Addicted to Anxiety, Part II

Letting judgment go so that you can grow.

Read Part I first.

A Question for You 

What do you think causes someone to file for financial bankruptcy?

What is the very first thought that comes to mind when you read that question?

Now, humor me, write that answer down. Note how you feel as you answer. No filtering please!

What if I told you that this person is 39 years old at the time when they file, lives in the suburbs, is a 15-year veteran financial advisor, and has to apply for HEAP (Home Energy Assistance Program) to get through the winter?

Did your opinion of what causes someone to file for bankruptcy change? If so, how? Now write that down.

Here is a little more information … this person, when they file, is a single woman.

How does that affect your original answer … if at all? Now write it down.

This 39-year-old single woman, financial advisor of 15 years, living in the suburbs, applying for HEAP because of significant debt … is the mother of a 2-year-old and 6-year-old.

Did that last piece of information change your opinion of what causes someone to file for bankruptcy? If so, how? Please write it down now.

Wait … there’s more.

Prior to filing for bankruptcy, this woman is married to an abusive alcoholic who, over time, gambles away most of their money. Two weeks prior to the birth of her second child, she files a restraining order and has her husband removed from their house. Six months later, they divorce. To protect herself and her two small children, she absolves her husband from all financial support if he agrees to an indefinite period of zero custody and zero visitation. He agrees.

Did this final piece of information somehow change your opinion about those that file for bankruptcy? If so, how? Now write it down.

Assumptions

When you look at your first answer and then your last, what do you notice?

If you are like most that I have posed this scenario and question to, you probably realized that your first answer is quite different from the last. And the reason for the change is that the more information you received, the greater your capacity for understanding and compassion grew.

We are quick to judge, yes? Quick to make assumptions about people and circumstances that we know almost nothing about. And we are just as quick to judge ourselves as well … most of the time not even knowing it.

The Whole Story

I was that 39-year-old woman. The former financial advisor, mother of two, and divorcee.

Regardless of my circumstances, I was my own worst judge and jury, constantly berating myself. In my mind, there was no room for forgiveness. I was much too comfortable playing the role of victim.

And I wasn’t willing to look at the true cause of my embarrassment, my constant worry, and my fears. So, I hid from it. I painted a smile on my face that told others “Everything must be well in her world”.

Then I noticed the physical manifestation of my anxiety … I couldn’t breathe. I could no longer inhale deeply. I was suffocating.

It was the Buddhist practice of “daimoku” that first showed me how to turn inward … to stand back and simply look and notice my responses to what was happening.

From there I was introduced to other practices and processes, metaphysical and spiritual in nature, that taught me how to truly see myself, increase my self-awareness, and let go of judgment.

Letting go of the thoughts (judgments) of “I’m a failure”, “No one will trust me”, “I’m not good enough” is what brought me to the peaceful decision to file for bankruptcy. Bankruptcy was no longer a shameful event, but one of transformation and liberation.

On some level, we all experience stress and anxiety and, if we are being honest, we experience it every day. And therein lies our addiction.

And its cause? Judgment.

Where Judgment Leads

Judgment of ourselves and assumptions about ourselves are a perfect recipe for anxiety.

It can show up in different ways …

Anxiety could look like the person struggling to let go of their business and/or retire because they are afraid of envisioning their future. Or the husband who has been diagnosed with a debilitating sickness and is afraid of making the wrong decision financially for his family and keeps his fears to himself. Or the woman who is constantly comparing herself to others, thinking that she doesn’t “measure up”, so she doesn’t apply for the promotion.

While the stories all sound different, they all share a common element: judgment. Which then leads to worry, fear, anxiety.

It’s not that we should not judge, it’s that we cannot. To judge rightly, we would have to be fully aware of a wide range of things – past, present, and future. And that is impossible.

I believe that what you give your attention to makes all the difference. This is why wealth coaching is important – because there is value in understanding your current mindset and how it is affecting the quality of your decision making and your state of well-being (happiness).

So, if what you want is a life without anxiety (stress and worry), then do yourself a favor and learn to release judgment and forgive. I have every confidence that when you do, your life will transform in unimaginable and magnificent ways.

If my story resonated with you or you need to let go of your own self-judgment, please hear more from me and register for my free webinar hosted by University at Buffalo on March 23rd: Addicted to Anxiety?

Addicted to Anxiety, Part I

A wake-up call to pay attention and forgive.

The light dimmed. Darkness overtook her mind. She was about to faint. 

Her patterns of financial anxiety were the norm for many years … even while she was a financial advisor. She was successful, but she suffered from low self-esteem and low self-worth. When her business began to suffer, she hid the truth from her husband. 

She will never forget that feeling. Standing in the middle of the kitchen and suddenly overcome with a sense of heaviness. 

Miraculously, she caught hold of the edge of the kitchen counter and fell, almost gracefully, to the floor. Her anxiety had reached an all-time high and was begging for attention.

She sat on the floor, her husband looking down at her, partly in shock and then with concern. She told him that their conversation … well, their argument … over money … would have to wait.

She got up off the floor, steadied herself, and headed to the living room. As she sat down on the couch, she thought, “never again.” She pulled out her journal and archetype cards, her chosen tools to better understand herself, her relationships, and effect positive change. 

First, define “anxiety”:

Noun; a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.

Her anxiety had reached such an intense level that it had thrown her into a “panic attack”. This all-consuming sense of terror and impending doom, accompanied by a lack of Faith, had rendered her “out of control” and falling to the floor. 

Next, recall two lessons from her years as a practicing Buddhist:

  1. The quality of our environment and experiences reflects the quality of our inner condition.
  2. Faith is the belief in our own limitless potential and in all people to establish lives of unshakeable happiness. 

Her panic attack wasn’t because she was upset with her husband and money, it was symptomatic of her thoughts … her “attack thoughts”. She was reminded that she could choose to have faith in herself. That her potential to reach an unshakeable happiness hadn’t been lost … 

She was done with anxiety. The only way to be rid of it was to look directly at it. 

She wanted to understand where she was “stuck” … where her thinking was “stuck”. So, she drew a card from her Archetype deck. 

The “Addict”.

It didn’t make sense at first. Then it hit her … the “Addict” helps you recognize when an external force has more power over you than your inner spirit does. Her relationship with money was riddled with fearful thinking …  she was afraid to share that her business was suffering. 

She was afraid to tell her husband that she didn’t know how she was going to meet her share of the household expenses. She was afraid he would be angry. She was afraid of being seen as a failure and not good enough. 

Over and over and over, she chose money as the symbol of her fears. And the habitual pattern of choosing “fear in the face of money” had become her addiction. 

In the book, The Artist’s Way, author Julia Cameron states that it is through pain that one learns to pay attention. 

Nearly fainting from a financial panic attack was a painful experience. It was up to her to decide what to do with it: pay attention, learn, and forgive to come back to peace. Or ignore it and play victim, fully aware that her addiction to fearful thinking and anxiety would continue. 

She chose to pay attention, learn, and forgive. 

With peace of mind restored, she began to change her mind about her relationship with money and herself. 

Once upon a time and many years ago, that was me. Since then, I have coached countless others with similar stories in releasing their anxieties. Did any part of my story ring true to you? If so, we should talk

You can rid yourself of your financial anxiety … then share your own story to encourage others too. Contact me directly at christine@noteadvisor.com.

What’s your financial advisor paying attention to?

I often hear financial professionals talk about the wealth they manage. They usually talk about how the market has impacted financial capital. Or about what the next exciting stock is going to do in the next quarter. I rarely hear them talk about their clients.

A lot of financial professionals focus on the net worth of their clients. They may not pay enough attention to what their clients are actually going through in their lives. Do they want to purchase a second home? Are they worried about their children taking over the business? Dreaming of a long-overdue vacation? Just received an unexpected medical diagnosis? These things are the important determinants of their financial situation – not the stock market.

Conversations with my clients about what’s happening in their lives go a long way towards creating a direction for their investments. Time spent in these discussions is a far cry from market forecasting, but it is never wasted.

What you give your attention to makes all the difference.

Who’s Got Your Back?

Have you ever explored the full meaning when someone says, “I’ve got your back?” 

Is it that they’re committed to watching out for you and taking care of things that you are likely to miss?

Are they dedicated to being that second set of eyes and hands for you when necessary?

Is it someone willing to help when you need assistance, even before you know you need it?

How about somebody who will literally enter into a physical battle on your behalf?

Have you ever taken the time to consider who’s got your back in your business? 

Perhaps it’s an advisor who has a single-minded area, whether it be law, accounting, or lending. 

Maybe it’s that individual who’s able to rise 30,000 feet for a broad view of your world and then tell you how your business fits in your life, particularly during stressful times. 

Maybe it’s the person who can keep the bigger picture in mind when aiding you in your day-to-day business battles. Or someone who can pull you aside – despite your protests that you ‘don’t have time’ – and offer strategic perspectives and advice you can trust.

These “have your back” individuals will ask questions that stop you in your tracks, that allow you to take a deep breath while the stress of the moment leaves your body. They do this without fear that their questions might be simple, naïve, or lacking a complete understanding of your business. 

They don’t worry if they’re the biggest thought leader or genius in the room. They’re focused on helping you slow down, making certain that you’re not ignoring the larger implications of whatever task is at hand.

They maintain the big picture, yet they are at the street level, working right alongside you. They open their network and introduce you to the accountant, the attorney, the banker, even the medical professional, and ask them for exceptions on your behalf, all because they truly believe you are exceptional. 

These are the people who see you for who you are, believe in what you are trying to accomplish, and give all they’ve got to help you get there. In effect, fully defining what it means to say, “I’ve got your back.” 

We all need someone like this, don’t we? I know who it is for myself and the impact they continue to make in my world. Who has your back, in your business, and in your life?

AUM vs. LUM

“What’s your AUM, Tom?”

During financial industry conferences and meetings, this seemingly innocent question surfaces almost without fail.

AUM = “assets under management.”

To me, that question is a veiled and vulgar way of trying to find out the total assets being managed by our firm. When using the term “assets,” the person inquiring doesn’t mean the humans and their lives that we’re helping to navigate. Rather, it’s all about the dollars and cents under our direction. The question they’re really asking is, “How much of other people’s money do you control?” To many in our industry, this is the badge of honor that they believe measures success.

I believe that “assets under management” is a crappy way to categorize clients.

I also believe that if all you have is financial capital, then you don’t really have all that much.

While it’s an important data point for valuing a business, it unfortunately doesn’t indicate the true value of a financial professional or their client base. At Note, we have a different standard of that value for both.

We like to think in terms of “lives under management.” 

When considering the “assets” we manage, our focus turns to people we advise. The human beings we help to successfully navigate their personal and financial challenges. Challenges such as:

  • Investing their limited resources of time and money in starting a business. 
  • Taking on the financial capital risks of borrowing money to begin and/or grow a business. 
  • Sweating-out the personal guarantees needed to secure loans in early-stage businesses, or businesses under stress.
  • Lost sleep and compromised health due to the pressures of financial and business risks. 
  • Business distractions that prevent clients from being “present” with their family, spouse or significant other, and the resultant dissatisfaction over a loved one being mentally somewhere else.

Often when we begin advising clients, they find themselves in uncharted waters as we help them navigate their “lives under management.” Yet because of our years of experience, we know the management plan we are creating for them will deliver results. We’ve seen it. We can smell it. We know it, often before those we are working with actually experience it.

We also know that helping people transition their sweat and tears into something of value, and extracting that value over time in the form of financial capital, can give them valued independence. People can live in ways that allow them increased control over their time. They can enjoy extended vacations. They create the ability to transition their business to family or employees, or sell their businesses and move on to their next venture with a smile on their face.

Most importantly, they become fully aware that they are not simply “assets under management.” They are human beings who we value and whose lives we are helping to build and enjoy.

Great Advisors Ask Great Questions

In the decades I’ve spent advising individuals on their businesses and their wealth, I’ve observed that people are often concerned about having the “right answers.” It makes sense. We all want to be correct, feel affirmed, and know we’re on the path of success. However, I’ve learned that to arrive at the “right answers,” you need to ask the right questions. At Note, we believe great advisors ask great questions. The kinds of questions others might not.

Questions you never get to fully contemplate in the day-to-day demands of running your business. 

Questions which, by the time you recognize they should have been asked and addressed, rob you of valued financial capital and time. 

“What made you decide to start this line of work?”  

“Are you still doing it for the same reasons?” 

“What has to happen over the next three years for you to feel professionally fulfilled and successful?” 

“When was the last time you took off a couple of weeks, or even a month, from your work?”

 “If you don’t have the support in place to take a month off or more, what do you think would happen to your business if you become unable to work for an extended period of time due to illness, injury, or premature death?”

These kinds of essential business questions don’t stop there. For many business owners, there are succession concerns that can implicate partners, family, and employees.

“How do you plan on getting out of this business alive?” 

“Are your children working for you? If so, do they expect to own the business someday?”

“Can you identify key employees in your company?” 

“Do they know they are your key employees?”

Some business owners have shareholder involvements. 

“Have you reviewed your shareholder agreement to make sure those integral to your business aren’t robbed of ownership positions, like your children?”

“How might this impact partners and co-shareholders you might have?”

“Does your shareholders agreement address liquidity needs that may occur during their lives—college education funding, unanticipated expensive medical care, helping a child with a home down payment or a grandchild with their education?”

“Can these needs create the unintended consequences of diminished business focus, or loss of a key shareholder?”

There’s also the challenge of managing relationships with varied business advisors.

“Do you have a collaborative team of advisors—an accountant, a tax expert, a lawyer, an operations pro?
“How do you coordinate communication among them all? 

“Do you have one core advisor facilitating such communication? Or do you find yourself spending your business time interpreting the work of each one of your advisors for everyone else?”

“How’s that working for you?”

If any of these questions hit a nerve, I want you to know that I see you and the challenges you’re facing. That’s why I’m passionate about asking great questions that grab your attention and give you pause. Questions that inspire the right answers for your family, your business, your wealth, and your legacy.

If you’d like to start a conversation filled with great questions, I can be reached at Tom@NoteAdvisor.com.

How Would You Rate Your Financial Know-How?

If someone asked you to rate your financial know-how on a scale of 1-7 (with 7 being the highest) where would you place yourself? 

financial literary quiz.jpg

If you are like the Americans who participated in the 2018 Financial Investor Regulatory Authority (FINRA) National Financial Capability Study (NFCS), you would probably give yourself a pretty high score. 

In that study, 76% of respondents placed themselves in the 5-7 range. The reality is that only 34% of those who participated could correctly answer at least four of five basic financial literacy questions on topics such as mortgages, interest rates, inflation and risk.

Curious about your own answers? Here’s your chance.

Click on this link at the bottom of this post to take the Financial Literacy Quiz. It not only gives you an immediate score, it shows you how you compare to others in your state. 

Whether the quiz confirms your knowledge or serves as a personal wake-up call, the generally low results of the NFCS definitely demonstrate the need to improve financial literacy in our country. The good news is that there’s tangible proof that financial education works.

  • According to the 2018 NFCS, nearly half of Americans (49%) who have received more than ten hours of financial education report spending less than they earn, compared with 36% of people who received less than ten hours of financial education.
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  • Research from the 2020 Council of Economic Education Survey of the States shows that students who receive financial education borrow more sensibly, from student and personal loans to credit cards.
  • Results from the PISA assessment show that young people and adults in both developed and emerging economies who have been exposed to high quality financial education are more likely than others to plan ahead, save and engage in other responsible financial behaviors.

The good news is that whether you are a parent, a teacher, an employer or a concerned member of your community, there are things you can do to help promote financial education for everyone in your community.

  1. The Global Financial Literacy Center offers FastLane, with practical ideas and action plans for groups and individuals.
  2. On CheckYourSchool.org, you can find the schools in your area that offer financial education and the ways you can start/reinforce local financial literacy programs.
  3. DonorsChoose offers lesson plans and activities for educators that have been created by teachers in the field, for teachers. There are also opportunities to find school programs in your own community that you can support.

At the end of the day, there is a growing global awareness that financial literacy is an essential life skill that means not only greater prosperity, but better choices, increased confidence, and the ability to more successfully handle real-life financial challenges. 

Financial literacy isn’t just about math. It is about attaining the knowledge and skills to confidently manage our everyday financial lives and the need for financial education, which is greater than ever locally, nationally, and globally

TAKE THE FINANCIAL LITERACY QUIZ


Parts of this blog were excerpted from an onlne post by Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz,CFP®, Board Chair and President, Charles Schwab Foundation; Senior Vice President, Schwab Community Services, Charles Schwab & Co., Inc.; Board Chair, Schwab Charitable

Good Business Fundamentals in any Economy

Over the last three months at Note, we have been engaged in virtual meetings with clients, working on ways to sustain their businesses in these trying, pandemic times. 

Although a crystal ball might seem like the most needed tool in our advisor’s arsenal right now, here are some “good business” fundamentals we regularly share with clients that are important in any economy.

  • Hire the Best CPA, Attorney and Financial Advisor you can afford. Anything less can often become a big expense. Along the same lines, free advice often proves to be the most expensive.
  • Accumulate cash for opportunities and challenges. Keep in mind that other’s challenges may become your business opportunity.
  • Define the Core Values of your business and communicate them to all involved. Make sure to deliver customer service that clearly supports those values
  • Examine how to WOW your customer in a way that Amazon-at-your-door cannot.
  • Invest in the best employees you can attract.
  • Empower your employees to make decisions. Give them a budget for fixing mistakes and providing the highest level of service in their customer interactions.
  • Ask someone brutally honest and unfamiliar with your business or services to act as a customer and then grade their experience.

If you have questions or concerns about your business or need to discuss COVID-19 financial issues, we are here to help. Please contact Sarah Neuner at sarah@noteadvisor.com or (716) 256-1682 to make an appointment to meet in our office, via phone or virtually, online. 

Help Your Finances and Soothe Your Mind

With May designated as Mental Health Month, it seems timely to focus on the important part finances play in our sense of well-being.

Below is information related to understanding the ways money management skills can affect people’s happiness, along with practical steps to stay financially and emotionally healthy.


THE EMOTIONAL SIDE OF MONEY

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by money worries? You’re not the only one. 

According to a 2019 survey by CompareCards.com, seven in ten Americans admit that they’ve cried over something related to their finances. Additionally, age and gender aside, many acknowledge money as an emotional trigger.

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In a 2018 Harris Poll, it was revealed that money was a major source of stress for 44% of respondents. Specific financial stress inducers included low income, the rising cost of healthcare, too much debt and a lack of retirement savings.

These findings are troubling not only because of the significant percentage of Americans who are struggling with money concerns, but because of how those concerns can impact our lives.

FINANCIAL ANXIETY AFFECTS MORE THAN A SPREADSHEET BOTTOM LINE

A number of studies show that financial insecurity leads to a host of other problems from general stress and anxiety to poor physical health and reduced job performance.

Within the medical industry, worries about the cost of healthcare are being defined as, “financial toxicity,” as patients struggle to pay for health and hospital care and prescriptions. Worry about large medical bills and related debt have been proven to cause illness and even increase the amount of pain people feel.

When financial stress hits close to home, it can cause relationship problems among spouses, parents, children and even friends. Additionally children raised in poverty have been shown to suffer from far-reaching physical and mental health issues.

While these are concerning statistics, a 2015 Gallup poll regarding the link between relationship problems and financial well-being offered hope. According to those who participated, the solution to reducing stress and increasing financial security wasn’t as much about the amount of money individuals possessed, but more about how well they managed their money. The good news is that managing money is something everyone can control.


WHAT YOU CAN DO TO FEEL MORE FINACIALLY AND EMOTIONALLY SECURE

Worry is caused by uncertainty. While you can’t know what lies ahead, you can take steps to get a better handle on the present and more fully prepare yourself for the future. The following basic money management tips can help

Know where your money is going

  • Write down your monthly expenses. How much are you spending on essentials like housing, food and transportation? How much are you spending on extras? Make adjustments so that you don’t spend more than you earn.
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Get a handle on debt

  • If you’re carrying credit card balances, create a payment plan that is realistic and that you can manage. Try to pay more on higher interest debt first, making sure to pay at least the minimum on all debts, including student loans.

Plan for emergencies

  • Aim to put aside enough cash to cover 3-6 months of essential expenses in a savings or money market account. Starting from scratch? Aim for whatever regular amount you can afford and work your way up from there. Acknowledge there may be months when your ability to reach that aim will fall short, but don’t give up. Next month get right back on your savings track.

Boost your savings

  • Make savings a part of your monthly budget. Even a small amount saved on a regular basis can make a big difference.

Contribute to your 401(k)

  • Contribute at least enough to get the company match, more if you can.

Take advantage of workplace financial wellness programs

  • See what your company offers in terms of retirement planning, healthcare, and financial education and planning.

MONEY MANAGEMENT AND HAPPINESS

There’s one more Gallup poll that offers particularly positive results. It found that among Americans worried about paying bills, 63% said they enjoyed saving more than spending.

Saving as much as you can, controlling your expenses, and feeling like you’re in control can reduce your financial stress and help you maintain a positive attitude no matter what life throws your way.


This blog was excerpted from an online article by Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, CFP®, Board Chair and President, Charles Schwab Foundation; Senior Vice President, Schwab Community Services, Charles Schwab & Co., Inc.; Board Chair, Schwab Charitable

What I’ve Learned and Relearned as a Financial Advisor During COVID-19

In 2011, a LinkedIn Group led by a man named Joe Paris formed The Operational Excellence Society. The society’s goal is operational excellence by design over coincidence.

A significant impact of this group has been the universalization of the catchphrase “Words Matter.” It’s a simple concept that has encouraged international awareness of how the words we say and how we say them have far-reaching effects, often in ways we may never know.

Over the last three weeks, “Words Matter” has guided me through this new world order in which we are living and working. It’s been a time of stress, challenge, worry and, every once in a while, laughter. Most centrally it’s been a time of choosing words that matter as I have counseled, advised and spoken with family, friends and clients. Through each day’s experiences, this is what I have learned and relearned.

  • I love what I do every day, but especially when I can help clients through challenging times like the one we are now facing. I’ve been asked a lot lately how I’m dealing with the huge influx of COVID-19 calls from clients concerned about their investments and the roller coaster market. My answer is always the same. I truly enjoy engaging in conversations where I can calm people’s fears and help manage their worries.
  • Words matters. Clients turn to all of us at Note Advisors as confident voices in times of “noise” and turmoil. Staying positive and giving sound advice is what our clients need and deserve. It’s a purpose that we honor.
  • People with a financial plan in place are far less anxious than those without one. Enough said!
  • Retirement plans that we’ve designed for our clients are working exactly as intended. People are able to take their needed monthly income while leaving the principal of their investments in the market to recover. Planning plus thoughtful execution equals positive results.
  • For younger clients who think this is the time to stop investing in their 401k or IRA, it’s been rewarding to educate them on increasing their 401k deferrals and putting long term cash to work right now. It’s a huge step in positively shaping their financial outlooks and their futures.
  • Helping all of our clients understand the volatility of the COVID-19 stock market and encouraging them not to make reactive changes is leading to long term positive impacts on their financial futures. It is also developing stronger partnerships between us, as advisors, clients and individuals, as we face this crisis together.
  • The value we, as financial advisors, provide in uncertain times truly makes a difference in the lives of our clients. We are working to develop bonds of mutual respect and trust that are impacting their financial security as well as their personal well being.

As we continue to find ways to manage and move forward in this time of quarantine and social distancing, all of us at Note look forward to hearing from you—to listen to your concerns, hear your questions and partner with you in managing your human, social and financial capital.

In the meantime, because words matter: Stay safe. Stay well. Stay in touch.

To contact Shawn or any Note Advisors team member, call 716-256-1682


Shawn C. Glogowski, CFP® is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner and Principal/Chief Compliance Officer for Note Advisors, LLC. He is responsible for helping clients create, implement, and monitor their comprehensive financial plans and is truly passionate about the planning process and educating clients on investment, tax, retirement, and estate strategies to meet their needs

Shawn holds a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC), Chartered Special Needs Consultant (ChSNC), and Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) designations with The American College. He is also an Enrolled Agent with the IRS which allows him to represent taxpayers before the Internal Revenue Service.