Since March’s focus on The Red Fairy Project is all about abundance, money and mindfulness, it’s only fair for me to start by sharing my money story. I’ll be honest, I was freaked out at the thought of sharing this side of myself with you. Why? Because it makes me feel vulnerable and shows that I don’t always do the right thing.
Some might think that isn’t a big deal but for a perfectionist, exposing your flaws to the world is mighty scary. On the other hand, I believe that when we show our true selves, it can inspire others to do the same and to know that they aren’t alone. We are all here learning as we go and mistakes are part of the game so in the name of honesty and personal growth, here go.
WHAT I WAS TAUGHT ABOUT MONEY
I had one of the best teachers to learn about managing money: my dad. He’s always been financially informed, responsible and discipled. He did his best to pass on his knowledge and good habits to me but unfortunately, it didn’t totally stick. The main reason is that when I was younger, I did what he taught me only because I thought that I “should” be doing XYZ (putting money aside for retirement, buying property rather than renting), not because I understood why.
It’s not that he didn’t teach me the reasons, trust me, he tried. It was just that as a person brought up in a comfortable middle class environment, where although I wasn’t spoiled, I always had what I needed. It was difficult for me to imagine what living in lack felt like so I didn’t consider it a real risk.
HOW I BEHAVED WITH MONEY
When you think that you’ll never go without, you spend money like there’s no tomorrow. For a major part of my adult life, I was making a good salary and whatever can came in went straight back out. For 5 of those years, I worked at a fashion magazine which meant that I was constantly surrounded by temptation and convinced myself that to be relevant, I had to keep my wardrobe 100% up to date. That was a very costly mindset.
I was also single for some time and experienced moments of loneliness which I compensated for by purchasing clothes and spending ridiculous amounts on trendy restaurants and bars, living life à la Sex in the City. The irony is that all of this glitz and glam actually left me feeling empty, and that was exactly the state of my bank account…
THE FINAL DAMAGE
I was fortunate enough – or smart enough depending on how you look at it- not to go into major debt. The worse situation I had to deal with was maxing out my credit margin (which I used to pay my monthly credit card bills). That said, if you look at the bigger picture, it’s a little more serious. Because I spent most of what I was earning, I didn’t put much money aside for the future. Here again, I knew what I SHOULD be doing but I put my head in the sand and tried not to think about it too much.
Denial is wonderful until you decide to face the music and think concretely about how much you will actually need to live a comfortable life after retirement (or if you are an entrepreneur, when you finally want to slow things down with your business). I’ve seen women around me struggle financially later in life because of decisions made when they were younger and it’s shown me the true consequences of not creating that cushion for yourself. I’ve now put a plan into motion to build up my savings but there is still a long road ahead and it will involve being very wise in where I choose to spend my money.
LEARNING TO LIVE WITH LESS
It’s funny how the Universe finds ways to teach you the important lessons. Two major circumstances in my life somewhat forced me to learn how to manage my money in a wiser way but also that I don’t need much to be happy and strive.
#1 When my boyfriend moved to Switzerland a few years ago, my plan was to move there with him so I put my condo in Montreal up for rent and was staying at my father’s on the short term. Because I didn’t want to ship my belongings to Europe or have them take up room at my dad’s I sold and donated much of what I owned and kept what was only necessary. This process allowed me to detach from all my stuff and see what I really needed (which wasn’t much at all). I realized that I could pack up a suitcase with a few clothes and survive just fine.
#2 I quit my corporate job back in February 2014 to start my business. This represented a drastic reduction in my revenue. When you know that you have a pay cheque coming in every two weeks, you don’t worry about paying the bills or what you’re splurging on. When you own a business (especially at first) you have no idea when money will flow in or how much there will be. For the first time in my life, I looked at specials when grocery shopping, slowed down my social activities which most often involved pricey restaurants and I “maximized” the clothes I already owned rather than buying the latest and fanciest frocks.
I am beyond grateful for learning to live with less as it finally taught me how to manage my money properly. It’s a precious lesson I can now apply in the years to come as I welcome abundance back into my life.
CONCLUSION: RESPECT MONEY, DON’T FEAR IT
Coming back to my money upbringing, I think that HOW I was taught had more of an impact on me than WHAT I was taught. Because my father wanted me to start life on the right foot, he began teaching me about money at a fairly young age (teenage years). This is of course very positive except for one thing: how I took in the message he was sharing.
Because I was still at an impressionable age and I’ve always had great respect for my father, when he was serious (like he is when he talks about finances), it felt somewhat overwhelming and even a bit scary. It’s like I translated “money is a serious topic” into “money is a scary topic” and “don’t mess it up because there’s going to be trouble!”. By no means is that what he said but the little girl in me interpreted it this way. I believe that’s why I always avoided thinking about money and cringed when I had to speak to my financial advisor. I was just so darn afraid of making mistakes!
Another realization that arose recently is that because my father was presenting his financial advice in the form or “smart people do this”, when I didn’t do as he advised, I believed I was stupid. The more I didn’t listen to his guidance, the more stupid I felt and the more I put my head in the sand from shame. Today, with all the work I’ve been doing, I know what most of my mental money patterns are and can gradually change them to something more positive.
Understanding your money mindset really is the first step to financial health so while you are educating yourself on the topic, check in to see what’s going on in your mind and your body when it comes to dealing with $$$. If you notice that you avoid the subject or feel anxious when managing your finances, look into that and see what is causing this inner turmoil. If you don’t take care of it, it will follow you for the rest of your life and keep you from reaching your full potential.
If you want to join me in this month’s focus and do some work on your money mindfulness, here are 3 highly recommended books that can get you started:
Money + Mindfulness by Lisa Messenger. I loved this book so much. It’s a light read (i.e. not a detailed guide to your financial wealth) but I did gather lots of great lessons from Lisa’s personal journey which you can read about here.
Money A Love Story by Kate Northrup. I just started reading this book and it’s already generating huge Aha moments for me. I will be sharing my favourite excerpts later this month so stay tuned!
Summary (via Amazon): Having a good relationship with money is tough-whether you have millions in the bank or just a few bucks to your name. Why? Because just like any other relationship, your life with money has its ups and downs, its twists and turns, its breakups and makeups. And just like other relationships, living happily with money really comes down to love-which is why love is the basis of money maven Kate Northrup’s book.
Get rich lucky bitch! by Denise Duffield-Thomas. This chick rocks. I follow Denise’s blog on a regular basis and I truly appreciate her work because she keeps it real by admitting to her own financial challenges. She offers digestible information on managing your money issues.
Summary (via Amazon): In Get Rich, Lucky Bitch, you’ll unlock your hidden potential for abundance and upgrade your life forever. Why do most women settle for pennies instead of embracing true wealth? It’s not because you’re not smart or ambitious enough. You’ve just been programmed to block your Universal right to wealth with guilt, shame, or embarrassment.
I want to leave you feeling empowered and also with a kind mindset towards yourself while you begin this journey. This is one of my favourite quotes by Brené Brown from her book The Gifts of Imperfection (another great read).
I know it takes courage but I would love for you to let me know your financial hardships or life lessons in the comment section below. The more we share our stories and show others how we are perfectly imperfect, the more we can push money shame away and create a fresh start.
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