Here is an excerpt from my book, Managing My Life — Managing My Money. It is currently being updated for a second edition. I hope you enjoy it.
Money Coach Shags
Money. It’s a simple five-letter word, yet the understanding and comfort most folks have with money is much less than satisfactory. Most people feel that the need for money manages their life rather than them managing the benefits and value of money in their life. Think about it – if you’re uncomfortable or dissatisfied with the way you (and others significant in your life that have an impact on your lifestyle) handle money, this feeling most likely crosses over into other key areas of your life, particularly with respect to employment income and benefits.
Money is a powerful tool when used appropriately and when understood. The role it plays in each of our lives is so unique and yet so common. Money can be used for positive means. It can also be used in destructive ways as well. When our feelings and actions around money seem out of control, we often feel that our entire life is out of control – that’s how powerful money and the emotions we attach to it can be.
Further, money is a servant: its purpose is to support one’s dreams, goals, hopes and aspirations. To be a proper servant, it needs a proper master, and that’s what you could become as a result of improving your financial literacy and your relationship to and with money. We can learn to be good masters and stewards of the money that comes our way by learning, both on our own and from others.
But money is only an exchange medium. That is, it’s the thing we use to place value on both the items we need and want, as well as the time and talents we share with others in order to obtain the money we use. It’s a gift, in a way…a gift we receive from others who feel we’ve added value and meaning to their life – from our talents, energy, vision, and actions. And it’s a gift we give to others for the things they do for us. For example,when you go to the grocery store, you exchange the gift you received from your employer (or clients) for the gifts the grocer stocks in the store that you want to take home and use to incorporate into your life.
Understanding Money is Important
It’s important to learn good money management skills, as they will enable you to feel more in control of the forces money plays in your life. You don’t need to be an expert by anymeans. But you do need to develop an understanding of how to use money in ways which are in concert with your values, your motivations, your goals, and your objectives. You need to understand how to evaluate the adequacy and appropriateness of the advice you receive from “money professionals”. You also need to understand your money habits and attitudes, the origin and nature of your financial personality, and your levels of financial literacy and financial emotional response.
People who do not participate actively in planning their lives simply are visitors to their lives. Most “visitors” cannot handle money well as they have no grand design to pass their money on.
I’ve often said that “money has nothing to do with life – but everything to do with living.” And since we often only get one chance to be right or wrong with major money decisions, the best thing we can learn is, when there’s a
need to turn to financial professionals for guidance, not to take their advice at face value…rather use their advice to explore the alternative courses of actionwe face to create a clearer vision. Then, with our own insight into our comfort zones,we can make decisions in a more holistic way, understanding how it may impact our lives for today and for the future.
Planning is Important
Why is planning important? Because without setting down a vision for what you want to obtain from your hard efforts at bringing money into your life, you will never know if you’ve reached your objectives.
Consider the tale of Alice during her visit to Wonderland. At a point in the story, Alice sees the Cheshire Cat sitting on a bough of a tree a few yards off.
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” Alice asks.
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where—”said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go” said the Cat.
“—so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
Consider also the story of Christopher Columbus. You or someone you know may deserve the “Columbus Award” and not know it. Think about it — Columbus left Spain to find the New World. Queen Isabella gave him three ships. But you know what? He didn’t know where he was going, and he didn’t know how to get there. He went along, and months later found himself on a distant shore. But he didn’t know where he was, and he didn’t know how he got there. Well, they set up a camp, and a few months later he took one ship and tried to get back to Spain. This time he knew where he was going, but had no idea how to get there. Eventually he did make it, but by luck, and then he couldn’t even say where he’d been. Thus, he was the first recipient of the “Columbus Award”.
Planning means you are in control. Nobody would build a house without having a plan… nor can we live a life without having a plan. If you have a plan then you know how to deploy your financial resources to your priorities. It’s often been said that one doesn’t plan to fail…rather one fails to plan. Without a plan, you don’t have a vision for where you are going. And while it’s true that if you don’t know where you’re headed you will never get lost, it’s also true that you won’t know when you’ve arrived at your destination, be it physical or be it financial.
Without the basic knowledge of how money works and how to use it wisely, you won’t be able to develop your plan. With such knowledge and the confidence gained through it will come a feeling of control…of managing your money well, and consequently managing the financial aspect of your life. When you also manage the other aspects of your life at the same time, you should have a greater feeling of satisfaction with the way your life is going, as you will be doing all you can to maintain the locus of control. And that brings peace to the mind and comfort to the soul.