In her book, “The Energy of Money,” Maria Nemeth says, “How we do money is how we do life.” Given my work on unconscious beliefs and money, I find this statement to be more than a little true. Our underlying beliefs, based on patterns of behavior learned and reinforced from an early age, are reflected in the choices we make with money. This has a profound influence on how we live our lives.
Lately I have been thinking about my two careers (financial planning and cooking.) How different they may seem in some respects, yet, more importantly, how much they have in common. On a fundamental level, both careers say something about how I “do life.”
I approached my first career as a chef with a great deal of love and excitement. I wanted to be the best cook I could be and eat well because great food is a key to living a wonderful life. Food is so physical and real. It engages all of our senses. Our relationship to food, like our attitude toward money, is the result of unconscious patterns and associations developed over time.
When I cooked for a living and was working on a special menu, I was consumed. I loved imagining the progression of dishes, flavors, colors and textures. All the components of a meal need to work as a whole. The planning process was a highly satisfying act of creativity. However, the real payoff was in the cooking, bringing the plan to fruition, savoring the results and sharing them with others.
My desire to eat well reflected the value I placed on taking care of myself and living life to the fullest; the belief that I’m worth it; and the fact that I enjoyed being able to give to others and share my appreciation for life’s bounty.
My relationship to money seems more complicated — perhaps because I’m older and have given it more thought — and maybe because money is inherently more abstract. However, the underlying beliefs I hold about money are every bit as much a reflection of who I am as my views about food. Both express how I choose to “do life.”
I have been a saver for most of my life. My belief in saving formed around the concept that money was a key to security and therefore must be stashed away to ensure it would be there when needed. The wisdom of “saving for a rainy day” made sense. I have come to recognize that another motivation was fear. Fear that there would never be enough. I was saving to have enough in retirement. There wasn’t much joy in this process because I was saving for a future that I had no vision of. You can’t quell a fear (of not enough) with a number in the bank account.
On the surface my two careers may seem very different, yet the cooking helped me see something that was missing in my approach to retirement planning. I’ve had to refashion the process of planning about money, to infuse it with the same kind of enthusiasm I had for the creation of a spectacular meal. The more I imagined the possibilities, the more vivid the details, the greater my sense of inspiration became. I am now saving with intention to support a vision of my life that excites me. This makes all the difference! I can’t help but be more committed to a plan that has so much emotional juice.
Planning reflects the desire to create a wonderful life. It is about making conscious choices. It reflects our values of caring for ourselves, choosing to live life to the fullest and sharing the rich bounty of our lives with others. What specifically do I want to be doing years from now? What do I need the money for? There is a certain delight in visualizing the possibilities, just as there is when creating the menu for a special meal.
I get real satisfaction from the planning process, both for myself and for others. First there is the power of imagining the possibilities. Then there is the “cooking,” implementing what I’ve planned for the future. As with cooking, bringing the plan to fruition is the real payoff. While we can’t know for certain how it will all turn out, if we believe in ourselves and our plan, we will know that we are “doing our money and our lives” in a conscious way, consistent with who we really are.