We are stubborn creatures.
We back ourselves into corners, make mistakes, or a butterfly flaps its wings in Peking and we lose the job that we depended on for more than just ends-meat. I mean to say that the more time we spend living, the more likely it is that the ground we stand on will shift.
I love my profession of financial planning, because instead of skirting around change, it actually depends on the likelihood that tomorrow will look different than today. It connects people’s real thoughts around fear and satisfaction to their means, and then throws in the transitions that no one can predict.
It is because of these transitions that I also get to witness people making desperate financial decisions in search of relief, when really, the conversation should hinge on remedy.
This is not to say that there is no place for relief.
When someone commits to our financial planning process and walks in the proverbial door with credit card debt up to their ears, or has experienced a monumental transition in their household, obviously we need to find some breathing room, some peace, before we can work towards a healthy financial future. But eventually it is necessary to redirect the conversation towards remedy.
We HATE pain.
We do our best to avoid discomfort. For most people, the “struggle” is only worth the pain in retrospect. It is not until we see, or believe, that there will be a reward at the end, that we embrace a struggle.
We also admittedly live a primarily reactive existence. Unless we have put in the work to master what little we can control by preparing for the inevitable changes and “oh crap” moments, we make most of our decisions on the fly. And this includes our money decisions.
Remember when I said there is a place for decisions that prioritize relief? Well for most, searching for relief becomes a habit long after the acute need is met. We begin to make MOST of our financial decisions by only asking the question “How can I find relief from ___ as quickly as possible?”
Making decisions in search of short-term relief does not lead us away from money fears, anxieties, or greed, it leads us straight into them!
So, what are we supposed to do? How do you break this habit?
First comes the awareness:
“How often do I make financial decisions in search of short-term relief?”
Maybe you continue to spend more money than you make, chasing the next dopamine release.
Here, your short-term relief may be from not keeping up with your peers, or from the fear that you may not have the money in the future, so you should "spend it while you have it."
Maybe you have plenty of money and are engaged in a financial planning process, but will not allow yourself the freedom to spend what you have worked for.
Here, your short-term relief may be from the constant fear of losing what you have worked so hard to obtain.
Everyone has a financial plan, but maybe yours only exists in your head, and therefore is never validated or measured, and is susceptible to your own emotions and circumstantial swings.
Here, your short-term relief could be from the fear of being wrong, or that if you receive help, then you will have not truly “made it” on your own.
These are only a few of the money scripts that we subconsciously live with daily. Unless you are one to quickly trust the need for a professional, then you must first become aware of behavior around instant relief.
Next comes the process:
It would be good on you to find enough margin, and put in enough work, to submit to a process. Real financial planning balances our tendency to pursue short-term relief with our need for long-term remedies. But it takes education and consistency in learning to make decisions that are wise over the long haul, and not just for the moment.
This is where a relationship with a financial professional comes into play. Building wealth is important, within the confines of your definition of "wealth." But building is only half the story. We must also learn how to spend the money that comes into our hands. At the end of the day, the richest person you know might lack in the art of spending, therefore their abundance of money grows as a burden, not an opportunity.
Learning to spend is difficult. We are a consumerist culture. We devour whatever finds its way onto our path. No wonder advertising is such a powerful tool/industry. Yes, we are stubborn, but even the most stubborn person has a moment when all they want is someone or something to tell them the next step, even if it is subconscious. Unfortunately we rarely take a step back to assess where that voice is coming from. So, learning to spend is difficult.
It is more difficult to implement a long-term remedy than it is to find short-term relief. And although your financial planning may begin by providing relief, or that breathing room we were talking about, its foundation will be built on remedy, on cure.
There are some things that cannot be fixed, and then there are some that can.