For the past 50+ years, I believed myself to be a logical person. Numbers always came easy to me (fitting the Asian stereotype, but it wasn’t until I discovered Microsoft Excel that my world changed I thought I could live my life looking through the algorithms I created in each and every cell. While this skill set is invaluable and has provided me with a tremendous amount of benefit over the years, I’ve recently come to realize that there are other areas of my life that could benefit from deeper awareness.
I have since come to learn that we are truly emotional beings, and while we often think we can make logical decisions based on spreadsheets and formulas, in reality, most of our decisions are emotional. Some of the key works that inspired this understanding was Antonio Damsio, Carl Jung on Emotion, and Gerald Zaltman Harvard Business School.
This understanding exploded my worldview and led me down this current path to help others better understand their relationship around money. While some of this work does happen on a spreadsheet, the deeper work is about finding how we can move towards a healthy relationship with the key element that cuts across our daily lives – money.
We Start with Personal Values
My initial focus will be around these emotions and our “money stories” – those first stories we heard about money (See/read: Bari Tessler). Which of these sounds familiar: ‘money doesn’t grow on trees;’ ‘I’ve never been good with money;’ or ‘my spouse takes care of that.’ Whatever your personal money story is, these money stories have created the foundation to how we interact with money, and before we can even begin looking over the details of your expenses, we want to better understand our values around money and if there are any areas that we can improve upon and lay a new foundation to how you deal with money.
Going Deep into Income and Expenses
Once we establish your core values, we will look at and review your income and expenses in detail. This is the work of learning where your money goes. You have to touch and track EVERY EXPENSE and become intimate with this process. There really is no way around this and you have to be ready to get your hands dirty and sometimes deal with less than pleasant things, but this is the process to a better and more conscious consumer. But you will also learn to conceptualize your income in terms of the value you provide to the community, your company, and beyond.
Learning to Love your Balance Sheet
The last tool I use is the Balance Sheet. It’s simple Assets minus Liabilities statement, but we track it with an eye towards improvement – and this looks different for everyone. You may be going from -$10,000 to -$3,000, or it may be creating efficiencies and evaluating risk tolerances in a million-dollar investment portfolio. Improving your balance sheet is the long-term goal of any financial plan. But this goes beyond finances too, and I will often discuss non-money items that may be a part of the balance sheet, like [example] and [example].
Bringing it Together: Lifestyle Design
The last piece of the financial puzzle, and one that is especially important to me, is Lifestyle Design. My hope is that at the end of the process we understand the importance of money as a tool in life to get us where we want to go. Furthermore, we’ll look at other goals that are not necessarily money based. I’m a firm believer in life balance and focusing on the things you were born to do.
By aligning your environment and your income priorities with your core values, you may find a congruency in your life that will leave you happier, more fulfilled, and hopefully with an exponentially larger number of opportunities and ideas to pursue in your life.