Financially Fit and Flexible. Are you?

Imagine yourself in a yoga class, flowing along. Things are going well, your mind is clear most of the time, your breath moving smoothly and deeply.  Perhaps the teacher suddenly shows a new pose and it is confusing or difficult to figure out how to master it. That's part of the point of course: adversity. How to deal with difficulty, how to keep breathing, how to maintain a clear mind. Just as in yoga practice, life challenges can catch us by surprise. Lately my own thoughts have been turning to financial fitness. Part of it has been fueled by the responsibility of being a parent. I want my son to go to college with support from us, although I also want him to be smart about money as well. Sometimes I think I got things too easy, although I did have a job most of the time from about 14 on. I want to be able to retire in financial ease, knowing I will not be a burden to my family and that I will have the tools to travel, relax, and enjoy life until the end. Financial know-how can create room in life to relax and be at ease.

I recently read and then re-read a book: Cold Hard Truth on Men Women & Money by Kevin O'Leary. You may know him as the lead investor on the popular tv show Shark Tank. On the show he can seem cold at times, but after reading his book, I see that through his own experiences he has learned to separate emotion and business very skillfully. He mentions the physical stress that financial woes can have on an individual. He cites a poll which connected money problems to higher incidence of ulcers, migraines, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Who needs those? NOT I! I think this is true that health is impacted, but beyond just the physical stress, it can also cloud and tangle the mind. Worry about a job loss or economic downturn causes some to lose sleep. I like to think I do pretty well overall with my financial approaches. I paid off my student loans long ago (my parents paid some expenses, some was scholarship, and one extra year was entirely on me), and don't have credit card debt, those are often recommended as the first steps to financial well being. I have an emergency savings and could get by for a bit, but not quite as long as I'd like, so I'm working on that. I contribute to retirement and try to life frugally but could do better on that front. Sometime after Clay is in school, I plan to return to the workforce, so my thoughts are on how to do that successfully. We contribute to college savings plans for our son. But is there more each of us could be doing? Maybe. Lately I have created a detailed budget in a google drive spreadsheet and I'm keeping track of all money in and out. It has been enlightening and fascinating. I quit using credit cards as well, it just doesn't feel the same as a debit card or check, it causes people to spend more I believe. I've noticed small areas where I see what O'Leary refers to as "ghost money" trickling away. Money spent on things not really needed, but money that adds up. So just as I would make small corrections in a yoga class, minute or even large adjustments in stance or muscles or breath, I'm trying to do the same with money. Not for the sake of more money, although lets face it most of us would not say no to that. But rather for the peace of mind that a clear knowledge of finances can have on an individual, both mind and body. One big point he makes has stuck with me: "spend little, mostly save, invest ALWAYS."

In addition, a side factor on finance in our society is that men tend to talk finances more, women tend to less. Why is this? Perhaps women feel less confident with the financial world or feel like it's not an appropriate topic among friends, we are the "fairer" sex after all. Women are actually excellent investors. O'Leary thinks we're great because we keep looking at the big picture, and we're careful. I believe that it is extremely important for women especially to be knowledgeable about finance. Women tend to live a long time, and most likely will be at the helm of their financial ship someday, if not already. Why not invest time and energy now, so that you are in tip top shape for any storms that come your way? Prioritize what is truly important and clarity will be yours, men or women or both together. On and off the mat shooting for balance, as usual.

Thoughts? Struggles? Successes? I'd love to hear them!


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