Clarifying Values as a Path to Financial Wellness.
By: Dr. Marika Geis, BSc, ND
Here’s a sobering reality: Women in Canada earn just 74 cents on the dollar compared to men. Women have longer life expectancies and are therefore more likely to live alone and cash poor in their old age. Despite a new reality where women rely less on their spouses for financial stability (women are earning more, increasingly educated, and demanding more control over their financial futures) women remain at a disadvantage for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the absence of a model that resonates with our values and not just our bottom line.
Personally, one of my biggest obstacles to financial freedom aside from the very legitimate debt that I racked up going to school, was the fact that I lacked a clear plan to tackle it. This was largely due to the shame I felt about my situation. I was mature, responsible and capable but the tape that was playing in my head was: “How can you be this far behind? You’re in your 40’s, you’re still paying off debt when you should be saving for retirement” and on and on it went. It didn’t help that when I went to banks to try and consolidate all my student debt, I was told repeatedly that I was high risk because I didn’t have enough in the way of assets (because I was in school) and “sorry, no, we can’t help you”. Ugh. How discouraging. I was almost ready to resign myself to a revolving door of income and debt with no control (“maybe this is how some folks just need to manage?”) Thankfully, my brain would not accept that and I went on the hunt for help.
Enter money whisperer, Zena Amundsen certified financial planner, Divorce Financial Analyst, and Cash Flow Specialist. Having endured her own financial challenges, she listened to my entire story and assured me that my situation was FAR from unusual and in fact typical. Can I tell you what a relief this was to hear? Her empathy and compassion allowed me to move past my shame and get to the task of addressing my student debt. I realized I wasn’t alone; I wasn’t irresponsible for having made the choices I did and I didn’t need to judge myself so harshly for the vulnerable position I found myself in. Accepting my reality without judgement left me with more bandwidth to structure my cash flow instead of worrying about it. 5 years later my student loans are now paid off. Yay me! BUT… life happens and I have found myself in a position where I need her unique advice again except that this time, the goal isn’t just tackling debt, it’s to make sure that I am financially ‘well’.
To gain more financial literacy, restore our financial identity, and to pass along healthy attitudes about money along to our children, we need to reframe some of our attitudes surrounding money – to that end Zena’s book “The Heart of Your Money: A Woman’s guide. How to Create Your Family Financial Values System and Take Control of your Money”, outlines a clear and practical method that helps us unpack some of our unspoken beliefs about money. Using her own experience, she creates a different language to help women understand how and why they spend their money the way they do and encourages them to evaluate whether or not these habits align with their values. Exercises such as considering your money memory and how it influences your spending habits, your money lessons and money shame allow us to mindfully observe our conditioning around money and become more comfortable with taking charge of our financial health, crisis or no crisis.
As someone who has gone through this process, I can tell you that it isn’t easy. It’s been humbling and at times uncomfortable (I mean, who really wants to curb their habits?) but I can tell you that at the end of the day, while my circumstances haven’t changed, my perspective sure has. There’s less angst about spending money so long as it’s in accordance with my values, I don’t judge my circumstances nearly as harshly; many people are in the same predicament as I, I have less worry about the future as Zena assures me there is still time to build my retirement fund, and most importantly, there’s still room to enjoy my life and pursue my passions. Less bandwidth on worry means more energy for living. My only wish is that I would’ve come across this book about 2 decades ago. No matter, my kids will fare better than I. I see this as being required reading for my household! I can already hear my kids groaning LOL.
Click on the link below to see Zena in action….