If my head were to split open, blobs of financial material would spill out. The latest stock prices of Amazon, Veeva, Comcast/how much I plan to save this month/the order that my bills need to be paid to meet my savings plan/ Trump’s tax proposal and his idea of tax rates that are going to enhance working lives/what sector of the stock market is on the verge of growth/how much I plan to spend this month. Small splashes of yoga poses that I plan on attempting might be in the brain matter, but at a minimal level. I gave up on twisting myself into a helix years ago. What I’m getting at is the majority of my mind is focused on financial elements. I realized that most people don’t have a grip on this topic and I had an idea to put it into a book.
In How Ally Found Her Financial Freedom, I take the reader through common financial problems – no idea how to manage money, accumulating debt, little knowledge of financial instruments. Ally is a working professional with no money management skills. She’s deep in debt and wonders why she impulsively spends money. Ally acknowledges that she doesn’t have all the answers and finds a mentor. Cue Victoria, a family friend that Ally feels has the accomplishments and successes that Ally longs for. Victoria commits to her mentor role, providing sound advice and guidance. Ally is compelled to examine how she thinks about money, especially her personal money script. She’s challenged to think about money every day and remain disciplined. Ally takes bite-size actions, baby steps to pursue financial contentment.
We all have one. A money script, that is. Money scripts are underlying behavioral principles that dictate money habits. You know, the ones that cause you to throw caution to the wind when strolling through Bed Bath & Beyond. Surely you needed the extra five kitchen gadgets, especially the one that juices lemons while catching the pits. Money scripts are also responsible for having feelings of jealousy and bitterness hijack your senses at the sight of a Porsche whizzing by.
Based on indelibly etched experiences of life that form each person’s money habits, individuals form impressions of the significance of money and how it affects their life. By absorbing messages from our environment, unconscious impressions about money form lifetime behaviors. Often learned from parents and social settings, a money script based on dysfunctional patterns may lead a person to develop extreme habits like overspending or underspending, running deep into debt, or being so miserly as to forgo basic necessities. While the money script remains hidden in the subconscious, the corresponding behaviors emerge on a daily basis, controlling a person’s actions without the individual understanding the reason for their habits. Continue reading “Money Scripts”
I promised that I would write about my investing mistakes. I suppose it’s time to come clean.
Most of my career involved working at Big 4 accounting firms and large corporate tax departments in the financial services industry. Working for a Wall Street firm was no guarantee that I was proficient at making good investment decisions. The reality is that I was aggressively ambitious in my career and rarely paid attention to the important tenets of investing. Back then, my job required long hours and there were summers that I didn’t see the light of day. Inevitably, every other area of my life was neglected. Getting advice from colleagues was no help either. See my guest post on DistilledDollar.com. I read a few books, but my immature mind and stupid habits managed to squash my investing success.
Consider these blunders:
Betting on the next best thing: Nanotechnology. I thought I was catching an unknown trend in technology. Bye-bye $8,000.
Expecting Quick Results:
HD Home Depot – Bought Sept, 2002: $33.36, Sold in 2006 at $37.50; today $156.00.
AMAT Applied Materials – Bought Oct 2002: $11.91, Sold in 2006 at $17; today $44.00.
Let me state emphatically: I didn’t sell these stocks because I needed the money.I sold them because they weren’t blowing my socks off. Despite a 40% gain, AMAT wasn’t turning me on.
If I wanted to, I could fill this blog with posts of all the basic financial gems like budgeting templates, savings calculators, and mortgage interest rates. Because there’s no shortage of said material, I’d like to talk about one of my favorite sites: Feed The Pig .
Feed The Pig is a National Public Service Campaign sponsored by the American Institute of CPAs and the Advertising Council. The site’s mascot is not the most attractive pig I’ve seen, but stay with me. His head is a piggy bank and that’s where the parallel message lies.
The presentation is meant to appeal to young people, or those that we’ve affectionately labeled the Millennials. Us Baby Boomers would be remiss in our obligation to society if we failed to engage this genre. According to SoFi (www.sofi.com), 39 percent of Millennials would rather disclose a preexisting sexually transmitted disease to a potential partner than reveal how much debt they have.
Ol’ reliable. Isn’t she a beaut? This baby is turning 20. While most people would rather be seen in the back of a hearse than a car this old, I embrace its charm. The visor sometimes falls in my lap, the radio volume lowers or becomes sharply louder when I hit a bump, and there’s that strange clicking when I put the fan setting on the front windshield.
She’s been sprayed a few times to cover up the bruises. The front bumper is secure, but if you look closely, it’s slightly askew. That’s left over from when an old man T-boned the passenger’s front quarter panel. She’s been punched in the gut by shopping carts and side-swiped by careless drivers but she rides on like a champion.
You know that soft whistle-y sound when the aura enters the room in the Twilight Zone? I hear that coming from under the hood. Those sounds are helping me secure my future as I’m aggressively working towards an early retirement.
Of all the things we buy, our car is the most personal and sensitive. Next to a house, it’s also the most expensive. And people love to judge, right? We are all judged on what we drive. Some will even determine if you are a good match for your car. Like, “What’s that old geezer doing driving a Corvette? There should be a hot guy in the driver’s seat.” Gotta love the American way.
My short story, Jake’s Financial Transformation, is loosely based on someone that I knew in my late teens. Blessed with the adroitness of an excellent carpenter, he took great pride in his work and started his own business at a young age. Sadly, his skills as a carpenter and as a businessman were at opposite ends of the spectrum. The business failed because he lacked basic business skills, like pricing a job competitively. His estimates were often too high, resulting in lost opportunities. When he did get hired, he dealt with cost overruns. He simply couldn’t find a way to be profitable. His alternative was to take a job with a contractor. His money management deficiencies now surfaced in a different light. On payday, he could make his take-home pay vanish before arriving home, like some latent magic ability. For someone that was making a decent living, he was always broke. This pattern occurred in tandem with a rotten attitude towards “the rich” and constant complaints about having to work for a living. In his home, there was daily commiseration with his dad about “the rich”. He was living out this destructive money script, oblivious to how he could transform the gift of his skill into a rewarding and successful reality.
I tried to help. Together, we nailed down a plan for him to save $100 a week which should have been fairly seamless. He lived with his parents and had limited expenses. After imagining how he would have to tighten his expenses, he scoffed and didn’t give it a second thought.
Individuals that carry this kind of attitude are constantly in debt. Because they never build a savings account and plan their purchases, they never have their own resources and must use the maximum credit provided to them for their home, car, or other large purchase. If they have $500, their financial obligations match the $500 limit; if they have $1,000, their financial obligations match the $1,000 limit. There’s never an excess and they’re always scraping by. Any financial emergencies become fire drills and inevitably create a setback. Banks and credit card companies love these people. These are the consumers that live on the financial hamster wheel. Earn, spend, earn, owe. Rinse, repeat.
Jake personifies those that don’t have a clue. They don’t know what they’re good at or what they want from life. In their little bubble of the world, life just happens. Many people wallow in self-defeat, not realizing that a life of satisfaction is not a far leap. They struggle along, thinking that the “good life” is beyond their achievability. Often, they’re frustrated and they don’t even know why. These mental chains prevent people from developing useful skills, resulting in untapped talent.
Feeling in control seems like an impossible state to this unenlightened bunch. What Jake learns from some prodding by his older cousin is that he needs to come up with a plan and figure out his life. Jake only knows one song and it keeps playing over and over in his head. But nothing changes unless actions change. Eventually, Jake experiences a breakthrough and soon realizes that he needs to acquire some education in the field that he knows – cars. He takes his part-time job activity and turns it into a full-time, marketable skill. With some basic money skills, he builds up a small savings account and starts to see his life taking shape.
I believe that everyone has the ability to attain self-sustenance. In Jake, I show the reader that someone with an uncertain beginning can unwind their destructive habits and find their way. Anyone can create a vision from a blank screen in small, focused steps and find fulfillment.
Dr. Brad Klontz writes extensively about money scripts. More on that in future posts.