One of the more interesting features of social media is the digital archive it keeps of our posts. Like an online scrapbook, we can scroll through old tweets, pictures, and videos with an ease that should create a sense of awe. We can re-read old posts and have vivid memories come rushing back.
Social media can also have many negative side effects. I don’t need to discuss the argumentative nature of online discourse or the callous nature we are developing as a society. It can be pretty ugly out there. I have days where I just want to delete all of my accounts and force myself into a digital detox.
Normally, I wouldn’t even write about this kind of stuff. Today is different. You see, I made a connection recently that I feel is worth sharing. If you’ll indulge me for a few moments, I’ll try to explain.
Years ago, I realized that there was a part of me that loved to create, and I’ve tried to incorporate that creativity into my work as a financial advisor. I post videos, write articles, and publish a newsletter. Now, I’m even experimenting with audio content.
My creative efforts are an outlet for me, and I’m trying to use them to spread the message of financial literacy, educate clients, and bring some financial wellness to those who would listen. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
But something happened this summer.
There was a period of time where life just hit me and my family pretty hard. I got derailed from my work and creativity, and my equilibrium was upended. From a business standpoint, I went into survival mode–taking care of essential tasks and client needs–but nothing else. I stopped creating.
After a few missed deadlines for creating content, I heard a voice in my head telling me that I needed to get back in the saddle. I felt the pressure of not doing what I knew I should be doing. Then, I started to hide. Sure, I found ways to keep myself occupied– reading books, scrolling social media, exercising, etc., but I was definitely hiding from my content goals.
What started as only a hiccup in my routine slowly became a pretty impressive streak of procrastination. My life adjusted, and I had a new normal. Creating content was now the “new” task for me instead of part of my routine.
With my status quo bias firmly intact, I realized that I had created this new reality for myself. Getting back into a creative routine would require me to reshape my habits (again). However, I made a discovery along the way…which is why I’m diverging some from my normal content on retirement and financial planning.
What was my discovery, you ask?
I was dealing with something called resistance.
Creators of all sorts will tell you stories about resistance. It’s one of the toughest obstacles to overcome, and it’s also a reason that so many people never seem to break through their shell to share their art with the world. I’ve always struggled with resistance in various forms, but I have usually managed to press on and get through it.
I discovered something about my own resistance during this slow season. I realized that I was putting pressure on myself for the wrong reasons. I was putting work out in the public square (aka social media and the internet), but I was secretly hoping that people would like it.
Doesn’t that sound odd?
I mean– isn’t that the point of creating anything? You want your audience to like and enjoy it, right? Perhaps.
The point is, I was no longer creating from an authentic place. Yes, I was working hard to do a good job, but I was emotionally invested in the responses of others. This is a dangerous place to be if you want to consistently create anything.
Now that I’m aware of this, and I’ve made you aware of this, what on earth does it have to do with money, cash flow, retirement income, stocks, or investing strategy?
We Are Humans
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that human beings aren’t automatons when it comes to our money. Noted financial speaker and author of The Behavior Gap, Carl Richards, often states that “Money Equals Feelings.” I have to agree with him. Our emotions play a huge part in our financial destiny.
How many times have you considered your saving and spending goals with zero emotion attached?
How often do the low interest rates on your savings accounts give you heartburn?
How many times has the stock market put you on an emotional rollercoaster?
We can’t escape our emotional side when it comes to dealing with our money. It’s simply part of the financial equation. This is one reason why so many professionals discuss the idea of automation when it comes to saving and investing for financial goals. Automation helps eliminate resistance.
When we rely on our own willpower, life can derail us. We can sell our investments to cash at the wrong time, stop investing in our 401(k) or ROTH IRA, and tell ourselves that we’ll get “back on track” once life has settled down.
This was the connection I made. Once we allow our emotions or stress to drive us into a behavior change, we adapt and tend to make that change stick. We then resist any adjustments because we like to cling to the status quo.
Ask any financial planner or investment advisor that’s been around for awhile, and they’ll tell you that every year they meet people who say “I really need to come talk to you.” Yet, those conversations never happen. People get busy with work and life commitments, and their inertia defeats them.
Like my own experience with creativity, people who aren’t aligning their money with their values end up creating a financial stressor in their lives. Just like me, they can experience pressure (read: stress) of not doing what they know they should be doing. Then they hide. They bury themselves with work and other life commitments, which make them more “busy” but not more “happy.”
A New Focus
I’m not sure if we can remove all of the financial stress from our lives. We can, however, remove potential financial pitfalls and mistakes by being proactive with our money. This means that it could be time for a real, clear-eyed assessment of your financial life:
- What areas of your finances have you been neglecting?
- When it comes to your money, what are the biggest stressors?
- What are your most important personal values and priorities?
- How does your current financial situation align with those values?
- What do you want your money to do for you?
- Where do you need the most help?
It took me a few days to begin writing this article. Once I began, it took me a few days to get my thoughts down onto the page. I was determined that I was done with excuses.
I do my work as a financial advisor because I genuinely love helping people solve problems, and deep down, I have an inner financial coach that wants to help people live their best life. But, I am also human. I deal with some of the same emotional hang-ups and resistance that everyone else does.
The difference is recognizing it and making the appropriate changes to get back on track. I don’t know where you are in your financial journey, but if you need to get back on track, don’t waste another day. Your “new” financial future awaits.