Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Beating Financial Cancer

Last week, as I was assessing my finances (with one eye closed and the other one squinting in the hope the numbers would morph into millions), it became glaringly obvious that I have been lying to myself about where I'm at financially. Worse than that, I have been doing this For A Very Long Time.

These cold hard facts caused me to fall into a spin so I did what any self respecting woman would do. I went into my bank's website and clicked on the button that says 'Increase credit limit'. But as I started to enter my details I stopped. Something else clicked (in my head) that said step away and think about what you are doing.

I grabbed my keys and decided I needed to go for a walk. But, just as I was leaving the door something made me turn around. Out of the corner of my eye I had spied the words Financial Assistance, on the same web page where I could apply for more credit. Something told me that was the avenue I should travel down so, I reopened my computer and searched for that button.

In one short click I was through to a preset email where I could enter my basic details and note why I needed help. There wasn't a button that said 'I'm Doomed' so I clicked on 'Unexpected Reduction of Income'. Yep, that was pretty much where I'm at so I flicked off the email and thought again about going for my walk.

But again, as I was leaving, something told me I needed to do more. My inner voice recounted some words I'd read in Jacqueline Harrison's book How To Create A Business From Nothing. I recalled a chapter that talked about learning to have conversations about money. Even the awkward ones. Hmm, could that apply to conversations outside the business arena? I figured it must be applicable anywhere and as far as awkward conversations go it doesn't get much more uncomfortable than telling the bank you can't pay them what you owe them.

So, I plucked up some courage and picked up the phone. I was pretty emotional by this stage because the enormity of my situation was really dawning on me. I wasn't on the phone to my mum or a friend asking to borrow money, I was actually calling The Bank to tell them I was in strife. I've never done that before and it felt BIG.

I didn't have to wait long before being put through to Raj, a very gentle chap who kindly acknowledged that he could tell I was feeling emotional and that he would do whatever he could to help me.

He asked me to explain my situation. I told him it started around 12 months ago when I was made redundant, then another situation caused me to go into therapy and from there on I have struggled to rebuild my financial status even though I am working really, really hard.

Raj was great. He understood. We worked through a couple of scenarios and because Raj could see I am earning some money, albeit in dribs and drabs, and because I explained to him that what I'm doing now will reap future rewards, he helped me work something out that has bought me a few months to find my money feet. More crying ensued but I felt like a massive weight had been lifted.

I was finally making myself accountable for my debt.

The conversation with the bank was the first step to me lifting my money game, but there is a far, deeper version to this story and it's one that I've been hiding from since I don't know when. After speaking with Raj and explaining myself to him, I felt relief that I was finally willing to learn something new about money. All my life I have twirled around in a circle of earning money, spending money, getting into debt, paying off debt, earning more money, spending more money, getting into more debt, paying it off and so on. I'm like one of those dogs who chases their own tail. Only instead of it being funny and cute it's actually highly detrimental to my financial health and in many respects is more like a sickness.

In truth, I have financial cancer.

Suddenly it had become clear: my unhealthy financial beliefs have been eating away at my earnings and savings all my life. They prey on any healthy behaviours I have (which are few and far between), and ravage them greedily. I'm then left clearing up the blood, guts and slobber of these cancerous beliefs and just as I think I'm healed, they metastasise and strike again!

But Not Any More. I'm saying hi-ho silver to that deadly disease because I am finally riding the road to recovery.

That very same day I made a pact with my self that I would turn my finances around once and for all. My situation hasn't arisen because I was made redundant nor because I'm building a business from scratch. These behaviours are inherent within me and I'm not alone. Friends of mine who I've mentioned this to have realised they share the same unhealthy behaviours. And I know I had them even when my bank account was overflowing with cash.

Lack of funds is not the problem. The problem is Me and I'm ready to change.

I don't think I need to recite all the changes I'm making but I will say they include taking a good hard look at what is coming into my account and what is going out. Anything that is a luxury is being cancelled and I'm letting friends and family know that I'm not available for lunches, dinners or anything that involves money until I've sorted myself out. I can meet for a walk or a swim and that's it. I'm going into financial chemo and I need everyone around me to know about it so they can support my road to recovery.

It's worth mentioning that this approach may seem extreme, and although I agree that it is, it's actually the kindest thing I've ever done for myself in terms of making my money work for me. A friend of mine was so shocked to hear that I had cancelled my yoga membership, he immediately offered to lend me a a yoga DVD that he has. How kind! Yoga is an enormous part of my life and has been for almost 15 years, but if spending money on a studio membership is beyond my current means, then it has to go. I can do yoga anywhere and I need to be ruthless in order to change my ways.

I'm also selling my car. Again, drastic measures but I need to do these things in order to get real. Until I am sitting in the space of reality, I will continue chasing my tail and tricking myself into thinking that $100 – $85 = $3,500 credit. Seriously. That's where I'm at. I'm like a fat woman who is stuffing her face with candy bars and can't understand why she's not losing weight.

Not only do I have financial cancer but I've been treating it by financially comfort eating.

This realisation has made me feel there is great change in the air. I feel like a new person. Because I am. I spent all morning yesterday ringing round my old magazine contacts and asking for work. I really need to increase my earnings pronto, and I have plenty of skills to offer, so stage one is increasing my income. Stage two will be clearing my debt.

And stage three?

Well, I don't know what stage three looks like because I've never been there. I'm pretty sure it's going to be amazing and feel a lot more secure and financially stable than I've ever known. But for now, I'm not looking at the future. I'm simply focusing on the here and now. I'm focusing on filling myself with healthy and realistic financial advice and turning my money beliefs around while simultaneously working hard on increasing my income and changing any behaviours that no longer serve me.

As for becoming a millionaire blogger? I still think it's possible and am certain that lasting wealth is the birthright of us all.

For now though, I'm going to insert a money drip into my account by sourcing some regular and stable work that supplements my business dreams. I'm also going to take away the tubes that are draining my account and cauterise them. And most important of all, I'm going to feed myself with regular doses of financial wisdom and focus on getting myself well.