What is the answer?
by Tim St Vincent
Wow, here it is January 2020 and I am starting into my fourth year of writing this column. It’s funny; throughout all this time I consistently get asked the same questions. Just recently I was on TV and radio for a few interviews. It doesn’t seem to matter who asks the questions, or what the medium is, TV, radio, in person or the paper, the questions are always the same – not surprisingly so is the answer.
How can I be financially successful? How do I get control of my money?
The answer always starts with the basics of having a budget and tracking your expenses. That is the core of it all, yet we have to go still deeper than that and examine our relationship with money. Yes, we have a relationship with our money and like any relationship, there is good to it and bad. We need to examine the less desirable aspects of this relationship and address them, work to fix them and make the relationship better. It is always tough to address the bad parts of a relationship, tougher yet to change and to repair those aspects.
Thinking that we can fix our money relationship (never having enough money, always having too much debt) without addressing the tough issues that underlie the problem is a quick path to going nowhere. It reminds me of lyrics from the song Mad World, with my apologies to the song’s authors, let’s pull a few lyrics from the song and compare them to finances.
All around me are familiar faces
Worn out places, worn out faces
Bright and early for their daily races
Going nowhere, going nowhere
This is a powerful song, let’s take some of that lyric and see if we can apply it to finances. To me, the first two lines mean things are worn out and worn down. Someone is worn down because (going to the next two lines) they are off to the daily races (work) but feel that they are going nowhere because they keep repeating the same cycle and can’t get ahead. Spend until there is no more to spend. Going nowhere.
And I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad…
I find it hard to tell you, I find it hard to take
When people run in circles it’s a very, very
Mad world, mad world
The first line tells a lot. I find it kind of funny, at first, that no matter what I do, I can’t get ahead. I find it kind of funny until I find it kind of sad. The next line I included is very strong. We do find it hard to tell people when we are having financial problems, and because we can’t share that burden we find it very hard to take. Because we find it hard to tell other people, because we think it means we failed, it becomes ever more challenging to tell someone, to reach out and ask for help. When we run in circles, repeating the same pattern of behaviour, it becomes a very mad, mad world.
This song can teach us a lot. If we are asking questions about “what can we do” to make things better, we must realize the second half of that question, the unspoken part, the most necessary and vital part that is both part of the question and part of the answer – what must we change to make things better.
If you are having challenges with your debt, you need to recognize that asking the question is part of the solution, but so is changing your habits. If we are unwilling to change our habits, our pattern of behaviour, our relationship with money, things will never get any better and we will be condemned, like the person in the song, to run around in circles in a mad, mad world.
We can break that cycle but it takes commitment. Create a budget. Track your expenses. Yes, all your expenses. It is vital to understand where all of your funds are going. Develop goals and work towards them. Open up new accounts linked specifically to those goals and automatically contribute funds to those accounts. Start new patterns of behaviour. Repair your money relationship. The best of intentions, the best of questions (and all knowledge starts with a question) mean nothing without the willpower and determination to make changes.
Examine your money relationship. Find the bad patterns of behaviour. Make changes and don’t get stuck in a mad, mad world. I ask you, will 2020 be the year you finally make the necessary changes to be successful with your money?
Tim St Vincent is a retired CFP and is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance with the Credit Counselling Society, a Non-Profit organization. If you wish to contact Tim for a free workshop or webinar, have a question or would like to submit an article idea please contact Tim at 1-888-527-8999 ext 1330. You can also contact the Credit Counselling Society for further information or assistance at 1-888-527-8999 or visit www.nomoredebts.org or www.mymoneycoach.ca