Episode Transcript:

Welcome back to the Meadowsweet Money podcast! Happy Halloween, or happy Samhain for those that celebrate.

I’m Mimi Cirbusova, your host and shame-free money mentor.

It only seemed appropriate if I was going to have a podcast episode air on Halloween to use this time to talk about financial fears. Because I don’t think there’s a single person on this earth that is completely fearless when it comes to money. Ok, well maybe the uncontacted tribe living on North Sentinel Island in the Indian Ocean, because we’re not entirely sure if they have currency within their society. But for anyone listening to this podcast, I would bet you have some financial fears somewhere.

Heck, I am a Certified Financial Education Instructor, and I still have some financial fears from time to time.

My goal today is to help you face your financial fears – make them just a little less spooky and a little less powerful in your day-to-day life.

I know what it’s like to live in financial fear; to feel your hands shake and your heart race when logging in to check your account balances. I know what it’s like to feel lightheaded and queasy when people around me would begin to discuss money.

And I’m also here to tell you – it doesn’t have to be that way. So if you’re ready, let’s dive in and realize there isn’t actually a monster lurking under the bed…or in your bank account.

Thank you for being here.

I will also note that I have a very, very, VERY big announcement coming up this episode during our “In Case You Missed It” segment. Something I have been DYING to share with y’all. Ok, that was cheesy, but if you got the pun, then…well, we should be friends.

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that in July of 2020 I made my final payment and became completely debt free. After about 15 months of really hard work and dedication, I had paid off $20,881. It was both thrilling and a little scary. As happy and as proud as I was to pay off my debt, I was terrified it wouldn’t last. That I’d fall back into debt and not know how to get out of it a second time.

I shared this fear with my therapist, and her response was perfect of course. She simply said, “You don’t have to”. What she meant by that was I had learned so much, and I had gained so many skills in managing my finances that going back into debt was a choice, rather than an inevitability. And I could choose to stay debt free. I wasn’t doomed, and even if something drastic or tragic happened, I could start my debt free journey over a second time – but better equipped with experience and knowledge. Having an emergency fund helps as well.

Our financial fears all have roots somewhere. Maybe they started because there’s a generational trauma around money in our family line. Many of us grew up being told that money is taboo to talk about, that it’s shameful or egotistical or tacky to discuss. Or we had something happen in our childhoods or early adulthood that made us afraid of money. Somewhere along the way, we soaked up the message that money is evil or bad. Sometimes the roots of our financial fears are obvious and easily traceable. But more often than not, our financial fears stem from things we can’t quite wrap our arms around.

These fears, regardless of where they come from, hinder our ability to make savvy financial decisions. They halt or slow our progress toward our money goals. This might mean you put off investing for retirement, saving for a big expense, or protecting yourself through an emergency fund. Financial fears also make us more susceptible to scams and fraud. When we’re operating from a place of fear, we’re often defensive – making decisions with haste and anxiety.

I don’t want that for you, my friend. And I know you don’t want it either. Addressing our financial fears allows us to move into a position of possibility and strategy, being proactive and forward-thinking.

Before we dive too much further into this topic, I want to share the concept that I learned in my time working for a child welfare nonprofit. It was my first “big girl job”, and I was working in the prevention and education department, teaching about child abuse prevention. We used this phrase all the time: “What is mentionable is manageable”. If you can talk about something – no matter how scary, or uncomfortable, or unpleasant – you can deal with it. Once you open the door to discussion, to shine a light on the stuff that we’re most scared to talk about, suddenly we can deal with it.

And I think that phrase, “what is mentionable is manageable” lends itself to anything that we are scared of, but particularly money.

Because money is so taboo in our culture. For something that touches literally every aspect of our lives, whether we know it or not, making money taboo to talk about feels an awful lot like a way to keep most of us oppressed. Just sayin’.

So what can you do if you’re a financial-scaredy-cat? If you’re tired of feeling like you have your head in the sand, and want to stop being so gosh darn stressed about money all the time?

I think the first thing is to figure out exactly what you’re scared of, and acknowledge it. Much of what we’re afraid is just stories we have in our mind. They might feel very real to us, but aren’t the reality.

Some of my mentees have shared their fear of building wealth, and I don’t mean getting crazy rich. I mean, putting enough away for retirement to sustain themselves in old age. They are scared that investing to have a million dollars in retirement (which, by the way, would only be $40,000 a year to live on if you’re following the 4% rule), they are afraid that having that much money would make them greedy or mean. And I’m here to tell you, more money just makes you more of who you already are. If you’re a kind and generous person (and I’m gonna assume you are if you’re listening to my podcast anyway), having more money will empower you to be even more kind and more generous.

Lots of us have financial trauma from childhood. Growing up poor, particularly if your family experienced a lot of instability because of financial hardship, that sticks with you. We know the tension, the fighting, and the despair that comes with growing up poor. No matter how much money you make now as an adult, you might be afraid that it could all go away in an instant.

I want to mention that fear has a biological function – its purpose is to signal dangers or threats and trigger appropriate responses. The challenge is that often when it comes to money, we don’t always know the most appropriate response to take – particularly because a lot of our financial fears aren’t tangible. We might not even be fully aware of what our fears are exactly. We just know that money freaks us out.

So what can we do to become financially brave?

Like I said, the first step is acknowledging your financial fears. What freaks you out may not worry me in the slightest, and what keeps me awake at night might never cross your mind. What I’m saying is that all of our financial fears and worries are going to be different. But there’s some common ones out there.

Maybe it’s the financial emergency, or sudden job loss. Perhaps you’re terrified you’ll never get out of debt. Maybe you’re scared to start putting money away for retirement because you’re scared you’re going lose it all if the market goes kablooey, or you’re convinced that you’ll never be able to retire, or afford a home of your own, or pay for your kids’ college.

Like I said before, what is mentionable is manageable. It’s important to take some time to acknowledge exactly what your fears are. I would encourage you to write them down. And I mean that literally. Get out a journal or a notepad and write out exactly what you’re afraid of. My journal would probably read that I am scared that I would have a health emergency that would bankrupt us and put us out on the streets. Or that I am terrified that I will fail in my business.

Once you acknowledge what your fears are, it’s important to ask how likely it is that your fears could come true? Even though I do have some health stuff that I deal with, it’s well controlled and being closely monitored by my doctors. And, sure my business could fail, but it’s highly unlikely we would end up on the streets because I can still go out and find work if I really needed to. And thankfully, we do have family that could take us in if things got really bad.

Now maybe you’re listening to this and you’re in a situation that is pretty dire. You’re experiencing unemployment, or you are dealing with an emergency, or you’re facing eviction, or anything else that is super duper hard. Being in the midst of a scary situation isn’t the same as being afraid of a possible scary situation, and I’m going to be the first to tell you 1) I’m so, so sorry that’s happening, and 2) you need resources and support.

But if your current reality is pretty okay or relatively stable, then there’s something you need to do once you have acknowledged your fear.

The second step is getting clear on your real numbers.

Ok, I know that this is the part that is the scariest for a lot of us. But I’m not going to mince my words here. There is simply no way around this step.

Your real numbers aren’t good or bad. They’re not a judgment on who you are, and they can’t tell us a single thing about our value as human beings. And our real numbers are often changing, so taking time to learn about your real numbers is simply getting a snapshot on this moment in time. Not your past, and not your future; only this moment.

Your real numbers clarify. They illuminate reality and give us important information so we can make sound decisions. No one likes coming up with solutions to things that aren’t actually problems. Your real numbers are here to say, “hey, this is the problem right here.”

One of my favorite quotes is by Charles Kettering where he says, “A problem well-stated is a problem half-solved.” Your real numbers will show you where you most need to draw your attention, and help you find potential solutions.

Knowing my real numbers allows me to have a baseline so that I can tell if my business is going to be able to support me long term. Knowing my real numbers means I have a reasonable goal for an emergency fund, and I make small steps toward that goal.

Nothing kicked my butt into gear on investing and saving quite like looking at my accounts and realizing I needed to figure out how investing worked so I would be protected in my old age.

To get your real numbers, you need to understand your income, fixed and variable expenses, debt obligations, and savings. And this doesn’t mean guesses or estimations. This means opening your accounts and writing down the actual numbers down to the penny.

Here’s the truth: you do not have to like your real numbers for them to be helpful to you.

Once you know your real numbers, the third step is taking action. Actions are going to look different for everyone, but overall I find that many of us are looking to create a bigger gap between our income and expenses. Maybe your fear is really trying to tell you to save more money, or start investing, or to just have more space for spending joyfully. Whatever it is, there’s really only two levers you can pull: Increasing your income or decreasing your expenses.

There’s a ton of ways to do these things, and I’m not going to belabor all the ways to increase your income or decrease your expenses here. But I want to give you some permission slips.

First, you have permission to make your actions small. You don’t have to make huge leaps to make changes.

You have permission to take your time and do one thing at a time. In fact, I encourage you to do just that.

Maybe you have acknowledged your fears and taken a hard look at your real numbers, and maybe you feel overwhelmed by all that you really need and want to do. Remember my therapist’s advice… you don’t have to. All of this is a choice. Deciding to save money or not. Deciding to invest or not. Deciding to get a handle on your spending triggers, or not. It’s all a choice, and every choice has consequences – both positive or negative. But, you are in control here.

Here’s the last thing I want to say on the taking action portion of this – your reason why has to come from deep within. It must be intrinsic, or you won’t be able to sustain change for the long term.

Whew – I had a feeling this was going to be a longer one. So why don’t we jump into the big announcement in our next segment?

Friend, I am over the moon to be telling you about this. Starting in 2024, I am launching a Patreon! And you can get on the waitlist now to be the first to know when my Patreon is live.

The Meadowsweet Money Patreon is for anyone that wants easy-to-understand, heart-centered financial education, encouragement, and helpful tools to support them on their journey up the Money Mountain.

As a patron, you support the Meadowsweet Money Podcast. And by joining, you help me keep this podcast ad-free. So as a thank you, you will get access to exclusive content, patron-only discounts and events, as well as benefits of my private Discord server community. If you love my work and want to support this podcast, please sign up for the waitlist. You’ll also get a shout out on the podcast when you become a patron!

If you’re ready for a shame-free money mentor that can walk alongside you on your financial journey, I am excited to be yours.

To sign up for the waitlist, check out the link in the show notes, or head to patreon.com/meadowsweetmoney and enter your email. There’s no obligation to join…you simply get first access when the Patreon goes live.

So that’s the big news! I have lots more to share with you about this in the coming weeks, but I hope you’ll consider supporting my work to bring financial education content that is rooted in kindness.

Thank you for your support, and I look forward to talking with you soon. As always, you’re doing great and I’m proud of you.