A Money Coach in Canada

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Sorry, Secret fans, but I think a lot of The Secret is a form of distorted thinking called Personalization. Personalization is the tendency to relate all events around you back to yourself, taking excessive responsibility for those events. There is a lot of messaging out there that our thoughts can create events. While I’m all for decluttering beliefs that limit us or hold us back, and I’m all for embedding hope and vision and self-confidence into the core of our being, I’m also all for a realistic acknowledgement of our context and its ability to have its way with us from time to time.

Here’s an incisive (and somewhat humourous in a dark sort of way) vid that says it so much better than I can. And I hope I haven’t driven half my readership away.

photo credit: Gee01

We should set aside money for RRSPs.

We should not have any debt.

We should have and stick to a budget.

We should be saving our money.

We should care more about managing our finances.

and then there’s real life.

Look. There is no Law Of The Universe out there that we are breaking when we don’t have it all together with our money. There is no “guilty” verdict hanging over you, or anybody. Really. If you are not saving, if you are in debt, if you are overspending, you are not guilty of anything.

Having a bunch of Shoulds in our heads about our money usually just creates a sense of failure. This is not helpful! It does not inspire us! And it incorrectly positions us in relationship to money. It makes money our taskmaster rather than vice-versa. (It can also be deadly on relationships if one partner has a set of shoulds that they believe apply to the other partner as well!)

This particular pattern of distorted thinking is pervasive when it comes to managing money. It’s time to declutter our minds of the shoulds!

Here’s how.

Next time you find yourself feeling guilty or tense about how you’re handling your money, ask yourself what internal should you are not living up to. Then remind yourself there is no law. There is no standard. So where did the should come from? Only you can answer that. Explore it a little.

Replace that should with weighing your various options about how to handle your money in that particular area. For example, rather than I should save more for retirement your options available could include:

  • Having a nest egg (or a bigger one) for when I retire would feel good and I’d probably be really glad I had it when the time comes.  But living life fully right now feels better.   So I am giving myself permission to carry on as I am.
  • I really wish I could put aside more for my retirement.  However, I am setting aside the amount that is workable in my current situation which includes paying down my mortgage, getting my kids through school, and paying off my student loan.  When it makes sense, given my overall financial picture, I will increase more.
  • If I do not set aside anything for my retirement, things could get pretty ugly at that time.  I know that.   Just because I’m not doing anything about it doesn’t make me a bad person.  It will probably bite me in the ass but that still doesn’t mean I’m a bad person.
  • When I really think about it, I would actually like to save more for my retirement.  I could increase my contributions by $50/$100/$500 a month.

Last, do a simple bait-and-switch.  Next time you have a should change it to a could. That is a word that is full of possibility.    I could set aside more for retirement.  I could be out of debt.  I could have and stick to a budget.  I could….

ps – If you’d like to get more involved with your money, pop over to my biz website, Your Money by Design. It’s still in beta and I have a whole lot of users testing it but you’re welcome to join in at this point!  Because it’s still in beta it’s no charge – that will change for folks who start after May 2011, so dive in now!

photo credit:  416Style

If so, I can assure you you’re in good company. It’s not something I’ve ever had to deal with myself, but lots of my clients have. And it’s very specific – a fear that when they are old, they will not have enough to meet their basic needs. That they will end up eating cat food or trudging around with a shopping cart, living in abject poverty. It’s time to declutter your mind from this kind of thinking about your financial future!

These fears are a form of distorted thinking and this one is called Catastrophizing.

It can take two forms.

One occurs when something negative or unpleasant happens to you financially (say, you go into debt, or you don’t get a raise, or you overspend) and your mind quickly exaggerates that into worst case scenarios: I’ll never get out of debt so I’ll get kicked out of my home, I’m never going to have enough in my RRSP/pension so I’m going to have to work ’til I die, I can’t handle money and won’t have any left when I’m old.

Another occurs when you hear bad news about the economy, or someone who really is facing severely difficult times. Your imagination runs wild and you envision all kinds of horrible circumstances for yourself in the future: If they were a decent, middle-class person and that happened to them it could happen to me! The economy is going to collapse and I’m going to lose everything too!

The effects can be crippling – you feel doomed before you even try to ensure your old-age is reasonably secure! You lose sleep, you may suffer full-blown anxiety attacks, and you may divert energy towards a panic-driven reaction to a future that hasn’t even happened yet. It’s exhausing!

If you are prone to catastrophizing, here are some steps you can take to help.

1. Name it as catastrophizing. Pause your imagination, and remind yourself that it is a known phenomena and it is distorted thinking.

2. Ground yourself in the present. Take several deep, slow breaths. Feel your feet on the ground and your hands by your sides and your head on your shoulders. Take note of your surroundings – the sounds, the smells, the people around you. Bring yourself fully back to your present, which is where you belong.

3. Ask yourself silly questions –> Did I inherit a crystal ball? –> Is it true that everything I think is going to happen always happens? Do I have that super-power and someone forgot to tell me? –> Should I call CNN and tell them what is going to happen? Of course, ask these questions with a gentle affection for yourself!

This is the second of our financial decluttering series which focuses on our messy thinking. Last week we explored the distorted thinking pattern called filtering. Check it out if you are prone to thinking the worst of yourself and your finances rather than appropriately acknowledging the good aspects of you and your money. And come back next week for ideas on combatting another form of distorted thinking.

photo credit: AnnieGreenSprings

Do you typically think the worst about your financial situation?

If so, that’s a common psychological phenomenon. It’s known as filtering.
Filtering means you take the negative or upsetting details and focus on them, while filtering out the positive aspects.

For example, clients of mine often focus excessively on their debt compared to their assets. While debt is worthy of attention and counter-strategies, it should be put in appropriate perspective as a part of overall net worth. Otherwise, debt can assume the drivers seat in financial decision making. This is usually counter-productive.

So here’s a financial decluttering task should you choose to accept the mission.
Identify an aspect of your financial life that may be upsetting you out of proportion. Do some “talk back” by articulating a corresponding positive aspect.


  • “I have $25,000 of debt AND I HAVE $80,000 EQUITY IN MY HOME”

Photo Credit: SparkleIce