A Money Coach in Canada

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I’m seeing red.

Few things get under my skin like companies making mistakes and treating you like an anonymous non-entity even as they screw you.

Some time ago I decided I wanted 2010 to be my year of Health and Wellness. Prevention Magazine has great articles and tips on eating well, and good exercises. So in the spring of 2009, someone bought me a subscription as a birthday present. I have loved it (hat tip, editorial staff).

The same individual offered to renew it for me this past spring. Naturally, instead of opening those Imperative RENEW NOW!!! SAVE 30%!!! letters, thinking it was being taken care of, I just chucked the envelopes unopened.

Until today. I don’t know what prompted me, other than it was weird to be receiving them still, to open it. I did. And discovered a nasty note saying I was overdue in payment and “my account” would be sent to collections.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

Dear Rodale Press: if you aren’t organized enough to track who is receiving gift subscriptions and handle your accounts accordingly, why the hell are you attempting to offer gift subscriptions?

a. You have my name and with a bit of checking into my blog, you can find out where I live. That is enough information for you to fix this. Please do.

b. While I’m on a rant: some time back I ordered an excellent book from you. But in the order I *very clearly specified* that I did not want to receive further promotional material from you. I HATE JUNK MAIL. Nevertheless, you send me your junk mail. I don’t get it. I am was a potential future customer. All you had to do is back off and let me choose. Why did you diss me in this matter?
Your brand is so done for me now.

Love and wealth Photo credit: Selva

A story.
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There was an executive who was financially set – he was textbook Financial Planning 101. His employer provided a great pension (defined benefits, even), his financial advisor had multiplied his RRSP investments, and he owned his penthouse condo in Coal Harbour outright. Then the company wanted to replace him with someone younger who was more in touch with the online market, so they gave him a kick-ass buy-out plan. The golden handshake. As in $1M if he signed the Non Disclosure Agreement and would go away quietly anywhere but to a direct competitor.

After the initial shock passed, and some C-suite-level outplacement appointments, it was time to deal with reality. He thought to himself, “What shall I do with the $1M? My RRSPs are maxed out. I have my pension. What to do now with my life, and what to do with this $1M, what to do…” Finally he came up with a plan. “I know. I’ll buy the condo on the floor below and renovate so I have double the space, and I’ll finally buy that place in Bali I’ve been dreaming about.” Plus, his financial advisor helped him find some legitimate off-shore investments so he could save on taxes.

This made him happy. He said to himself, “Look at how well I’ve done for myself. I put myself through university, I’ve worked hard, I was disciplined with my savings and investing since day 1, and now it’s time to enjoy the good life. I sooooo deserve it after such a stressful career. I won’t return to work; I’m set for life at this point. Now, it’s time to eat, drink and have a great time.” And immediately he went out to buy the best golf clubs he could find and headed for the greens.

But just as he reached the 9th hole God said to him: You Fool!!!! Tonight you’re going to die of an aneurism and then who is going to get all that you have (so thoroughly) prepared for yourself?
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So much for the protestant work ethic, eh?

You may recall I’ve started a series, somewhat lite and somewhat maybe not, about the “7 deadly sins” and the “7 virtues”. The story above was originally told by Jesus (who had a lot to say about folks and their money) and my hunch is that it gets at the deadliness of pride. Not as in healthy pride over a job well done, or an appropriate inner sense of confidence, but this kind of pride:

As I mulled over the story above, here’s what I noticed. The man’s not being condemned for having been successful. The investments and the condo are not the issue. He’s being called a fool because he focused solely on his own good life without acknowledging that he’s part of a larger context. In fact, nobody else at all factors into his thinking.

  • It doesn’t occur to him that he was wealthy because he was born in Canada instead of Rwanda.
  • It doesn’t occur to him that his shrewd intelligence was a sheer gift, further enhanced by an affordable (in his day!) university education.
  • It doesn’t occur to him that his inner drive to work hard and succeed was due in part to a whole set of experiences in his youth which led him to believe, deeply, that success was achievable.

And ultimately, it doesn’t occur to him that he and his money had and should have any kind of connection to anyone besides himself. His pride led ultimately to a fundamental isolation. Scrooge, redux (or vice versa more accurately).

What a contrast to the joyful and life-giving generosity of the likes of Warren Buffet who is giving his fortune to charity as he himself lives on a salary of $100,000.

The point for you and me is: We too are also in the process of building up our wealth. To get quite personal, as I’m in the highest earning bracket I’ve ever been in, and as my own portfolio has plumped rather nicely, I’ve noticed just the subtlest creep of pride, as if somehow I deserve my current (operative word) blessings, rather than, well, happened to seize a few good opportunities that presented themselves. So the question is, will I, will you and I, take care to tilt in the direction of integration with our larger contexts, perhaps even a Higher Power, in happy generosity? or will we congratulate ourselves as our nest eggs grow even as we imperceptibly detach from the global, human, world we inhabit?

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I had a gentle thought today.

So often we try something, try again, and try yet again because we know we *should* do it, and it’s the right thing to do … but we just don’t pull it off. Or maybe we do for a brief, exhilarating time, but it doesn’t take. We fall back into our old ways and end up back where we started. Or worse.

In our financial lives, it might be going deeper into debt after nearly paying it all off. Or it might be another spending binge that leave us really, really strapped for cash after having been so.very.careful for months. Perhaps it’s overspending on someone (a lover? a child?) who we know, in our heart of hearts, won’t appreciate the sacrifice it meant.

When I had my financial turnaround all those years ago, I was lucky. My path was reasonably straight forward. I started tracking my spending, took control of my debt, learned how to invest and although I’ve had some lean and wobbly times, generally I’ve moved forward financially without too much tumult.

But my health – getting exercise, and managing my weight – is another story. I don’t look particularly overweight, but I can assure you I am not where I want to be nor where my doctor emphatically told me I should be. Since his blunt words 15 years ago, I have tried multiple times (Weight Watchers. Jenny Craig. Not eating after 7pm. Training for the Sun Run) to trim down, only to hit an all time weight high this past January. I was 20 pounds heavier than when he’d said I needed to lose at least 15 pounds.

I guess I felt how some of my money-coaching clients felt when they’d hit a debt threshold, or had a particularly bitter argument with their partner over money. I was discouraged and frustrated as hell.

For the umpteenth time I decided to TRY AGAIN. Since January I’ve been tracking my calories on a little app called LoseIt. And I made exercise a priority. A bit of Nia, Spin, Snow-shoeing and now the Couch25K. My goal was an easy 1 pound a week.
9 months later, I’m 9 pounds lighter. Merely 1 pound per freaking month after more hardcore exercise on a consistent basis than I’ve had in my LIFE, and often requiring miserable walks in extreme cold to the gym. And many’s the week when I’ve been meticulous with my food, except for one evening – one! – when I was invited out for beer and nachos, and then shot up by 2 pounds.

1 pound per freaking month after all that effort.

And yet.

I’m 9 pounds lighter.

I AM 9 POUNDS LIGHTER.

And I can now run 5 K in 30 minutes straight and – no bullshit – I’m enjoying it.

And I’m starting to enjoy meal planning and trying new recipes.

And I do believe this is becoming a lifestyle change.

And it’s starting to seem probable that I will keep this up and wear size 10 dresses yet again.

If it takes another year before I get there, that’s cool. This isn’t about looking good in a bikini for a trip to Mexico. This is about me wanting to be as fully alive and energetic as possible both now and way into the future.

So, if you, like me, have tried or are trying or have had it with trying to change a habit, change a lifestyle (and of course I have a particular soft spot for those of you who grapple with your money habits) I fist bump you from Yellowknife and encourage you to continue on with me. It may be 1 pound a month instead of a week, or it may be saving $10 instead of $100. So be it. We’re getting there.

Oh my. What a day I’ve had.

First I learned that the Economist is on Tumblr. I mean, I’m not even on tumblr yet.

Barely had I picked up my jaw from the floor when I heard via Darren Barefoot that Freakonomics is being made into a movie and the trailer’s already out on Youtube:

After convincing myself for over a year that handwashing my dishes isn’t bad – and even an opportunity to practice some zen – I’ve given up.  I’m going for a dishwasher.  I’d been eye-ing Danby’s Countertop model and before shelling out the $300 thought I’d do some product review research.

What I found on youtube was the most New-York-ish, what-I-needed-to-know review I’ve ever encountered.  I could only *wish* all reviews were this forthright, funny (headsup: there is one vulgar moment in it part way through) and used the same kind of real terminology (this thingy. WhateverThisIs) you and I use.  My favourite part is when the vacuum cleaner comes into the Danby Dishwasher review.  It is SO what I can imagine myself having to finangle.

And if you don’t laugh at some point … I don’t know what to tell you.