Music Mondays – I Can See Clearly Now

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I Can See Clearly Now

Have you ever looked back on a period of your life and realized that you were walking in a fog? You didn’t know it at the time because the clouds were all around you, but in hindsight, you realized that you were almost lost in that fog for a while.

I have had a number of periods in my life where I was walking in a fog whether it was emotional, financial, or spiritual; and whenever I come out of these fogs, I always think of this song.

 

I can see clearly now the rain is gone

I can see all obstacles in my way

Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind

It’s gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day

Clients in a Financial Fog

This weekend, new clients of mine had their first quarterly review, and I felt like this couple had been walking in a financial fog, but our meeting helped lift the clouds for them. All of my clients get report cards in how well they performed for the quarter and these clients got F’s in two big areas, Spending and Saving. What I realized during the call, though, is that the couple didn’t realize they were performing so poorly because they were in the fog.

One of the best things that I think I provide to my clients is a complete run down of all of their spending from the previous quarter, and the spending breakdown is grouped together in categories like groceries, auto, retail, etc. These spending categories help me pinpoint my client’s problem areas so that I can help them tackle the problem areas head on. This list also helps remove the clouds that prevent my clients from seeing exactly where their money is going.

When I first met with my clients they didn’t really know what their problem areas were. I think they had a suspicion because they knew they needed some extra help with their money, but the problem for them was that they were in the fog and they didn’t even realize it.

The Plan to Get Out of the Fog

During our meeting, I shared a number of their problem areas, and with each category, I saw the light start to shine through on them and I realized their clouds were lifting. Throughout the course of the meeting, I saw them gain awareness around their situation and with this awareness; we were able to build a plan to combat these problem areas.

I can see all obstacles in my way

With each problem area, we came up with a number of fixes that the couple plans to put into place, and I am honestly so excited to see what they are able to accomplish now that they can see their obstacles.

When you are in a financial fog, it’s impossible to get out of it because you can’t see your problems.

If you suspect you might be in a financial fog, I highly recommend that you employ an expense-tracking program like Mint.com or Personal Capital’s net worth tracker that not only aggregates all of your spending, but categorizes it for you. Since these programs aren’t perfect, you will have to spend time assigning categories to some expenses that fall into “Uncategorized,” but I guarantee you that it is time well spent.

After you have all of your expenses properly categorized, review 3-4 months of your expenses and look for patterns and problem areas. I do this analysis for all of my clients and this information helps us create a plan for success. Once you know your obstacles, you can devise plans for how you can best overcome them. For my clients, we created a number of challenges and set specific goals and targets that they need to accomplish, and I recommend you do the same thing.

We all end up in the financial fog for one reason or another, but there’s no reason why you need to stay there. If you have a tough time seeing it for yourself, ask for a good non-judgmental friend or family member to help you see what’s going on and hold you accountable for getting out of the fog; and remember when you do “it’s gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day” in your bank account.

Have you ever been in a financial fog? How did you get out of it? What program do you like for expense tracking?
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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.

15 COMMENTS

  1. This is like the “ignorance is bliss” mentality a little bit. If you don’t even know what the problem is, then you cannot begin to fix it. I was certainly in the fog during law school. Now that I’m not my debt has gone from $206k to $130k. I can only attribute that to clearly seeing what the problem was!

  2. I think we can all be guilty of this at times. For us, it’s when we get busier than normal and don’t take the time to sit down and look at our expenses regularly enough. We still review things, for the most part, on a monthly basis so that helps us catch things before they become a problem.

  3. I feel like I might be going in and out of financial fog. No idea why that is. I’d like to say once I learn something, usually the hard way, that I see the error of my ways and everything goes smoothly, but it doesn’t, like my recently slip up with shopping. And being in debt once again. Some things have been out of my control, but some haven’t, and I can only focus on what I can control and do a better job of it.

  4. Financial fog – great term. 🙂 Yes, I think many, many people fall victim to financial fog. Sometimes willfully sticking their head in the sand because they don’t want to face their financial problems and other times people truly have no idea how their choices are negatively affecting their financial well-being. I truly think this is one of the best benefits we offer our clients is that opportunity to part that fog and help them see clearly again.

  5. Reviewing your spending trends is very helpful! As I’ve been keeping track this year, I’ve noticed that the two buckets I really underestimated were travel and kids. So awesome you are helping lift these people out of the fog.

  6. I think everyone is more or less in a financial fog. Because of limited information and understanding of economics, investments, etc. we all end up making assumptions about how our finances are and where we are headed. Obviously the more fog you can clear, the better. I think tracking your spending is so critical to clearing the fog so I’m glad you focused on that.

  7. I lived in a fog for many years, but it’s been clear for a while now. I think if someone had given me a report card years ago, it would have been a motivation for me to get my head out of the fog. I am so type A that I would not have been able to stomach an F! What a great idea to get people on track financially.

  8. I love “financial fog” as a descriptor–it’s so apt! I’m with you on reviewing spending. That is the single most helpful thing, in my opinion. There’s no arguing with the cold hard numbers of what I’ve spent! We use Personal Capital to track each month, which works well for us.

  9. One of the reasons I like using my credit cards for every purchase is because I can look back and see exactly where I spent my money. Every week I do this and update my own excel spreedsheet. Having to input the numbers myself makes me take a hard look at our expenses.

  10. Excel works best for me. Because it’s not automated, I have to be involved in looking at my finances. And because I created my spreadsheet, it’s customized exactly the way I like it. Having hard numbers in a budget has definitely helped lift my financial fog 🙂

  11. There have been many instances that I feel I am in a fog. And, one of the ways to get out of it is by getting advice from someone in authority or those people with previous experiences. What I do is I accept their advice wholeheartedly and do what they have advised.

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