Wednesday, April 28, 2021

The Power of the Group

About two years ago, I was scrolling through Twitter and noticed a particular tweet.  The tweet's author was interested in forming an experimental group.  The group's intended purpose would be to participate in a life design process through the lens of a particular book and its protocol.  Before I even thought about it, I found myself responding that I was interested.  It's funny the things that happen when you allow your intuition to be in the driver's seat.  Historically, I've been the type whose mind would interfere and inform me of all the reasons I could not participate in something like that. "You don't know these people.  You don't have the money to make any sudden, drastic life shifts.  You don't have the time to devote to this.  You should be spending that time with your family or on your job."  You name it, and my mind has used it against me.  The truth of the matter is that our minds are very much determined to keep us safe, and leaps into the unknown appear risky.  So, the mind places them neatly into a box labeled "scary things" and does its best to detour you from them.  Fortunately for me, I didn't give my mind any time to react or construct any limiting beliefs around the idea.  I intuitively started typing a response, and poof!  I had joined a lifestyle design group.

Over the course of several months, the four of us met regularly to evaluate various areas of our lives, identify areas where change was desired, and run a series of experiments that would allow us to test-drive our ideas before committing to them in a more permanent sense.  The results were rather remarkable.  Multiple participants left unsatisfying employment scenarios to pursue other things, started their own businesses, took time off to experiment with less traditional life paces...  During this time, I re-upped my tax preparation education, did a little side acting, took an experimental part-time job.  The part-time job wasn't a great match for me, but it did lead me to consider striking out on my own.  So, that was an experimental win.  I can't help but wonder if the same outcomes would have been achieved without the power of the group?  Would we have committed so whole-heartedly to the pursuit of our own happiness had we tried to go it alone or would it have been yet another thing that got placed on the back burner because "something more important" needed to come first?

In the Fall of 2020, I went on to participate in a group coaching program called Experiment Design, a mastermind hosted by my friends, The Fioneers.  The structure and commitment to myself were both critical components of a group process that very much moved the needle in the design of my own life.  By the end of the program (which ran 8 sessions), I had laid the groundwork to launch my own tax preparation business and my own group coaching program.  In fact, by our last session, I was already enrolling the first cohort of my program, "LoA Finance Fundamentals."

Where the mind gets in the way, the group saves the day!  

In the world of personal finance, I'm a bit unusual.  Shocking, I know!  There are "personal finance people" and "law of attraction people," but they tend to be very separate groups.  The mind likes to be a bit of a drama queen, and mine likes to offer me the idea that my work may not be taken seriously by folks in the more traditional personal finance space.  The Experiment Design group was an invaluable part of dismantling that limiting belief.  While I generally ignore my mind when it likes to bring such non-useful ideas to my attention, the group was able to give me some really valuable perspective.  One member reminded me that "there are plenty of people that will likely never get involved with traditional personal finance because they don't resonate with that style of content.  Some of those people will really resonate with yours because of the kinds of things you highlight that are often not given much attention."  I always believed that my work had value, but I hadn't framed it in that way before.  The group helped me to see it through a different lens and realize that my work not only focuses on improving people's very relationship with their money but also that it makes personal finance accessible to people that might otherwise shy away from more traditional perspectives.

Group support has been a critical component in helping me reshape and redesign my life for the better. At this point, I'm pretty much coasting to Coast-FI and a part of that process for me is turning my attention to what my daily life will look like once that milestone is achieved.  I don't want to live my life at breakneck speed to achieve Full FI and sacrifice the quality of my journey along the way.  Honestly, I think it takes a bit of courage to be willing to say that you want to honor your journey, as our society pushes a narrative that glorifies pushing harder and running faster.  Now there are whole movements built on defying the unsustainable standard. The Law of Fellowship suggests that two or more people coming together in a similar vibration, for a shared purpose, their energies may be doubled, tripled, and even quadrupled when combined.  That, my friends, is the power of the group.  So, you want to change your life?  Find a group of people of a similar mindset that are willing to invest energy in committing to themselves.

Currently, I am participating in two groups: one temporary; one ongoing.  The temporary one is a group of ladies that formed a book club around a particular book in the Law of Attraction space.  We read a chapter each week and discuss it in a virtual meeting and on a social media group.  I also meet with two ladies every week in a virtual meeting to work together on our investing practice.  We work together on doing valuations on companies, work on increasing knowledge, and discuss the market.  We've been operating as a group for many months now, and aren't likely to separate any time soon.  These are two very different groups. Both groups are very much filling needs in my life, and greatly improving the quality of the journey I am on.  Powerful things are happening in both of the groups I am a participant in as well as the group coaching program that I lead.

When I was thinking about my own experience with the power of the group, I became curious about my clients' perspectives.  One of them said "Each person shares their own thing without fear of judgment" and continued on to point out the value of receiving feedback from multiple outside perspectives.  Another client offered that "having an outside perspective has been very good for me, and the ability to talk about money and the limiting beliefs that I have is helping me to overcome them."  One of the powerful parts of having a group coming together to support each other in a shared purpose is that there is a direct connection between acceptance (or lack of judgment from others) and being able to move on from the limiting beliefs that are not serving us.  Yet another of my clients suggested that accountability is one of the magic components of the group "Doing my reading, homework, etc. are easier to be disciplined about if you know you have to check in with people.  On the flip side of that, it's easier to give myself grace  for not doing things when life gets in the way...because the others are giving me grace."  Isn't that true?  Accountability is critical, but it's also important that we not beat ourselves up. The group provides both kinds of support.

In my life, I've used group support to improve my health, wealth, and lifestyle, all with tremendous success.  I'm so happy about the direction my life is taking in all three of these areas.  Are you?  If you're mostly happy, are there any areas of life in which you think you could be 20% more joyful?  If the answer is yes, you may want to explore whether group support could help propel you forward in some aspect of your life.  You could utilize social media groups, form book clubs, take courses or utilize group coaching.  The options are only as limited as your imagination.  

If you feel that group coaching could be a good fit for you, information about our program, LoA Finance Fundamentals is available under "Coaching and Courses" or click here to join our mailing list.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Finding Flow With Your Taxes

Recently, I've spent a significant amount of time preparing taxes for individuals.  So, it's certainly been on my mind, and it's an area of resistance for a lot of people.  It most certainly doesn't have to be that way.  In fact, it is even possible to find flow with your taxes.  So, here are a few thoughts about ways you might find flow in the tax arena.  Now, it's important to remember that these ideas are for educational purposes.  I am not your tax professional, and you will certainly want to discuss any tax moves you make with your own tax professional.

A Tax Professional:

I know there are a lot of DIY types out there, but there is something to be said for working with a tax professional.  Furthermore, finding someone that you like and feel comfortable talking with will make for a significantly better experience.  Not only with this person help you get the best possible result on your current tax return, but they can help offer you valuable tips.  A tax professional can evaluate your personal situation and make recommendations for you going forward. Not only can this save you money, but it can help relieve you of a lot of stress.

There's also a tremendous benefit to finding a tax professional that you like working with because you have the opportunity to grow with this person. As time goes on, our tax situations change and often become more complex.  If you have a professional in your corner that you continue to work with, they're going to fully understand your situation and how you might best get your long-term needs met.  Furthermore, if something out of the ordinary comes up during the year, you will be able to make contact right away and learn about the tax implication.  This can help save you a lot of money and stress later.  I mean, isn't some of the resistance of tax-time related directly to the unknown?  If you can anticipate what will happen, and demystify the process of your future income tax return, you can relax.

Owing Taxes:

There's a lot of resistance that comes with the idea of owning taxes.  It's stressful, right?  Everyone is afraid of coming up to the end of the year and having a huge bill.  Well, that might happen once, but it doesn't need to happen a second time because there are things that you can do to relieve yourself of that fear.  If you owed taxes the previous year, and suspect that you will again, you could make estimated quarterly tax payments.  In fact, if you do work with a professional, they can get you set up for this easily.  They'll even give you little coupons with specific dollar amounts and dates on them.  Then each quarter, you simply mail them in and save yourself a larger bill later.  

I do understand the resistance to making quarterly estimated payments though.  I've struggled with that issue myself.  One way that I simplified this for myself is by changing the withholding at my employer.  I simply divided the amount I owed the previous year by my number of paychecks throughout the year and increased the withholdings appropriately.  This result wasn't perfect, but it got me much closer to even, and I didn't have to remember quarterly payments.

Breaking Even:

I know how much people love to get a big fat tax return back at the end of the year.  If that brings you joy, I certainly don't want to detour you.  But I would like to offer you an idea.  What would you do if you had a little extra money in each paycheck? I bet you could find some really great ways to use a little more money in your budget each month.  I know I could!

If you are getting a big refund, that essentially means that all throughout the year, you're giving the government an interest-free loan.  While I'm sure they appreciated that, as I said before, you could probably find a lot of things to do with those funds.  By doing your best to plan for breaking even, you can position yourself to take advantage of your money throughout the entire year!  My partner and I try to do this because every dollar in our budget has a job to do.  In fact, my partner did such a great job of anticipating and adjusting that she owed something to the tune of $23 federal and got roughly $9 back from the state.  That's pretty close to perfect.  Now, she won't have any huge refund coming, but she's been able to save and invest more all year long and take advantage of gaining the interest herself.

Remember Your IRA:

I can't help but add this one in because it presents such an opportunity...   I hear a lot of people beat themselves up for not saving more in the past.  Your IRA represents one thing that you can do to rectify inaction in the past.  Each year, you have the ability to contribute to your IRA for the last year all the way up to the filing deadline.  Since 2020's filing deadline has been moved to May 17th, you have until then.  In order to maximize your own peace of mind, it would be really nice to get a system of regular contributions worked out, but if you haven't yet done so, you can still make up for the past (at least a little)!

When it comes to finding your flow with your taxes, it's a series of little things that really add up.  A few tiny little steps can really help ease your own mind, help you maximize your overall financial wellbeing, and establish habits going forward that are positive and flow with ease.  

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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Limiting Beliefs, Purpose, and the Inner Child

As I sit in my living room listening to meditation music and sipping a cup of tea, I keep glancing up only to have my eyes meet with those of my younger self.  I see a picture of me, a toddler with puffy sleeves, stark white stockings, and a floofy pink skirt.  I have the tremendous urge to pick her up and hug her.  She's amazing really.  She's certain that she lives in a world without limitations, where her father is a superhero and her mother's kiss is an elixir capable of healing the world.

That little girl trusted her own instincts beyond anything else and approached the world knowing that it would always bend to her will.  She believed with all of her being that the world was hers; all she had to do was extend her tiny hand and grab it.  

Somewhere along the line, someone must have told her.  They must have told her or otherwise shown her that there were limits on that which she could have, do, or become.  Perhaps it was because she was too poor, or a girl.  Or maybe it was because she was from a small town.  Kids surrounded by farms can't do the same things as the city kids...  Thankfully, she didn't believe them, those people that told her she couldn't...but eventually those messages sneak in when we're not looking and we notice shadows popping into our thoughts.  Somehow the seeds of doubt, scarcity, and limitation were scattered about and have begun to spring up like tiny little weeds.  They don't look like much but there's a funny thing about weeds.  They absorb all of the water and zap the soil of nutrients.  So, what to do?  We pluck up the weeds, each and every one of them. 

This is very much the essence of the Universal Law of Resistance.  Fear, doubt, scarcity, limiting beliefs...  They are all resistance, and like weeds, they will come back over and over again until we're forced to deal with them and they have been plucked up by the very root.  

I was on social media the other day and couldn't help but notice something that someone had reposted.  It was talking about being okay with having no purpose in life and being satisfied just to roam.  The mind in me wanted no real part in the dissection of this meme thankfully.  Minds usually like to dive into such things.  Despite my mind's lack of interest in the idea, my emotions kept percolating on it.  You see, it's a funny thing about weeds.  Some of them look like flowers.  Have you ever thought about that? Being satisfied with the act of traveling through life and experiencing whatever it has to offer us...  That looks an awful lot like a flower to me.  It appears on the surface to be an act of surrender which has a significant element of beauty in it.  Then I remember.  Many weeds are disguised as flowers, when in fact, their roots are invasive.  While the latter part of the statement looked to be a flower,  the former may be the invader: having no purpose.  Why would we be here if we had no purpose?

It's a funny thing about purpose.  I believe we all have a purpose, but our societies have perpetuated a false narrative that our purpose should somehow be a derivative of our employment.  Perhaps for some that is the case, but that may not be true of others.  It saddens me to think that someone out there has held fast to such a belief that zaps the life energy out of their experience.  To the person that posted this idea: Do you believe that you are lacking in purpose?  I'd love to understand.  Is it because your work doesn't feel like your purpose and you believe it should?  Rather, could this person simply have listened to far too many of those messages that we received as children?  Did those messages take over the fertile soil, making you believe that you can't?  I really want to ask this person: What would you do if you followed your bliss?  Is there something you long to do that you've been avoiding or otherwise forgot that you wanted?  Can you reconcile these feelings with your own inner child?  Can you look them in the eyes and truly tell them "No"? I can't.

I leave the picture of this little girl right where I can see her.  When my own weeds pop up and I feel like I shouldn't do something that I really want to do, I look at her.  The truth is that I can't look her in the eyes and tell her that we're not going to live the life we've always wanted.  I'm just not willing to treat her that way.  You see, a few years ago, I made her a promise.  I promised her that I would let her take me somewhere.  She'll take the path without limitation because, for her, there are none.  So, for now, I simply take her hand and let her lead.

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Wednesday, April 7, 2021

The Flow of Abundance: Spending on Yourself

Recently, I've been thinking a lot about clearing the way for abundance in terms of making space in our physical homes, our schedules, and our lives so that the abundance we desire can flow into our experience.  What I haven't entirely addressed is how this directly relates to our budgets and treating ourselves with care.  It's funny that we often focus so intently on abundance flowing toward us that we don't give much of our energy to the idea that abundance is cyclical.  Sometimes, we need to give some attention to allowing abundance to flow from us so as to reinforce that cycle.

Under the 50/30/20 Budget that I so enjoy, 30% of our take-home pay is recommended as being allotted to "Lifestyle" spending which is also referred to as "Flexible Expense."  This category of our monthly budget is very much focused on the present moment, which is easy to turn your back to if you're fixated on your own shame about the past or fear of the future.  It's the portion of our budget that arguably may be easiest to take a chainsaw to when you want to clear a debt or beef up your savings.  I've certainly done it, but recognize that those measures are only for a season.  If we spend too long holding too tight to our money it warrants the question, "Is this a form of resistance?"  If resistance is essentially a form of fear, is fear taking over when we refuse to loosen our grip? Is it scarcity mindset whispering in our ear "you'll never get it back," making us cling to every cent?  It's really common to have limiting beliefs around the idea of money being difficult to come by, but we must remember that it's only the mind speaking from a place of fear, desiring to keep us safe.  That's a bit of a survival-mode mindset, which certainly has its place.  But don't we all deserve more than to simply survive?

When we resist the flow of money going out from us, not only are we putting scarcity mindset into action, but we're also restricting the flow of money, period.  We essentially create a financial blockage with our own resistance.  Until we clear that blockage there can be no flow in or out.  The Universal Law of Resistance tells us that the very thing which we resist, we draw unto ourselves repeatedly until we are forced to deal with it.  So, if we resist the flow of money, we're going to keep experiencing that blockage until we deal with it?  Yikes!  Money has to flow outward just as much as it has to flow back to us. So, if we can assist the flow of money by spending in a conscientious way that feels really good and supports our overall wellbeing, that's even better!  Two of the participants in my group coaching program, LoA Finance Fundamentals, had experiences with spending money on themselves with some rather interesting results.

The first woman has been working to prioritize her own health and wellbeing in various aspects of life, but often feels resistant to spending money on herself when her mind tells her that it's not necessary.  She had been having trouble sleeping, experiencing extra stiffness, and the like.  She has known for some time that she was well overdue for a new mattress but just hadn't done anything about that yet.  In her social circle, there was some conversation happening around a new mattress that a friend had researched and purchased.  It had wonderful reviews and her friend spoke about how wonderful the experience was turning out.  She was inspired to take action, and within days, she was online ordering her new mattress.  She had resolved to take this step to spend money taking care of herself and was feeling really positively on the emotional scale (which lead to a high point of attraction where abundance is concerned).  She ended up seeing that she would be able to take advantage of a 12.5% cashback offer on this purchase, which provided her enough extra funds to support the setup and take away service, new pillows, and a new cover.  She couldn't have been more pleased.

The second participant is a busy mother and young professional.  She prioritizes a secure life for her family, and as a result, she tends to want to hold tight to money.  For the past few weeks, she kept thinking about how nice it would be just to have a day of relaxation where she treated herself to a manicure and a massage.  Whenever she thought about doing so she felt so good that she became inspired to take action.  She booked her day of relaxation.  At the end of it, she felt so cared for and relaxed, and expressed that she was in a really high place on the emotional scale as well.  What's really interesting about this experience is the other thing that came about for her that week. She had already decided to get her manicure and massage when an opportunity to make almost an extra thousand dollars over the course of a few days basically fell in her lap.

Both of these women took inspired action to do something that felt like taking care of themselves.  In the process, they supported other people's businesses and perpetuated the flow of money.  They allowed money to flow out, and in the process of doing so, abundance has flowed back in.  This showed up in the forms of health and wellness, a rather large discount (allowing some other services more or less for free), a highly lucrative temporary gig suddenly appearing...  Gee, it almost seems like the universe wants us to take care of ourselves!  Isn't it great to know that it is not only okay to do so but it also helps perpetuate the flow of money?

Spending money on ourselves can be really difficult, but it's important to recognize that there's a huge difference between indiscriminately throwing money around and deliberately choosing to use money in a way that makes you genuinely happy.  Perhaps some of the knowing comes as a result of looking for truly inspired actions to take.  That takes practice, but once you become accustomed to the feeling of inspiration, you will 100% know whether you are really being inspired to take an action or if it's something else.  In fact, the winds of inspiration have been blowing my direction with regards to spending money on myself.  I too have been feeling inspired in the direction of bedroom furniture, so I imagine that I will be working my way in that direction once a few bits of dust settle.  I've also really been wanting to treat myself to sushi.  So, that'll probably happen pretty soon. Why not?  Let the money flow, right?

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