Left out of the conversation

Left out of the conversation

“Dad would love that!”

That’s what we say now that he’s gone. He can’t tell us, so we fill in the gaps.

The truth is, I was often surprised by what my father loved. But now that he’s not an active part of the conversation… I have to guess.

That’s what happens when you fill in someone else’s part in a conversation. It’s a guess. You don’t actually know.

There are lots of people left out of the financial conversation. Lots of people we don’t ask about which things they find hard, or what they would find most helpful. So even the most well-meaning of us in the financial world, we take a guess instead…

And I would imagine, from the prevalence of financial stress lots of people are feeling at the moment… we’re not always guessing right. 

So maybe, if those groups/people are still around, it would be better to just ask… and start building solutions from there.

Left out of the conversation

A guide and a companion

I’m not all that fond of the word expert. It’s never been a hat that fits for me.

I like the word expertise… because it’s something you have, rather than something you are.

But I think my favourite qualifier when it comes to my job as a financial support is: guide.

A guide doesn’t know exactly what you’ll meet on your journey, but they have an arsenal of tools to help with whatever comes up.

A guide can describe the likely upcoming terrain, and how you can be ready for it.

A guide can help you buy the right gear (and steer you away from the stuff that you’ll never use and just weighs you down).

And most of all, a guide is a companion. Sometimes there is nothing to do. This is something I’ve been struggling with as I look for ways to support my community. I can not restart industries. I cannot replace the income people have lost. Sometimes all I can do is be with them in it, to talk about ideas or commiserate. To remind them that they are doing everything that is possible. Not to say everything will be okay, because I don’t know if it will. But to simply be there.

Left out of the conversation

We all have to raise our prices?

It’s something I’ve struggled with since day one, and I know I’m not alone.

Artists may think that other folks have it easier, I have not found that to be true. Turns out it’s hard to price yourself and ‘get paid what you’re worth’ in lots of fields.

I’m a big fan of people getting paid what they’re worth. I’m a big fan of artists getting paid what they’re worth. Let the record show I am a big fan of this.

But I also struggle when I hear:

‘You have to raise your prices’.
“You’ll find people who CAN afford you”

Because that means leaving people behind.

And in finance, that means that the same groups of people always get left behind. This is hard to live with.

There are no solutions here. I work with people every day to better understand their expenses and what income goals they need to support them. Sometimes increasing income is absolutely necessary, but let’s not pretend it doesn’t come without a cost. Let’s not pretend that we can have it all.

If we are worth thousands of dollars for our services, some people will struggle to gain access to those services. This is part of the equation for many of us, not just the very present imposter syndrome at the heart of a low ball offer.

Raising prices IS complex, and deserves careful thought about what you’re trying to do, what you can afford, and what is the best option when balancing your own care and the care of those you serve.

Left out of the conversation

Certified Financial Planner

Last fall, I passed my exams for the certified financial planner designation. This month, I was approved to start using those letters behind my name.

For most of you, this will not seem like a big deal. In truth, it probably isn’t. It’s one of many financial acronyms that people in the finance industry carry around.

But I’m quite proud of it.

I’m proud of it because it was not easy for me. Passing those exams and coursework was difficult. I know I’m not supposed to say that. I’m supposed to pretend like it was easy. But it wasn’t, and I won’t… and I think that’s an important thing to say.

I continually find myself needing to translate the language of finance into something I can more readily understand. It’s why I write in metaphors and indirect language so often. That’s not for other people, it’s for me.

Being good at spreadsheets and reading the tax code is not why I’m a good financial coach and planner. It’s a thing I have learned (and am continuing to learn) so that I can become a better coach and planner.

The same is true for all of you.

If you don’t feel at home in financial language, that’s okay. You’re not alone. Remember that the real complexity of figuring out your money is in the big questions of ‘what do I want to do’ and ‘how do I decide what’s most important’. Remember that you can learn things that don’t come naturally to you.

… and remember that once you do, it will feel all the more satisfying.

Left out of the conversation

Saving is not a real thing

Now, let me preface this thought by telling all those who are good at saving that they should probably just stop reading this now. You’re good. No need to change or reframe anything.

But for people who have always struggled to save anything…. guess what?

Saving isn’t a real thing. It’s all spending! All money is meant to be spent… the real question is WHEN do you want to spend it.

Is this money meant to be spent this month?
Is it for something next month?
Do you want to spend it at Christmas?
Do you want to spend it on a new car in a couple of years?
Is it for spending when you’re 80 years old and you no longer want to take bullshit gigs to make rent?
Or is it for your kids to spend long after you’re gone?

We need to stop treating saving like a super power. We need to stop letting it be a virtuous act that those who are good with their money have, and we don’t have.

It’s not a different thing. It’s just a different way of looking at the same thing.

The habit to practice (no matter how much money you make) is to stretch out your spending over a longer timeline. Introduce the thought that some of your money is for spending later down the road.

Don’t ask yourself: is this money for spending or saving?
Instead ask yourself: when do I want to spend this money?

And see if that starts shifting what seems possible.

Left out of the conversation

Stewardship vs Ownership

My wife and I bought an old house (at least it’s old for Canada).

Before we moved we thought a lot about how nice it would be to have ownership over a space. Finally we would be able to make choices on painting and knocking down walls.

And that’s true.

But more than that I think about the history of this place. That we are just a part of its history, and if we do a good job… we’ll send it off towards a bright future with other families.

This is our house. But it’s also a house that belonged to many people before us. I would love it to belong to many people after us.

It’s a shift between seeing something individually and seeing something collectively, and I think it’s an important one. It’s a thought that I’d like to take into all other areas of ‘ownership’.

What happens when we expand our thinking around our assets and incomes past ownership and into stewardship? How does that affect that way we look at our portfolios and our tax returns?

I don’t know, but it’s something that I’ll be thinking of a lot in the coming months.