A Money Coach in Canada

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OOPS! I guess someone in HR forgot to code something so someone in compensation would know to update their files so someone in payroll would drop a few dollars into my account on payday (last Friday).

Thankfully, the amazing person to whom I report confirmed her amazing-ness by getting all over this so with any luck my mortgage won’t bounce tomorrow. (and payroll did cut me a temp cheque, just not as much as it should be).

These things happen. But I cancelled my weekend getaway to Hawaii and just stayed home.

Water and money… some questions, some answers! From Raul, Vancouver’s academic-environmentalist-blogger. (thanks, Raul! you got me thinking, that’s for sure)

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First of all, thanks to Nancy for inviting me to guest-blog on issues of money and sustainability. You’d be surprised to find that there are many more linkages than people think about. For this first post, and given that we recently celebrated World Water Day 2008 (some countries celebrate on March 20th, some on March 22nd and others on March 23rd), I wanted to highlight the linkages between money and water, given that water is one of the world’s most scarce resources (and at risk of becoming a commodity). As the Dublin Principle 4 indicates, water has an economic value:

Dublin Statement on Water and Sustainable Development (1992):
‘Principle No. 4: Water has an economic value in all its competing uses and should be recognized as an economic good. Within this principle, it is vital to recognize first the basic right of all human beings to have access to clean water and sanitation at an affordable price. Past failure to recognize the economic value of water has led to wasteful and environmentally damaging uses of the resource. Managing water as an economic good is an important way of achieving efficient and equitable use, and of encouraging conservation and protection of water resources.’ [United Nations’ World Water Development Report]

Water pricing in Canada is amongst the lowest amongst the developed world (at $ 0.40 per cubic metre, compared to $ 1.91 in Germany). While people often tend to believe that Canada doesn’t have problems with water scarcity (some statistics indicate that Canada has about 7% of the world’s supply of freshwater, you would be surprised at how much of a fallacy this statement is. Furthermore, this widespread belief (combined with the fact that much of Canada’s municipal water supply is not metered and thus consumption is not deterred by way of price differentials) has led some people to be wasteful with the precious liquid.

However, the pricing schemes looming in the future of Canadian residents will include both metering (and paying per cubic metre) and the concept of full cost recovery, which implies that you’ll be paying more if you consume more (also, the more you pollute water, the more you pay). So, the next time you want to find ways in which to reduce your spending, you may want to start thinking about ways to reduce water consumption. Your ecosystems will thank you, and so will your wallet.

Readers – I don’t know about you, but when I see the image below, I get pretty complacent about how much water I use. Do you make an effort to conserve water or like me ( busted!) do you not really even think twice about it?

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Maggie, usually the dashund girl with the iron stomach, threw up a million times last night, poor thing.

Last time she got sick in the middle of the night (allergic reaction to bug sting) I spent 1am – 4am in pet emerg, and spent $300 only to find out really she just needed an over-the-counter antihistamine to reduce the swelling.

That got me thinking last night. I have saved a trip to europe by purchasing no-name equivalents of tylenol, asperin etc. I also like shopping at Winners.

Obviously I never want to put my ‘hounds health at risk, but this got me thinking: what are the doggy equivalents?

For example:

  1. I purchased an Expensive Bottle of Oil that I add to their food to keep the boy dog’s skin from itching. Recently, I heard bottles of fish-oil-pills will do the same. Anyone know if that’s true? Or other suggestions?
  2. I purchase raw chicken wing tips from my favourite hi-end doggy store. There’s a really inexpensive human-meat store a block away. Any reason it would be less safe to buy the same from them? And spend my savings on other stuff at the hi-end doggy store like those gorgeous pillows?
  3. Any suggestions of plants that are good to help the dogs throw up when they need to? (sorry to be gross on the blog)
  4. What about cheap toys? (they love squeeky stuff)
  5. And if anyone can recommend good value dog walkers that specialize in small dogs (Vancouver) let me know.

Readers: as you can see, these guys really want to know!
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My life has not been a long streak of happiness and I’m betting yours hasn’t either. In fact, I’ve gone through several long periods where life didn’t feel good. At. All. The months following getting a B on my thesis (the death knell for an academic career) a string of promising relationships that weren’t so promising after all (the most recent resulting in over a year of utter grief), and the painful discovery over the years that life probably wouldn’t meet my expectations of it…

Somewhere along the way, I stopped chasing happiness.

And you know that cliche about happiness finding you when you stop chasing it, like a pretty butterfly? It ain’t true.

Furthermore, somewhere along the way, I stopped chasing an uber-life. Whether or not life meets my expectations is increasingly irrelevant to me.

Now I’ll boldly put this out there: I think I’m better off for it, and so is the world around me.

Something about letting go of the quest for a really great life is freeing. It allows me to set aside questions of personal satisfaction in favour of getting to know this gorgeous globe of people. It allows me to say “screw off” to powers that previously had me in their grip, because they represented something I wanted. It allows me to choose solidarity with the discarded people in my neighbourhood (not that I do it very well. I’m a newbie at this) instead of joining in with the ‘clean up those junkies’ crowd.

Am I happy? I honestly don’t know. I’m certainly not miserable, although I cry a lot more than I used to (if you saw an act of kindness to a junkie, you would too)

Am I free? More and more.

Does my life has meaning? I like to think so. It sure feels like it.

As I learn to deepen my roots in this soil, the continual barrage of messages insisting that “you can you the life you want” sound increasingly shrill and fake.

I wonder. If we all tuned out those messages, and just got on with inhabiting this planet, taking due note of it, of deeply respecting our lives (which is different than insisting they be wonderful), of deeply respecting the lives of others, what would the world look like?

If your life isn’t shiny and nice, you have a friend in me. And if you want to meet a couple other people who I suspect don’t have shiny lives, but I’m quite sure have a passion for life itself, here’s a start:

Sean Orr, a young man who’s done more to take the wind out of mainstream media headlines than anyone I’ve known, and has much stronger critical thinking skills than I did in my 20’s, (heads up: he’s not for the faint of heart)

and

Blackbird, a photographer who captures the humanity of my ‘hood like no one else.

Oh. what does all this have to do with money? I’ll leave that one to you ….

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Update:  Isabella wrote this poem partly as her response to this post.  Thanks, Isabella – it’s often nearly impossible to believe in a god – any god – who cares.  Somehow, i still do, which i suppose is a miracle in itself.

care to pull together your heart,
your caring heart, pull it together and pull it apart
open it up, make it an abode
of the godless, the heartless, the ones without eyes,
care to break open your heart
and let the blood flow
out on the streets
into the gutter
where jesus
sits and smokes a pipe
with the likes of you and me?

care to rip up your heart
take it out onto the highway
see the road rage, see the tired truckers,
see the dead dog, the one that tried to cross
where once was a yard –

care to lay down your heart
at the feet
of a god
who cares?

This past week I began working with 3 new clients. One of the critical conversations I have with new clients is about the stages of change. This is a well-documented process used by dietitions, addictions counseling and coaches alike. Understanding the process increases the likelihood of achieving lasting change.

So many people come to me frustrated and discouraged about their experience managing money. This will help.

Stage 1: Precontemplation.

This is the stage when a habit is actually not working well, but the individual is oblivious. You know how sometimes you can see a friend or family member who is chronically overspending or wasting money (at least in your eyes), but if you try to say something about it, it’s not well received? She either doesn’t ‘hear’ your comments, or she denies there’s any problem, or she has 1,000 reasons why she cannot change. During the precontemplation stage, change is not likely to occur of course. (Note to family members – as tempting as it may be to say stuff to the person you care about, I urge caution. Sometimes commenting, or judging, or shaming drives the person deeper into this stage, rather than encouraging the person to try a new behaviour.)

Stage 2: Contemplation

During the contemplation stage, the individual acknowledges something needs to change for their own well-being. Usually this ‘awakening’ is due to specific, personal and relevant feedback. It could be exceeding a debt threshold. It could be a desire to buy a home. It could be one too many birthdays and still feeling not ‘grown up’ about money. During this stage, the person may slip back to stage 1, or they may move to the next stage.

Stage 3: Determination

The individual decides to take action. This is a critical stage. Deciding to take action is one thing. Taking action likely to lead to long term success is another thing. The most common example I see are clients who are freaked out by their debt. They are panic stricken, and all they can think about is how to get rid of this horror as fast as possible. Part of my role is to help the person get grounded, and make thoughtful action plans based on a more holistic picture of their finances. Shameless self-promotion: having an objective third party involved at this stage is likely to create a more balanced, not panic-driven, action plan.

Stage 4: Action

Enuf said. Well, maybe not: This is simply proceeding on, ideally, a series of small, incremental actions as ‘determined’ upon in stage 3. The action plan needs to be sane and sustainable.

Stage 5: DeRail

Yup, this is almost always part of the process. Again, many of my clients are discouraged because they’ve tried in the past, but feel they are right back where they started. The fact is, most long-term changes require a series of repeated attempts before things finally seem to stick. The key during this phase is to have some help getting back on track again, and minimizing the length and intensity of this stage.

Stage 6: Lasting Change

yes.jpgThis is the point at which there is a substantial shift in financial behaviour. In my own life, one lasting change I’ve experienced is impulse shopping. I simply don’t do it any more, full stop. Another example is saving – I always have savings account getting pooled up for holidays, christmas, taxes etc. I’ll describe these in more detail in a future post. Suffice it to say that these were big accomplishments for me that, as you can imagine, resulted in a much more stable and proactive relationship with my money.

Reader feedback wanted: have you experienced long lasting change in some area? Would you say the above is a fair analysis of how you experienced change? Or have you experienced the frustration of seeing from the outside a harmful money habit, that the person you care about just didn’t see for himself or herself?

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