She Said: Coming to Terms With Numbers
I would love to tell you that because I took Calculus in high school that I love numbers. I wish I could tell you that because I took statistics in college and advanced statistics in grad school that I love numbers. I wish that I could tell you that I have never made money mistakes, that I grew up in a home that taught me how to manage money and that my corporate career (managing LARGE budgets) translated into success with numbers in my own business and life.
But I can’t.
I really can’t tell you any of that. Here are the facts:
**My dad was a saver. My mom was a spender. My dad saved by having everything taken out of his check before my mom got it to “budget”.
**”Budgeting” in my childhood home was based on the concept that if you could afford the payment…you could afford the item. Hence, debt, credit cards and lines of credit were standard operating procedures.
** We NEVER talked about money. In fact, I can remember asking how much my dad made and was told it was none of my business. Hmmm…really hurts you when you are making career choices when you don’t know what certain types of jobs make.
**I was “gifted” with a job (through a business connection of my dad) for my 16th birthday. From that day on, I had to figure out how to pay for all my school related fees, all my clothes and gas for my car.
**As college approached, I realized my parents couldn’t and wouldn’t pay for my higher ed. So, guess where that led? No guesses? Oh, come on! Okay…yes, I took out a BUTT LOAD of student loans and worked full time through both my under-graduate and graduate school.
**While I was managing department and division budgets for my employers, my personal finances sucked. Literally, sucked. Don’t even get me started.
Can you relate? Any part of that sound like your life?
Let’s flash forward to 2010. The house of cards came crumbling down. Literally, credit cards that is! In 2010, I learned some really hard truths at age 40. I didn’t “own” my career. Someone else owned my career and they decided that I was easily cut despite amazing business results. Everything I thought I “owned” was owned by the bank or a credit institution. My “retirement” because the lifeline that kept our household afloat while both my husband and I looked for new employment and dealt with the fall out.
I swore I would NEVER be in that position again. That decision led to a lot of hard moments. New skills had to be learned. New tools had to be utilized. Hard conversations were had. The journey was long. In fact, it is a journey that we will always be on.
Let me give you a few of the major mile markers on our financial journey. They may be beneficial to you.
Admit what you don’t know and then go learn it!
I had to finally admit at age 40 just how much I did NOT know about the world of money. I had to finally just take responsibility and find ways to learn. I read LOTS of books. Everything from simple budgets to debt repayment and credit score improvement. I found mentors and trainers that explained investments, the stock market and even real estate assets. I also had to learn to ASK QUESTIONS. I realized that if I was always worrying about what other people THOUGHT about my questions…then I was letting that STEAL from me the ability to change my financial life for the better. Funny thing is…I found they didn’t think my questions were stupid. They were so excited to help and teach. Knowledge is the first step to power.
Just as in business or training for a marathon or even planting a garden, the first real step is to just DO something. That could mean cancelling all those apps that I forgot were auto-billing me every month. It could mean having the hard conversation that the NFL ticket won’t pay off our debt so it has to be cut from the budget “roster”. It was also about unsubscribing to all the emails that were telling me that a Once-In-A-Lifetime sale was happening and I better take advantage. (until next month when the next Once-In-A-Lifetime sale happened) I finally realized that just like getting healthy can start with something simple…like drink more water; getting financially healthy can start with something as simple as eliminating ONE unnecessary expense. There are so many ways to implement step by step financial action plans from @daveramsey to @thebudgetmom. Ultimately, it is about just taking one step…and then another…and then another.
Financial Board Meetings are critical.
Once a month, my hubby (and business partner) sit down and review ALL the numbers. Bank Accounts. Budgets. Yearly Tracking Overviews. Calendars. Household Needs. Supply and Food Resources. When this process started, the meetings were weekly. Then every other week. Now, once a month. The conversations aren’t always pretty. They are rarely exciting. Sometimes they do have moments of celebration. But these meetings do a couple of things:
- We talk, compromise and agree. We get on the same page.
- We share our knowledge. When we need to repair or fix something…my hubby knows more and does the research on cost. When we are planning a holiday or shopping, I usually have the better knowledge of the best prices and sources. We are better together. We do the same in our business. I understand the tools and needs related to our clients. He understands the tech needs and resources. We can make better plans when we have more info. (If you are single, find another single that can give you solid, wise feedback. Sometimes the second set of eyes helps)
- We are in respond mode vs. react mode. When we built our emergency savings (we call it the Life Happens fund), we were setting ourselves up for a RESPOND plan. If the car broke down, we could respond vs. react. (which usually looked like we wanted to pull our hair out and cry) Really this has been one of the most anxiety reducing side effects. We aren’t in reaction mode anymore. We have a plan on how to handle emergencies. We also have a way of saying “not right now” because we have to truly look at the budget before making a spur-of-the-moment purchase.
Money is more than Money…there are stories and feelings there!
I wish I could say that money is a cut and dried “thang”. But it isn’t. You are walking around with money “stories” and feelings. Some you gained from others…and some you have made up on your own. For the longest time, I felt anxious even after debts were getting paid off and money was in savings. I realized I STILL believed a story that I was failing and that I was not able to handle life moments. I had to work on consciously teaching myself a new story. The new story talked about how much I had learned and the debt that was GONE! It talked about my new savings habit and how I haven’t really had any “true” money emergencies in a long time because there is a plan! It took time but I got to the root of those “stories” and changed my feelings. Don’t forget this is an important step. Otherwise this one area can sabotage all the learning and planning and communicating! (in fact, this is usually the place that sabotages ANYTHING in your life or business)
It is all tied together!
I can usually predict a business owner’s personal skills, knowledge and stories with money by how their business is running. When they don’t have good billing practices. When they don’t have good accounting or budget procedures. When they don’t have a good plan for larger investments or purchases in their business. When they haven’t cost compared in their industry and their pricing is a little “wonky”. When they don’t track their marketing results. When I see ANY of these…I know they also struggle with their personal finances. I know you THINK you can run your business with a strong financial foundation. HOWEVER, all those stories, feelings and your lack of knowledge is hurting your business financial life as well as your personal finances. While they are separate, they mirror each other in many ways. So, time to get it together!!!
Let me just leave you with one word: Possible.
It is possible to have a strong financial life in both business and life. But you have to face the fact that you are responsible. You are responsible for what it…and you are responsible for what will be.
Time to change your story.
Time to improve your skills.
Time to change your money life.