A Money Coach in Canada

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The problem with being a money coach is like anyone claiming a measure of expertise, you feel like a total idiot if you ever mess up yourself. But like everyone, life happens and I missed something for the first time in years – it’s RRSP season so I’m going full-tilt with clients and the bank; my dog is mysteriously scratching himself constantly and I’m totally worried (not fleas. allergies?); I came down with a brutal cold, and my cash-flow system, which usually runs like clockwork, derailed a tiny bit, with ugly results.

My clients all know I use, and recommend, a simple banking structure to keep things running smoothly.

  1. One main account into which all income goes, and from which all regular payments (mtg, insurance, internet, phone, hydro, car etc) get debited.
  2. A second spending account for discretionary items like groceries, entertainment, clothing. This gets regularly funded a set amount from account #1.
  3. A third high interest savings account for those ‘extras’ throughout the year – vacations, christmas, emergencies, vet bills (one sub account per item), also funded regularly from account #1.

The beauty of this system is you don’t have to think too much.

#1 means your bills are always paid on time.

#2 means you don’t overspend (since there’s a set amount available, and no more)

#3 means the tough spots are accounted for, and funds ready when you need them.

Trouble is, if #1 derails for any reason (and it’s an easy one to ignore since it’s all automated) you can, well… bounce a cheque! And in my case, since I work for the bank part-time, I don’t pay fees, so don’t keep $1000 cushion. I had spare funds in there, but this was a large pre-authorized payment.

Why did it derail? Simple. I forgot to deposit a couple cheques from clients. Just forgot in the craziness that is my life these days.

It’s embarrassing and frustrating — but keeps me humble. And I never claim to be perfect, just someone who’s (generally!) learned a number of tips and tricks to manage my money effectively and thoughtfully.

Hopefully this won’t happen to me:


Last night at 18:30, I heard 7 shots. The last time I heard that sound was 2am on a Sunday morning.  I went back to sleep, thinking I’d been dreaming, and later discovered an innocent 19 year old woman had been shot while trying to stop a fight outside the nightclub a half-block away from me.

So I knew what I was hearing last night.

I flipped off all the lights, and crept onto my balcony to see what was going on. Just like we hear about in the news, people simply kept walking by. I don’t think it’s because they were horrible people, but rather, innocent, and it didn’t occur to them that those ‘pow pow pow’s’ really were gunshots.

Within 8 minutes, cop cars were everywhere. I mean: Everywhere.

I threw on a coat and ran outside.

Just down the street the police were setting up police tape – I got there soon enough that I was inside the tape, but I hung far back from the scene.

The scene:

Very nice looking beige van, parked.

Passenger door wide open.

Man (middle aged? caucasian? slightly overweight?) lying dead, face up, on the sidewalk, feet by the passenger door. Blood soaked all over the right side of his chest.

Women with blood on her coat too, weeping.

It was a ‘targetted’ killing. Presumably, he owed drug money.

I ‘get’ why people become addicts, and how that would totally trash a life.

But I don’t really ‘get’ why people become drug dealers — most of the dealers barely earn minimum wage. Then as you survive it for a while and maybe move up — you can buy a van, I guess, and maybe a reasonably nice home? But the price of participating in the ‘industry’ must be so apparent: chronically hiding from the law, the complexity of laundering the money, and the constant fear for your life.

Christ once asked the piercing question: What does it profit you, if you gain the whole world, but lose your own soul?

I just wonder. Why did that man get into the business? Did he get caught into it? Or was he attracted by … by what?

Last week I received the following e-mail. Boy, it brought back memories.

the screHello Nancy, I know you are not a shrink but I’m wondering if you can make any recommendations for times…like I am currently having…when I’m losing control of my emotions over the financial situation. What do you recommend?

My response: Dear ___________,

your note -esp the frank ‘help’ in the subject line – reminded me of what I used to go through about 15 years ago.

I used to call them “demon nights” or “night terrors”. The anxiety ran so deep I could not think clearly and I was panic-filled with dark thoughts about everything regarding my finances.

I don’t know if you’re in that dark of a space, but I can say this: on a personal note, I absolutely unequivocably do not experience that horror show anymore. At all. Full stop.

Neither will you, with time, as you take action to really take hold of your finances.

I’m not sure what thoughts are going through you, but I can almost guarantee that they are not coming from a grounded, thoughtful perception of reality, but rather, like in former times for me, from some other place. This is not to trivialize some of what you’re up against – there is definitely work to be done – but you are Not (!) up against anything that is insurmountable. You WILL be ok. You Will find your way through to a time when things feel consistently more calm.

So, take some deep, slow breaths. Give yourself permission to believe what may currently appear unbelievable: that you will emerge to another, stronger, powerful place in your relationship with money.

Give yourself permission to believe your current thoughts are not reflective of reality (*please* don’t take offence at that – I’m speaking out of my own experience) and that in fact things are brighter than they currently seem.

Write out a list for yourself of things you can do to help you feel better (meditate? exercise? meet with a friend? reading?)

Hope this helps take the edge off,


Any readers out there who can relate? How did you handle your anxiety? Do you still experience a lot of anxiety?Any tips for bringing some calm into the situation?

This week I spent some time with clients who are facing their finances straight on. While they are very courageous and ultimately will experience good results, they – like many clients – are experiencing significant anxiety and grasping for solutions.

Seeing the clear picture and experiencing a high level of anxiety can lead to drastic thoughts like:

  • I must sell my house
  • I must move back in with my family
  • I must withdraw from my retirement funds (if they exist)

Feeling like we must do something usually only heightens the intensity and negative emotions about the situation. It squelches our ability to come up with workable solutions.

A much more productive and appropriate response is to ground ourselves in the certainty that we have options.

Then, we need to flesh out what those options are.

There is always a spectrum of possible responses to any given situation. What are the various points on the spectrum and which ones could we live with?

homeless.jpgIt never ceases to amaze me: so many of us seem to live in fear that we don’t have/won’t have


When I probe my clients for more specifics, there is usually a lack of groundedness – not to mention, lack of concrete data with which to draw any conclusions about having, or not having enough.

Some of my clients earn over $100K, with or without assets to speak of.

Others earn in the $30-K range.

I personally, have managed to live reasonably well on … less even than that(!) over the past years as I’ve built my business – and yet, life has been incredibly meaningful, my work is absorbing, I have had countless rich times with friends and people I love, my intellect has been stretched in ways I haven’t experienced since my UBC history days (I still miss you, Prof. Straker , RIP; Your history/philosophy of science class blew my mind), and in the mix I had a number of wonderful getaways too. In short: life can be good and full on a lot smaller budget than we think! (although see my other post about Enough Already with living frugally.)

So the questions remain:

1. What creates our respective barometers of ‘what constitutes enough‘?

2. Why do so many of us feel like we don’t have it?

(Isabella, are there connections to our eating disorders here? Bargainista – I bet you’d thrive well regardless of your income. Krystal – do you ever struggle with a generalized sense of not having enough? or does mapping it out so clearly for yourself keep you grounded? David, I bet Pivot Legal has some thoughts on whether or not we have ‘enough’! And LA – does your midlife Millionaire’s group of women discuss/feel like they have ‘enough’?)

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