Let’s face it, money isn’t always easy to talk about and, in the realm of adult responsibilities, financial literacy may be something that seemingly evades our concrete understanding until later in our twenties.
Think about the last time you checked your mobile banking app, did you feel any mounting anxiety? Do you wait with baited breath every time you hand your debit card over to make a payment? Do your eyes glaze over every time someone mentions taxes, savings or an RRSP?
While many of us can relate to not loving the money discussion (unless we recently won the lottery), we can’t deny the importance of being financially savvy and maintaining a health relationship with our money. Contrary to the familiar stereotype of starving students and spoiled twenty-somethings still living in their parent’s basement, millennials have serious spending power — more than $65 billion each year, to be exact. With that kind of money, comes spending (and saving) responsibility.
I recently had the pleasure to sit down with Brenda St. Louis, a certified Money Coach and Financial Intuitive (picture a therapist, but for you and your money) to talk about her work and financial advice to millennials struggling to get on solid ground in regards to their relationship with money.
N: Okay so, tell me more about what exactly it is that you do…
B: I am a Money Coach and Financial Intuitive (therapist), so I work with clients to help them create a healthy relationship with the money in their life. The aim of our work is to gain clarity on impulsive spending and behaviours, and dismantle the feelings of stress and anxiety that often show up when we talk about money. We also talk about the history and money biography that we’ve inherited, work on cash flow understanding and discuss financial literacy. Once we have a grasp on that, we will go a little bit deeper on how to effectively manage money and how to invest those hard earned dollars in a way that supports your values and long-term goals.
N: Who is a typical client for you?
B: The demographic varies, but right now I’m working a lot with couples. I think that couples are willing to invest in this because they know it will reflect positively throughout their whole family and relationship. We also have a whole demographic of millennials now, who are really dedicated to understanding money and know that it tends to be a weak point. We’re witnessing this movement of young adults striving be socially responsible — made clear by millennials who are willing to pay more for brands they want to support based on what they stand for and how they contribute to society. There’s also some leveraging of a minimalist mentality, and millennials seem to be willing to take risks that a lot of previous generations have avoided, like refusing to adhere to the traditional ‘time for money’ exchange model in regard to their career.
N: How can someone become more confident with their money?
Three elements that I always works with clients on, all revolve around establishing a healthy relationship with money. These elements are joy, confidence and peace.
We work at the joy level first — anything that is not letting us experience joy with our money usually comes from a block, which are thought processes like “I work so hard, I deserve it, I’m going to go spend” or “I’m feeling really low, I’m going to go spend.” This programming happens in our body where we get an instant gratification from spending that makes us feel better. When we start to see the ‘need’ that exists behind that behaviour, we can create some awareness and find out what you actually need to make you feel better (it doesn’t have to be spending). This will help you to break the unconscious pattern that had been driving your impulsive behaviour.
Stress and anxiety with money can be truly paralyzing and it’s easy to feel stuck in financial stress whether you feel you aren’t making enough, bills keep money in, your friends are doing things you can’t afford, or you can’t imagine saving enough money for when you’re older. This is where impulsive behaviour can come in “I don’t want to think about it, I just want to have fun”.
Another block and anxiety source could be “I don’t have enough”, “I am not enough” — where did that programming/story come from? We open up your mindset to hear money language in your brain, so you can determine what need you need to be in complete control of your behaviour and your financial situation.
N: This kind of work seems more relevant than ever, too, with the increase we’ve seen in millennials taking the leap into entrepreneurship and needing a grasp on their financial literacy to do so. Have you seen this reflected in your experience with clients?
B: Absolutely. I often talk to entrepreneur millennials who want to make enough money that they never have to think about it again. This is actually an impossible thing to do. Think about living in a house or apartment, you still have to clean it and take care of it etc. The thing about financial literacy is that it will still always require you to be present and aware in regards to your financial status and well-being.
N: More than anything, what do you hope to achieve with your work?
B: I want to bring the joy back into money, and show people how it can light you up and nurture you — not necessarily the act of spending, but the process of building wealth. Traditionally, we often aren’t taught the full spectrum of our relationship with money. So I help clients understand this, while working a lot with money archetypes that were developed by Debra Price. These include:
1. The victim
2. The innocent who doesn’t want to look at it
3. The tyrant who hoards money and needs to track every cent
4. The creator/artist who doesn’t really like money — thinks its corrupt and evil, and that art and beauty are more superior
5. The fool who is an impulsive gambler that takes a lot of risks
6. The martyr who likes to take care of everyone, and usually feels resentful that they aren’t being loved back
7. The warrior who learns about finance and respects it and does what it takes to succeed
8. The magician who is wise and has learned from past
N: How can someone effectively recognize their spending habits/patterns, and make changes that will help them become more financially aware and subsequently secure?
Don’t ever spend more than you make, and if you are, then you are probably leaking (leaky money, as I call it). I always suggest that my clients create a ‘mastery account’ — this is an account that you can leverage and create money from. The very first step, which is probably the easiest step that no one ever does, is to write down everything. How much does it cost you to run your life down to the cent? Clothes, groceries, entertainment, everything. When you know this amount, you know how much you need to make, or if what you’re spending is actually necessary etc. The second step is to get into a cashflow management system, which will help you create a plan for the future so you know exactly what is available to you each week and can allocate money accordingly. Some good cashflow management apps include: YNAB, MINT and Money Minder.
N: Expanding on that, how can someone create a healthier relationship with their money – whether that includes getting out of debt, removing money focused anxieties, or creating a more stable income for themselves?
B: Millennials are always thinking of different possibilities and thinking outside of the box (Uber and Air bnb etc., ways to create income outside of the traditional system). Buying/owning a home, is no longer the “American Dream” of millennials so to speak. Instead, the task becomes leveraging money into equity without owning property. People often aren’t taught about how to invest wisely and safely.
If you can get a millennial at 23 to really see the long game (at 21 you’re just looking at the present, generally) but if you can play the long game and understand how it works, even saving $4,000 a year could be a huge advantage to your future. People usually don’t think about that. What would that do in 20 years? Not investing that blindly, being very aware and present for it, and being educated will allow you to create and maintain a healthy relationship with your money and better yet, the growth and maintenance of wealth.
Ultimately, you need to understand your cashflow and know that you exist in an environment where you always can increase your cashflow (if you’re smart about it). Remember that you can find joy and confidence with money again by learning how to manage your money and most importantly, find peace with money. This creates a very holistic relationship with money and this can transform how we relate with money, for the rest of our lives.