“Cut your coat according to your cloth,” my father used to tell me, along with his favourite about my spending habits: “Champagne tastes and beer income!” I was about 20 at the time. And I thought I had taken it to heart, I really did.
So how come here I was 30 years later with an overdraft I couldn’t pay, a credit card bill that was well beyond my comfort zone (although not extortionate by today’s standards) and a growing feeling of panic? I knew deep down there was more to this than merely getting into debt. I had been here before, creating ridiculous financial crises in order to teach myself some fundamental truths. A check of my diary for ten years ago when a similar crisis loomed read: “I am using this financial situation to distract me from the deeper questions I need to answer and am avoiding - like what is my purpose, do I have the courage to start my own business, do I really want to live where I am living?”
These past financial meltdowns were followed, as night follows day, by two things. The first was that I contacted a life coach. The second was that I swiftly made major breakthroughs personally and professionally leading to changes in my life. I could see myself each time standing at a crossroads and then setting off along a ‘road less travelled’ as a result.
Therefore I had to find a coach. Not the kind of coach I had tried before. They were great and talking to them helped me tremendously, but I knew this time I needed to tackle the financial issues first. They were urgent and scary.
I scoured the Internet, my best friend, for the right person, trusting to the usual mix of serendipity and my Higher Self. I didn’t know if there was such a thing as a financial coach, but I trusted that I would find the right person for this thing that was blocking me, this thing that went way beyond a catastrophic mismanagement of my money.
And that was how I came across a site called Wise Monkey. I was immediately grabbed by the name, as another of my parents’ little sayings involved the Three Wise Monkeys – “hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil”. It was a sign for me that my search was over. Just to make sure, I read the testimonials, was impressed by the fact that financial coach Simonne Gnessen had co-authored Sheconomics, had been on the radio and been written about in the national press. Fearing that my recurrent procrastination would once more stop me in my tracks I sent her an email there and then.
Simonne replied promptly (thus earning herself several gold stars – I love prompt people) and we had a short chat to see if we would be a good fit. If you haven’t had life coaching before, this is the usual way of doing things. A life coach is not cheap and you need to make sure you have a good rapport with the person who will help steer you out of your predicaments. I liked her calm approach and air of professional yet caring competence. We fixed up our first session and she gave me some homework.
Now I am not the kind of person who is scared by money. I have enough background in metaphysics and economics (yes, I agree, an unusual mix) to know that money is not real. I know it is a representation of energy, it has long since ceased to have any one to one link with the gold deposits that once backed it up and that most financial transactions involve moving one non-existent set of figures from one location to another.
I know to the penny how much money I have, how much my assets are worth and how much I owe. I never ever chuck bills in drawers or pretend an invoice hasn’t arrived. Until recently I had an excellent credit rating and had never been overdrawn either. So the part of the homework Simonne thought might worry me, where you have to detail all of the above, was a breeze for me, although I am aware that this is not the case for many women.
The call was an eye opener. Simonne saw immediately, as I did, that the immediate problem was quite simple, in purely financial terms anyway. I wasn’t earning enough. And if I carried on in that way I would just get caught up in a maelstrom of unmanageable debt. I am fortunate not to have a mortgage and wondered if getting one might be the solution. I expected her to jump on this as a cat does a mouse, but to my surprise, she didn’t. Instead, she made me go through previous times when I had been mortgage free and then gone on to borrow money. Calmly, gently but relentlessly she exposed my need to get rid of any money coming into my hands as quickly as possible. My past reasoning had been that if I was going to get a mortgage, then why not make it a good one? So I would get enough dosh out to pay back my credit card and restore the ruined houses I am so fond of buying. And of course, then I would end up having to sell them because the building work cost more than the money I had borrowed. And so back to square one.
Simonne astutely spotted a very slippery slope that I had been unaware of. She teased out of me the fact that if I made the ‘sacrifice’ (in my opinion) of getting a mortgage to pay off my debts, then I might as well borrow way more than I needed and get the current house restored as well. We both knew that this was madness and had to stop. Maybe a mortgage was not the way to go.
We then explored the work situation. Uh oh. My comfort zone shrank to the size of a pea, but Simonne wasn’t letting me off that easily. As a freelance writer I rely on myself to get work. And not blowing my own trumpet – oh alright then, blowing my own trumpet a bit – I am rather good at it. But now I had suddenly stopped finding new clients. It wasn’t laziness and it wasn’t lack of work opportunities. I had just stopped. And my financial crisis had been the result.
Owning the fact that I was fully responsible for the mess I was now in felt surprisingly liberating. And then came, for me, the most important and most amazing part of our one hour call. I pushed Simonne for her opinion. Now normally a life coach does not make decisions for you, but points things out and gets you to draw your own conclusions. But I was desperate. Should I borrow money? Should I get a mortgage? Should I get another credit card? Help. Help. Help.
“I think you can do this on your own,” she said. And the scales fell from my eyes. It was a remarkably clever move, perfect for my personality. A tremendous boost to my confidence as well as being a motivator. Yes, I can do this, yes I can clear my own debts. I was fired up and ready to take on the world with those nine little words.
But Simonne wasn’t going to let me bask in this euphoria for long. She pulled me back to the underlying reason for the crisis. My subconscious had created a bloody great big problem in order to get my attention. Solving the financial problem was a short term and necessary solution, but it was not the answer. I needed to find out what it was that I was trying to tell myself. But that was to be for our next session…
I came off the phone relieved, enthused and motivated. I liked the way she handled me, gently dismantling my barriers and moving me through my anxious jabbering to tackle the real problems beyond.
I can’t wait for our next call.