The Cost of Stability & The Hidden Life of Trees

The Cost of Stability & The Hidden Life of Trees

I’ve been reading a lovely book The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. Apart from being a fascinating and romantic look at how forests work, there are sooo many amazing financial metaphors.

… now… you know I love a metaphor… I LOVE IT SO MUCH… and as I was reading today there was one that I had to share.

It has to do with what happens when a young tree loses the support of “a mighty mother tree”. These giants offer support in a hundred different ways including sending nutrients to the smaller trees as well as literal physical support.

When they fall, the younger trees are left to manage for themselves and learn how to be stable on their own.

“The process of learning stability is triggered by painful micro-tears that occur when the trees bend way over in the wind, first in one direction and then in the other. Wherever it hurts, that’s where the tree must strengthen its support structure. This takes a whole lot of energy, which is then unavailable for growing upward.”

GAH! METAPHOR!!

Learning stability often starts with pain:

I have the incredible privilege of growing up with the support of a ‘mighty mother tree’. My family helped me not worry about money for the first 20 years of my life.

My process of learning how to be stable started as I moved out on my own. And it included a whole lot of painful mistakes.

I named a lot of that pain failure. I beat myself up a lot for how I ‘really should know these things’.

But now I feel differently.

So many of the people that I work with are craving stability. They are at all stages of their lives and careers, but most of them are feeling the pain.

But that pain isn’t failure. It’s a message of what needs to be strengthened. The reframing of that is a powerful message for me, since instead of something to ignore and be ashamed of, it’s something to notice and bring into the light.

“The thickness and stability of a trunk, therefore, build up as the tree responds to a series of aches and pains.”

Cool right?

Increasing Stability Often Halts Upward Growth (for a little while)

Stability is the first step towards growth, but it doesn’t always feel like growth in the moment… in fact it can feel like you’re standing still.

For the tree it means deepening roots and increasing the “thickness and stability of the trunk”. For us it means restructuring resources, building a cash flow buffer (getting one month ahead) and taking care of the annual expenses that can cause debt.

Spending 6 months building a one month cash buffer instead of making big payments on your debt can feel super frustrating, but it’s creating the stability that will make paying off your debt for the last time so much more possible.

We only have so many resources, and investing in stability usually means that there’s less for our other big goals. From the outside it can seem like we’re not making any progress at all, but it’s the progress that needs to happen if we want to… *sigh*… grow up into strong and tall trees.

… sorry for that last one

Want to start getting control of your money? How can I help?

Chris Enns

Chris Enns

Financial Planner/Opera Singer

Money never came naturally to me. In fact... I was a bit of a disaster. I remember (very clearly) what it feels like to be 'financially out of control'.

And honestly, I still get stressed about money... that doesn't stop... the difference is that now I have the tools to deal with that stress.

And those tools are what's made it possible for me to build a life full of the things I want: art, creativity, travel, family and more.

If you want to start getting control of your money I'd love to help. You can start with THIS QUIZ, visiting my GETTING STARTED PAGE or by checking out my SERVICES page.

Magic Time and Magic Money: The Danger of Goal Setting Without a Plan

Magic Time and Magic Money: The Danger of Goal Setting Without a Plan

When I was in Grade 10, my teachers made me a t-shirt that said “Sign Me Up!” with a picture of me in velvet pants prancing like a pony*.

I have always had the bad habit of signing up for more than I can humanly do. I just love the excitement of saying “I can do it!” and seeing the relief in a person’s face. I also love planning grand and exciting adventures for myself.

Last year, I decided I was going to spend December in India. “Great!” I thought. “This is important to me and a manageable goal.” The months went by and I did…nothing. I was still thinking to myself “yup, going to India in December!” But when December came around, I hadn’t done a thing to make it happen. So of course, no trip to India. I was planning with money that didn’t actually exist.

I catch myself doing the same thing with time. I look at a day off and say to myself “I’m going to do laundry, go to the gym, do two hours of meditation practise, write a new draft of a project, cook all my meals at home, go grocery shopping, do laundry AND finish in time to have a dinner date with my partner!”

As if.

Sadly making a goal doesn’t magically make it happen

In the case of my trip to India, I was planning with what I now think of as “magic money”—money that I don’t have and don’t have a plan of how to get it.

In the case of my day off, it’s “magic time”—time that I don’t really have and am expecting to pull out of the ether. In both cases I’m planning to spend a resource beyond my means.

The real danger of planning with magic resources is that either the plan is going to fall through, which can cause feelings of failure, shame and other fun internal states OR you’re going to turn to the dark arts to get things done – debt. Now debt can be a useful tool, but it comes at a cost (like all dark magic does). And don’t even try to tell me that debt is only a financial thing. We’ve all felt the feeling of being exhausted by pushing ourselves too hard – that’s time debt.

The antidote to magic time and magic money is awareness.

When I say yes to something now, the first thing I do is identify what resource I am offering. Is it my time, money, or both? Then, I ask myself if I really have the time or money that saying yes requires.

If not, it’s a magic resource and I need to rethink things. I either need to say no or make a plan of how to find more (work an extra shift a week or cancel dodgeball practise on Wednesday).

Sure, it’s not as much fun as saying “yes” and imagining a version of myself that gets to do every project or travels the world constantly. But it means that I actually get to do some of these fun things by only committing to the work I can handle, instead of saying yes to everything and doing none of it. And maybe that’s the real magic. I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

*I regret nothing about that photo.

Emily Nixon

Rags to Reasonable Community Outreach Coordinator

Emily Nixon is an actor/writer/director/filmmaking Swiss Army Knife. She is also a big money nerd and Community Outreach Coordinator for Rags to Reasonable.

She came to this work after becoming completely fed up with living paycheque-to-paycheque and being too afraid to look in her chequing account. She is passionate about empowering other artists and variable income earners to keep doing what they love and feel confident about their finances.

Email Emily at emily@ragstoreasonable.com

Starting Some Financial Work? Be Gentle With Your Expectations

Starting Some Financial Work? Be Gentle With Your Expectations

If there was one thing I would wish for every person trying to get from … well…. from rags to reasonable…. it would be this….

Be gentle with your expectations.

There is nothing in this work that happens quickly. Despite all the ‘only 5 minute’ talk that is posted all over the internet (I’m pretty sure there’s even some of it on this site)…. that’s not how it works.

You will find truths about your finances (and maybe yourself) that you won’t love.

Maybe there’s more debt than you think….

Maybe you spend more every month than you ‘think you should’….

Maybe you haven’t filed your taxes in 7 years….

Maybe things feel really bad.

Learning those things is one of the first steps… but it’s far from being the last step. Knowing what’s going on is key, but nothing is going to change quickly.

 

Getting control of your money isn’t a ‘one time job’

It’s so tempting to believe that you just need to ‘figure out your finances’ and then you’ll never have to think about this stuff again.

That’s what I wanted to believe.

But how could it be?

Financial work is based on the fundamental question of ‘what do I want’? That is not a question that is answered only once in a lifetime. It is a question that is repeatedly asked and answered. It is struggled with and experimented with.

It’s a super hard question.

This work is a craft, and like any other craft it takes years to gain some kind of competency… let alone mastery.

And here’s why that’s a good thing…

 

You don’t have to get it right the first time (and you probably won’t)

If there’s some grand cosmic one-time money solution for all of us, that’s a hella stressful thing. It means that anything that doesn’t solve everything is a failure.

But when we look at it as a craft we can see failure as an essential part of the process. Of course you’re going to be bad at it… you’re just learning!

That way we can apply our better angels of curiosity and non-judgemental self-awareness to actually figuring some shit out instead of giving up after the first time your budget numbers don’t add up.

 

Take the pressure off and start the process…

It’s not going to happen quickly.

You’re probably not going pick the right strategy the first time.

Your first budget will be a disaster.

And now that you know that, you can stop worrying about it. You can stop worrying about fixing everything in a week (or a month).

You can give yourself a freaking break and just start chipping away at it. One piece at a time. One lesson at a time.

And watch things start to get better.

Chris Enns

Chris Enns

Financial Planner/Opera Singer

Money never came naturally to me. In fact... I was a bit of a disaster. I remember (very clearly) what it feels like to be 'financially out of control'.

And honestly, I still get stressed about money... that doesn't stop... the difference is that now I have the tools to deal with that stress.

And those tools are what's made it possible for me to build a life full of the things I want: art, creativity, travel, family and more.

If you want to start getting control of your money I'd love to help. You can start with THIS QUIZ, visiting my GETTING STARTED PAGE or by checking out my SERVICES page.

Two Ways to Think About Making $30,000 a Year

Two Ways to Think About Making $30,000 a Year

When you don’t know a lot about health, ‘weight’ seems like a really good metric.

And maybe in lots of cases it is (I don’t know a lot about health)

What I find so interesting is that the same weight can feel so different in the body. The scale can show you the exact same number… but sometimes it can feel like a healthy version of you, and sometimes it does not.

I’m pretty sure, with my terrible understanding of how the body works, that it has something to do with the things that are making up that weight. To put it in the most binary way possible: fat or muscle.

It’s not just the number, it’s what makes up the number that plays a huge role in whether we feel healthy or not.

How $30,000 can feel completely different…

If I travel back in time 7 years, I was working at a young artist program and making a pretty decent salary – $1,000 a week for around 30 weeks in the year.

Okay. So it wasn’t a ton of money, but it felt like quite a bit at the time.

$30,000.

Let’s compare that to the last two years. I’ve been going through some transitioning, building up my financial practice, educating the old brain blah blah blah… it’s been a low income couple of years.

In fact two years ago I made around the same: $30,000

Two different years. Two very different feelings. But that isn’t even the half of it.

On the surface I remember very clearly that my first 30,000 felt like a lot. It was my first time making significant money as a singer. It was also paid out in monthly paycheques, which is unheard of in the arts business (at least it is for opera singers). I was taking people out for dinner, and buying all the fancy sweaters.

The second 30,000 felt completely different. Over half of it came from one and a half month’s of gigs. Which meant there were lots of months I was making no money at all. Even though I had a GOOD SYSTEM FOR MANAGING VARIABLE INCOME, going months without the validation of a paycheque made me feel way less positive about my money.

So there you go…. point proven…. income numbers are not created equal, there’s a lot to be said by how those income numbers break down.

And also, I don’t really care about that right now, there’s another level to this whole thing.

Let’s go deeper.

What can $30,000 a year buy you?

So to sum up – 7 years ago Chris felt rich, 2 years ago Chris felt like he was barely scraping by – but you know that I don’t care about how much money is coming in… it’s how we use it that matters. How we use it is a huge factor in how successful we feel about our money.

7 years ago I was pre financial renaissance. I had no idea how I spent my money. I lived by the old code: when you have money spend it, and when you don’t …. live off hotdogs and Mr Noodle.

I finished that year with nothing to show for it. Well… I’m sure nothing is a bit drastic, but since I hadn’t really made clear what my financial/life priorities were, only a small amount of money was getting through to the things that were important.

2 years ago I was in a different stage of my financial technique.

I was able to not only MANAGE THAT VARIABLE INCOME, but funnel it into the things that mattered I’m a little blown away at all the things I was able to do: put thousands of dollars into fixing my teeth, invest another couple thousand in financial planning courses, launch a blog, and buy a new computer and bike.

That’s the difference that a financial technique can make… not necessarily in the amount of income that you make, but the efficacy of every dollar that you have.

Changing everything about how something feels… while not changing anything about how something is

For someone who doesn’t know a lot about money, ‘income’ seems like a really good metric.

And sometimes it is.

But you guys know that income is a hard thing to depend on. And I’m here to tell you that if you’re expecting more income to make you worry less… it won’t.

What’s going to make you worry less is changing the make up of that number. Diving into your expenses and making sure that your money isn’t getting sucked down a black hole or into stuff you don’t care about.

There are a lot of ways to live a $30,000 life.

I’ve lived two options, and there are thousands more.

But the income alone doesn’t determine the possibilities.

You do.

Chris Enns

Chris Enns

Financial Planner/Opera Singer

Money never came naturally to me. In fact... I was a bit of a disaster. I remember (very clearly) what it feels like to be 'financially out of control'.

And honestly, I still get stressed about money... that doesn't stop... the difference is that now I have the tools to deal with that stress.

And those tools are what's made it possible for me to build a life full of the things I want: art, creativity, travel, family and more.

If you want to start getting control of your money I'd love to help. You can start with THIS QUIZ, visiting my GETTING STARTED PAGE or by checking out my SERVICES page.

Doing What You Love is Payment Enough (and other crocks of shit)

Doing What You Love is Payment Enough (and other crocks of shit)

This morning I’m scared of my work.

It’s over there, in my computer, and I know as soon as I open it I’m going to have to face it. And that scares me.

And so to distract myself from the fact that the only thing which will actually help is actually going to open the damn thing up, make a plan, and all that good stuff… my brain has decided to bring up the ever helpful voice that says things like:

“If this was really what you loved to do, you’d love every minute of it.”

or this one…

“When you love what you do, you’ll never dread Mondays again.”

I dread Mondays sometimes.

There have even been weeks when I dreaded Tuesday afternoons and Saturday mornings.

I’ve dreaded them as a singer, as a writer, and as a financial planner.

The type of work doesn’t seem to matter… so is it me?

 

What we believe about work: your ‘true calling’ won’t feel like a job at all

Yup. I’ve got this belief kicking around my head.

It’s something that’s instilled in lots of artists. This feeling that you’re so lucky to be able to do what you do. That everyone else would kill for this opportunity. The idea that most people hate their jobs but YOU get to do what you love.

And doing what you love means never feeling like you hate it and want to stay in bed all day.

Doing what you love is what we should all aim to do, because it’s a perfect world of perfect bliss, and if you’re an artist you live in this world and that’s why no one has to pay you in actual money because you’re already paid in the glory of the moment.

*deep breath*

That’s a ton of baggage to put on ourselves.

I’m sure somewhere there’s a magic arts pixie who dances in the fountains of delight every day and needs naught of the sustenance of the physical world.

But when I was singing full time, that was not me.

And now that I’m splitting my focus between opera and planning… it’s still not me.

 

Hey artists…. other people love their jobs too

I’d just like to add as a note to the creative community… not everyone wishes they were an artist.

I know when we meet them at dinner parties they say: “at least you get to do what you love”… but lots of people do what they love.

In the last 2 years I have met people who LOVE financial planning. And those people say the exact same things that we used to say:

“How lucky are we to be able to do what we love everyday”

And they are. And so are you.

We don’t have a monopoly on ‘living your passion’ in the arts, and that means that we don’t have to live by some other set of rules.

 

Having a job that you love is not ‘all the compensation you need’

Can you imagine someone going up to a doctor, and after hearing her talk about how much she loves her work with patients and the intricacies of diagnosis and treatment, says something like:

“Man, you love it so much, we should be paying you less.”

No. That’s crazy.

Because we’ve already decided that doctors should make money, whether they love it or not.

We’ve actually decided that most career paths and ‘callings’ should make money, regardless of how much satisfaction they gain from the job.

But not the arts.

Nope.

In the arts, we’re lucky enough to ‘just be doing it.’

Well… bully for us.

 

The creative community has to change what we believe about ourselves

The hardest thing with a conversation about money in the arts world is that so many of us have adopted beliefs about the work we do and the people we have to be in order to function in this world and be accepted.

Lots of those beliefs hold us back.

And this is a big one.

For years I honestly didn’t realize that lots of other people love their jobs. For years I didn’t recognize the equal standing of a ‘calling’ to be an artist and the ‘calling’ to help someone with their finances.

Both are incredibly challenging and fulfilling lives that people live with passion, creativity and absolutely love.

But the fact that we believe one calling is worth paying for, and one calling is payment in itself is a major problem.

And no one outside of our community is going to change what they believe about us, until we change what we believe about ourselves.

Chris Enns

Chris Enns

Financial Planner/Opera Singer

Money never came naturally to me. In fact... I was a bit of a disaster. I remember (very clearly) what it feels like to be 'financially out of control'.

And honestly, I still get stressed about money... that doesn't stop... the difference is that now I have the tools to deal with that stress.

And those tools are what's made it possible for me to build a life full of the things I want: art, creativity, travel, family and more.

If you want to start getting control of your money I'd love to help. You can start with THIS QUIZ, visiting my GETTING STARTED PAGE or by checking out my SERVICES page.

Money lessons learned from terrible late night food decisions

Money lessons learned from terrible late night food decisions

The following post was originally written in early June as exclusive content for the R2R email list. If you don’t want to wait 6 months for the good stuff… you can subscribe HERE

It was 11pm … and I was staring down at a plate of cucumber slices and half an avocado.

This was not what I wanted.

But a major fail for late-night-wants-to-eat-junk-food-Chris was a huge win for day-time-Chris-who-planned-on-eating-healthy-this-week.

Because if I’ve learned anything about health – physical or financial – it’s that there are certain times in my life when I have no ability to rationally make the healthy choice… and given the chance… I will spend/eat my way to sickness.

I call those times … the bad decision zone.

My late night bad-decision zone

I got myself to a plate of late night cucumbers by an ingenious trick… I didn’t buy any junk food.

So when I got to that late night bad-decision-zone where I just want to eat something full of salt, fat, or sugar (preferably all three)…. there was nothing there.

And so even though I was always going to make the worst decision possible, I made sure that the potential decisions weren’t actually that bad (the bad part of that healthy plate is the amount of cream cheese I ate with the cucumbers as a ‘spread’… still not bad… but… it was excessive).

It doesn’t always work so well, but I’ve found the act of recognizing my bad habits has allowed me to start figuring out how to work around them (at least… when I want to).

Travel planning and spending thousands of dollars on baked goods

The other bad-decision-zone I’ve been forced to recognize in myself has come up as I prepare to leave on a month long trip later today!!!

I was sitting down on the weekend and working through a budget, and became kind of daunted by the cost of travel.

It was so tempting to adjust some of the categories to make myself feel better…especially what I was planning on spending on things like ‘food’.

But here’s the thing….

I know I’ve got a real bad-decision-zone when it comes to food and traveling.

Whenever I start getting hungry, all bets are off. I want to the tastiest looking thing that’s within eyeshot.

So how do I balance the want to eat great food while I travel… and my want to not come home with $3000 of extra credit card debt?

Mitigating your financial bad-decision-zones

The first step is always awareness. Here’s what I know:

1. I want to eat great food while traveling
2. I cannot make rational financial decisions about that food when hungry

So how do I plan around that?

With my original junk food problem, I limited the decisions I could possibly make, and the same general principle works here.

A daily food budget.

Which is both generous enough to fulfil my travel goals of trying everything that looks tasty… but limits me from making insane choices that I’ll regret later.

I’ll carry it in cash, and only bring the daily amount with me when I’m exploring for the day.

That way there’s a maximum amount of damage my bad decisions can make.

Bad-decisions are hard to manage in the moment

It’s impossible to argue with hungry-travel-Chris.

Once I’m in one of my bad-decision-zones it is way too late to do something about the inevitable bad choice.

That’s why planning and self-awareness are so important when it comes to health.

Don’t pretend like you don’t have bad habits. We all do. Just know what they are, and make some plans to make sure that you don’t sacrifice what you want in the big picture (financial health) for what you want in the moment (all the tasty treats).

Decide how much splurging is okay… and how much would be really damaging to your big goals.

That way you can put all the bad-decision-yous in a cage. They can go as crazy as they want… but they won’t be able to tear the whole house down.

Chris Enns

Chris Enns

Financial Planner/Opera Singer

Money never came naturally to me. In fact... I was a bit of a disaster. I remember (very clearly) what it feels like to be 'financially out of control'.

And honestly, I still get stressed about money... that doesn't stop... the difference is that now I have the tools to deal with that stress.

And those tools are what's made it possible for me to build a life full of the things I want: art, creativity, travel, family and more.

If you want to start getting control of your money I'd love to help. You can start with THIS QUIZ, visiting my GETTING STARTED PAGE or by checking out my SERVICES page.

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