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By the second or third meeting with a financial mentor, most people are clamoring for a budget, which gives them an idea of how much discretionary money is at their disposal. "It's about being aware of the inflow and outflow. You see just how easy it is to spend money quickly. When you bring in that awareness, it's no longer that monster in the corner." Leffeld might ask clients or couples to create a circle of values, like a wreath, that enumerates five life values such as Health, Independence, Adventure, etc. "If you make purchases through the filter of your life values, then a budget doesn't have to feel restrictive," she suggests. Say that Adventure is one of your values; then instead of going out for a $70 meal, you can set that money aside for a trip. This is where the alchemy comes in: With so much awareness around spending, money becomes a mindfulness practice in itself.
Planning for Now, Rather Than SomedayDesigning a life around your passions is the goal when you work with Beth Jones and Susan Simon of Third Eye Associates. "We're different from a traditional financial firm in that we do a very deep dive into people's worlds: what they're committed to, what their values are, and what they want to be doing in their world," says Jones. "That gives us a baseline from which to look at their financial circumstances, and to get their finances to line up with what they want to be doing and what they're passionate about." Most clients contract with them for a year, which includes about seven life-planning sessions. After several in-depth conversations and take-home exercises, Jones and Simon design a formal, written financial plan based on what is most important to the individual client.
"We're not just taking your technical data and finances and throwing it into some software and then telling you, 'Here's your plan,' which is how financial firms do it," says Jones. "Life is about more than just numbers." Instead they use a concrete process—borne out of their certifications in life planning and financial transition planning—to get to the heart of what motivates their clients. Third Eye Associates is also a registered investment advisory firm, so they offer wealth-planning and investment management services too. But it's the client's goals and dreams that drive the decision-making. "We look at how they can have [their dreams] happen sooner. People often think that when they retire, they'll do this thing they love. We're really passionate about people doing what they love now, rather than waiting."
Jones and Simon have many stories about people whom they've helped to do just that. One client made a very good living but was in debt and always felt behind the eight ball. Meanwhile, he had a dream of moving from New Jersey back to rural Vermont, where he had grown up, and starting a community garden. During his sessions with Jones and Simon, he realized that he was overspending on expensive groceries at Whole Foods (much of which he ended up throwing out because he had purchased too much) as a way of compensating for growing up poor without enough food to eat. He was also overspending on books, hundreds of which he had never read, as another way of compensating for childhood scarcity. "In the end, he changed his entire spending habits. He brought a lot of consciousness to it and totally tracks his spending," says Jones. About 13 years later, he's put away close to $1 million in savings and lives full-time in Vermont, keeping his job but working remotely. "Now he's building a community garden, restoring his 1800s house, and doing exactly what he always wanted to do," says Jones. "It's very satisfying to see people take the reins and completely turn that freight train around. It was going the wrong way."
Creating an Abundance MindsetYou don't have to be rich or have a top-paying job to successfully heal your relationship with money. Leffeld talks of one client who came to her in a state of extreme fear around finances. She loved her work but felt that she wasn't contributing to her household. Leffeld asked her if she was getting her true worth. "Sometimes when I ask you to put on this jacket of 'I am worth this,' it's going to feel like you're wearing an overcoat that's three sizes too large. But you have to put it on because in three or four weeks' time, it's going to fit you," says Leffeld. The client decided to see what else was on the market; soon after, she not only found another job, but her current employer offered to match whatever she got. "She was ecstatic. She got this huge raise just because she put herself into this position psychologically of 'I want and need more.'"