Music Mondays – Control

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Control

Last week I had a one year review meeting with a client; and when I asked her if she wanted to continue to work together, I assumed she would say no because she had accomplished all of her goals and was on the right track. I was shocked when she said she wanted to continue to work together because for the first time in her life she felt as though she had control over her money, and she wanted to keep it that way.

“It’s all about control and I’ve got lots of it.”

This is what Janet Jackson says about two minutes into this video, but I wonder how most of us feel in regards to control over our money. One of the reasons why I became a financial advisor almost four years ago was that I felt out of control with my money. I was making plenty of it, but my financial life seemed like a puzzle with pieces all over the place. My husband and I were making financial decisions all the time but yet they didn’t seem to come together.

At first I wanted to hire someone else to figure out my financial life, but when I couldn’t find the right advisor, I decided to become the advisor I wanted for myself. With my training, I started to finally feel in control of my own family’s finances. If you feel out of control with your money, I guarantee that you are not alone. From my perspective, there are five areas where we fall out of control with our finances.

1) Big Picture Control

People who lack big picture control make financial choices all the time and most of the choices are sound; however, it’s hard to see how they will all come together. The best way to gain control is to stop and review all of your financial pieces and try to put them together. Ask yourself why you made the choices you made and where you expect them to lead. If you own a home, why do you own the home and what do you plan to do with it? If you are saving, what are you saving for?

The more clearly you can define where you expect to go over the next two, five or ten years, the clearer your big picture will become and you can put the pieces together.

This lack of control is one of the main reasons why people seek the help of financial planners. They are looking for the financial planner to put all of the pieces together; and if you’re having a tough time doing it yourself, then I highly recommend seeking the help of a financial planner. Sometimes it’s difficult for us to see the big picture because we are too caught up in the details and we need an outside party to help us gain perspective.

2) Spending Control

I think most of us at points in our lives have to figure out how to gain control over our spending. The biggest challenge with spending issues is that they are typically emotionally driven, and unless you deal with the emotions that are driving the spending, it will be hard for you to gain control.

I recently met with a client who has spending issues and we talked a lot about dealing with the behaviors and how to change them. If you have a tough time managing the emotions, then make a physical change. Make it difficult for you to spend money so that hopefully by the time you go to spend it, your emotions will be in check. One step that this client is going to take is removing all of her payment information from websites where she typically spends money. She is confident that the inconvenience of having to retrieve payment information will help her control her spending.

Another way to gain control over your spending is to replace your spending with something more important. I used to have a spending problem until I realized that my goal in life was to help other people. If I wanted to make this career change, I needed to spend less so that I could earn less. This goal was so important to me, though, that I didn’t miss the spending because I knew I replaced it with something significantly more meaningful.

3) Saving Control

People who can’t control their saving typically have issues because they don’t know how much to save and they don’t know how to save. My clients all get the goal of saving at least 15% of their gross income, and when they first see this number, they freak out and think it’s an impossible goal. It’s not an impossible goal, they just set their past goals too low. Even if you’re up to your eyeballs in debt, you should think about taking on other jobs and earning extra income to make this number a reality. Your savings is your future so if you get control over anything, I would hope it would be your future.

I also advise clients to automate their savings goal where they set up autodrafts from their checking accounts to other savings accounts. It sounds so basic, but this is half the battle. If you don’t see the money in your account, you are less likely to spend it. My clients have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last two years through automation alone.

4) Investing Control

Some people have complete control over spending and saving but have no idea how to gain control of their investments and the common issue here is a lack of education. If you fall into this category, I really can’t blame you for feeling uneducated or confused because most of the investment information out there seems to be written in a completely different language.

Before I became a financial advisor, I had no idea what an ETF was and why I should even care about asset allocation. It took me months of training before I could figure out how to convert the knowledge into a language I understood and could explain it to my clients. I think that there are plenty of bloggers out there who explain investing well. I also recommend podcasts for educating yourself on investing because sometimes it helps to hear the information rather than just reading it.

5) Income Control

We would all like to make more money but what most of us don’t realize is that we have the ability to be in complete control of this situation. I advise clients all the time to research job opportunities and understand the true value of the services they provide. If you are at the top of what you could earn in your current job, then think about picking up side hustles or outside jobs. I take on side hustles all the time and while I may give up sleep, I feel better about the control that it gives me to make more money.

If you are feeling out of whack with your money situation, it’s probably because you don’t feel in control over some aspect of it; and I encourage you to address this sooner than later. The longer you wait, the more stressed and out of control you will remain. Gaining control of our finances will not only lead to more money in the bank, but also less stress in our lives along the way.

Do you feel in control with your money? Do you feel as though you don’t control any of these areas in your life well? What is your control weakness?

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Shannon is a financial planner who left a “traditional” financial services firm to start her own company, The Financial Gym, because she felt traditional financial services firms did not have the tools or resources to help people in their 20s and 30s who are starting out and trying to build assets while also managing debt. She realized that the key to long-term personal financial success is a commitment to financial fitness and making smart financial choices. Through her blog, Financially Blonde, her book, Train Your Way To Financial Fitness, her podcast, Martinis and Your Money and The Financial Gym, Shannon is committed to making financial fitness fun, easy and accessible for everyone.

31 COMMENTS

  1. Income control is where my mind is, probably too much. I like your point of how it’s probably more within our control than we think. I know there have been times when I’ve just said that my employer has all the control, but really I just need to continue to look for additional options.

    • Ha! Isn’t it sad that something from the 80s is old school. 🙂 I don’t feel that old. 🙂 Income is a tough one and unfortunately doesn’t always have to do with what we do but as long as we keep working toward making more, I truly believe it will eventually happen.

  2. I really love Janet Jackson!

    Our biggest area of concern is big picture control. We are committed to guessing where we want to be in ten years, but that seems to change every six months or so. I figure if we take care of the last four, we can have some flexibility on the first part.

    • Me too!! It is tough to keep the big picture under control when it doesn’t always seem clear. I have a few clients who fall into this category and we just make sure that all of the decisions support more than one potential scenario so that they have the flexibility to accomplish more than one path.

  3. The big picture control is one I always feel like I’ve struggled with, especially in the past. I’d focus on one thing – to the detriment of other areas. Then, I’d wonder why I’d feel out of balance. Thankfully that has changed a lot over the years though I’ve found it takes a commitment to keeping an eye on that big picture so I can see how each of the individual pieces are working together.

  4. I honestly think control is one of the reasons I fell in love with personal finance. My health and my finances are two things I’m super passionate about because they’re largely things I have power over- what I eat, how I exercise and what I earn and how I spend. So much of the outside world is outside my control, but these two things ground me in what I can.

  5. Whew this is a loaded question. It’s both yes and no. I feel like I have control over the money I have pretty well, but I feel like I have less control right now about the money that is coming in. I’m so beyond frustrated by that and especially now am dealing with a very complicated and stressful situation. Feeling out of control in that area is tough, but I can only try and take whatever steps I can to try and fix the situation.

  6. My finances are one area in my life that I feel like I have good control of…it’s the other areas that are more problematic =) Although I’d have to say that Income Control is a concern. I work in government so it’s not like you ask for a raise…there’s basically a pay scale and it’s based on seniority rather than merit. I’m gonna look into side hustles and stuff…but I feel like there’s so little time. I probably need to manage my time better as well.

  7. I excel at the saving, spending, and investing aspects of control, because they just come naturally to me. The other parts are a bit harder to achieve. The most difficult one to me is income control, like making more, changing jobs, find passionate work that actually pays (Not like Blogging). Good luck with control for you and your client.

  8. I definitely feel in control of my finances, most days. We’re in the midst of a home remodel, so some days I don’t feel in control at all! LOL! It doesn’t surprise me that your client wanted to continue working with you because, in large part thanks to you, she also now gets what a good financial advisor offers. It’s much, much more than solid investment advice. It’s being that sounding board that helps them clear the clutter and see the big picture. To help them gain and keep control over their finances, which virtually every new client who walks through our doors does not have. It’s so much easier to lie to yourself when you don’t have to be held accountable. It’s why coaches, whether financial, athletic or fitness – make such a huge difference.

  9. Ah, I used to love that song! We sometimes slip up and spend a little more than we’d like, but them’s the breaks with ADD (him) and bipolar (me). Both are now controlled under medication, but little swings still happen. I think overall, though, we keep working toward goals. Having a set weekly spending amount helps keep us honest.

  10. LOVE that song – brings back great memories. 🙂 I struggle with feeling in control and not feeling in control. On one hand I know we’re doing everything we can right now to improve our financial situation – on the other hand it’s not coming fast enough and that makes me feel out of control. Trying to keep perspective here.

    • Ha! Yes, time is just about the only thing we can’t control and I understand your frustration but the great thing is that it really does add up and while we are in the moment it may seem to take forever, but don’t forget to stop and appreciate how far you’ve come.

  11. It’s taken me a long time, but I do feel like I have control over my finances. Most of this control comes from tracking it and feeling good about the decisions my wife and I are making. We have some huge goals that will require significant financing, but I feel great about the progress we’ve made the past few years. I also think simply becoming educated helps. Also I’d be silly not to mention how much of an impact having a side hustle has helped me. Before having a side hustle I was 100% at the whim of my employer – and I don’t even have a bad employer! I have a great one that has empowered me and given me opportunities to move up and make more. But if I had a bad one it would be such a dire situation. It’s partially why I’m focused primarily on tracking/learning about finances and increasing income.

  12. I think I have good control over most things to do with money these days but I do sometimes forget to think about the big picture. It’s hard to focus on how buying or saving one little thing today will impact me decades from now, but when I am able to do that, I generally make much better decisions.

  13. Control is definitely one major factor in meeting financial goals but one of the hardest to overcome. I once in a while find it hard to control my spending habit especially when I feel I have to satisfy my “wants”. But, it’s worth it once controlled.

  14. I love Janet! I think I have a lack of big picture control…and I’m guilty of spending more when I feel bad, though I’ve gotten better at not doing that. It’s so hard not to mix emotions and money and to find that control.

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