If you have financial problems, what is it that you need the most? Think about it. I’ll wait.
OK I bet I know your answer. MONEY, right? Nope, wrong.
Yeah, some more moolah may, or may not, HELP to fix your problems. But there are 3 things you need even more.
The biggest thing I notice when I first talk to a prospective client is that they are so deeply entrenched in their financial mess that they can’t see the forest for the trees. Panic has set in and they often think they need to declare bankruptcy, or that it will take many years for them to dig out from their pile of debt. The conversation starts out with much wailing and gnashing of teeth about how bad the situation is, to which I try to sympathize because I know the fear is very very real. But then I start to ferret out some actual numbers and add them up, and compare income to debt level from a 50,000 foot view. In other words, I inject a little perspective. Then with some quick mental arithmetic or at most a few punches on a calculator, I tell this highly anxious person that they can be debt free in less than 2 years (for example), which elicits an incredulous “Reaaallllyyy???”. Yes, really. Sometimes it’s more like 3 or 4 years. But I still get the same reaction.
When you’re up to your doopa in alligators, you can’t even begin to see how long it might take to drain the swamp. You need somebody standing on the sidelines who can see the whole picture, and who has seen a lot of similar pictures and seen them end happily ever after in much less time than you can even imagine. Your numbers might put you into the good category, or the bad category, or the UGLY category. Most people assume they are in ugly land. Most aren’t. Once in a while someone goes the other direction and doesn’t realize how dire their situation is if they don’t make some radical changes. Thankfully those are the rare exception though.
So that’s the first thing I do for my clients….make them understand that, chances are, their problem isn’t nearly as difficult as they think it is. I’ve coached enough people across a broad spectrum of incomes and debt levels that it takes an awful lot to make me gasp. And if someone at your income level can pay off 3 times as much debt as you have, you can get rid of yours too.
Once you realize that your problem is solvable, and in much less time than you ever thought, what you need is knowledge. Mainly knowledge of what to do differently going forward, to fix the situation, and also to make sure you never go back there again. And usually, those new habits you need to develop are drastically different than what you’ve been doing. Duh. The definition of insanity, as they say, is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results. So the only obstacle to gaining and implementing new knowledge is being teachable. You can be debt free in that timeline I gave you. But only if you follow a new game plan. No shortcuts, no excuses, no whining. I’ll give you the knowledge, but you have to use it.
Above all else, you need hope that things will get better. A lot better. Hope is what keeps you motivated to do those hard things that fall under the new knowledge category. And hope, thankfully, is the natural byproduct of gaining both perspective and knowledge. It’s also the main word that my clients use to describe what I’ve given them. And that makes me very happy.
Beverly Miller (Money Coach Bev) is a personal finance coach and speaker, based in Pittsburgh but serving clients nationwide.