Today, I want to talk about a book that I’ve been reading recently, or rather, just a chapter really. The book is called, “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown, the chapter that I really like is Chapter 5, it’s called “Mind the Gap” and it’s looking at the gap between aspirational and practiced values.
What she wants people to do in this chapter is pay attention to the space between where they’re standing now and where they want to be and aligning their values with their actions.
I feel like having children has made me more acutely aware of when I spout something off to them, some kind of high-value type of thing and then inside of my own head, I start worrying about them seeing me do something where I’m not living up to that value that I just espoused to them.
Before having kids, you know you can kind of get away with these things, having values, maybe your actions are a bit different but you’re not really being witnessed as much. You may witness yourself but you can also ignore it yourself.
With those two sets of eyes watching almost all of my moves all the time, it really makes me aware of my own hypocrisy and it also really makes me want to change it.
It makes me want to be the person who does all the things that I tell them they should always do, right? And I’m sure I’m not the first person to say this. I think a lot of people feel that when you have children and you’re trying to teach them values, it makes you more acutely aware of whether or not you’re living up to those values.
So, How Does This Relate to our Finances?
Here’s how it relates to our finances. Money is our culturally accepted system of valuation and it’s a perfect place to examine the difference between our aspirational and practiced values.
So one way, I think, is a great way to look at this is to ask yourself, “What things do you believe to be most important in life? What is most important to you?” Take out a pen and a paper and write at least your top 3 things down. For me, the things that pop straight into my mind were family, creativity, and contribution. Yours maybe something more like security, spirituality, eradicating malaria, you know, like the Gateses, maybe.
So anyways, whatever those first 3 values are that pop into your head, write those down and now let’s go to your money tracking app. If you don’t have one, quickly download mint.com or something like it, hook up all of your accounts and then let’s go through your recent transactions.
I think it’s great to do this both with your recent transactions and your calendar
Our time and our money, those show what we truly value in our life regardless of what we say, where we’re putting our time and our money, that speaks volumes. Tweet that
Looking into those accounts and this isn’t about guilt or shame in any way, obviously, we’re talking about Brene Brown, this is not about shame. It’s about releasing shame and releasing guilt to make sure you don’t feel that guilt and shame when we’re looking at your transactions.
Pretend for a moment that this is the transaction of somebody else, some other person and you are trying to find out about them. Pretend that you are in a mystery movie and this is what you have to go on to figure out what kind of person this person is, maybe you’re the detective, that’s a great idea!
So, you’re the detective, you find this sheet of transactions and you want to know what this person is all about, what are they like. So go through transaction by transaction, set up some categories for your top 3 values and see how much goes towards those.
When you’re looking at it too, what other big categories are coming up? What are your big areas that you’re spending in? And when we look at transactions, it may be hard to decide exactly which categories some go in, but I see things as like saving and investing and putting stuff towards retirement, that is you valuing the future, your family, your stability.
Here’s A Common One
For a lot of people, a big category that comes up is “Debt”. Again, no guilt, no shame, let’s just be scientists, explorers, detectives and look at what does the debt get you? What are you getting in exchange for the debt that you’re taking on.
For a lot of people, the biggest debt that they take on in life are things like their home which could be again, family, security, that kind of thing. Cars, most people need cars in order to get to and from work if they work on any kind of job that’s outside of the home so that could be going towards your income capacity, your capacity to earn income and that’s pretty important.
Another thing that a lot of people take on debt for is their education. And again, education, in some ways there’s a measurable ROI in terms of if it leads directly to a job. So say you go to Law school, you become a lawyer, that has a measurable ROI. You’re going to pay that off through the job, potentially. Becoming a doctor, you know, there’s a lot of things like that but education has so many other benefits and facets to it.
I went to a Liberal Arts college, I went to Bryn Mawr College and I was a Creative Writing Major. That has not had a directly measurable ROI in my life but it has really gone towards one of my big values, which is creativity. I do like to write, I like to write songs, I like to write music, I like to do podcasts, I like to write articles, I like to write books even though I have not yet finished one on my own.
I’m stating it here because that’s one of my values. I would like to be an author, I would like to complete a book. I’ve done some e-book type writing but not a real actual novel and I would also like to write a book about women and finance. I feel like I’m learning so much on this show, there’s so much fascinating stuff going on that I could see this some day going towards a book.
So, me putting in the time and money to do this podcast besides the fact that I get to interact with so many amazing women on the interviews and get to hang out like this, talking to a microphone. I don’t know, I like microphones. I feel creative when I’m doing this, it’s fun. This is me investing in some of my values.
Is The Debt Worth It?
But getting back to the debt question. So we have the home, the car, the education, those are pretty massive things that people go into debt for often but you’re putting it towards an asset, like a home or a car, you know. Cars don’t last forever but still. We have a 1998 Subaru which is, honestly, we are trying to drive it into the ground, I think it’s going to last forever. We may never be able to replace this car because it is lasting so long but back to the point.
There are other things that we go into debt for and let’s take a look at those because on the one hand, there’s the thing that you get for going into debt. If you put it on a credit card, you’re buying a specific thing, then there’s also the interest that we pay on it. So depending how long that interest goes out, it makes that thing more and more valuable. Valuable in terms of how much money you’ve put towards it because it may be, I don’t know, a $50 item but if it takes you a really long time to pay it off, you could pay $20 more on it which makes it now worth $70 instead of $50. So really, even if it was on sale, by buying it with debt, you’ve gotten a bad deal. So what are you valuing by buying that thing with debt?
- Are you valuing immediate gratification?
- Was it something you needed immediately for some reason?
- Were there extenuating circumstances that made it very time sensitive?
Again no guilt, no shame, let’s just do some exploration here because I put things on credit cards plenty of times. My college credit card story is one that I’m going to tell at some point, I don’t think I’ll tell it right now because I like these solo episodes pretty short and that one gets a little involved but suffice to say that I had one of those first credit card experiences where no one had ever really explained to me how the “magic”, of compound interest works when the interest is credit card interest and not interest that you’re earning.
There are some lessons I wish I’d learned before I got my first credit card. I learned them with my first credit card but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t put things on a credit card since that I wish I hadn’t. I think we all do, we all do it at different times throughout our lives and there are different reasons for doing it.
Elementary, Dear Watson
So, again just exploring, looking at it, if this was a story, if you were a private detective who found this in a hotel room of a suspect and you were trying to determine what was important to this person, to figure out how to follow them and what their next move would be, what would you say were the top three most important things to this person based on their financial transactions?
And once you do that, take a look at how that compares to those top three values that you wrote down. Is there a gap between them? What is the gap between your aspirational values in terms of finance and your practice values in terms of finance?
And the next step after you look at that is to start taking some actions to get them more aligned, figure out what are some things you can do to shift things in your finances? What are some actions that you can take right now and moving forward that would help to align those aspirational values and practice values?
Let’s Keep On Talking
Okay, that is my show for today. I’m going to keep it pretty short. I’m going to thank Brene Brown even though I’ve never personally interacted with her because her book is fantastic. I feel like women and shame and money are such hot topics and Brene, if you happen to hear this somehow, if I share it and you’re tagged then you listen to it, I would love to have you on the show someday to talk about shame and money because I feel like this is one place where a lot of people feel a lot of shame especially around debt and loss and making financial decisions that don’t pay out the way that they think they should.
If you would like to join the conversation about aspirational versus practised values in terms of money and shame and guilt and how we can release it and not attach all of that crap to our money, then go over to the Financial Fluency Facebook group and let’s talk about it, join the conversation. I’m loving that group right now, it’s still pretty small but we’re building and it’s really nice to have conversations over there.
And if you want even more in depth conversations and actual help and content from me, we also have my “Mastering Money Matters” monthly membership group which you can join. It’s relatively low price because I want it to be a pretty easy thing for people to get into, I don’t want you to go into more debt to work with me.
I recently had someone who joined the group tell me how surprised she was to find out that I do actually work with the women in the group. I do a free call for everyone, we have weekly blabs on Tuesdays and weekly co-working hours on Fridays where we all sit down and tackle our financial tasks. No one has to tell anyone else anything about their finances, it’s just that we’re being accountable and we’re making sure that we do the things that we want to get done that we say we want to get done. We’re trying to align our actions with our values.