I’m Freaked Out, Too.

Some of you know me and know that I am (perhaps sometimes annoyingly) an optimistic person. I can silver line anything. Try me.

This pandemic is seriously testing that optimism. I have to seek out and mentally grasp for bits of hopefulness so I don’t fall into a (Princess Bride reference warning) Pit of Despair.

I received a wonderful email from one of  the best journalists in financial planning, Bob Veres. He expressed concern for us, his audience, since not only are we experiencing the pandemic and personal economic losses, we’re fielding questions and concerns from our clients about the same. The burden is great, and I hadn’t realized it until I read his heartfelt message. I am in this with you.

About a year ago I contracted with an Employee Assistance Program to deliver seminars on financial well-being. This has been a marvelous partnership. I’ve been asked to create a presentation (to be done via Zoom, of course) on reducing financial stress. There is some irony at work here and I realize that I am crafting the presentation for myself as much as for anyone else. Physician, heal thyself.

Here are some things I’ve found helpful. Take what works for you and leave the rest.

  • If you’re a person of faith, I think that can be tremendously powerful. Read your sacred scriptures (Psalm 91 is a favorite of mine right now), meditate and pray. Kneeling or walking can help your body devote its energy to the effort, rather than just your mind.
    If you’re of the Judeo-Christian tradition, keep in mind that the first (and therefore, potentially most important) commandment is that we put God first and not have any other gods.
    Things we fear can become gods just as much as things we worship. This virus can become something to which we give more time, interest, and energy than our Higher Power. Flip that proportion. All the specialists in the world -in medicine and economics- cannot know for sure what will happen.


  • Turn off the news. If you fear you’re going to miss out on some crucial information, I assure you, it will be there tomorrow. You know what you need to do (practice social distancing, wash your hands, clean your frequently used items, drink lots of water, get enough rest, get some exercise). This is not going to change.


  • Know when you’ve had enough of social media. (I have. Even funny memes are on my nerves these days.)


  • BUT find something that you can laugh at. I think comedians have the most important job in the world, they let us laugh at the ridiculousness of life so we can make peace with the fact that we cannot control it.

(It’s a stuffed skunk.)

  • Take some deep breaths.
    You can add a mantra; something you repeat. Make it simple and brief. Sometimes I just repeat “Love is true.”


  • Rather than say, “I am…(afraid, stressed out, broke, in debt, etc.)” switch to saying “I feel (afraid, stressed out, broke, in debt, etc.)” because saying I AM sounds definitive and permanent; an opinion or temporary situation that becomes part of your identity. Feelings are just as transient as opinions and situations, so you can let them go more easily than pieces of your identity.
    Also, opinions are not facts.

Now more financial particulars:

  • This is a great time to create your bare bones budget. What do you really need to live a good life? (Be discerning but don’t be harsh, be sure include a line item for chocolate or your favorite indulgence.) Pay attention to your money. When we’re working and making enough -or a surplus of- money we might not be paying attention. It’s okay, forgive yourself and move forward.


  • In the U.S., the CARE Act has many wonderful provisions to help us economically survive. I haven’t read through all of it as yet but I’m sure you’ll be apprised of the provisions applicable to you in the near future. Help is on the way.


  • In the meantime, if things are financially tentative for you, reach out to your creditors and let them know you may need some leeway. Learn their terms and expectations during the crisis. You may be on hold for a while, put it on speaker and fold your laundry, dust, clean the frequently-used surfaces, knit something, whatever.


  • Find a way to give to others. It totally changes the dynamic in your finances.  Neurologically, when you give away and don’t suffer from doing do, your neuro-pathways get rerouted and you begin to believe in abundance.


  • The stock market’s declines make us all feel like we’re not in control. But the stock market is only one aspect of our financial lives… and this is not going to go on forever.


  • Learn from this time; let this crisis teach you about how you want to use your money in the future. I’m not saying this to scold but, rather, to remind you that you are in control of what you do with your money. I hope that brings you some peace.

Be well,
Amy Jo

Posted in Personal Finance with a twist | Tagged , | 5 Comments

You Can’t Move Forward until You Do This

Sing it with me, you can pick from the Disney movie Frozen, “Let it Go” or The Beatles’ freeing tune, “Let it Be.”

You see, as a financial planner and confidant, I’ve met so many people who very much want to improve their financial situation and habits…but can’t seem to do so. They want to receive my newsletter and want to come to the I HATE Budgeting (But I Like Having Money) support group but who won’t hire me and won’t come to a meeting.

I’m not saying I’m the financial savior,
I’m merely a compassionate observer of the human condition,
of which finance is powerful ingredient.

In addition, other people telling you to change or pointing out the benefits of changing will not make you change. In fact, you’ll likely dig your heels in even further. After all, what do they know?

This is what I think is happening: In our attempts to always be right (there are few things that feed our egos more than that!)(even though “right” can sometimes be subjective), we may cling to the habits, stories and beliefs we have held onto all these years to avoid being <gasp!> WRONG. Therefore, we cling to what is familiar, what we thought was “right,” even if it’s not working.

Several years ago I blogged about Mistakes, Money and Mercy. If you want to move forward and walk a new path, you need to forgive yourself, give yourself permission to be wrong, and choose again. Otherwise, you’ll remain in the Groundhog Day of personal finance.

I’ll add another song, featuring the lyrics, “So if you’re tired of the same old story, oh, turn some pages.”

“I’ll be here when you are ready to roll with the changes.”

When you are ready, let’s talk.

Peace & abundance,
Amy Jo

P.S. If you don’t want to change, now or maybe ever, love and forgive yourself for that, too.

Posted in Budgeting, Goals, Living the life of your dreams, Personal Finance with a twist, Psychology of Money, Saving, Tackling debt | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Hate Budgeting? Steps 9-12 Solidify A New, Joyful Path

The I HATE Budgeting (But I Like Having Money) wrapped up the 12-Step program, learning the final 4 steps to changing their relationship with money from (even mildly) dysfunctional to hopeful, intentional and – dare I say – joyful.

While the 12 steps typically deal with addiction, financial behaviors can be addictive, too, and, like any wound, you clean it first and then focus on healing.

Step 9: Make amends directly
I perform research on the steps prior to the meetings and in doing so I found Northpoint Evergreen Bellevue‘s post. It reminds those going through the 12 steps that the first 7 steps are about you: you getting right with yourself, your Higher Power, your situation. But making amends is about getting right with others.

The group discussed how difficult this step can be. Admitting you were wrong or at the very least inconsiderate is not easy, but gets much easier with practice. Sometimes we were wrong because of the inability to say “No” (to ourselves and/or to others) or the push to say “Yes” (to everything and everyone).

Let me also say that admitting wrongs is easier when you’re willing to forgive wrongs.

The Three Rs of making amends are:

  1. Restoration (of the relationship)
  2. Resolution (solve the problem, identify a new solution)
  3. Restitution (fairness and justice to pay the person back – if possible – or pay it forward)

Step 10: Take another personal inventory & admit wrongs promptly
Getting honest and real with yourself is the key to changing those aspects of yourself that aren’t serving you well. One participant in the group noted, “I ‘worth’-ed myself into a lot of trouble,” meaning she kept trying to convince herself that she was valuable and “worth” a purchase but found herself in a financial bind as a result. This is a very typical financial behavior that can wreak havoc mentally, emotionally and financially.

You may read about how to take a personal inventory regarding finances and also about Steps 5 & 8 (admitting wrongs, making amends) to refresh your memory.

Step 11: Become disciplined with your prayer & meditation, acknowledge and seek your Higher Power’s will and communication.
The discussion on this step revolved around making life more meaningful, more rich.

I just started reading The Cloister Walk in which the author
describes her life as an oblate of a Benedictine Monastery.
She shares that the Benedictines believe time serves us (instead of us serving time)
and that in every day there is time for prayer, work, study and play.
In only one day this has changed my outlook and my calendar. But I digress…

Janine, a regular participant, shared a thought that resonated with her, “Let my crop grow to a manageable harvest. Let it not grow rotten in the field and let me not grow rotten in the harvest,” meaning, “I want to experience abundance but not become greedy.”

Breaking this step down into components:
Discipline means to learn and learning can be fun! Perhaps your Inner Rebel is making you skip school when your inner Teacher’s Pet longs to learn. Finding the learning method that works best for you is crucial. As my friend and life coach Nancy Rizzo says, it’s got to be “simple, comfortable, doable and your way.”

Prayer is about asking for help and support, perspective and guidance. Prayer can also be about giving thanks. “I cannot tell you anything that, in a few minutes, will tell you how to be rich. But I can tell you how to feel rich, which is far better, let me tell you firsthand, than being rich. Be grateful…. It’s the only totally reliable get-rich-quick scheme.” ~ Ben Stein.

Meditation is about listening. One of the benefits of meditation is the change in perspective you experience. You become more peaceful, more content, more understanding, more compassionate. More, in essence, who you really are.

To acknowledge is to know. Knowing and feeling that you’re loved and cared for will change your whole life. I personally believe that it is my Higher Power’s Will that we simply remember that. My dear friend Ruthann has a wonderful phrase, “I know in my knower.” Step 11 gracefully invites you to access the force, the flow, the rhythm… of love, forgiveness, abundance and peace.

Step 12: Carry these principles to others, live them in all aspects of your life.
One participant who has lived the 12 steps for decades shared that they’re about getting clear about what is important.

Another observed that the steps are about determining what serves you, what supports you in the creation of the life you want to have.

I think we can fail to wield the power we have over many aspects of our lives because our circumstances can give us the illusion that we are powerless. Don’t fall for it.

Be well,
Amy Jo

Posted in Budgeting, Faith & Finances, Living the life of your dreams, Personal Finance with a twist, Psychology of Money, Tackling debt | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The 5th & 8th Steps to Confident Budgeting: Admit Wrongs, Make Amends

The I HATE Budgeting (But I Like Having Money) support group has been focusing on the renowned 12-step program used for other dysfunctions. This post covers step 5 (admit wrongs) and step 8 (make amends) because I think the two go together. I will also blog about steps 6 (ask your Higher Power to remove your defects of character) and 7 (ask your Higher Power to remove your shortcomings) in a separate post.

From www.turningpointrc.com “When you try to hide the wrongs you’ve done, you’re at great risk for making the same mistakes. In fact, without completing this step with commitment, it is very likely you will turn back to your addiction.”

Financially speaking, this could be the addiction to any or all of the following financial dysfunctions:

  • Greed
  • Workaholism
  • Generous to the point of denying one’s own needs
  • Shopping without need, want or intention
  • Gambling
  • Day-trading
  • Avoidance of financial matters
  • Being Stingy
  • Stealing
  • Fraud
  • Allowing social influence to cloud your judgment
  • One participant shared that her perfectionism (i.e. I have to budget and track everything or nothing, I have to find the perfect budget app, I have to set perfect, achievable goals etc.) lead to her procrastination.
  • Other_______________________

Also from http://www.turningpointrc.com, “The reason the fifth step is so powerful is that we are being frank and honest with others about the things we’ve done wrong over the years. Many times, addictions are formed to cover those wrongs up so that we don’t have to face them head-on. By trying to keep these things covered…It leads to further deception and self-destructive behavior.”

To complete this step it’s important to identify the exact nature of our wrongs: No generalities, be as specific as possible. I.e.

  • “I knew I didn’t have the money to pay the bills anyways so I didn’t bother opening them.”
  • “I know I already have a high balance on my credit cards that’s stressing me out but I wanted to see if I could get some good deals after Christmas.”
  • “I just found out that my co-worker makes a lot more than I do and so I took some paper from the office to use at home. I knew it was wrong, in a way, but somehow it felt okay.”

“All …Twelve Steps ask us to go contrary to our natural desires…they all deflate our egos. When it comes to ego deflation, few steps are harder to take than Five. But scarcely any step is more necessary to longtime…peace of mind than this one.” ~ Anonymous, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

Who might we have harmed (even unintentionally)
and how were they harmed by our financial missteps?

  • Our children: By not having good boundaries or teaching them how to manage money.
  • Friends, family, and/or organizations we have given money to who were not as grateful as we thought they should be. Our resentment harms them…and us, and may affect our generosity going forward.
  • Ourselves by agonizing over our perceived inability to make the “right” decision, being unaware or on auto-pilot, by succumbing to greed/our egos, feeding our fears/perceived inadequacies instead of our abilities/skills/hopes etc.

A little compassion goes a long way. Let’s take a look at the possible reasons we made the financial mistakes:

  • Money is a very private matter. Since few people talk about it, it’s difficult to learn how to manage it. As a result, most of us are left to navigate financial decisions with our emotions (I.e. Will this make me happy/comfortable? Will this make my loved one happy/comfortable?). Note: You are not wrong for wanting these outcomes!


  • Since no one talks about money, we create all kinds of stories about what we think other people have/do/are in regards to money and then try to replicate a desired outcome based on those fictions.


  • Money tends to be a symbol for the things we really want out of life: love, acceptance, appreciation, respect. This shows up in many areas of our lives such as when we buy gifts and celebrate the holidays and our purchases on clothing, homes, vehicles, vacations etc.

To avoid these tendencies from now on, it’s important to consider your motivations: WHAT outcome do you want? Will this particular financial decision most likely provide that outcome and what makes you believe that?

Making amends can be scary. We have to admit that we’re not perfect and that we were wrong. It might backfire. People may judge us.

And yet there’s peace in being humbled. That peace can lead you to a deeper understanding of your motivations & values and you will also be modeling behavior that is more loving; not something you often see in regards to money.

It may help you to practice/visualize/rehearse admitting your wrongs and making amends while also envisioning the peace and love you will experience as a result. Remember, these steps are for you; the other person may benefit as well but the focus is on your healing, learning and growth.

Peace & abundance to you,
Amy Jo

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Hate Budgeting? Take Step 4: A Personal Inventory

Step 4 of the 12 step program prompts us to take “a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”

Many years ago, a boss gave me a “SWOT” (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) style performance review. It was the first time I’d ever experienced this format and I suspect someone from HR told him to do it this way.

Side note: I have come a long way but I still don’t accept criticism well.
This format (the SWOT) softened the edges of the performance review,
making the critique more palatable. A spoonful of sugar and all that.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way and since I’m in the business of giving people financial advice, I often include a SWOT analysis in the financial plan to remind my clients what they’re already doing well and nurture hope for their financial future.

Since we’re using the steps to overcome an addiction to poor money habits and to improve the peace and abundance measures in our financial lives, let me shine some light on how to work through this step (with the help, as always, from my I HATE Budgeting (But I Like Having Money) support group participants).

    • Knowing yourself is your best tool. If you’re trying to simply replicate the actions of others, you will undoubtedly become frustrated. You have to find what works for you because only you know the back story.
    • Strength is recognized when we feel content, aware, unafraid.
    • Weaknesses can be due to a lack of boundaries; the inability to say “NO.”
    • Turn your weaknesses into strengths. One member, Annette, explained that she is disorganized by nature but has created healthy habits to keep herself from being overwhelmed by clutter. Most people assume she’s just organized.
    • Opportunities abound but it’s important you recognize when you need help. Harkening back to Step 2: Acknowledge a Higher Power and Ask for Help, if you are feeling overwhelmed, ashamed, burdened and afraid, you probably don’t have enough energy left over for finding solutions! Join a support group, find a counselor, or simply talk to a friend you trust.
    • Threats: Take some time to put certain measures in place to safeguard your financial foundations before life gets out of control (and it will). One idea that was shared is setting up an automatic credit card minimum payment with your bank.

From Symmetry Counseling’s blog post,” The Power of a Personal Inventory: “Without a continuous practice of self-reflection, life becomes an unconscious pattern of re-enacting childhood trauma, misdirected anger, and harmful bias. We cannot change what we do not acknowledge..”

The Church of Jesus Christ for Latter-Day Saints’ blog Addiction Recovery Program posts about Step 4: Truth: “One way to do an inventory is to list memories of people; institutions or organizations; principles, ideas, or beliefs; and events, situations, or circumstances that trigger positive and negative feelings (including sadness, regret, anger, resentment, fear, bitterness)…As you do your inventory, look beyond your past behaviors and examine the thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that led to your behavior…  examine all your tendencies toward fear, pride, resentment, anger, self-will, and self-pity…”

Serenity Matters offers another angle to view your personal inventory by looking at what seems out of balance, what represents a source of conflict. “Bringing the imbalances out of hiding or denial and into conscious awareness is enlightening… The entire process assists the conscious mind to get involved, which is important because the conscious mind is the gatekeeper to change.”

Wishing you a peaceful and powerful experience of self-relection for this important step in your financial well-being. ~Amy Jo

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Hate Budgeting? Your Higher Power wants to help

If you’re new to this blog, let me bring you up to speed: I run a support group for people who hate budgeting (so, everyone) called – pointedly – “I HATE Budgeting (But I Like Having Money).”

We meet monthly (coming on 7 years in January 2019!) and since September 2018 have chosen to use the famous 12 step program used by other support groups to apply to budgeting (i.e. making decisions with money).

November’s meeting was lead by one of our long-time members, Laura, who did an excellent job. It covered Step 3: Turn your will and life over to the Higher Power of your understanding.

Here are the notes from the meeting, in hopes they will provide you with the strength and peace to feel confident about your financial choices.

One of the first questions I had about this step was,
“What is my Will and what is the Will of my Higher Power?”

    • Kathy shared that her view of her Higher Power is One who wants to care for her because He/It loves her and wants what’s best for her.” (Then I thought, “Well, what’s best?“) Almost instictively Kathy added, “From self-love all our choices come.”
    • Debbie: “I learn the ‘right’ things by God’s grace, despite what it looks like, even though it may not be what I feel.”
    • Sue responded, “It’s not second-guessing myself.” (I’d call that operating from a place of trust/love instead of a place of distrust/fear.)
    • Merridy: “It’s hard for people to know the love of God, which is so empowering. Be open to learning (about Him).”

From the blog post “Self Will Run Riot”:

Step Three is about exploring how we have tried to arrange
people and situations to meet our needs.
How we have placed self reliance above humility;
above reliance on relating with our Higher Power and with others.
And the results followed.

We tried so hard to control and manipulate people, places, and things, because we did not know H.O.W. to change ourselves.

Now we are learning how: by being Honest, Open Minded, and Willing.

What does step 3 mean to you?

  • Debbie: Self will versus free will means being open to receive help, to collaboration. “Doing everything for-and-by myself keeps me habitually stuck, harboring shame and feeling isolated.”

In my experience as a financial planner, many people struggle with their past financial decisions, doing exactly what Debbie mentions – harboring shame and becoming isolated – and that keeps them from making peace with those decisions and moving forward.

  • Terry spoke honestly when she said, “Step 3 is a bitch, humility is hard! What does ‘turning my life over’ look like? How do I trust?”

Indeed, where does one start with something like this? Perhaps with one small step. Ask youself the following questions and you might find an area of your (financial) life that you are willing to turn over to your HP for just an hour, start with that.

  • What am I trying too hard to control?
  • Why do I want to control this?
  • What outcome do I fear?
  • Is this fear serving me and my higher purpose in life?
  • What is this fear saying about me, my values and my goals?
  • If my Higher Power Loves Me, what – exactly – should I fear?
  • Am I giving the source of this fear too much power in my life?

When was your self-reliance detrimental to your well-being?

  • TSH: Bailing out children instead of letting them manage on their own.

Again, in my work I see a LOT of parents who are financially supporting adult children and there is a tremendous amount of anguish involved. This situation could be a result of The Great Recession, the rise of opioid use, the economy in general, Millenials still making the world a better place in their eyes or something else. I think it’s very difficult for parents (and their advisors) to know what is the “right” way to respond.

  • Me: Personally, relying on my self to purchase rental property with a boyfriend when I was very young, going against every grain of financial wisdom, my parents’ advice and my own truth proved very detrimental. It didn’t destroy me, but it was negative in every way (financially, personally, mentally).

How might your life change if you turned it over to your Higher Power?

  • Freeing
  • Serene
  • Give up worry
  • Connected
  • Trusting
  • Guided
  • Me: Make decisions from a place of love, not from a place of fear.
  • Bill: “It’s about joining forces with The Force.”

What specific actions and decisions relate to these questions?

  • Sue: “I have to make a decision to turn things over; it’s an action.”
  • Debbie: “Be willing to live in the ‘I don’t know;’ be aware of my Higher Power.”
  • Bill: “Instead of saying, ‘I can’t do this anymore,” say, “I can do this but I choose not to.”
  • Annette: “I like learning, figuring myself out. I need to understand so I see it as a partnership (with my Higher Power).”
  • Sue: “Buying stuff to fill a hole…I’m not sure what will fill it.”

If you need more than a blog post, join us!

Peace & abundance,
Amy Jo

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Hate Budgeting? Take Step 2: Acknowledge a Higher Power & Ask for Help

Over this past summer I decided that the I HATE Budgeting (But I Like Having Money) support group would use the 12 steps used by other support groups.

The 12 steps were designed for those struggling with addiction. In applying the steps to money, you may take some time to determine what areas of your life represent a money addiction. Aside from shopping or gambling, it could manifest as addiction to checking your balances, constantly worrying about money, avoiding dealing with money, nagging your spouse/partner, giving too much to others or some other troubling behavior which may not be wrong, but may not be healthy. 

How can you tell if it’s an addiction?

Is it helping you? Does it offer a benefit?
If not, why do it?
Can you stop it?

I’ve often wondered, as a person of faith, how atheists and agnostics navigate the 12 steps, many of which have strong “Higher Power” components.

Several participants in the last meeting shared that your “Higher Power” (HP going forward) could be represented by any number of ideals, not necessarily a god figure.

It could be your higher self (from a spiritual/metaphysical standpoint), your super ego (from Freudian psychology), positive energy, a community of respectful companions, your Guardian Angel, a sense of pure love and so on.

With the definition of HP open ended, our discussion about acknowledging what energy or force may be available, willing and able to help us manage our finances took off.

Some of the agenda items included questions such as: Do you believe your HP can and will help you? Why and how?

Many responded that your HP can and will help you if you listen to it. Meditation or simply moments of solitude can help you turn your ear to the HP of your understanding. These practices prepare you to welcome your HP because it will not enter where it is not invited.

Our HP may let us struggle if struggle may offer some benefit, so we must be careful not to get discouraged if things aren’t super easy. In fact, struggle brings our attention to the importance of accepting imperfection and prompts us to nurture forgiveness, patience and loving kindness (towards ourselves and others); after all, we all make mistakes with money.

Some of us shared experiences of asking (praying to) our HP for help managing our money including asking for help finding a job/clients, keeping free from temptation, and learning how to forgive, let go, and move forward.

Acknowledging a HP seems to help bring a sense of calm and increase focus. We may ask for clarity, hope, patience, peace, guidance, wisdom, truth, tools, people/connections/relationships, and healthy boundaries (to know the difference between helping and enabling, so we can share our financial resources but not give to the point where it threatens our financial security).

But once you’ve asked for help, listened for guidance, it’s important to actually do something or you risk staying stuck in fear, ambivalence or what I call “wandering and squandering.”

We’re all busy, but we can be busy not really doing anything. Once you take even one small step towards the financial situation you desire, you’ll feel so much better!

The next meeting is Saturday, November 3 10:30am when we’ll discuss Step 3: Turn over your will and life to the Higher Power of your understanding.

I also offer the 12 Steps as a year-long personal financial coaching program called Financial Freedom Makeover. If interested, let’s talk!

Posted in Budgeting, Faith & Finances, Goals, Money & Spirituality, Personal Finance with a twist, Psychology of Money, Saving, Tackling debt | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment