Life lessons from my Financial Fitness coach
A year ago, my family of five lived in a 200 square feet tiny house. We still owed our immigration lawyer 10,000 dollars. I yearned to write and run more, but never had the time. So many dreams felt out of reach.
How much can change in a year!
I write this from my (new-to-me) writer’s desk. A fire crackles in the hearth of our new home’s living room and our three boys practice their somersaults onto the couch. My husband is prepping Chilean tortillas, robust with chard and eggs, and a duck and seafood dish for Thanksgiving dinner — which we will host for the first time. I feel invigorated from my 45-minute run in the crisp Autumn air. Outside, our raised garden beds hold dinosaur kale, and garlic seed just tucked in under the rich soil.
A key ingredient to our successes was my coaching sessions with Wade. Reflecting back, along with valuable tips on how to approach budgeting, a focus fund and making big financial decisions, there are three major lessons I have learned from our consultations that continue to feed all areas of my life.
Participate from a place of abundance
Through our coaching sessions and my concurrent, individual therapy sessions, I came to unearth some deeply rooted ideas. I realized that I often consumed from a place of scarcity. Predicated on a childhood in a single-mother household in which food and money were often scarce, as were any plans for our situation to get better, I held a powerful, unconscious belief that time, energy, food and money should be consumed now versus waiting for an uncertain future. I was unconsciously making decisions based on these old ideas. These trauma-beliefs were further activated by a current, arduous battle to gain resident immigrant status for my husband.
Now, I won’t claim that the old panic of “not having enough” doesn’t flare up now and again. The difference is that I usually recognize it for what it is. I check myself at a decision point about giving or taking time, energy, money: is my jaw clenched and shoulders tense, and my gut clenched with urgency? Those are my scarcity warnings signs.
In contrast, when I can participate from a place of abundance, the world opens up. I am open to the subtle give and take of connecting with my husband, kids and community. I am open to planning for the future, saving and investing money.
I am open to stretching my mind to new ideas.
Visualize my future with courage
My second lesson ties in closely. When I can participate from a place of abundance, I can be open to opportunities. A year ago at a birthday party for my middle son, I struck up a conversation with a gregarious young lady who turned out to be a local real estate agent. I mentioned we were planning on buying a house in Oregon City “in about six months.” She strongly recommended I use the Holiday slump time to my advantage and start looking now.
My first impulse was to push that idea away. I could feel myself clench up and close down. I wanted to pay off some final debt first. Who was going to buy our 200 square feet tiny house in the Pacific Northwest rainy season so that we could create a down payment? And deeper to this all, was a fear about how to embrace my dream of home ownership as someone who had never lived in a home that was not rented or borrowed. I needed to believe that I was worth it, cast aside old ideas, and visualize our new future courageously.
In that moment, I opened up to the idea. I took her card. I talked to my husband. We called her. I posted photos of our cabin-style tiny house on Facebook just to test the waters and received three offers that very weekend. We toured three houses, and in that final stop we saw the quiet potential of a 1950’s ranch-style home with a spacious backyard.
In that whirlwind of a month, we negotiated a sales for our tiny house, wrote up a contract, sold it, and found a certified mover. We navigated the inspection and the rounds of paperwork to buy our “big” house. Most importantly, I practiced visualizing us in our new home. Time and time again, I had to stretch way from old beliefs and bravely see and realize our future.
Looking forward, we have plans to create an ADU out of our finished basement to rent, and then eventually purchase another house as an investment rental. We want to explore and live in other countries, including Chile where we have extended family. In our bid to give back to our community, I just interviewed for a board position with our local library. And I want to seriously explore writing.
I make these goals vibrant and real by drawing them on our vision board, talking about them, and most importantly, by making the energetic space for new possibilities.
Do a bit every day
“How do you eat a bear? One bite at a time,” claims the adage. Not glorious, but true. Hand in hand with bravely visualizing my family’s future, I try to do a bit every day towards these goals. Otherwise, they will just shimmer like the illusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
I strive to wake early, run, and then write at least 15 minutes every morning. I read families’ accounts of travel to other countries and different ways to work abroad. I brainstorm with friends who are general contractors about how to renovate our basement.
A bit every day keeps us growing towards our most authentic expression as a family and as individuals.
The real investment
A couple of weeks back, I saw the true impact of these lessons. See, as I work hard to apply these lessons, I also work hard to model to my three sons a different relationship with money, risk and opportunity.
I realized that if I want my children to learn how to manage money instead of having it rule them, I would need to be more transparent about my own process.
So, we talk about our family priority list. As in, “Which is more important for you, new soccer shoes for futsal (the old ones still fit), or a second-hand trampoline?” We talk about value, using our money well, and the reason for buying second hand when possible. We talk about stewardship of our belongings, our community and the environment.
A couple of weeks back, I saw this investment pay off. My eight-year-old, Matias, had been saving up his chore money to buy a Lego set. He had been asking for extra chores to do for weeks and was finally ready.
At the Lego store he walked around the store, studied the options, and finally settled on a second-hand Star War’s ship and two figurines he would build himself. He told me with a face lit up with confidence, “Mom, these are of a good value,” and stretched up on tip-toe to hand the young man at the cash register his crumbled dollar bills.
And in that moment, amidst the frenetic groups of kids begging their moms to buy them Legos, I savored his win.