A Money Coach in Canada

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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?

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

Just sayin’.

This money coach loves these guys. And you will too. Not to mention you’ll love being a Saver.

The Eco and Green-living crowd up here is pretty amazing. Backyard chickens don’t cut it; my LEED-house neighbours have goats. Free-range meat? Pshaw. Folks fish and hunt. How’s *that* for free range.

And then there are my nearly-self-sufficient friends who live on a lake, grow their own vegetables and quinoa, compost their toilet (ewwww, but it works), chop down trees (don’t judge; it’s likely cleaner than your heat source) to heat their home (bear in mind our weather drops to -40C for days on end) and the latest? Bake their bread in this solar-energy contraption. The bread was fabulous, by the way.

I don’t really dare refer to myself as frugal in comparison.


THE GREEN HOUSE (they also have an extensive outdoor garden)






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