Episode Transcript:

Welcome to episode two of the Meadowsweet Money podcast! I’m Mimi Cirbusova, a Certified Financial Education Instructor and shame-free money mentor. 

Wherever you are in your financial journey, whether you’re just starting to learn how money works, or you’re in the stage of building wealth through investing and saving, I’m here to walk alongside you and encourage you on your path up the Money Mountain.

And that’s exactly what we’re talking about today. What, exactly, is the Money Mountain, and why do I talk about it so much?

Before we jump into the episode, please be sure to hit that follow button wherever you listen to podcasts so you don’t miss a single episode. 

Ok. Let’s jump right in.

Let’s talk about the Money Mountain! 

Often I would hear my mentees say something like, “Why did it take me so long to finally deal with my money issues?” and I would always reply with “Because you were busy climbing other mountains first”. And I would go on to explain that every one of us has tackled different mountains before we’re ready to tackle our personal finances. Maybe it’s the mountain of college, or maybe you had to tackle the career mountain, or the parenting mountain. Or maybe tackling the relationship and dating mountain. 

Whatever challenges and journeys you’ve had in your life, well, you were focused on that mountain in that moment. 

So whether you come to the base of the Money Mountain at 25, or 35, or maybe you don’t get started on it until age 50…well, I’m just so proud that you’re here. And I’m proud of you for climbing all the other mountains too. My hope is to be a sort of sherpa or guide on your journey in whatever way is most helpful.

Have you ever had an idea hit you like a bolt of lightning? Like the fully-fledged concept was somehow magically downloaded into your brain by the universe? That’s what happened to me. After many, many months of using this analogy with my mentees, one night an image came to me and sort of knocked me on my butt. There it was. A diagram – that 30,000 foot view of the Money Mountain. My work as a financial educator has shown me over and over again that, for most people, there are five basic fundamental levels to becoming confident and effective in managing money. Each one builds upon the last, and mastery of each level can be strengthened over time and practice.

Let me be clear, the Money Mountain is just how I see things. Some people might see things differently, and that’s okay. But this diagram gives a visual and shared language. As a financial educator, I love the Money Mountain because it gives me and my mentees a place to pinpoint where they most need support. If you want to check out what the money mountain looks like, I’ve left a link in the show notes.

My goal in sharing this with you is two-fold:

  1. I want to help you understand my philosophy and point of view on financial literacy. I mean, if you’re listening to this podcast, I’m sure you already know that the way I talk about money is a little different. Hopefully this episode brings you more clarity on why that is.
  2. I hope to help you clarify your own understanding of what it takes to become financially confident and effective.

I think it’s best to start from the very bottom level. This is the Basic Survival Needs. It does not matter how much I talk to someone about Roth IRAs, high yield savings accounts, or improving credit scores, if they’re trying to figure out where their next meal is coming from, all of that becomes irrelevant. Financial literacy is not a replacement for access and support. Until your basic needs (things like food, clothing, shelter, safety, sleep, etc.) are met, attempting to support you or educate you in the next levels of the pyramid is not only futile and unethical, but downright cruel. That’s a big reason why I keep a resources page on my website and talk about the influences of systemic oppression on our personal finances.

Once your basic needs are met, we can begin strengthening your Money Mindsets and getting clear on your values. No matter your income, your money mindset can help or hinder your progress. Even those with six figure net worths can be stuck in the same mental patterns around money as someone struggling to get by. Good money mindsets and clear personal values are the foundation for all the other levels.

Here, it’s important to get curious about the beliefs you have around money, and if those beliefs are supportive or suppressive. You also want to clear on your core values, and align your financial decisions to those values. This also means developing money mindsets that support healthier financial habits and decisions – regardless of your income, debt, or lifestyle.

The middle level is one that I think many of us get nervous about. This fundamental level is your Real Numbers. It is impossible to make true strides on setting financial goals or building wealth until you truly understand your numbers. This does not mean becoming a servant to a spreadsheet. What it really means is looking at where and how much money is coming into and out of your life, as well as understanding the larger implications of your financial decisions. For instance, understanding how your credit score impacts the interest rates you can get on a loan.

At this level, you are working to understand the real numbers of your income, expenses, debt, and net worth. You want to get crystal clear on where money is “flowing and going” through your life. This is also where you develop a purpose and focus when checking your bank accounts.

The fourth fundamental level is your Goals and Circumstances. This level is about dreaming big, but also staying grounded. It’s about prioritizing your goals, and deeply connecting to how your money goals support a greater vision for your life. Here, you’re working to understand the “why’s” behind your money goals. You’re taking time to fine-tune the vision you have for your life, and mapping out how to get there based on your current and future circumstances. This level is also about creating solid plans to achieve your money goals, and building in flexibility to pivot when circumstances change.

Lastly, the Building Wealth level. Honestly, this is the level a lot of people want to start with. It’s often the level most think about most. But this level is a culmination of all the other ones below it. Because honestly, the summit of the Money Mountain, the place where there is the most beautiful views, this is where you can calmly and securely enjoy your money. If you do it right.

The Building Wealth level is certainly where the rubber meets road, and where a lot of the nitty gritty of financial literacy is focused. It includes all the typical stuff you think about when it comes to personal finance. Things like saving and investing for your future with a clear vision in mind. Spending money on what you really love without shame or second-guessing. And creating a strong plan that allows for both security and pleasure…both today, as well as many years down the road.

Well my friends, that’s the five fundamental levels of the money mountain. There’s a few reasons to focus on these fundamentals:

  1. It saves you time and effort. There’s many paths up the Money Mountain, and you get to choose. Focusing on the basics means choosing proven pathways forward, so you spend less time, energy, and effort on your journey.
  2. Because it meets you where you are. Regardless of what chapter you are in along your financial journey (such as debt payoff, incoming growth, retirement planning, etc.), the fundamental steps of the Money Mountain are there to support you. You don’t have to conquer the whole mountain at once – just the step you’re currently on.
  3. Because it unlocks your capacity for strategic moves. Building the foundational skills means you can navigate opportunities and quickly sidestep dangers. Without the foundations, how can you decide if a benefits package from a new employer is worth your time? Without the foundations, how do you know if you’re ready to take on a loan? Without the foundations, how do you watch out for scams, schemes, and too-good-to-be-true wastes of money? Without the foundations, how do you build a solid money strategy?
  4. Because you don’t need to be ashamed or overwhelmed anymore. The Money Mountain doesn’t tell you to stop drinking lattes, nor does it try to make you feel bad for enjoying the things you love. It acknowledges that you are a full human. It recognizes systemic barriers and the influences of policies on our everyday lives. Focusing on the foundational steps gives you permission to make progress at your pace through an easy-to-understand process.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Be sure to leave a quick review on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you are listening – I read every single review, and it truly means so much, because your reviews help other people find this podcast too.

Alright my friend, let’s go to our next segment – in case you missed it.

Can I just say how cool it is to be hosting this podcast? This is something I dreamt about for a long time. I feel like one of those old-timey radio broadcast people. Except I’m talking about money instead of like, Ovaltine or something. 

If you’re enjoying this podcast, and want to support my work as a shame-free financial educator, please consider buying me a cup of tea! Go to BuyMeACoffee.com/MimiCirbusova to contribute as little as $5. I’ll leave a link in the show notes as well. Your support helps me bring you ad-free personal finance content with this podcast, over on Instagram and TikTok, as well as my YouTube channel. Without you, there is no me. I’m a one-woman show…I don’t have an assistant, I don’t use AI or anything like that. Everything you’re hearing is made and written by me. So I encourage you to contribute if you can. Again, that link is in the show notes.

Your support is deeply appreciated. Thank you!

Alright my friends, now is the time for a segment I’m calling the Mindful Money Moment. This is an opportunity for you to tune in and really listen to what matters most. To reflect. To smile. To let go.

I want to invite you to take a breath with me. Inhale. And Exhale.

On today’s Mindful Money Moment, I invite you to explore the ways you’re spending money on the real you. The most authentic, most honest, most genuine version of yourself. The you that you are when no one else is around. 

It’s easy to spend money on the versions of ourselves we feel we have to be. The version of ourselves that we want to be in front of our boss. The version of ourselves we pretend to be with our friends. Or the version of ourselves that is just trying to keep the peace and make everyone around us happy…or, at least, civil. 

I know what this is like. 

Buying clothes that I don’t really love because I wanted to look like the version of professional I thought was expected of me. Spending money on lunches and happy hours I didn’t actually want because I really wanted to appease a friend. Buying stuff that I thought would make me happy, but ultimately, didn’t do much more than give me a quick hit of dopamine that faded really quickly.

What does it look like to spend money on the real version of you? Of course, that’s going to look different for each person. But I invite you to explore that question for yourself.

For me, it’s buying my favorite loose leaf tea that I enjoy every morning with my favorite brand of fancy oat milk and local honey. It’s supporting one of my favorite creators on Patreon. It’s ordering postage stamps so I can participate in Postcrossing, and buying boxes of postcards through Bookshop.org. It’s trying every mocktail on the menu when a restaurant features nonalcoholic cocktails.

It also looks like not buying things – taking a moment to evaluate purchases before I make them. Is this new-fangled gadget something that is really going to make my life easier or better, or is it that I’ve seen it a million times while doom scrolling? Do I already have something similar to this, or could I borrow it from a friend or family member? Am I buying this out of a false sense of urgency? If I had to wait to buy it, would I still want it? And if so, where will this item live once I get it home?

Deciding to focus spending money on the real, true version of yourself can be a really eye-opening adventure in self-discovery. 

This has been your mindful money moment.

Let’s end today’s episode with a segment I like to call easier and better, because I believe putting your money towards things that make your life a little easier and a little better are totally worth it. These are not sponsored, I get no kickbacks or anything for mentioning them, I’m just a fan.

And today I want to share about my hydroponic garden. Friends, I’m telling you, having fresh lettuce growing on my countertop has made getting my greens in my diet so much easier. There’s no comparison. 

I bought myself an Aerogarden system because I’m kinda lazy, if I’m being honest, but you could totally DIY. There’s a ton of videos on YouTube on how to set up your own hydroponic system using a bin, a water pump, some tools you could probably borrow from a friend or neighbor, and just spend an afternoon putting it together.

My hydroponic system right now has three kinds of lettuce and a basil plant that is being a little out of control if I’m being totally honest. We get a nice size salad every week or so, and since I bought this thing back in July of 2022, it has definitely paid for itself in the amount we save from buying bagged lettuce. You know that bagged lettuce that goes bad in your fridge after two days? Yeah.

I would love to hear what’s making your life easier and better. Send me a message on Instagram @ meadowsweetmoney .

And with that, we’re wrapping up today’s episode.

Thank you so much for listening to the Meadowsweet Money Podcast, a production of Meadowsweet Money LLC. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please leave a 5-star review on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. It helps others to find show and is greatly appreciated. And be sure to follow us so you don’t miss a single episode.

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Thanks for listening. You’re doing great, and I’m so proud of you.