Stumbling on Creativity
CHAD MORRIS, Ph.D., Director
Abundance has crept up on me. Over the last few years, I have consciously focused on developing my sense of financial well-being. But I never thought of myself as someone who would be wealthy. That was for those seemingly distant, slightly unhappy people that I caught glimpses of in the media. But a year or so ago, I started thinking that there is absolutely no reason why I couldn’t be someone who is wealthy. I believe that we call opportunity to ourselves through a process of defining, visualizing, and allowing what we want.
So my first step was defining what wealth means to me. I’m not talking yachts or small Caribbean islands, although I do often fantasize about having a corporate helicopter to shorten my daily commute. For me, wealth means being able to continue to improve our home, travel, and play without building debt. There is no final dollar amount on my personal definition.
Once I started defining wealth, it was much easier to practice visualizing myself as that person. And I feel very fortunate in that I have a job I love immensely, and could keep working hard at while visualizing my desired financial outcome.
Recently, I realized that the abundance I desire isn’t a future goal; I am living it. Now here comes the tricky part for me, acceptance. We often talk of acceptance as a negative where something bad has happened in our lives for which we need to reach a final stage of acceptance. I actually think we also need to accept positive, movement forward, and the healthy identities we consciously create. Put more succinctly, we all have the potential to be something other than what we were yesterday regardless of our life stories. So my task at hand is to unapologetically accept my financial well-being and the abundance that continues to come my way.
CINDY WANG MORRIS, Psy.D., Clinical Director
While waiting in line to pick up my pre-flight meal at the San Francisco Airport, I noticed $20 sitting on the ground. I wondered if I had dropped it when paying the cashier. But I quickly realized, given the way it was folded, it wasn’t mine. So I asked people around me if it was theirs. They said it wasn’t but I encouraged them to take it. It was obvious they felt bad taking it so they left it with the cashier.
Later, I thought about why I didn’t take the money. There was a part of me that felt guilty that I would benefit from someone else’s loss. I wondered about what others would think about me. I also didn’t want to take something that wasn’t rightly mine.
Through this simple experience, I am reminded that I still need to practice being open to receive. In particular, it can be hard for me to receive when I don’t feel like I have worked for or earned something. But if I’m completely honest, it’s hard for me to receive—period. So it’s no surprise that I feel more comfortable when I’m doing the giving. Whether I’m opening the door for someone or cooking dinner for a friend, these actions help me to maintain a sense of balance in my mental ledger. Or, rather, imbalance.
Since this has been a long-standing pattern in my life, I make the conscious choice each day to practice being open to receive. I accept the kindnesses people offer, say thank you and resist my temptation to overcompensate. Admittedly, the ledger in my head still pops up now and then, but I set it aside as best I can. And, of course, there are times when I am caught by surprise. However, these days, I appreciate that I can accept this reminder as a gift to help remember the personal intentions I have set.
LAURA MARTIN, M.D., Medical Director
“Can I download a movie? I really love this movie.”
“Can I get this hat? I look really cute in hats.”
“Dan is going to [insert very expensive college name here], and so am I.”
Snippets from recent conversations with my 9-year-old daughter have been filtering through my consciousness as I have been thinking about writing this article. She’s at an age that I would like to start focusing on her understanding of basic financial concepts such as the cost of things she would like to purchase, ways to earn money, and how to decide how to spend her money. We’ve instituted an allowance to teach the concepts of saving some of her money and having other money to spend, a great first step. I was thrilled on multiple levels when she decided to take her birthday money and put it in the bank for her future college education. However, I also had the sneaking suspicion that the money still felt a bit like monopoly money to her, as it was easily acquired (gift), and many of her other desires and needs have been met.
Over this coming year, we are ready to start fostering a sense of what it takes to earn the money, such as chores, and introducing some items, such as clothing accessories and games, that she will be responsible for purchasing. She and I are also looking at other potential avenues for earning, such as sales opportunities, including new products (hot chocolate stands?) and old products (yard sale).
Great area resources we have found to help us in this endeavor into youth financial education, include the Young Americans Bank and Lemonade Day. Basic building blocks of financial wellness include having the awareness of one’s monetary goals, the ability to procure the means to meet those goals, and spending to meet those goals without exceeding one’s financial resources. Although my daughter’s building blocks are small, I believe that the experiences she gains, by both building with them and watching them fall at times, will prepare her well for the times when her blocks are much larger.
Made to Move
JAMIE PFAHL, B.A., Community Liaison
Ah, the New Year! A time for resolutions, good intentions, and starting over. I used to be pretty bad at resolutions, but in the last year or two I think I’ve really gotten the hang of it. So although I didn’t run a marathon this year or perfect my Russian and Spanish language skills (in fact, I probably got worse), I did take some great steps toward health and happiness in 2013 and have loads of optimism for the year to come. So what fitness and financial goals are on my resolution list for 2014? Well for starters, I’m canceling my gym membership.
For the past 5 months I’ve been paying $50-60 a month for access to an awesome facility just steps away from my office. I love being able to do an intense 30-minute class, stick my face in the stream room for a minute, have a quick shower, and be back to work before the lunch hour is over. So what’s the problem? For one, I don’t take advantage of it enough. I travel a lot for work, and even when I am in the office there are plenty of days when I’m just too busy to workout mid-day. That monthly fee adds up fast, and when I divide the cost by the number of times I actually go to the gym in a given month, it’s not always a good bargain. And secondly, I realized that I’m not necessarily working toward my 2014 goals (two marathons and a lot of dancing) by going to the gym. Last weekend, as I was enjoying a steep and treacherous trail run up a snowy mountainside in 16 degree weather, I was thinking about how I don’t need a gym for me to workout. Not that I don’t like to shake up my routine, but Zumba and Step Drills are more of a distraction than a part of my training plan. Not to mention the money that I’ll save from canceling my membership will give me more to invest in dance classes and races – things that will actually get me where I want to be. And last but not least, I realized that my successes aren’t due a gym membership, but to my own self-discipline and motivation. So I am reclaiming the credit and responsibility for achieving my goals and focusing in on a few specific goals to make them more attainable.
I know it sounds unconventional and it’s probably not for everyone, but I’m convinced that by canceling my gym membership I will: 1) work out just as much, 2) achieve the fitness goals that are meaningful to me, and 3) have more spending cash for other activities. And that’s enough to make me want to dance!
SARA MUMBY, B.A., Program Administrator
A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook a financial blog that she was reading. She was looking for tips on how to feed a family on a budget. Being that food is one of my main expenses (beyond the usual housing, student loans, and utilities), I was curious to find ways that I could save money on one of my greatest indulgences.
Do you know what I found out? I discovered that only 5-10% of my income should be spent on food! I was shocked. I would say that in a really good month, I spend at least 15% of my income on food. In a month where I’m eating out with a lot with friends, throwing dinner parties, or maybe there’s an anniversary or birthday, I’m spending upwards of 25% of my income on food. Wow.
Digging a little deeper, I found out that one of the things I’ve been doing wrong is not setting a budget. Of course, I’m still going to keep spending money on eating out or buying a $10 block of specialty cheese from time to time. But if I want to save money, I need to know exactly how much I am willing to spend per week on food and then stick to it!
Some other money saving shopping tips I plan to use:
- Plan meals and go with a list. If I plan ahead and I know about how much each item will cost, I can control how much I’m going to spend. This will also stop me from “splurging” on an expensive item.
- Buy store brands. I’m somewhat of a brand snob, but through trying different products, I know what items I can save some money on and still buy quality food and those I cannot. Most of the time, I don’t notice a difference.
- Use coupons. While I’m planning my meals for the week, I look for coupons I can use. What’s really awesome is that some grocery store websites provide online coupons that I can load onto my store discount card. So no actual coupons to clip!
- Don’t shop while hungry. Hunger is a sure-fire way to spend money on those instant gratification buys. I plan to shop when I can focus on buying the foods on my list.
SUSAN YOUNG, Ph.D., Director of Research
As we chime in 2014, many of us take time to compose our list of New Year’s resolutions. And after hemorrhaging money during the holiday season, I usually feel compelled to include a financial goal on my list. But this year, my resolutions have been influenced by a little voice in my head that sounds an awful lot like my mother.
I really miss my parents this time of year, not just because of the holidays, but because while I was growing up, our breaks from school and work always included a project (or 2). These projects were not just making paper chains for the Christmas tree or baking biscotti for friends and neighbors, but also included DIY projects of every flavor. My parents were survivors of the depression era and, as a result, learned to be extremely self-sufficient. This was a central tenet of their financial wellness and an invaluable lesson for their children. During my years under their roof, they taught me to grow my own food, rewire a lamp, sew a Halloween costume, and use a power drill. Before I left for college, my dad bought me a toolbox and insisted that I know how to read a map, change a flat tire and replace a spark plug.
I realized over the recent holiday break – when I finished snaking the drain under my daughters’ bathroom sink – that the can-do mindset instilled by my parents has become a part of my own financial wellness. Though I can now afford to have my car maintained and my toaster oven replaced, I still value the security and sense of competence that comes from learning and using practical life skills.
So my resolution for 2014 is to be more deliberate about teaching my girls the power of knowing how things work, how things break and how to fix them. I worry that this is becoming a lost art in our culture, where success is often measured by the number of services and gadgets we can procure to avoid doing things for ourselves. I’m sure my kiddos will call me “old fashioned,” but I just bet they will thank me someday when they can’t find a plumber on a holiday weekend.
JIM PAVLIK, B.A., Program and Policy Analyst
New Years Goal: Consume Less, Create More
Like the 62% of people who make New Year’s resolutions, I have a plan for things I would like to change and actions I will take to effect those changes. Getting and staying physically healthy usually tops my list. But one thing that has become increasingly important is my financial wellness.
“Save more, spend less” was the #3 New Year’s Resolution in 2012. These are obviously related: The more I save, the less I’ll have to spend. It’s math! Like most people my ability to suddenly bring in more money is limited but I have a lot of habits that contribute to how much I spend. A recent audit of our household budget revealed that a truly staggering amount of our leisure cash goes to dining out. I’m not 100% sure why I have developed this habit of dining out, but my goal is to replace this behavior with new ones that will contribute to my overall wellness.
So instead of “save more, spend less” my strategy is “consume less, create more.” I love eating, but I also love cooking. I read a lot, but I haven’t written as much lately as I used to. I love visiting museums, but I also like taking pictures and creatively editing them using digital editing software. Returning to any of these hobbies will increase my intellectual, aesthetic, and physical well-being. And best of all, they are free (more or less) and will keep me out of the seductive clutches of Denver’s next hip restaurant.
The point is that dining out serves a function in my life and it won’t end just because I put “consume less, create more” on a list I’ll have lost by February. I have to address the underlying issues that drive me out of the house to seek out delectable entrees smothered in French sauces. Dining out is fun, but being creative is fun and fulfilling. I don’t suspect my desire to have dinner (or brunch) prepared for me will go down without a fight. The goal here is reduction. And most importantly, I want to use this pursuit of financial wellness to be aided—not thwarted—by my pursuit of having a fun-filled life.
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