The Real Deal About My Money Challenges: Past, Present, Future.

written by Bari Tessler November 12, 2013

This is the second post in the Golden Nugget Series: a collection of the sweetest, bite-sized tidbits of my work. It’s all celebrating the The Art of Money, my year-long money school. If you’re new here, subscribe for updates and money wisdom at the bottom of this post!

Golden Nugget #2: The Money Journey.

So listen. You know I’m not some Goddess on the Mount, delivering infallible sermons on money — right?? I’m not perfect. Yes, I’m a seasoned guide. Yes, I feel great calling myself a Financial Therapist who’s had 20+ years of body-centered therapy experience. Yes, I’ve done a TON of personal and professional work on Money Healing, Money Practices, and Money Maps. But …

We all have our “growing edges” with money. Even me!

Today, I thought I’d get really, really real with you about my own money challenges: past, present, and on the horizon.

Why? Because money is a lifelong practice. A journey that continuously evolves and deepens, right along with us. By showing you some of my own growing edges, I hope to inspire some courage and gentleness as you face your own.

In the spirit of tender, triumphant transparency, then …

I have moved mountains with my relationship to money.

Years ago, I was a dancer-therapist-creative gal who poo-poo’ed the whole money conversation. I thought it was just too boring, anti-creative, and “not spiritual enough” for me.

(Yet all the while, I harbored a secret money shame, thinking I wasn’t smart enough to manage money because I wasn’t good at math as a kid.)

I was never taught how to manage, relate to, or deal with my emotions around money. Even at my incredible graduate program in psychotherapy, we talked about bringing consciousness to everything under the sun — except money!

Everything changed when I got my first student loan bill.
I knew it was time I looked money right in the eye and dealt with it! In the past 15+ years of focused conscious money work, I’ve evolved my relationship to money on the practical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual levels.

A highlight reel from my past money challenges:

I overcame under-earning.

In my early 20’s, I had pie-in-the-sky dreams that if I simply did good work, money would auto-magically appear. (But I didn’t want to think too much about money, since it wasn’t “spiritual” enough!) The reality? I had a Master’s degree, was working in Hospice and as a counselor in the non-profit world — and I couldn’t afford organic food.

Over the past two decades, I’ve broken through one money ceiling after the next. This came from my own deep internal work, my desire to earn, more than enough, to stay at home with my son, and learning about smarter business models.

I’ve learned how to create exquisite boundaries. To own my NO’s and my YES’s. To honor what I excel at. To embrace what I suck at with love, compassion, and empowerment. Overcoming underearning is about ALL of this deep stuff, my friends!

I became a savvy businesswoman.

This was not part of my psychotherapy training! Most therapists I know feel they’re not “supposed” to focus on business. I’ve learned so much about savvy, sustainable business models, and am continually improving mine according to what phase of life I’m in (and now, what phase my family is in). I’m continuously feeling the calling to live an integrated, fulling, meaningful life — and nurturing my business so that it nurtures my family and me. I’m really proud of this!

I learned a bookkeeping system. (Hallelujah.)

I did my own bookkeeping for 12 years on Quickbooks (Younger Bari never would have thought this was possible!). It taught me so much about running my business, reading my reports, and understanding my numbers — without my eyes glazing over or feeling stupid. Taste that empowerment? Yum.

I bridged heaven and money.

I knew the only way I would engage with money was if I infused it with deeper meaning, creativity, and spirituality. So I brought in principles from other psycho-spiritual practices that were dear to me. Think: renaming ho-hum budget items with playful, meaningful, sacred names. Bringing in candles and chocolate and trust and gratitude and vitality and depth. I made money meaningful and sacred to me — my own way.

I crafted my personal money practices.

After years of being One of Those People who throw away every bank statement (no judgment here!), I developed my own money practice to save my receipts, track, reconcile, and review all my finances. I hold sacred daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly Money Dates, always infused with body check-ins galore, candles, chocolate, playfulness, and love. Compassion and learning have been essential companions along my journey. This had been a straight-up intimacy-awareness creating practice. And I am so grateful.

I’ve welcomed professional support.

Therapists to help me uncover family dynamics and the patterns and fears that hold me back in business. Coaches to coax the deeper dreams and visions and callings and courageous next steps inside of me. An entire financial support team, including a new attorney, accountant, and (finally, after 12 years of doing the books myself!) a bookkeeper!

I still have so much to learn. Our money relationship is one of life’s gardens that require ongoing care, love and nurturing. And the only way I’m able to lead a conscious money movement is by doing my own work, walking my talk.

The money areas that are working me, right now:

Re-framing (eeep! aack! oh-noes!) TAXES.

Forest and I have always put aside tax monies — but we noticed a BIG resistance to actually sending them in, often waiting until the last extension deadlines. It started to feel like a Grownup Tantrum (kicking and screaming our way to the post office).

We had a real talk on one of our Money Dates about the good ways our tax money is being used: foremost on our minds was the courageous relief efforts of the National Guard during the recent Boulder flood. So we re-named this budget item “Community Contribution,” and set aside some money for it every Friday. So far, it’s feeling much, much better!

Finding the perfect system.

I did our personal bookkeeping for years — but at a certain point, my dear husband took this over. Since that fateful day, he’s been on a Quest for the Perfect Bookkeeping System. Because, folks: he hates bookkeeping! We went from Quicken to Mint to iBank … but he was still pulling his hair out. (And I felt like a failure as a financial therapist: my husband hates bookkeeping! Oy, is this terrible modeling, or what?!)

This year, Forest had a revelation: bookkeeping could be a meditation practice. Forest started meditating through his bookkeeping, and it’s shifted the entire experience! Plus, he’s created custom spreadsheets for us to use (in addition to iBank). He’s gone from ignoring the numbers completely to leading the way with better ways to see our data. No joke: I find this straight-up, truly SEXY!

Re-training our Savings Muscles.

Saving has always been hard for me. As a youngster, I had lots of desires, and loved to spend money … but I never had that drive to save. After moving through significant money ceilings in my 30’s, I was enjoying my spending and taught myself to save. So when my son Noah was born, we had some transition monies saved up. The past few years, though, saving has become challenging again. (We were in a new parent transition for awhile, with decreased working hours, and increased expenses.)

Now that our business is full steam ahead again (and in a significant growth phase), Forest and I are training our savings muscles once again. Our new practice? We’ve renamed our savings category “Peace of Mind.” And we contribute 30% of our income every Friday, spread between “Community Contribution” and “Peace of Mind” — and will increase it soon. We’re rockin’ this, and it feels really good!

Continuing my deep inner healing around my money stories.

When I interviewed the fabulous Fabeku Fatunmise for my Money Memoir Series, he shared that he updates his “money identity” often. Like, daily. For me, weekly and monthly fine-tuning of my “money identity” is so helpful — and life brings us so many opportunities for this!

Case in point: during a recent interview with Barbara Stanny, I had a powerful money memory surface: I was 15, and my father was requiring me to apply for many jobs, and report back with the results.

When this memory surfaced, it was linked to my decision to never be dependent on a man for money … resisting marrying a “sugar daddy” in any way … making my own financial way in the world … and finally finding a partner where everything feels equal, and we can grow together. Even my husband had never heard this story, and it’s given us both grist for our money relationship mill.  

It also helped me inquire deeper into this decision that I made when I was 15 year old and to see if my decision is still playing out today in anyway.  I got to honor that I have done some great inner work in this area and I feel really good about my progress. 

And here are some growing money edges, on my horizon:

Socially Responsible Investing:

I’m ready to learn even more about this, so I can direct the flow of our money more. I’d like to be able to make better choices regarding our investing and where our Sep IRA monies go.

Savings, 2.0.

We already do powerful short-term Money Practices (daily, weekly, monthly) and yearly Money Maps, so we hold the big vision — and we’re working on re-training our savings muscles, already. Next up, I’m ready to do even more fine-tuning for our family’s savings — ahem, Peace of Mind (see above) and take it to the next level. Short term and long term. Yes.

Large Scale Philanthropy.

I’m not quite ready to spill the beans on this one yet, but I have BIG things planned here! I’m so inspired and can’t wait to share with you … so stay tuned on this one!

3 Take-Aways … and 1 Invitation

1. Notice how I didn’t “shame” myself for any of these challenges — past, present, or future? I hope you’ll consider this an invitation to bring some gentle, tender love to your own growing places with money.

2. As I often say in my Art of Money community: it’s SO important to celebrate our baby steps and accomplishments in our money journeys! Only then can we truly see what we’re creating…and living our way into. Is there some triumph you’re ready to pat yourself on the back for?

3. This work isn’t about perfection. It’s about ongoing, conscious practice. That’s why I share my own “money stuff” from time to time — here on the blog, and in the private Art of Money online community. I’m right here with you, working through my growing edges … with ever-increasing gentleness, ease, and joy. 



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