Posts Tagged ‘Clarity’

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How Crayons Create Financial Peace

April 22, 2011

Crayons Create Financial PeaceMy biggest revelation about how to help others with their financial issues came when I began working on my own financial issues. In Telling the Truth, I point out the rather obvious fact why so many Americans with money problems can’t seem to get beyond them: we don’t talk about money so we have no opportunity to tell the truth about it.

We are a financially illiterate society. There are few places that you can go to work on your money, talk about your money, make your money better. I lay awake at night sometimes dreaming up solutions to this societal problem. And bit by bit, I create answers. That’s how we came to start Financial Boot Camps, and that’s how I tripped upon creating this exercise for a Boot Camp: draw your financial life with crayons.

The accountant in me questioned the exercise that the right side of my brain had created. “Um, that’s silly.” But the right side of my brain, the creative side that has been fed and nurtured by studying a lot of research into the psychological and emotional aspects of our relationship with our money said: “Forge on!”

The exercise was simple. The boot campers were to draw their financial life in a crayon pie chart, Read the rest of this entry ?

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Tax Day: Our Collective Moment of Financial Clarity

April 18, 2011

Financial Clarity CardSome people think April 15th is an icky day. I see it as our collective moment of financial clarity. Tax day is the one day that we all know exactly how much our businesses earned, or didn’t earn, last year.

I hear a lot of people focus on their refund amount. From my perspective, that’s NOT the number you need to focus on. Leave that to your tax accountant. The number that an entrepreneur should focus on is the one that gives you absolute clarity about what your business truly earned.

Employees have financial clarity about their earnings. They know exactly what their hourly wage is. If your value in the workplace is $25/hour, you work for$25/hour. If, due to economic or other circumstances, you take a job at a lower wage, you are usually VERY clear that you are working for less than your value.

Entrepreneurs don’t often have the same clarity. We don’t get paystubs. We often pay ourselves inconsistently. We pay taxes from our business account, so we never get to see the equivalent of ‘gross wages.’ When our businesses need money, we funnel into them from our personal funds. And when our businesses are flush, we sometimes plunder them.

Employees have clarity about time too. A full time employee works 2,080 hours a year. Those that work more, or less, know it. Entrepreneurs don’t have that same clarity. Some of us come in early, stay late, go to evening networking meetings and work weekends. Others spend half of their days doing laundry, running personal errands and picking up kids. When they look back on their week with honesty they they’ve only worked 20 hours.

  • I believe there is great power in simplifying financial data.
  • I believe there is great power in putting pencil to paper.
  • I believe there is great power in saying out loud to yourself and to a trusted adviser “I made $XX/hour last year.”
  • And I believe there is great power in writing about your feelings about your earnings.

Print the Annual Clarity Card, fill it in and share with your fellow Creating Answers readers in the comments, anonymously if you’d like, what you learned from the experience.

If you’d like a free PDF of our Monthly Clarity Cards, send a request to info@creatinganswers.com.

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Date Night With Your Finances

March 30, 2011

Financial Art 2010Date night with your finances? What’s that supposed to mean?

Just what it says. The phrase “Date Night” evokes thoughts of fun, special, coveted. For many, the phrase “Bill Paying” conjures ugh, drudgery, lack. What would it look like if we felt differently about our finances?

Most of us have it backwards. Its no wonder we think of our finances as drudgery. This is how the majority of us “do our money.”

  • We squeeze the chore between the laundry and washing the dog.
  • We collect our bills; we log in to get our bank balance (and hope that everything has cleared the bank); we pay our bills.
  • We look to see how much is left, and hope there is some.
  • Then, when we’re tired, over it, a little grumpy, and the dog still smells, we make the important decisions. This goes to savings, that goes to debt, and this gets set aside for car repairs.
  • But the dog smells, and company is coming for dinner, so I’ll make those decisions next month.

Would you like to do it differently? Would it be all right if life got easier?

That’s a phrase I learned from Maria Nemeth, a pioneer and visionary in the field of our psychological and emotional attitudes about money. She published “The Energy of Money” in 1997, when few were addressing the important issue of how financial decisions are made.

When it came time for “Telling the Truth” and dealing with my own financial problems, one action I took was Date Night with my finances at my favorite café. Me, my portable financial binder, and my dreams. I coveted those luxurious Saturday nights, not squeezed between laundry and dog-washing (okay, I don’t really have a dog.) I used the time to dream, to look at the truth and to plan. Bill paying happened elsewhere. Each consecutive month, I got a little more clarity, planning became a little easier, and my dreams felt more attainable.

Our money and our financial decisions should not be a chore. Bill paying is a chore. Financial decisions impact our future, our dreams, our peace of mind. They intertwine with who we want to be and who we are. We should have a little fun. We should make it a date night!

Last summer I hosted my first Financial Art ~ An Interactive Art Experience. Hundreds walked through our office courtyard, and a couple hundred picked up crayons, a piece of paper, and an egg timer. In three minutes they drew their financial lives or their financial futures. Then they hoisted their drawings, as Tibetan Prayer Flags are hoisted, as a wish to their future. The cool thing about it was there were couples out on a date talking about their money. Happy, excited, hopeful; the antithesis of drudgery. It was a simple bit of collective fun. Interactive community art. A way to do it a little differently. And a great launch to Date Night with Your Finances.

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Creative Brain vs. Business Brain

January 21, 2011

I love working with creatives: artists, actors, healing professionals, writers, photographers, all of them. Our society has created a “right brain vs. left brain” mentality. If you’re creative, you aren’t a strong business person. If you’re a strong business person, you aren’t creative. But we know black and white statements aren’t true. Creatives can make great business people, especially when they provide themselves with structure. Creatives have the ideas, the willingness and the passion to throw themselves full force into their work. And that is what it takes to be successful in business.

One of my inspiring clients decided, as a strategic business decision, that 2010 was going to be her year of “living as an artist.” She had long worked hard on her business; she had tethered herself to do the work, bring in the clients and earn a living. She had been successful enough, but by the time she got to me she wasn’t enjoying it much. Something needed to change.

“Creatives have the ideas, the willingness and the passion to throw themselves full force into their work. And that is what it takes to be successful in business.”

So 2010 was her year of living as an artist. Her mission was to fully embrace her creativity and joy of being an artist. Her goals, strategies and actions all supported that mission. There was still some structure: billable work, marketing, financial coaching and professional development. But the focus was on enjoying her creative talents, not on meeting her monthly revenue goals.

And what were the results? November and December were two of the most profitable months she’s ever had. And, she’s happy. It was a year of transformation and expansion for her. She’s well positioned to focus on revenue growth in 2011. Most important of all, she was well cared for, and she is, after all, the most valuable asset in her business.

Why would I, an accountant, support that kind of strategy? Because I’ve seen its effectiveness and profitability, over and over and over. If it’s done with intention and structure, it can be a very effective business decision for both creatives and for any other kind of business owner.

What’s your mission for 2011? Does it include creativity? Art? Health? If not, weave it in, and then write down what kind of return on investment you expect from giving yourself that gift.

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Telling The Truth

January 5, 2011

Many experiences in my career explain my evolution to becoming a “Money Wise Woman.” My tenure at Coopers & Lybrand (now PwC), my time at the financial helm of CARES, an agency that I helped grow from $500,000 to $3 million in three years, and the past 13 years I’ve advised, coached and counseled hundreds on their business and personal finances at Creating Answers.

For Financial Clarity, Tell the TruthBut those experiences aren’t why I’m a Money Wise Woman. There was a point in my life that I awoke to the fact that I had placed myself in serious financial trouble, and that’s when I started telling the truth about it.

Even with all I knew, and no matter how hard I tried to get myself out of it, for whatever reason, I couldn’t. That’s when I started seeking more answers. And not just from fellow financial professionals, but from coaches, mentors and counselors. And that’s when I had my big “ah ha” moment, when I realized what keeps so many people stuck in their financial lives.

We don’t tell the truth. We don’t talk about money, so we have no opportunity to tell the truth about it. There are few places to go when you feel stuck with your money and don’t know what to do. When you’re a financial professional, it’s even scarier. I was stuck in denial, fear, shame and blame. Having the courage to start telling the truth made all the difference in the world.

For years, I had many clients who didn’t want to take the time to talk to me about their money. I was their accountant, and it just wasn’t a priority for them. Now it’s a cornerstone of my practice that every client talks to us about their finances every month. It makes a marked difference in their financial clarity, and their financial peace.

My advice to those of you who feel stuck in some area of your financial life: Talk to someone consistently and productively. Your bookkeeper, your accountant, a coach, a trusted mentor, a trusted colleague. Draw a circle of support around you, tell the truth, and create some accountability in your financial life. It will make all the difference.

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2011: Is your plan in place?

December 10, 2010

Winter is a time of reflection, both personally and for our businesses. How did this past year go? Did I meet my goals? Um, did I have goals? What do I want next year to look like? What do I have to do to get there?

At Creating Answers, it is the time of year we are busy working with all of our clients on 2011 goals and budgets. It is one of my favorite times of the year because you get to do two really fun things: analyze how last year went, and draw the financial road map to follow next year. It’s financial art at its most fun.

If you think of this work as a chore, I invite you to reframe your beliefs about planning and numbers. I invite you to think of it as a game, or a puzzle. Make it a date with yourself. Go to your favorite coffee house, or pour yourself a bottle of fine wine. And then…start asking yourself questions.

What percentage of your total income goal did you reach this year? 120%? Great! 85%? Not so great. What do you need to do differently in 2011? What amount of marketing dollars would have closed that 15% gap? Do you need to increase your networking time? Upsell existing clients? Raise your prices?

“If you think of this work as a chore, I invite you to reframe your beliefs about planning and numbers.”

Take a look at your discretionary areas of spending? How much did you spend on marketing and advertising? What were the financial results? Professional development? Results? Equipment? Results?

How much did you spend on staffing and/or outside consultants? Did they work at capacity? Did you generate revenue from your staff? How much? A great rule of thumb to start with is three times their cost.

While it is difficult to assign numbers to each of those questions, the exercise of trying will create answers. What if you spent nothing in each of those areas? What if you spent three times as much?

Most importantly, don’t overdo the process. It’s more effective to do a really thorough look at your 15 most critical spending areas consistently than it is to look at all 60 of the expense accounts you have in Quickbooks. (And if you have 60 expense accounts in Quickbooks, you should give us a call!)

Find out more about what we do at http://CreatingAnswers.com.

Here’s to a prosperous new year full of financial clarity!

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Holiday Financial Clarity

November 24, 2010

Manage Holiday Spending

Want financial clarity for the holidays?

Entertaining, stocking stuffers, extra travel expenses, cookies for the neighbors, decorations, office holiday party gifts, holiday grocery shopping and of course, presents… these are just a smattering of expenses that are about to edge their way into your spending plan over the next several weeks.

Whether you’ve been saving all year, plan to squeeze it into your regular monthly spending, plan to not partake in any of it, or have a credit card you use for the holidays, now is a good time to make a plan. Even if you don’t stick to your plan completely, just spending the time to fill out this handy holiday plan will provide you a road map for the trip you are about to take.

What are your priorities? What are your limits? What are your expectations?  How do you feel about the money you’ve spent during past holidays?  What could you do differently? And a favorite question from our Financial Boot Camps, what would your hero do?

 Print the “Manage Your Holiday Spending” guide from the AFSA Education Foundation. Take a walk, think it over, journal the above questions if you’d like, then get a pencil and a calculator and make your plan!

And… enjoy the season.