In today’s episode, “Money is Emotional,” I’m going to tell you the story of my clients – Doug & Joanne Smith – and their emotional journey from anxiety and embarrassment to confidence and hope. Money is certainly emotional and I have to address that when I’m working with my coaching clients. My goal is to help people work through those negative emotions, and harness the power of the positive emotions to propel them towards their preferred financial future.
• I’m going to read you Doug & Joanne’s story and testimonial first, and then we are going to dive deep into some of emotions that surface before, during, and after financial coaching. (Read Doug’s testimonial.)
Even though we had a household income in the $100,000 a year range, our debt kept growing and a career switch that didn’t go as planned put us in a big financial hole. Our half-hearted effort at a budget and fiscal responsibility reached a breaking point in November of 2014 when our credit card debt was over $20,000 (plus a mortgage and car payment) and Christmas was only weeks away.
I knew Christine through BNI and decided it was time to finally do the right thing. Putting all of your financial cards on the table and admitting you’ve been an idiot with your money is NOT easy. There were tears shed in our initial meeting with Christine as we faced our embarrassment, but we left that meeting with a new confidence and a blueprint for success.
We’ve followed Christine’s blueprint and we went from $20,000+ in credit card debt to $0 in 8 months. There have been a few bumps in the road, as you don’t get into debt overnight and you don’t get out of it overnight, but with Christine’s help we were able to get back on course. I’ve received some bonuses at work during these 8 months and in the past we would have spent the money on something we did not need, but we stuck with our plan and used the money to pay down the debt, add to our emergency fund, and enjoy some quality family time.
Swallowing your pride and admitting you need help is the hardest part of getting out of debt, but once you make that decision the emptiness you feel is quickly replaced with hope. One meeting with Christine will put you on the path to financial freedom, so I encourage you to schedule your meeting today.
• Doug first talks about half hearted attempts at budgeting. When we neglect to do something we know we should be doing, this creates an underlying feeling of tension and anxiety. This spills over into our relationships with our spouses or partners and can cause money disagreements and finger-pointing. If you are experiencing these feelings, it’s a sure sign that you need to DO something about it. There are plenty of options out there, including financial coaching, online courses, or reading a good book on personal finance.
• The next thing mentioned is that “Christmas was only weeks away.” Holidays are stressful enough without adding financial issues to the mix. The Smiths were upset because there was no way they were going to be able to do their normal Christmas spending on the kids and relatives. They felt ashamed and guilty that their money habits were going to negative impact their kids. The interesting thing is that the Smiths told me just a few weeks ago that it ended up being their best Christmas ever, because they were more focused on family time and less distracted by huge piles of presents. But it is important to acknowledge that holidays and other situations can influence both our emotions and our actions around money.
• During Doug and Joanne’s coaching session, there were tears shed, and honestly that’s not uncommon. I always have a box of tissues at my desk! The Smith did have some embarrassment over their situation, but I reassured them that the only way to get to a better place is to squarely face the truth of their finances. And anyone who has come to me for coaching will tell you that I do not judge others for their financial messes. I’ve made plenty of my own! My job is to help people, not judge them.
• I find that shame and embarrassment are the biggest barriers to people admitting that they need help with their money. No one wants to admit that they have messed up. Money is last taboo topic in today’s society. People would rather discuss their sex lives than their salaries! But it is important to talk about money and money issues, especially when you are struggling.
• I love that Doug says that they left the meeting with a new found confidence. How did the Smiths go from anxiety and embarrassment to confidence and hope in the course of a 90 minute coaching session? First, they allowed me to examine all of their financial details objectively and make recommendations. Second, I helped them formulate a budget that met their specific goals. Finally, I gave them action items to work on that would start moving them in the right direction.
• It’s very hard for us to evaluate our own financial messes objectively. I know this from personal experience. When I hit financial rock bottom, my Dad helped me through the budgeting process. It’s not that I didn’t know how to do a budget – I had an accounting degree! But I could not look at my bills without being upset. When I saw the $900 Dillard’s bill, that included a present that my ex-finance bought for me and charged on MY card, I was pissed off! But to my dad, it was just one of many in the list of bills that needed to be paid off. He could see things objectively, whereas I was paralyzed by my emotions. Most of my coaching clients are in that same frame of mind when they first come to my office.
• The final emotion that we see here is confidence and that is fueled by accomplishment. I can only encourage my coaching clients and point them in the right direction. This is where the rubber meets the road. The Smiths had to take that financial road map we designed together and start taking the steps outlined on it. Doug even says, “There have been a few bumps in the road, as you don’t get into debt overnight and you don’t get out of it overnight, but with Christine’s help we were able to get back on course.”
• No one does this budgeting thing perfectly – not even me! With every step that the Smiths took in the right direction, it resulted in accomplishments that motivated them to keep going. In our follow up sessions, we would make some tweaks and corrections to make sure the Smiths were on course.
• The fact that Doug & Joanne went from anxiety and embarrassment about their finances 8 months ago, to practically shouting from the rooftops to their friends and family about the successes they have accomplished just has me bursting with pride! Yes, I helped to point the way, but they had to walk in it. The fact they have paid off $20,000 in credit card debt is the icing on the cake. It’s hard to put a dollar value on the feeling of financial peace.
• Yes, you do have to wade through those negative emotions and swallow your pride to face the truth about your financial messes. However, hope and purpose will follow quickly if you choose to get on the path to financial responsibility. Is it worth it? I think the Smiths would tell you a resounding YES!