I often use the phrase financially conscious when discussing money concepts in my book, The Problem With Money? It’s Not About the Money! The reaction I usually get is, “those are two words that don’t often go together”. Why? Because we think anything financial is contradictory to being conscious. But, I don’t use these two words for special effect; I believe being financially conscious is the only way to put our money problems and worries to rest once and for all.
So, what exactly do I mean when I say financially conscious? We can all agree that financial means anything pertaining to money. But in this context, what does conscious really mean? The Encarta Online English Dictionary lists six definitions for conscious. Let’s see how each of these correlate to money and how they can be used as tools for building a more functional, responsible financial life.
Definition # 1. Awake: awake and responsive to stimuli. The road to being financially conscious begins with the understanding that our money behaviors are the result of beliefs working behind the scenes—beliefs that actually drive our financial lives. These unexamined beliefs make the decisions for us and as hard as we try to make changes, we end up cycling back to the same place over and over because we are unaware of these operating beliefs behind our choices. But, once we are awake to their existence, we can respond to them in functional ways. Then and only then, are we open to accept and make change.
Definition # 2. Keenly aware: fully appreciating the importance of something. Now that we are awake to their existence, we are keenly aware and can fully appreciate the importance of operating only from beliefs that fully support our life and values. Unfortunately, because we accumulated beliefs without really discussing or analyzing them, we have adapted behaviors that don’t really serve us. Awake and aware we can now recreate beliefs that form the foundation for a new, functional life with money.
Definition # 3. Intentional: considered and deliberate, or done with critical awareness. Our examined, recreated beliefs and new financial foundation allow us to make decisions in a completely new way. We now consider all options for our money, whether spending or saving, with full understanding and a new awareness for how these decisions affect our overall life. No longer feeling helpless, frustrated or confused, we take deliberate steps toward real and meaningful financial change.
Definition # 4: Well-informed. well-informed on issues relating to a particular topic of serious significance. No longer able to say we are bad or irresponsible with money, we have new purpose for becoming well-informed financially. This doesn’t mean becoming an expert (after all we don’t need to be an expert about plumbing to use water), but it does mean, knowing when to get more information or call in an expert. Knowing we are in command of our finances, we are motivated to learn about the whole picture in order to make knowledgeable decisions.
Definition # 5. Concerned with something: aware of and interested in a particular topic. Now that money isn’t a scary, unintelligible subject we discuss it openly with friends, family and others. Being the taboo subject (like sex) everyone thinks about money but never really talks about it. With newfound interest, awareness and appreciation of why we made past decisions, we are open to ask others for input and realize that we are not alone in our struggle for financial consciousness.
Definition # 6. Functioning with individual’s knowledge: relating to or concerned with a part of the mind that is capable of thinking, choosing, or perceiving. Finally, we are fully exercising our financially conscious minds. With our new capability, we make choices supported by beliefs that sustain the life and values we want, not those fed to us by others. And with this new awareness, we can analyze the money messages that come at us every day. Financially conscious, we choose what works for us not against us.
The journey to financial consciousness is open to all. It just takes a desire to change your life with money—a desire to end the worrying, confusion and frustration. It’s a journey for everyone, not just those with problems from too little money: too much money has its own set of beliefs and issues. But be prepared, this journey will not only change your money life, it will change how you look at yourself, others and the world around you. Proceed with care.
Jane Honeck, CPA, is the author of The Problem With Money? It’s Not About the Money! available online and in bookstores. She specializes in tax and financial planning for professionals, small businesses and individuals. As a Certified Empowerment Trainer she has developed Cent$ible Living financial workshops and money coaching sessions to help her clients make meaningful and lasting change in their financial lives. For more information: www.theproblemwithmoney.com or www.janehoneck.com.
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