Financial Freedom: A Personal Approach
(Note: This is the first installment of what is intended to be an on-going series on financial literacy. Two of the Prosper Waco goals have to do with accumulating wealth: (1) Reduce the percentage of Waco-area households living without three months’ worth of savings if they were not able to work. (2) More than 50 percent of Waco households will have a net worth above $15,000. Our hope is that this series will help move our community towards accomplishing these goals both by sharing information about some of the challenges, complexities and practicalities of managing finances. — ABT)
by Phil Oliver
I write this blog NOT as a financial advisor but as a Financial Coach. The difference is not about money, but about relationships. As a coach over the past 8 years working with hundreds of individuals as well as churches and non-profits, I have observed many financial patterns both healthy and unhealthy that continue to impact valued relationships in peoples’ lives. Some of these patterns contribute to financial freedom, others to financial bondage. So, I offer to you in this blog series, my personal approach to helping promote financial freedom in our Waco community, as well as some of the observations, patterns, and choices I have seen that lead to financial freedom.
First, I must admit that this discussion will not simply be about money. Many components of a person’s ability to use money are bound and greatly impacted by the valued relationships in their lives. This is why I am a Coach and not an advisor.
The idea of living financially free is indeed a universal pursuit; however, successfully arriving there is highly complicated because it is not really a hunt for more but an understanding of contentment. This then gives birth to true freedom.
If I asked you, the reader, “How much money do you need to solve your financial issues?” No matter how the answer comes out verbally, it is usually summarized by, “just a little bit more.”
This answer is ultimately the telling symptom of our society.
Many believe that money is the complete answer to freedom and happiness, but I have found, and try to lead others to discover, that contentment with money is the real issue and that valued relationships drive that contentment impacting their finances on many levels. The guided pursuit of financial freedom then becomes a consideration, identification, and even discovery of patterns and choices in finances.
I have coached those are struggling just to make ends meet at or below the federal poverty, all the way to those who have substantial trust funds. The underlying reason for their financial frustration is…wait for it…they spend more than they make.
As a coach, I do not give financial advice, condemn, or convince. I simply listen to their financial goals and stories and then share information and patterns for them to consider.
I intentionally reframe the whole budget approach because most households who are struggling with finances…and life…don’t believe they have anything to “budget.” I call my approach for thinking about finances “FLOW.” My FLOW plan approach is totally dependent on the goal(s) that the person (and household) are committed to work toward to give them a sense of accomplishment with finances. I have consistently found agreement that they do have a FLOW of money and resources IN and OUT, and that right now something is NOT working for them.
My goal in a FLOW meeting is then to allow the “client” to authentically look at their FLOW and decide what they might want to change about their FLOW to achieve their current financial goal(s).
The entire process and conversation centers around the financial goal(s) for their household because of the relationships involved and the sacrifice that will be required of all participants once their REAL IN and REAL OUT is determined.
The secondary conversations occur after a deficit is found. This usually gives way to a discussion over personal spending habits and then moving to mutual sacrifice rather than simply self-sacrifice on the part of one individual. This is where EVERYONE in the household is encouraged to participate in the FLOW conversation and the process. I have found this to be critical for future success!
Finally, the goal-driven discussion will ultimately lead to possible changes and action steps that could be attempted or practiced based on past patterns and habits. I share my personal experiences, research, and experiences of many others to give each client ideas and reasonable steps to consider taking toward their financial goal(s). These self-determined changes then become the basis for their personal ACTION STEPS. I then continue the coaching by encouraging them to courageously practice these steps and let me know how they work——or don’t work. Both form the basis for continued, meaningful progress.
In my next blog, I will share how certain loans—payday loans, auto title loans, and even student loans—contribute to financial bondage for many in our Waco community.
Phil Oliver is a retired educator. He is an independent Financial Coach, active mentor, and community activist. He has spent the last 8 years empowering individuals and families to take charge of their finances through his FLOW system. He is active in many community efforts to grow financial literacy and responsibility including Prosper Waco and Citizens for Responsible Lending. He consults with many local organizations to teach and inspire their efforts to empower clients in personal finances. You can contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org