Our Money Journeys

When I was a kid, I would tag along on my mother’s trips to the grocery store. She could calculate, to within a couple dollars, the total cost of a full grocery cart overflowing with cereal boxes, potato chip bags, and toilet paper. She’d grown up above a grocery store that her 
family owned, and sizing up a cart of groceries is something she learned to do, like multiplication tables and cursive. I used to try it, to far less success. To this day, I’m shocked every time I go to the register.

Financial housekeeping isn’t sexy. In fact, it’s barely visible. We don’t talk about it over glasses of rosé. We don’t educate our children about bookkeeping or personal finance. In many circles, it’s actually impolite to talk about money. Some people naturally develop an interest in it and, for them, there are mountains of information available. But the rest of us cobble together a patchwork routine based on tips picked up, mostly at random, over the years. Personally, I do a lot of things in Excel that make sense to no one but me.

avoided financial housekeeping for emotional reasons, too. I thought I was alone in this until I ran across a book called Money, a Memoir by Liz Perle. In that book, Perle describes being newly separated from a husband on whom she was financially dependent, abruptly alone in a foreign country, with a child, no savings and no job. This led her to explore her personal relationship with money, and to interview other women about theirs – hundreds of women from all over the world.

Across cultures and generations, Perle received remarkably consistent snapshots of the same anxieties. Maybe some of them will sound familiar:

There’s no such thing as ‘enough.’

What I need and what I spend are two different things.

I worry about saving for retirement because my partner takes too many risks with money.

They felt familiar to me.

We all have a past when it comes to money – baggage, exes, joys and sorrows. It’s important to recognize what they were and how they color our financial decisions today. For example, my little trips to the grocery store with mom encoded in me both an appreciation for frugality and a low-frequency anxiety about not having enough. That results in a tendency to save over invest because I need the security of a certain level of liquidity.

Psychologist and author Clarissa Pinkola Estés suggests that every woman map the journey of her life, marking the significant turning points, the uphill climbs and the downhill coasts, and the little deaths along the way. “Women have died a thousand deaths by the time they are twenty years old,” she says. “They’ve gone in this direction or that, and have been cut off. They have hopes and dreams that have been cut off also.” Understanding one’s journey is a crucial first step to self-empowerment and mindful navigation of the road ahead.

While not specifically speaking of money, Pinkola Estés’ suggestion falls in line with the work of another psychologist about whose work I’ve written before: Bari Tessler. In her book, The Art of Money, Tessler suggests taking the long view, both backward and forward, in understanding one’s relationship with money. She advocates the process of acknowledging significant memories and how they affect your current relationship to spending, earning, saving and investing.

Tessler also proposes a framework for envisioning one’s financial future. Rather than budgeting, she suggests a process called Three-Tier Money Mapping, which starts with visioning three potential lifestyles:

    1. The Basic Needs Lifestyle, or the bare bones of what you need for a happy life;

    2. The Comfortable Lifestyle, which is one step up from bare bones, stretching to encompass more comfort and ease; and

    3. The Ultimate Lifestyle, or whatever it takes to live out the fullest expression of you.

Having these three pictures in mind, Tessler then suggests actually putting numbers to each tier and setting your short- and long-term goals accordingly.

Whatever you’ve got to do, gals, to get a clear view of where you’ve been and where you’re hoping to go, I encourage you to do it. If crafting or art is your jam, I suggest making a project out of it. I recently led a seminar in which we took long sheets of butcher paper and used finger paints to illustrate our money journeys and the Three Tiers. Pull out the tarot cards. Meditate on it. Create a Pinterest board.

But do it, for yourself and your future.

This article is a service of Jane Legal PC. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a free Wealth Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been and make all the best choices for your chosen family. Begin the process by scheduling a free 15 minute discovery call today.

This material was created for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as ERISA, tax, legal, or investment advice. If you are seeking legal advice specific to your needs, such services should be obtained separately from this educational material.

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