Your precious life, money legacies + it’s my birthday.

written by Bari Tessler January 3, 2014

Golden Nugget #10: Money Healing, Money Practices, Money Maps.

Today, I write to you with a tender heart.

It’s my 45th birthday. The beginning of a new year. A fresh start. Celebration + gratitude. Endings + beginnings. The power of possibilities … and the tenderness of crossing a sacred threshold.

It’s always powerful for me to have my birthday at the dawn of a new year … but this time around, it’s been more intense than ever.

bari-jeff-hospital-edit1-300w.jpgTwo weeks ago, my father suffered a severe stroke. By what felt like divine timing, I was a short(ish) drive away when it happened, celebrating the holidays with Forest’s family in St. Louis. I was able to arrive quickly at his hospital in Madison, WI. I got to stay overnight with him in the ICU. He was conscious. He knew I was there. He held my hand, and I was so grateful to be there with him.

My father is now in recovery, and we’re hopeful. I’m so grateful to have been by his side, so quickly. I was able to help guide his care, to support my mother, and mostly: to simply be with him. An incredible amount of personal and deep-family-lineage healing has arisen from this time. It’s been truly amazing.

All of this happened not six weeks after my husband’s mother, Maggie, survived a stroke of her own. We are so grateful that hers was mild — and have been celebrating her recovery.

Life is happening. All of it. It’s hard and beautiful. Precious and fleeting.

We plan our lives like crazy and then … life happens. The unexpected and tragic (and the wonderful, too!). And some of these moments are so powerful, they feel like sacred rites of passage. Full of grief and deep healing and sadness and unconditional love and hope.

These sacred moments bring us face-to-face with what’s truly important. Love. Family. Health. Connecting with one another. Honoring where we’ve come from and consciously choosing what we leave behind.

This time has brought one big question to the top of my heart: What is My Legacy?

With all the sadness and hope and deep feeling of this time, then … I share with you reflections on my own money + life legacy. And guidance to clarify, honor, and consciously choose your own.

“Legacy” has a paradoxical meaning.

On the one hand, it means what we receive from our past. Gifts bestowed upon us from family, ancestors, and lineages. The tangible gifts like money and inheritance and property. The intangible gifts, too: strengths, “superpowers,” and wisdom. And all the challenges, wounds, unpaid debts, and traumas, too.

On the other hand, “legacy” also refers to what YOU will leave behind. All the tangible and intangible gifts and wisdom and strengths you will pass on.

To dip into these waters, then, is to look behind us and ahead of us. To receive and to give. To become aware of our lineage and consciously nurture its growing branches.

My Own Money Legacy: Looking Back

As I’ve sat by my father’s hospital bed this past week, my heart has turned inward and looked to our shared past. To the profound impact he’s had on my own life … and my money story.

My father is a very strong man. Tough and loving. He was an entrepreneur my whole life, and since he retired a year ago, another, more tender side of him has emerged: he volunteers his time every week as a dishwasher at a retirement home and teaches math through the Boys and Girls Club. And in the past week, I’ve made beautiful peace with this tough-loving paradox that’s defined my father (and challenged me!) my whole life.

One of my earliest memories about money centers around my father.

I was 15, and though our family was financially comfortable, he insisted that I get a part-time job. I had to go to dozens of job interviews, and come home between each to report back to him. Of course, I resisted this at the time — and for years to come! But looking back now, I see: my father was teaching me early-on about the value of hard work.

My father taught me so many valuable life + money lessons. And watching him run his businesses taught me the value of passionate work. I learned determination and independence. The chutzpa it takes to be an entrepreneur and create things out of thin air.

Of course, some lessons came from rejecting my father’s ways and carving my own path. Because I disliked being controlled by my father, I was compelled to make my own money and never be dependent upon a man. And I needed to infuse my business and life with what mattered to me, too: creativity, intuition, grace, playfulness, femininity, and gentleness.

Of course, my money legacy goes back farther than my father, too.

It includes my mother and all the hard work she’s put in to curate their wills, insurance, and assets. It includes the larger lineage of my Ukraine ancestors: people who fled their countries and arrived in the United States to start a new life from scratch. It includes all the women and teachers and healers and mothers who have gone before me and touched my life in deep and essential ways.

My Own Money Legacy: Looking Forward

Certainly … I’m not done yet. Not by a long shot! But right here, right now … here’s what I want my “money legacy” to include:

~ The Art of Money.

In one sense, my money legacy is quite explicit, and contained in my year-long program, The Art of Money.

I want to empower people to create more honest, gentle, and loving relationships with money. Infused with meaning and playfulness. Consciously crafted. Supported by community. Holding the macro and the micro. With emotional maturity and clarity and peace and empowerment rippling out into every area of our lives … and into ever-widening circles of community. (Yes! I have a huge vision here!)

~ Live your greatest work.
In an even larger sense, I want part of my legacy to be around finding our right work in the world — our “native genius” or “superpower” or “bliss” — and crafting a lifestyle and way of working that truly serves and supports and expands us.

So much of my own journey has been around finding my way in work and in life: creating and releasing and recreating and fine-tuning a work style that enables me to bring my best to the world. Especially during this tender time with my family, I am so grateful that my business model is allowing me the space and time to teach, to do what I do best, to lead a community … while also being fully present with my family.

I want to encourage everyone: find your own gifts, nurture them, and create meaningful work in the world — all crafted in a lifestyle that gives you the support and freedom and financial security you deserve.

~ Resolve the tangible pieces.
That’s wills, estate planning, child guardian, etc. Amidst the fear and sadness of visiting my father on his sickbed, I’ve also been relieved and impressed by how orderly my parents’ finances are. In times of sickness and death, these matters are important, too. Clearly stated wills reduce confusion and fighting between surviving family. Paid-off debts and mortgages, clear powers of attorney, and insurance all save the family added stress, and allow them to be present with the precious emotional connections at hand.

My husband and I have a lot of pieces in place here, but we don’t have them all. I’m glad that one of our first Guest Teachers for the Art of Money will be an estate planner, and I know she will push us to complete these crucial pieces.

~ Achieve your Comfortable Lifestyle Level.
In The Art of Money, I reframe “budgeting” as a “Map of Intention,” broken into 3 possible levels: Basic Needs, Comfortable, and Ultimate Lifestyles. (We go through a whole process of feeling into what these include for each us, and then identifying the numbers that go with them.) Of course: our definitions of these lifestyle levels are exquisitely personal, and will change throughout our lives!

I want to support people in growing beyond a “basic needs” lifestyle into a “comfortable” lifestyle level. I think this is so important — (and so possible!). Because those curveballs are coming our way — the unexpected, the tragic, and the wonderful. We just don’t know when. And if our finances are set up to support us, we can roll with these punches when they come. We can fly home to visit our parents when they’re sick. We can focus on what’s really important — instead of fretting about the cash.

In one, big way: this is SO not about money. It’s about health and family and connections and everything that’s truly, deeply important — and allowing money to support all of this.

~ Have direct, honest money teachings with your children.
While I learned a lot about money from my father, most of it was indirect and circumstantial: we never sat down for direct, clear money teachings. Forest and I started giving our son, Noah, age-appropriate money lessons by the age of 3: first by honoring his desires for All The Toys!, then by talking about savings and spending decisions … and now through small paid “jobs” … and even body check-ins!

Your Turn: What is Your Money Legacy?

Back in October, 33 brave souls allowed me to interview them for about their money relationship for my series, Money Memoirs And the final question I asked each of them was: “What is the Money Legacy you would wish to leave?” It was one of the most personal and powerful questions we asked.

Now, here, I ask you the same question … fleshed out with a bit more guidance and support.

First, take a look back – at the legacy you’ve received.

  • Who has impacted your money relationship? Family, friends, ancestors, teachers? What have you learned from each of them?
  • What beliefs, practices, or attitudes have served you? Are there some you’re ready to release? 
  • What are you grateful for, in your past? What do you want to honor? How can you bring this to life more, as you look forward?

As always: take your time with these questions. Breathe. Check in with your body. Be gentle with yourself. This is tender, beautiful, challenging stuff. Go at your own pace. Take dance and chocolate and journalling breaks as needed.

Now, take a look forward.

  • What’s an important nugget of money wisdom you’d like to pass on? To your own children — or the next generation?
  • What financial practices, insights, and attitudes have truly “worked” for you, that you’d love to leave behind?
  • Are there any money shames you need to heal, and make sure you don’t pass on? (I believe we all have these!) Any money “messes” or loose ends you want to tie up?
  • What have you learned about earning, spending, saving, giving, and receiving that you think could benefit others to know?
  • When it comes to money, what do you want to be remembered for?

The question of a Money Legacy truly brings us full circle.

Honoring our past … and consciously creating our future. It includes all 3 Doorways of my method: Money Healing, Money Practices, and Money Maps. It draws from ever-widening concentric circles of community, and its effects ripple out with a wide reach. And ultimately, it all centers around you: around your beliefs, desires, wisdom, behaviors, and choices.

As you reflect on your past and look forward to the legacy you’d like to leave … remember to bring great doses of gentleness and self-love. This question — like everything with money! — touches upon so many aspects of you: health and body, emotions, beliefs, relationships, right livelihood, gender dynamics, personality types, nuts ’n bolts practices, big visioning, and so much more.

From my tender heart to yours. In awe and celebration of this precious, beautiful, fleeting life we share,



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