistently was with money. When I paid bills my shoulders crept up to my ears. Every conversation about money with my husband was fraught with tension. I wanted to experience the peace and harmony around money that I had in other areas of my life, yet I simply couldn’t seem to achieve it.
I worried whether I had enough. I worried whether I was spending it well. And I certainly worried about whether I would have enough when it came time to retire. I told myself I was bad with money and I believed it. And even though I worried about it, nevertheless, I also spent on things I didn’t need with money I didn’t have in the bank. Credit card debt mounted and I worried even more. The thought of having real peace with money seemed completely out of reach. Yet I wanted it desperately.
You would think a feeling of desperation would lead to making better decisions about money in order to relieve the anxiety. For me it was just the opposite. The more desperate I felt, the more I acted in haste.
Then, with the guidance of a money coach and mentor I began to take steps to gain more certainty around money. I began to realize that all my worrying had gotten in the way of authentic planning or taking action for the sensible use of my money. I started planning out my money as soon as I got paid. This led to greater clarity about what I wanted my money to do for me. I realized I wanted money to work for me, not have to work so doggone hard for it.
Next, I began to take small steps in the direction of how I wanted my money to work. Sometimes, it was just paying bills and not spending on extras. Other months I saw my way clear to save something for the future, or to contribute to a cause I believed in. I realized I didn’t want to be buying just to be buying. I wanted to feel satisfaction about my purchases. To know they were contributing to the quality of life I want.
Along the way, I noticed something that warmed my heart. At first, I was simply becoming more relaxed about money myself. Then I noticed there was less tension between my husband and me when we paid bills together. Slowly, I was coming to peace with money. It was at this juncture I realized I wanted to develop a coaching program to help others gain peace with money as well.
This blog is my way of giving back to all who have helped me learn about how to have an empowered relationship with money. I’ll share tips, case studies, and more. I wish you peace in your life. I wish you peace with money.