2 Ways for Visual Learners to Draw Up their 2020 Plan

2 Ways for Visual Learners to Draw Up their 2020 Plan

I’m a pretty visual person, so as much as I like scrawling a list onto a yellow legal pad there’s something about seeing things actually drawn out that can make them much clearer in my mind.

Now, let me get something straight… I’m not a good drawer. I am an enthusiastic drawer… but not a good one. But luckily that’s not a prerequisite for either of these exercises.

The goal is to get pen to paper and think through the next 12-month period of your life.

Exercise 1: Design your Year (or your next 5)

This exercise I stole from the wonderful book “Designing Your Life” by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. They run a course at Stanford, which applies design principles to your life.

Their exercise encourages you to draw a version of the next 5 years. In fact, it encourages you to draw 3 VERSIONS of the next 5 years. One on your current track, one on a completely different track, and one on a track that might seem completely ridiculous to you right now (but you would secretly entertain if I promised no one would laugh at you).

I loved this exercise, and I’ve adapted it with my financial lens.

For those of you that want a better sense of the upcoming year and what it will throw at you financially, you can draw out the next 12 months using their method, sketching in major events, things you hope to do and even adding a few notes about potential costs, slow periods of work, and/or things you need to save for.

For those of you looking for ideas and more specific direction, you can sketch a few different versions of your year (or even do a 5 year sketch). Draw out a version on your current trajectory, and then sketch something wild that interests you… it’s only drawing after all… the stakes are pretty low.

Exercise 2: Colour Blocking out Your Work/Life Balance

This exercise is lovingly stolen from a mentor of mine that I work with at Spring Financial Plans. She recommends that instead of starting off the year by filling your calendar with work commitments and goals, to instead start out by blocking off your ‘vacation’ time (whatever that means to you).

This simple image really helped me see the shape of my year: when I planned to take some time off, when I needed to take time off to get over my jet lag, and when there were long periods with no time off (which I know from experience probably isn’t a good idea).

It also gives me the permission that I so dearly need to take time away from work because it’s baked into the plan right from the beginning.

There’s something about seeing it laid out in in one block with different colours that really helps me connect to it in a different way.

This is done using Google Sheets, but there’s no reason you can’t grab a few markers and do something similar on your calendar or favourite planner. Whatever is most comfortable for you.

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.

Dating Between Income Brackets

Dating Between Income Brackets

My partner and I have vastly different income levels. On average, he makes in 2 days what I make in a week.

He’s also extremely generous, both with presents and with paying for outings. The presents are more clear-cut. They tend to be…how do I say this…gifts we will enjoy simultaneously. If we broke up, I think they would walk with him to be enjoyed with others.

The more complicated part for me is the paying for experiences.

We both love to go out and do fun things—food and travel are both big ones for us. And he usually pays.

He might call me and say “Hey. Ya hungry? Wanna go out?” and I’ll go “Yeaaaah!” Then I’ll have this internal deer-in-the-headlights moment where
                                 a) I catch myself hoping he’s inviting me out to a restaurant, and then
                                 b) I feel a crushing wave of guilt, then
                                 c) That moves into a certainty that he can see my hope that he’s offering to treat me
                                     and is judging me as a gold digging princess.

The Resentment Volcano

Now do this awkward dance of “well yes if you’re offering, but if you’re not, I need to go home and have a can of soup.” I’m always scared he’s going to clutch his pearls and be like “were you just assuming I was offering to treat you?! Emily Nixon, you are a monster!” I get worried he feels pressured and then I imagine a future in which his frustration has been building up like a grade school volcano, which then explodes baking soda resentment everywhere.

Recently, I have been solving this problem by saying “Are you inviting me? Because if yes, I would love to, but if no, I need to eat groceries.” It’s working pretty well. Although I’m not sure if in English we actually use the word ‘invite’ in this way, or if I am just stealing it from the French.

Like most people in relationships, I want ours to feel equal, but I know that I’m not going to be able to reciprocate in the same dollar amounts. Instead, I have been trying to even out the number of times we each suggest and plan dates. I invite him to movies that I pay for with credit card points, or I suggest free/cheap activities. (Is going to a protest a fun date…? What if there’s a craft component beforehand?).

But of course we don’t always treat each other. Often we will go Dutch (do people still say that? I definitely learned that phrase from an Archie comic when I was eight.) Sometimes, like tonight, I just have to opt out of activities because they are just outside my budget.

Here’s what I worry about as the one that earns less…

I think sometimes what feels like quality couple time in his mind feels like a financial stress in mine. I worry that me opting out of the expensive event feels to him like I’m saying no to spending time together, and that “we could play board games instead” just feels like a cop-out.

I worry about saying that I can’t afford to attend an event because that money is earmarked in my budget for something else. I’m afraid he will hear “you are less important to me than x, y, or z.”

A year in, we’re still very much figuring all this stuff out. The only thing I think we can both agree on is that talking about it is important. I will continue to very loudly and clearly ask “Are you offering to pay for this or are you suggesting this as something we split?” and suggesting crossword puzzles in the park as a date idea.

Emily nixon

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

How to Build an Account Structure for Self-Employed Creatives

How to Build an Account Structure for Self-Employed Creatives

If your self-employed (and even if you aren’t) here are some accounts you should think about having

A tax account:

If you make self-employed income you should have a savings account for your taxes. If you can’t afford to put away a lot, put a $1 in every time you make income, but have a space for it. Once money starts rolling in you’ll be grateful you’ve build this into your structure

A business spending account:

Having a separate place to spend from for your business makes things easier. If it’s a chequing account you’ll have your own business debit card that you can use for expenses in the moment. You’ll also be able to better tell what money is specifically for your business (without stealing it from your rent).

A personal fixed expenses account:

A great way to think about sorting expenses into different accounts is ‘like things go together’. Why putting all your fixed expenses in one account works is because it’s a number that doesn’t change from month to month. You know that if you put $3,000 in that account, then all your bills will be paid. You also know that if you only have $2,000 there on the 1st… that you need to find some more money. Keeping it separate also helps the stress of accidentally spending money that’s earmarked for a fixed bill.

A personal spending account

The perfect pair to your fixed expenses account is a separate spending account. You can use this for all your other monthly spending (food, transportation, movies, Pokéman cards). If you’re using a debit card for all that spending you’ll be able to easily check in to see how much money you have for the rest of the month. It will help you answer questions like “can we afford to go for dinner tonight?”

A series of savings accounts for annual expenses

Everything that isn’t a fixed monthly expenses or a general monthly expense can have a separate savings account. Yup… you can have that many savings accounts. Name them after the thing you’re savings for. Call them ‘Christmas $50” or ‘ Health $100” and then put that amount in them every month (or as often as you can). Even if you can’t fully fund them every month you’ll be able to easily see how much you have set aside for that purpose. It will help you answer questions like “how much can I spend on Christmas this year” or “Can I afford to go on a vacation”.

Download a blank version of this worksheet here

 

How much should I put in these accounts?

That depends on your own numbers. You can go through some old exercises of ours to get an idea or you can just pick some numbers and experiment (not for fixed… that will have to be the same).

Try putting $200 in your spending account and see how long it lasts.

Experiment and see what works and what doesn’t, and then adjust and add accounts where you need.

Which banks should I be using for this?

Again, no right answer… but I am aware that using bank accounts like this can really up your fees.

Go back to the work we did last week and see how much your accounts are costing right now, are there ways that you can reduce those monthly fees? Do savings accounts cost a lot at your bank?

One option is always to use an online bank such as Tangerine, PC Financial or EQ bank. But make sure to check with them as they sometimes have limits on the number of accounts you can use or perhaps won’t have the spending choices you want.

Always go back to what tools you need to spend and save… and then compare the costs of getting that in order to see what’s worth it to you.

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.

‘Clipping Coupons’ Takes Time (Lots of Low Income Earners Don’t Have It)

‘Clipping Coupons’ Takes Time (Lots of Low Income Earners Don’t Have It)

There’s a real tone of distaste and disrespect that people who consider themselves financially literate use to describe people who are struggling, especially with their cashflow.

Even in it’s best and most well meaning form – the ‘tough love’ approach – I really don’t like it.

Now, part of that is about me and my problems with conflict, but part of it is the way we pretend to know everything about some else’s life.

It’s funny how you can know something somewhere in your mind, but until you come face to face with it… you don’t really internalize it.

That’s been the case since I started to work with people who struggle with cashflow, especially those that fall into lower income brackets.

The biggest thing that I’ve learned is that my clients work so hard. They work multiple jobs and insane hours. They work and they work and they work.

And most of them don’t have time to clip coupons….

What happens when you’re short of time, money, and energy….

Cashflow problems are painfully simple when you cut down to the bone.

You’ve got to spend less or earn more.

But that simplicity really doesn’t do much to represent how freaking complicated that is… especially for people who have next to no time and energy to problem solve those things.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m super busy… it’s hard to find time to grocery shop, cook, and ‘bring a lunch’.

Clipping coupons, finding deals and ‘buying in bulk’ also go onto the list of things that are great ideas, but hard to apply when your short on major resources.

And if you try to make more time, or find moments to rest… that means you’re making LESS money. Not great for the cashflow formula.

I think wider scope is needed when we think about solving these problems

The cashflow formula is too simplistic, especially for people living in on a lower income.

Yes, it’s cold reality is one that needs to be recognized, but when trying to come up with solutions we all need to think outside the box.

It’s not just money that needs consideration. It’s time, and it’s energy.

Because every shift of a budget item creates a greater demand on one of the other two, and if you you have any hope of making a monthly financial plan that works… it needs to be realistic.

It will be harder to figure out, but I don’t think that’s a surprise to anyone who’s actually living this reality.

They know it’s hard, but the vibe they get from the ‘financially healthy’ makes them second guess that.

Don’t.

It feels hard because it is hard.

The balance is more than just ‘spending less’ or ‘learning to be frugal’, and it’s going to take time and a whole bunch of energy that you don’t really have to change things.

It’s not impossible.

But let’s stop pretending there’s a simple solution.

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.

What Do You Want: A Family or to Sing With an Orchestra?

What Do You Want: A Family or to Sing With an Orchestra?

To be a full time artist/singer or not. It’s a decision that’s filled with trade-offs. Trade-offs that are really hard to quantify since they vary from situation to situation.

But a lot of the time you hear creative folks phrase it as a really binary choice.

I remember a friend of mine, a wonderful opera singer, put it this way:

“It all comes down to what you want more, to have a family or sing with an orchestra.”

I heard her say that during my undergrad and it really left a mark. For the last 10 years I’ve been carrying around this belief that I was choosing the orchestra and not choosing a family… because I couldn’t have both.

Except that didn’t track.

I met singers who did have families. In fact there’s a proud history of opera babies out there. Their lives might look a little different, but there are definitely models to follow.

Clearly it wasn’t that simple.

 

The beliefs we carry around define what we think is possible

You can’t have a family and be a full time singer.

You can’t be an artist and have a day job.

You can’t be a financially stable freelance artist.

I’ve believed all these things.

If I’m being honest, there’s still part of me that clings to them… no matter how much evidence I build to the contrary.

And if you believe them and that belief has led you to building a life that you’re completely satisfied with… that’s awesome.

But for lots of us these beliefs are limiting.

We look at them as ‘facts of life’ and forget that they are, as the director Alison Moritz says: “the problems we were born to solve.”

 

You’re a rebel… it’s time to rebel

I know singers who travel the world with their kids, and others who have partners that stay home while the other one travels.

I know really interesting artists who don’t make a lick of income from their art.

And I know artists who max our their retirement accounts, have a 6 month emergency fund, and are set to retire right around 65.

People are doing it because they didn’t accept the classically held beliefs in our industry.

It’s crazy that we’ve got a whole business full of people who like to colour outside of the lines, rebels, and yet they accept the confines that have been put upon them.

We don’t have to be different to change everything.

In fact, we need to unleash everything that makes the creative industry great.

 

Diving into the trade-offs

I’m not saying you can have it all.

You can’t.

There will always be sacrifices, but you have more power to set what those sacrifices are.

I’m more and more convinced that the real power comes from being clear on what you want and, more specifically, what you want MOST.

I want a lot of things. It’s not a problem to write down a list.

What is a problem is prioritizing that list … because something has to be first. Something has to get the most energy. Something has to be more important than something else.

And the clearer you can be about what big things are most important for you, the better you’ll be able to decide what trade-offs you’re willing to make.

The better you’ll be able to decide which battles you want to fight.

The better you’ll be able to start redefining those tired old tropes in our business, and start painting your own future.

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.

Debt isn’t a goal, it’s what’s standing in the way

Debt isn’t a goal, it’s what’s standing in the way

Money isn’t about money.

That’s what I wish I could communicate better to the legions of people who really don’t care about their finances.

Paying back debt might not be exciting for them.

Saving for retirement doesn’t give them a sense of Christmas morning level thrill.

I want to tell them that I honestly understand where they’re coming from. Those things aren’t fireworks and puppies for me either.

Financial practise is not fun for me because I love numbers… I love it because it’s a gateway to a whole bunch of other stuff that I care about way more (like fireworks and puppies).

“I just want to get to a place where I don’t have to think about money”

That used to be my greatest wish.

How do I get enough money to just not have to worry about this stuff anymore.

At what stage can I afford to block this out of my life forever?

But now I think I was thinking about things in the wrong way. To me, money isn’t a goal in itself. Bank balances don’t provide fulfillment.

Money is a gateway to other things that matter way more.

The five things that I want

I have a rotating list of goals and values. Sometimes they’re specific – like a vacation or business investment. Sometimes they’re more general values – like ‘family’ or ‘adventure’.

They’re the five things that I want to be working on right now.

They’re the five things that ideally my time, energy and money are going towards.

They’re the five things that matter right now.

That’s what money is about.

The stuff that’s getting in the way of the stuff you want

And this is why people are always circling around to things like ‘debt’.

Debt sucks up tons of money from right now to just tread water with interest payments. It blocks the gateway between your cash and your goals.

Debt reduction isn’t necessarily a goal in itself. Most of us aren’t super enthused about paying off debt. Debt becomes a major focus because it’s taking a bunch of the capital that we could be using on the stuff that gets us actually pumped up.

Like 5 days on a beach, a drink in your hand… and a head that’s blissfully thinking of anything BUT money.

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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