Money Makeover Series: From Anxious to Empowered
Several months ago I had my first money talk with Kayla and the overriding theme was anxiety. Kayla went from being a struggling freelance writer to a pretty great full-time gig, but she could never shake the feeling that she was doing it all wrong when it came to her finances. Now three months have gone by, and Kayla’s had quite a bit of growth and development! While her financial anxiety hasn’t completely gone away, it has been drastically reduced, and now she feels empowered. Read on to learn more about how she made this incredible transition.
Recognizing True Desires – Even if They Go Against the Mainstream
It was clear from the beginning that all Kayla really needed were two things: 1) a budget and 2) long-term goals. Kayla was already saving for retirement and was debt-free, but she wasn’t purposeful about saving – mostly because she wasn’t sure what to save for. So we set her up with a budget that focused on paying her savings first (to make sure she prioritized the savings) and then started talking long-term goals.
With the budget out of the way and the need for a long-term goal, the rest of our money talks turned into career talks. She absolutely loves her current job, but she’s still just getting started in her career and wanted to know where it could grow. Since that’s still a big question mark, Kayla started with tangible things like improving her website and picking up more freelance projects to continue developing her writing, even outside of work.
Along the way, Kayla realized that she was beginning to dread her freelance writing projects, especially after working all day. While she loved to write once she got started, it was hard to get into the groove. Therefore, the possibility of eventually becoming a traveling freelance writer seemed less and less like a realistic path. So Kayla started to think about what she might want to do instead. She discovered the IRA for first-time homebuyers program, which allows you to set up an IRA for the purpose of saving money for a down payment on a mortgage, and signed up.
I have to say this took me aback. Kayla had never before expressed a desire to buy a home. In fact, it seemed to me that she wasn’t really in a place to settle down anytime soon. Kayla is living a whole new phase of life right now and striking out on her own for the first time. It seemed to me that she has a lot more exploring to do before making a big commitment such as buying a home.
Releasing Self-Imposed Pressure to Simplify Your Life
After I got over my surprise, I asked Kayla if she really wanted to buy a home. She paused and then said, “Not really.”
So why would any of us strive for a goal that doesn’t meet our true desires? Simple. Because we feel that’s what we should do. We feel that’s what we should want. And often, we go through the motions and assume our feelings will eventually catch up. And as natural as it is, it’s exactly the wrong way to approach our goals. We have to listen to our inner voices if we want to make decisions that will lead to happiness and fulfillment – even if that inner voice goes against what we think we should do.
I couldn’t leave things hanging like this. I asked Kayla to do one more thing for me, even though the series is coming to an end. I asked her to write down six words in two columns; one column called “must have” and the other, “don’t want”. Then fill in three words each. No sentences, no explanations. For example, my ‘must-have’ in life is to write–no matter how or where or for whom. So my ‘must-have’ would be “write”. Kayla admitted that she doesn’t care if she ever owns a home. So her “don’t want” would be “house.” This simplification will allow Kayla to quiet what she calls “mind chatter” and get down to the basics. Then and only then will Kayla really know what goal to strive for or–at the very least–what direction to go in.
Kayla’s Epiphany – Money is Mutual
I’m still waiting on Kayla’s response since I told her to take a few weeks to think about it. But I couldn’t wrap this up without asking her what her biggest takeaway from the series has been thus far. Her answer struck me like a lightening bolt: “Money is Mutual.” In her words, money is empowering if you’re able to frame it in your mind in that way. She said that so many of us have a tendency to be intimidated by money, but take that intimidation away and you can realize that money gives you the power to make decisions that work for you. And suddenly your money is working for you instead of the other way around!
I couldn’t have phrased it more perfectly myself! Life is all about perspective, and personal finance is no exception to the rule. We can think of bills and savings as obligations or we can set goals for our money and see it as a tool to achieve the life we want. Like Kayla said, money is mutual. You decide how you’ll feel about your money and the way money makes you feel will be the same. Now that’s what I call empowerment!