A Money Coach in Canada

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My money coaching practice has no room in it for judgement. Many of my clients do enough of that for themselves – frustrated, embarrassed, referring to themselves as “no good with money” and “irresponsible”. The fact is, we all screw up in various areas of our lives. Some of us repeatedly get into lousy relationships. Some of us can’t get along on the job. Some of us chronically drink a little too much booze. Etc.

And some of us have dropped the ball regarding our finances for reasons ranging from pure exhaustion (managing our money is one more demand on our time) to hopelessness (so why bother).

Over the past four years of access to privileged information – how people handle their money, their worries, the foibles – I’ve learned that it’s rarely as simple as, “well, here’s the smart thing to do, so just do it already!”

This has expanded to macro economics, and my politics. I’ve learned to dig a little deeper on issues like poverty. It’s not usually as simple as, “well you seem young and healthy, so get a job already!”

Today’s National Post gave some discouraging news: 1 in 8 canadians live below the poverty line. Now before you dismiss that as likely a generous ‘poverty line’, here’s how it’s defined:

  • for 2 people, a combined income of $21K
  • and for a family of 4, a combined income of $32K.

For my fellow vancouverites — can you imagine a family of 4 surviving on $32K in this city?

I cannot absorb that fact, and think it’s somehow ‘their fault’ and ‘they’ should get their act together. I’ve seen how complex it is for those of us with plenty of money to ‘get our act together’. And just like my great joy, and privilege, is to do what I can, compassionately, to equip and empower my clients around their finances, politically, I’m re-aligning towards: which politicians are oriented to equipping and empowering the poor? the marginalized? those among us who for whatever reason don’t seem able to do what seems obvious to those of us on the outside?

This is our last week of Eat at Home Month! Like most participants, I’ve fallen off a couple times, but got back on.

I’ve modified my original goal to account for my Real World (ie. I can eat out once/week on an ad hoc basis).

Several times I’ve reverted back to thinking ‘I’ll just grab a sandwich at a deli’ and then caught myself, made a lunch or supper, and I figure I’ve saved well over $100 bucks in just three weeks. Yahoo!

On the topic of food — I often struggle between what is indulging in luxury (and I have nothing against Audis!) and what material beauties I can feel good about owning/striving for, given the masses of human lives at stake because they don’t have nutrition or proper shelter. Tonight (enroute to the Coen brothers new movie No Country for Old Men, fyi) I lusted after a beautiful vehicle, with accompanying jealousy -nay, covetousness – towards the 20-something driving it.

I had this thought: what if I created a list of luxuries, ranging from $100+jean, dinners out, audis and permitted myself to purchase them only after first donating an equivalent figure to a social justice cause? What would happen if I lived this as a lifestyle? Would I feel a deep sense of satisfaction, or would my lifestyle be chronically hampered and I’d be bummed out?

In all the shopping hype across the border, a quiet revolution may go un-noticed.

November 23 is Buy Nothing Day!

poppy.jpgA friend once posed the bizarre but intriguing question, “what would happen if funerals had the same status as sex in our society?” – ie., we were as obsessed with funerals as with sex. Magazine covers would feature gossipy photos of coffins. Our swear words would relate to death. People fantasized about various ways of dying.

The fact is, of course, that our culture minimizes all thoughts of our mortality – almost in inverse extreme to our obsession with sex.

What does this have to do with our money?

Well, as Steven Covey asks in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, if we were an observer at our own funeral, or celebration of life, what would we want to be known for? How would we want to have lived? Spent our time?

And I would include, “how would we want to have stewarded our money?” “How would we have wanted to spend it?” “What are our must deeply held values, and how linked are they to our wallets?”

On the weekend that includes Remembrance Day – remembering people who have died in wars past, leaving a legacy of free countries – we could, perhaps, take a moment to ‘remember ourselves’ and reflect on the brevity of our own lives. Then ask ourselves, In light of that, how do I want to live? How do I want to spend? What legacy do I want to leave?

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