Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Living in the Dark

If I told you there was a room that you had to enter – you had no choice – you must enter this room. And I told you that what is in this room would scare you – no avoiding the fear – you will get scared. Would you rather have the lights on or the lights off when you enter that room?

If you said “lights on”, why? Why would you want to see something that you know is going to scare you? Since you’re going to be scared anyway, wouldn’t it be better to not know or see anything? Or would it be better to get a clear picture of what’s causing the fear so you can prepare for it and deal with it?

I meet people every week that are choosing to keep the lights off in their financial life. There’s no avoiding going into the room, but they’d rather not see the cause of their fear. They choose to sit in the dark, afraid.

There’s the doctor who frequently goes on vacation whenever he gets stressed about the drop in patients, and therefore income for his practice, knowing that the vacation trips cost him even more money.

There’s the single mother of three who finally has a good paying job and can afford to get out of debt, but is scared to take that step because that may mean she’ll have to grow up and really plan for her financial future. No more handouts.

There’s the professional man, ten years away from retirement, forced to spend all of his savings after he was laid off from his job two years ago. But now that he has a new job, he doesn’t see the point in trying to build up his savings again, so he goes on shopping sprees buying clothes and gifts for his girlfriend.

Even if these true stories don’t sound like somebody you know, there are plenty of people that decide not to open mail, not to think about saving, not to return a bill collector’s phone call, not to sit down and make a list of their bills – because they don’t want to see what will scare them. They rather enter the scary room with the lights off. You have the option to turn the lights on.

So how do you do it? How do you start the process of dealing with something that you know will scare you? Well, when it comes to financial matters the actual actions you have to take are much simpler than expected.

1) Gather up all your bills
2) Make a list of all your expenses
3) Do the arithmetic

Now, stop right there...don't move...does it sound too easy? This is an incredibly difficult process that most people don’t do. Many people can’t even see the benefit in doing these things. But every time I sit with a client and help them go through this process they always feel better about their financial life afterwards. It’s amazing. Just taking the time to look at it. Face the fear.