A Money Coach in Canada

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Some things you can’t undo.

Here’s such a story. Judas was one of Jesus’ innermost circle. The gentle teachings of Jesus blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth, let the little children come to me, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven; the healing of paralytics, women with severe menstrual problems, lepers; the miraculous feeding of thousands with loaves and fishes; and oh yes, the gutsy confrontations, calling out the BS of kings and priests alike — all these, all these and more, Judas had heard, seen, tasted. And presumably he believed.

What inner demons drove Judas to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver (about a quarter $Million in today’s terms) remains a mystery. But betray he did and both he and Jesus ended up dead; Jesus by the hands of the authorities, Judas by hanging himself, overcome by remorse. Some things you can’t undo.

Who do we betray for money?

Are we betraying our employer’s bottom line every time we advance our own interests on the workplace at the expense of a coworker?

Are we betraying animals every time we purchase the less expensive non free-range, non organic meat?

Are we betraying ourselves every time we gamble (play with) our money?

Are we betraying our partner when we browbeat him or her into a particular course of financial action?

Are we betraying Jesus all over again (for those to whom that matters) by acquiescing to Mammon (monetary systems that are unjust, that perpetuate economic power imbalances, or that hurt Creation) instead of overthrowing it?

Photo Credit: Muffet

Are you a go-getter, someone who sets goals and works passionately, or doggedly, or step-after-step towards them?
Or are you a go-with-the-flow, “what’s meant to be, will be” person?

This 2012, in my middle-age, I’m attempting to shift from the former to the latter. And I invite you to consider if you perhaps should, too.

It ain’t easy.

Not at all.

If done deeply and well, the latter isn’t simply about being easy-going. It’s certainly not about being blase. Rather, it requires an inner restraint and a holding back from engineering circumstances, or attempting to, frankly put, impose our ideas and desires on life…or people… or our finances. It requires a capacity to carry tension over an extended period.

It ain’t easy.

Not at all.

But I am certain that I need to adopt this stance, and root myself deeply in this stance, and I’m also certain we’d be better off as a culture if more of us did the same. The pay-off? We situate ourselves more appropriately in the bigger scheme of things. We are more aligned with reality. And while that may contain no greater guarantees of obtaining the life we want, surely it is a step away from delusion, and distracting ourselves from reality, and a step towards truly engaging with the circumstances, or people, or financial situations in which we find ourselves.

But we have our hopes and our desires don’t we?

So what to do, what to do, when there’s a gap between reality squarely faced, and our tender heart’s longings?

Downton Abbey (the smash hit series by BBC) demonstrates how to handle this gap, this tension, very well.

There are two particular story arcs, that of Mary and Matthew and another of Mr. Bates, which require a great tension to be carried for well beyond what we think can be borne. All of the characters have a deep need for something, or someone … but they have a clear understanding of their very real environments and circumstances, and what is possible and what is not possible to grasp for themselves without doing harm to other parties or simply the greater good. So they courageously and calmly and resolutely hold themselves to account to a bigger vision, one which respects and acknowledges the bigger picture and they restrain themselves from grasping.

We do not know how those story arcs will end, but we do know that the characters, by their restraint, are likely avoiding disaster for themselves and people they care about even as they hold out hope. And hold out hope.

It ain’t easy.

So. You and me and our money – the topic of my blog, after all. Here’s what I’m pondering. So often, our money goes towards that which will give immediate release or relief to us (sometimes even under the guise of responsible behaviour, like un-sustainable approaches to debt reduction). What might happen if all of us instead learned to hold out hope for our financial desires, but only within a context of clearly understanding and accounting for the circumstances in which we, or our neighbours, or women in Africa, find ourselves? What if we developed capacity to carry the tension, the gap between what we need and what reality can offer, for extended periods of time? How would that affect our wallets? How would that affect our inner sense of well-being? How would that affect the world around us?

James is a current client working through my online Money Coaching program. Here’s what happened when he completed module 2. It wasn’t easy. But it was good.

Dear Moneycoach:

Wow, what can I say… First of all, Happy New Year!

Speaking of the new year, I can tell this is going to be a year of growth for me in many aspects, including of course, the financial. Wow Nancy, going through modules 1 and 2 of your program, I have felt a whole set of emotions, going from excitement, to fear, to shock, depression, shame and now hope and possibility.

As I wrote to you before, I began with excitement, knowing that I will finally have tools in my hands to be able to be free from financial anxieties. I went through module 1 and that was fast. I noticed I had three credit cards and I took one out, so my wallet currently has two credit cards, the ones with the least credit limit. I had little problem with that.

Module 2, now that’s a different story. First, I unconsciously and consciously avoided going through it. But you know what they say, it is precisely those things we tend to avoid, that when finally undertake them, we experience the most growth. I think I avoided going through it because I felt fear of what I might find out.

Once I got a hand of my bank statements and started adding things up in your spreadsheet, I was shown a clear picture of why I have been stressing lately. I was shocked! I was shocked to see that if I tried to pay more then the minimum of the credit card balances, I wouldn’t have much cash left for me for the whole month. From there I went to feeling quite depressed and ashamed after realizing how careless I have been. I clearly had not been loving myself. But I do now, and once I have the big picture, I have realized that with a little effort, I can have a better grasp of where my money goes, and make decisions. I actually feel quite encouraged now, I know that this is the year I turn it around.

Thank you for devising this program and I can’t wait to get on with module 3. If I were to make a suggestion, I would make the meditation around money available throughout all the modules. When I was feeling all depressed, I felt I was needing something like that to help me reassure me that I’ll be fine.

FInancially, hopefully, yours,

James

Every flippin’ corner in my dtes Vancouver hood I’d be asked, “spare some change?” or worse, told some drawn-out bs story first before being asked.

It’s a dilemma for anyone with half a heart (if you simply don’t give a damn when the destitute on the street corners ask you for your change, you need to puzzle for a while then grow your heart two more sizes).

“They have soup kitchens and social assistance programs, and giving them change is just going to enable their dependency and probably will go straight to drugs”. That’s what I said to my softer-hearted cousin when she visited.

But over time I learned that it wasn’t that straightforward. Sometimes my change really did go to a slice of pizza that may have been the only protein or hot food they’d get that day. Sometimes the soup kitchens weren’t open (like Sunday mornings, because all the faith-based places weren’t open!). Sometimes the access to social assistance was so freaking complicated what little energy the individual could muster was sucked dry during the first (crappy pay phone) call to the 1-800#.

So then. I started giving out change if I had it, and dignify the exchange (somewhat) by leaving it entirely to the individual to use as they saw fit. Sorta like the rest of us do.

But I think I just heard a better answer.

What we can say with confidence is that we are to give something to everyone who asks – dignity, attention, time, a listening ear. Sometimes we may give money, sometimes not.

Sounds like a pretty Christ-massy sort of response to “can you spare some change” to me.

I’ll start, minimally, by not being pouty when some of Yellowknife’s folks (often inebriated to avoid hells I don’t know about) crowd in the local post office entrance or bank machine areas.

This is so weird. Twice now this year, I’ve gone to a church as a visitor and the topic was … being wise with money.

Anyway, when I was recently in Vancouver, I went to my radical and wonderful home parish in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and the priest on deck for the homily, Jessica (yes, a woman priest, YAY and because it’s a High Anglican church it’s “Mother” Jessica), gave the homily, and I have to say it challenged this money coach.

It challenged me to make tithing a central aspect of my finances rather than a one-more-aspect. By that, I mean I want it to become my new barometer of my financial health. This is part of my re-invigorated money-coach-heal-thyself programme to which I committed.

Previous barometers were:

  • ability to meet my monthly obligations
  • building up a nest egg
  • buying a home
  • able to live a more luxurious lifestyle
  • having savings for nice things

But I want a new barometer.   I want my new barometer of financial success to be:  Am I managing my finances in such a way that I can give 10% of it away?  To organizations that feed the hungry?  To organizations that advocate for structural change, social justice, so that folks aren’t hungry in the first place?  To initiatives that will help the planet?  And of course, to my parish which has been such a rich blessing to me over the years?

I don’t do that right now.  I give a certain amount on a regular basis, and beyond that, on one-offs throughout the year.  But I can, and desire to, make it a central aspect of my money management to give 10% away on a regular basis.   If you want to listen to the homily – it’s about 6 minutes – it’s below.  If you want just the key points, here they are:

1. Tithing is in response to a great vision, not a commandment

2. Occam’s Razor – the simplest model is probably the best one  (10%)

3. Tithing can offer freedom from anxiety

4. It can invite God’s healing into our relationship with money

5. It’s a practice of gratitude

Mother Jessica’s Top 5 Reasons to Tithe from St. James' Anglican Church on Vimeo.

Photo Credit: More Good Foundation

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