Getting clear with money by Alan Heeks

Do you have issues around money?  Most of us do.  And as with work, you may find that what seems to be your problem with money is really a symptom of some deeper habit or belief.  Money is such a big thing in our lives that your attitude to money may mirror basic beliefs about yourself.  For example, if you often feel short of money, does this reflect a belief that no-one values you, you’re not good enough, you have to struggle for everything?  Do you have problems about money in your personal relationships, or with your boss or business partner?  If so, dig deeper to see what it’s really about: perhaps two of you are competing to get enough love, power, recognition, and finance is simply the currency you’re measuring with.  Although your money symptoms, like serious lack of it, may look bad, don’t start here: use the money pressures to motivate you to get down to root causes, to clear the old emotions, and change the negative habits.

Peter Koenig, one of the best teachers on money I have worked with, points out that there are far more taboos on disclosures about money than about sex in our culture.  Think of your friends and even work colleagues: you probably know a lot more about their personal life than you do about their money.  In my men’s group, it felt like a bold breakthrough when we actually shared with each other what income and capital we had.  Because of these taboos, you may not have much awareness of your beliefs and habits about money.

One common belief about money is poverty consciousness: a sense that there isn’t enough money to go round, that you don’t deserve to have much.  Maybe you believe it’s morally wrong to have money, or that you shouldn’t be richer than your parents, or that having money will provoke jealousy and hostility from others.  This may be linked to believing you are a victim: that you are at the mercy of outside events and other people, that you can never get enough of whatever you need – money, love, and more.  There are also people who struggle with having wealth, who feel guilty because they have more than others, who don’t know how to balance spending on themselves with giving money to help the starving millions and the rainforest.  Whatever your emotional baggage about money, invest time to lighten the load.  You need to reach a stage where your decisions about money are led by clear thinking and a code of values you have chosen, and not by floods of muddy feeling.  When you believe you are getting toward this level of clarity, use the practical tips below.

Practical tips on money

These really are tips on a very large iceberg of information.  See Resources for lots more.

–Lower your breakeven: this means reducing your outgoings, so that the minimum monthly income you need is less.   Major ways to do this are: move to a smaller house so you free up capital or reduce your borrowings; find a way to pay off other debts, especially credit cards; make lifestyle choices which mean you spend less.  There are several benefits to this strategy: one is that you have more freedom and power of choice, since you don’t need so much income.  Another is that a less expensive lifestyle will almost certainly be more environmentally sustainable.

–Plan how to meet your long-term money needs: Take a thorough, thoughtful look at your needs and wants for money right through to the end of your life, and evolve a plan of how you are going to meet them.  You may need quite a lot more information and expert help to do this, but it’s up to you to take the initiative and ensure it’s done well.  Include in this plan provisions for medical costs and residential care.

–Understand your future income sources: The pension field is complex, but you need to know what should be coming to you: from pensions and other investments.  And although this is a delicate subject, ask the questions and get clear if you are likely to inherit money from your parents or others.

–Shop around for good advice: Finding truly impartial, objective financial guidance is hard.  So many advisors, even those who seem independent, may have ties, or bonus commission payments which distort their advice.  You need to devote time to finding the good advice you need: ask friends, do a web search, interview at least three potential advisors.  And ask direct questions about how they make their money, what happens to commissions on investments they recommend, and so on.  Beware of ‘magic bullet’ money-making schemes which seem too good to be true: they are!

–Know what is happening to your money: Understand what your savings are actually invested in.  Who is managing them and how, what standards they operate to, and who is making money from this process?  Realise that you have choices, for example in using ethical investments.

–Balance your needs and others’: Try to find a fair balance in how you allocate your spending among different demands.  You want to live comfortably, but can you share some of your income to meet the needs of other people, or the many other problems we have on our planet?  In doing so, don’t just give money away blindly: have some connection with the people or projects you are helping.

Taken from from Alan Heek’s forthcoming book

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