Thoughts on Worth, Value and Income

“Never confuse the size of your paycheck with the size of your talent.”
~ Marlon Brando

That could go both ways (being overpaid or underpaid). Our beloved Bill Knoche presented on this topic at the monthly meeting of the “I HATE Budgeting (But I Like Having Money)” support group.

Here’s the thing: Money (thinking about it, talking about it, making decisions about it) gets to a very tender place in all of us.
And as Bill pointed out, “We confuse what we do and what we have with who we are and our perfection.”

I’m committed to reminding myself of the magic that is me (not in a “I’m a precious snowflake” kind of way, but in a “I am valuable” kind of way), despite the checkbook or net worth statement. But even with the work I do, I am not immune to wanting more (and feeling guilty for those thoughts) and feeling elated when I see that the investments my IRA have increased in value. We’re all a work in progress.

Bill made many valuable points and I am happy to share them.

  • Slow down.
  • Don’t live your life on autopilot.
  • Become more aware of yourself including what you need & what drives/motivates you.
  • Be gentle with yourself.
  • You were born a “10,” you’ll live your life as a “10,” and you’ll die a “10.”
    Thoughts that value you <10 are bullshit.
    We were directed to the words of Werner Erhard, (while I couldn’t find the quote he mentioned, this one is appropriate): “If you’re not all right the way you are it takes a lot of effort to get better. Realize you’re all right the way you are, and you’ll get better naturally.”
  • Invest in yourself, especially in improving your communication skills because it’ll result in more satisfying relationships. It’s easier to listen to others when you already know you’re a “10;” your attention and energy won’t be so focused on proving you are a “10.”
  • Childhood behaviors are no longer effective.
  • It’s okay to break the “rules.”
  • It’s okay to cry.
  • Life’s better when you’re laughing.

What I’d like the  world to know is that money is only one way to define worth and value (and an ineffective one at that); there are many other successful ways.

Bill shared this nugget: “You’ll never outperform your concept of self; you will self-correct the moment you outperform your expectation.”

fool's gold

(Fool’s gold)

But how can we change this? What are we willing to give up and willing to let go of in order to choose a different experience or outcome?

Here’s a question Bill suggested we ask ourselves, “What would make me proud of myself today?” I couple that with a quote by Dr. Paul Homoly, “Make all decisions based on the person your would like to become.”

Bill says, “We all do stuff we know isn’t good for us. Rather than judge ourselves, laugh it off, it’s a rebellion!” If you don’t (laugh it off), that self-judgment will only feed the shadow of your ego who won’t let you succeed; it’ll keep reminding you of your shortcomings.

As Nancy Rizzo Okay Fearmy dear friend, life coach Nancy Rizzo always says, “No shoulds, have-tos, or forcing…simple, comfortable, doable and your way” is the way to stay on, what Nancy calls, “The Joy Road.”

We were asked to name our two takeaways from the meeting. For me, they were:

  1. Is this (thought, belief, expectation, assumption) true?
  2. If it’s not, what could be true? What possibilities await?

Join the discussion here, at a meeting, or on Facebook.

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Three Steps to Making Better Financial & Life Choices

Dear Procrastinators, I get it. It’s much too difficult to determine what to do about your financial situation that, for the sake of your mental health, it only makes sense to play it “safe” and do nothing.

Dear Go-getters, I get it. You want to get things done so that you can stop being harassed by your never-ending to do list and feel like you’ve accomplished something.

If you’re single, you may have both aspects pulling you in different directions. You may wonder how in the world you can navigate these decisions on your own. I assure you that you can.

If you’re married, you most likely are married to your opposite and you may be thinking that you should’ve thought about it more before vowing to stay together “for richer or for poorer,” right?

My husband and I have a teenage daughter who is pretty great most of the time but sometimes acts like the teenager she is. She had a very typical – though foul – teenage response to something the other day. Consequences ensued.

I explained that, unless and until she learns to control herself – her mouth and actions – she will never have choices, she will always be a victim of her lesser impulses.

As long as we are in reaction mode, we’re not really choosing, we’re not intentional, we’re the victim of our (admittedly sometimes bad) habits and allow them to control our lives and financial situations. Don’t you want more? Don’t you want better?

You may have heard the term “decision fatigue.” We have too many choices and our brains can only handle so much. How can you make good, wise, confident decisions with your money when you’re tank is empty?

I invite you to radically simplify your life in order to empower yourself to make better, wiser choices with your money, your health, your relationships etc. There are three steps you can take toward this simplified, mindful living:

  1. Define your priorities; what you need and value most in life.
  2. Detach from the need for other’s approval. This is easier after successfully completing #1. Fully love and accept yourself and your choices.
  3. Create a filter through which all decisions are made. This filter can also serve as a shield to protect you from the potential onslaught of differing opinions-even those in your own head.

For example, I need projects & purpose in my life but I also need quiet time to read and study. I value both, but I will put more value on one or the other based on my energy at the time. Before taking on another project, I look at my life and determine if I honestly have the time and energy for it without stealing from my quiet time. If not, then it’s much easier to say, “No” confidently, and let it go. Simple. Effective.

The same is true of financial decisions. Right now, my husband and I need to focus on our daughter’s education. Because of that, other financial decisions are weighed against this expense and if a purchase puts funding her education in jeopardy, we simply decide against it. Some people may think we’re cheap but that’s their hang up, not ours.

You can see how this process helps procrastinators by giving them direction and clarity to make decisions and how it helps to impulsive/go-getters by helping them cultivate a reliably good habit by which to make better (even if quick) decisions.say-no

Need some more help? Let’s talk.


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The Joy of Giving (& Not Going Broke)

How can you be generous if you’re secretly worried about paying your bills?

How can you really enjoy the holidays when you’re emotionally overwhelmed and feeling undone?

Our own joyful budgeter Mari McNeil presented this very challenging subject and the group’s participation did not disappoint.

Thankfully, not everyone agreed! That may sound odd but to be honest, I’d be surprised if everyone did because the holidays (relationships + money + expectations) can create unique emotions that most of us would prefer to avoid or ignore. And, of course, we all have our own lens on the world.

Mari started the conversation by asking us all to share one simple thing that makes us happy during the holidays.

Responses here were quite similar: The special music/ food/ decorations, gathering, going to church and participating in giving to charity and/or showing extra kindnesses.

Then she asked what we would like to change about the holidays. Most answers revolved around the theme of “More time” to actually enjoy the holidays and “Fewer demands and expectations.”

Mari asked us, “Do you remember when it wasn’t like this?”

Indeed, most of us do.

Someone mentioned, “It’s because we didn’t have the money” (to spend) and another participant replied, “I don’t think most people have the money now, either, they just put it on credit.” Things that make you go, “Hmmm.”

  • What was the best gift you received last year?
    Don’t feel bad if you couldn’t recall, most could not.
  • What was the best gift you gave last year?
    Once again, few could recall anything spectacular.

There was lots of conversation about how gifts get re-gifted, put out for the garage sale, donated, returned, or thrown into the landfill. This is potentially because some of us are imposing our tastes (and expectations) onto the recipient of our gift. The result is that we’re paying a price financially, emotionally and environmentally.

How can we rethink this time of year both financially and practically?

Mari suggested that we approach this time of year intentionally and mindfully (this helps you develop clarity and motivation), to think about how to express generosity in a way that works, and then create a plan. Moreover, you have to be brave enough to start a new conversation about the topic.

One participant shared that her family doesn’t do the traditional Christmas gifts; during the year, whenever you really needed or wanted something, they bought it for each other exclaiming, “Today is Christmas” and then simply enjoying each other’s company during the actual holiday. How lovely!

Mari generously offered us many gift alternatives to consider such as:

  • giving experiences (vacations, hosting a walk in the woods with a winter picnic of cocoa and other treats, a painting class etc.), consumables, and home-made gifts
  • adopting a family (invite those who don’t have holiday plans to come for dinner) and/or a charitable cause (you can buy someone in a third world country a cow, a chicken, or a well for fresh water)
  • performing acts of service (perhaps with your family and/or friends) a/k/a 12 days of random acts of kindness
  • writing a letter telling that person what you remember and admire most about them
  • giving used/gag/funny gifts


Have you read the book, The 5 Love Languages? It will likely help you identify what you would most like to receive and what others are likely to desire to receive.

If you’re looking for additional resources and inspiration, check out:

If you’d like to be notified of the support group meetings and/or to receive my quarterly newsletter, simply email me at

Posted in Budgeting, Living the life of your dreams, Money in relationships, Personal Finance with a twist, Psychology of Money, Tackling debt | Tagged , | 2 Comments

How Stress Affects Your Finances & What You Can Do About It Right Now

Our support group (“I HATE Budgeting but I like having money”) was delighted to have mental health counselor Elizabeth Galanti ( present this topic to us. She started the conversation by asking us all to take a moment to think about money. Most people admitted to feeling anxious.

She shared that 75% of people feel anxious about money and this is largely due to three causes:

  1. The “stories” we inherit from our parents about money (such as “We can’t afford that!” and “Money doesn’t grow on trees!”)
  2. The stories make up in our own heads about money (such as, “We’d be happier if only I earned more money,” “Rich people are greedy,” “I don’t deserve more money when others are struggling” etc.).
  3. Expectations we accept from others or place upon ourselves when it comes to money.

In addition, your generation can possess a unique money challenge – such as Baby Boomers concerned that they don’t have “enough” money to retire and Millennials being burdened by student loan debt. In fact, AARP just published a story that indicates that 50% of both of these groups feel financially insecure (

Elizabeth explained that anxiety is a basic indicator that we’re in danger (physically or emotionally) and, therefore, it is a useful and important physiological response. “The big black bear” shows up in all of our lives at various times in various disguises.

The reality is, however, that there is usually no big black bear. (Check out my TEDx talk about this subject.)


The fear of loss (of money, stature, position) or failure is very great, even though it is not physically a threat.

She further pointed out that
“the anxiety isn’t the problem;
it’s our resistance to acknowledging what the anxiety is telling us
that is the problem.”

Parents often model the exact financial anxieties and fears they hope their children will never experience.

When feeling emotionally/mentally anxious, you can ask yourself:

  • Where does this fear come from?
  • How far back does this go?
  • Does this fear belong to me or to someone else?

Thankfully Elizabeth gave us some strategies for dealing with this anxiety.

First of all, deep breaths are always a good idea; they send a message to the brain that you’re safe, that you’re okay. Then your rational (smart) brain can go to work figuring things out. Here is her 5 step process:

  1. Create a plan (Of course I’m in favor of this not only because it’s the work I do but because it works.) If you are worried that you’ll run out of money, for example, crunching the numbers or having a professional help you crunch them can direct you toward some options, solutions, and answers.
  2. Start small
  3. Focus on the positive (it gives you the necessary encouragement)
  4. Use anxiety as a temporary motivator to take action
  5. Let the anxiety go; what’s the worst that can happen? What’s the probability that the worst will happen?

There is no big black bear.

Unless, of course, there is.

Or a skunk.

skunk In which case, your money is the last thing on your mind.

Posted in Budgeting, Personal Finance with a twist, Psychology of Money | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

What a Personal Financial Policy is & How it Makes Your Life Better

Most of economic theory is based on the assumption that we make rational, logical, and beneficial financial decisions. Ha! Most of us make purely emotional (or “socially informed”) decisions about money most of the time, some of which may be beneficial, but most are not.

Why? Some people find the whole topic of money confusing and/or uncomfortable, some are concerned about how their financial actions, decisions or outcomes will be judged by family members, friends and colleagues (humans are judgmental little buggers, especially when it comes to money) and most of us can’t be sure if/when people are telling us the truth, or even if we’re telling ourselves the truth. This makes it difficult to make a rational decision, so instead we either make an emotional one… or procrastinate.

I’ve been studying the concept of a Personal Financial Policy, especially from Dave Yeske, DBA, CFP® and Elissa Buie, CFP®’s article in the “Journal of Financial Planning” about decision architecture. Creating a PFP is a way of understanding yourself  and what’s important to you so that you can make good decisions with your money ― no matter how emotional you may be at any given moment ― that reflect who you are and what’s important to you.

The “I HATE Budgeting (But I Like Having Money)” support group met a few weeks ago to discuss this concept so I’d like to share some of the insights from that meeting.

A Personal Financial Policy (PFP) can be a budget, but it can be much more. I feel that one of the major aspects of your policy should be how and why you spend and save your money on a day-to-day basis.

According to Yeske & Buie, “The dual characteristics of a good policy require that it must be broad enough to encompass any novel event that might arise, while being specific enough so that we are never in doubt as to what actions to take.”

Your policy could include as many or as few categories as are beneficial, such as how much you’re willing to spend on pet emergencies, how much you can stock up on a favorite shampoo that’s on sale, how many birthday parties your child will attend in a given year, how much you will give to various charities each year, etc. When it’s your “policy” to act a certain way with regards to your money, you can experience the emotions without being led by them.

A PFP can also guide you when a major financial event (positive or negative) happens; like receiving a windfall or losing your job.

For example, if you should you receive a large amount of money (lottery, inheritance, settlement), having a personal financial policy in place before such an event can help you decide how you would use money (i.e. % or $ how much to give to family/friends, spend on fun/extravagant/once-in-a-lifetime things, how much to save, pay off debt etc.).

When you’re aware of how much you need to live and have agreed to a personal policy to budget and save, you’re more likely to have saved up a cushion in the event of a job loss or major expense so that you can afford (emotionally as well as financially) to be less stressed, should your employment change.

What do you think, can a PFP be helpful to you?

If you’d like to this explore more, I invite you to schedule a complimentary initial consultation at under the “Let’s Talk” tab.

Want to learn more about your emotional financial decisions or those of your spouse? Read the book The Money Code.

One of the supporrt group members shared with us the brain child of a Google Engineer, a leadership program called Search Inside Yourself ( which helps you develop mindfulness, purpose and balance; all key strengths as we lead our own lives.

Be well!
Amy Jo

Posted in Budgeting, Charitable giving, College, Faith & Finances, Goals, Insurance, Investing, Living the life of your dreams, Marriage and Money, Money & Spirituality, Money in relationships, Personal Finance with a twist, Psychology of Money, Retirement, Saving, Tackling debt | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Financial Survival Skills & The Fate of the Cake Plate

I decided I would save my family money by painting our kitchen myself. I’m a pretty good painter, a friend who is an interior designer helped me choose paint colors, and Home Depot offered a rebate on paint. The kitchen looks great bkitchen cornerut three days later I could hardly move; I threw out my back.

This period of pain seemed to be only helped by reclining and, therefore watching TV. I got to watch several episodes of “Naked and Afraid,” on the Discovery Channel which tracks a man and a woman trying to survive in a variety of settings. Some made it, some didn’t. The most crucial components of survival was finding a source of water, making a fire to boil the water (or risk becoming ill) and to cook whatever food was caught, finding said food and building a shelter. Oh, and warding off spiders, scorpions, snakes and other critters.

It was clear that the two “survivors” were dependent on each other and had to work hard to support one another.

This got me thinking (my husband says that I think too much) about basic survival and how far most of us are from that. Think about it. Think about the (physical) comfort and (physical) security you currently enjoy and that you can devote your energy to other pursuits such as art, sports, reading, music, hobbies etc.

I recently shared a blog post by Mr. Money Mustache, a frugal favorite, titled “Happiness is the Only Logical Pursuit.” (I tried to give you the link but that’s not allowed, probably because MMM very much wants to control his content and traffic, and I don’t blame him.) In the post he describes Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, with basic living essentials at the bottom and self actualization (“be all you can be”) at the top of the pyramid. He creates this visual adeptly. He inserts the idea of how consumption affects all the levels of the hierarchy; for good and for evil.

The Minimalists wrote this great book titled Everything That Remains. There are so many quotes I could share with you from that book but we’d be here all day; just read the book. One I will include in this post about survival is, “Sure, I need money to pay for the basics, but I don’t need to struggle earn money to buy crap I don’t need anymore. This thing called minimalism has allowed me to get rid of life’s excess so I can focus on what’s essential.” (I wrote about the benefits of minimalism in regards to budgeting previously.)(I will say it’s likely much easier for two bachelors to embrace the idea of minimalism than a married-with-kids person, just sayin’.)

But the idea gives me pause.

Do I “need” the crystal cake plate given to us for our wedding that I’ve honestly used only once?

Will my Linked In connections determine my success as a financial planner?

Will Great Britain’s leaving the European Union change the trajectory for my financial life?

No, of course not.
But you must think about these aspects of life when you sort through the clutter in your life and decide where to focus your energy and what to simply let go. (Let me know if you want the cake platter.)

Money can give us the illusion of feeling “secure.” But security is not found in money. The money is an indication that you don’t have to ask anyone for help; a way of stating that you got your you-know-what together and you can support yourself; that you are self-sufficient. That’s not the same thing as security and, sometimes, no matter how much money you have, you may never feel secure.

Security is found in personal resilience, living a life of purpose, and in maintaining good, respectful relationships based on common values and goals.

Back to our naked-and-afraid survivors. In several episodes inevitably one becomes ill or injured and cannot do the work of finding water, gathering firewood/making a fire and/or hunting for food. The well-survivor picks up the slack. The well-survivor does not hoard the water and food out of spite or greed but, rather, shares and tends to his/her companion. That’s the deal.

Our insecurity (especially around money) is most likely a feeling of insecurity in a relationship, that the other person will not have our backs. Okay, another quote from Everything That Remains, “But many of the things we cling to in search of security actually drain the satisfaction from our lives, leaving us discontented and overwhelmed…Discontentment is uncertainty. And uncertainty is insecurity. Hence, if you are not happy with your situation, no matter how comfortable it is, you won’t ever feel secure.”

That’s a lot for noon on a Friday but there you have it. You know I don’t mentally swim in the shallow end 😉

Take away: Create a Self-worth statement listing all of your assets (talents, skills, abilities, attributes) and the areas you will strengthen (such as limiting beliefs, scarcity mindsets, etc.) by devoting your time and energy to them.

Be the survivor, not the cake plate.

And please share this with someone you love. Most people don’t know the first thing about money management and this blog is a safe place that allows them to learn about this challenging aspect of human life in a judgment-free zone.

Be well!
Amy Jo

Posted in Living the life of your dreams, Marriage and Money, Money in relationships, Personal Finance with a twist, Psychology of Money | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Likely Reason Why You Haven’t Done Anything With your Finances & Why It’s Okay

I was recently hired by a couple who originally met with me almost four years ago. The husband’s reason, “I wasn’t ready.”

Another couple is hiring me after about two years and only on a limited basis because, “We’re never going to fill out all of that information. We’re just…not,” (I ask for a lot of information so I can look at your financial life holistically).

A woman is committing to working with me after “only” a year of originally meeting with me.

You may wonder if I simply have terrible closing skills and for many years I did, too. Since being in private practice for nearly six of my twenty-three years in the business, I’ve learned that people just have to be ready.

There is a LOT of information available to help you improve your finances, mostly free (because marketing coaches tell all of us to get people to sign up for our free newsletters and blogs to attract potential clients). The problem is determining if it’s applicable to you and your unique situation and if you’re ready to tackle this aspect of your life. Not knowing (a) if it’s true or (b) if it’s applicable, most people simply procrastinate. (And you thought it was just you!)

Deciding to tackle something as big as your finances is a huge step and if you’re not ready, don’t waste your time (or money) going through the motions.

Most of my industry (and most profit driven industries) NEED you to ACT RIGHT NOW so that they can make money RIGHT NOW. This rush-rush-do-do attitude should be a red flag for anyone in the midst of making important financial decisions. I say thumb your nose at the whole thing and take your time developing clarity on your goals, priorities, values and motivations while also thinking about any obstacles (real or imagined) that may be standing in your way.

The financial planning process uses the following six-step model:
1. Establish the relationship, identify goals, needs, objectives
2. Gather data
3. Analyze data
4. Develop & present recommendations
5. Implement recommendations
6. Monitor results

Anyone jumping from the front edge of step 1 to steps 4 or 5 is selling something, not providing professional advice. Would you trust a doctor who prescribed something after only hearing about one aspect of your health? No, of course not, and this is the same reason why some of you haven’t “done” much with your finances.

I read an excellent article in the Journal of Financial Planning, Motivating and Helping the Overspending Client: A Stages-of-Change Model.” The authors (a PhD, Ed. D, and CFP R professional) suggest the following five-step phase identifier (originally developed by James Prouchaska, Carlo DiClemente and their colleagues) to determine readiness to change (spending, quitting smoking, weight loss etc.):
1. Denial: People in this phase typically deny any problems and/or blame others.
2. Ambivalence: From the article, “Ambivalent clients need to have someone acknowledge both sides of the argument in their head and heart.”
3. Preparation: You’re ready to do something
4. Action: You are doing something!
5. Maintenance: Keep doing that!
Then, in the event the client struggles with some old behaviors:
6. Relapse “Do you need new skills, or more strategizing about how to stay on track?”

Two critical questions the authors suggest asking are:
1. How important is it?
2. How confident are youthat you could do it? I would add, how confident are you that your advisor can and will help you?
The answers to these questions can indicate whether or not you are ready to tackle your finances.

Changing behavior is enormously difficult, but it’s easier and more possible when you identify what Tracy Brinkman from Your Success At Last calls your unique DNA:

Knowing what drives or motivates you to make a change in your life as well as what you need and how you can best be rewarded increases the likelihood that you will follow through. If any of the components are missing, you’re less likely to be successful.

As you view the image below, you can see at the core of our financial picture is our beliefs, values, behaviors and emotions. These include the belief that stocks perform positively over the long-term and in things like karma and the golden rule.


holistic financial planning

Outside of us are all of the things we do with money: earn, save, protect, invest, spend and give/share.

In the italics are all of the influences that affect our financial decisions: relationships being the most significant but also our health, the environment we live in (physical, emotional, mental), our careers, our spirituality (however that is defined) and the community in which we live.

Financial shortcomings typically result in feelings of shame and in defensive or secretive behaviors which can cause further damage both to self-esteem and to relationships. We all can do better when we both know better and are fully supported to make the changes and choices that are best for us and our family. If you are ready to start taking some steps toward your financial well-being, I invite you to contact me to schedule your complimentary initial consultation. Plus, I always have chocolate in my office.

Posted in Budgeting, Goals, Personal Finance with a twist, Psychology of Money, Retirement, Saving, Tackling debt | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments