This experiment began several years ago when I received a brochure in the mail advertising silver bullion coins as an investment vehicle. The “hook” was, “We will sell you two silver eagles for the price of one, if you agree to read our special report on silver.” When I saw this, I thought, “I could give one of these coins to a friend who was having money problems as a touch point for her prayers.” I sent her a coin and a notebook with instructions. Every day we prayed that the Lord would grant her wisdom in the area of finance. Every day she made an entry in her notebook.
The initial experiment was extremely successful. At the end of six months, her attitude towards money was radically different. She began to systematically eliminate her consumer debt. She changed some behaviors that were sabotaging her financial situation. Then towards the end of the six month experiment, she was able to move into her own home for the first time in her life.
Finally, when the participants are ready, they will give their coin with a blank notebook to a friend or a family member who is ready to change their relationship with money. In this way, friendship and blessings will keep flowing forward forever, even into eternity.
With the exception of football, I really don’t watch much network TV any more. Most of it isn’t particularly interesting and the shows I want to watch aren’t on when I am in the mood to watch them. What I have discovered is Internet TV. Although my selection is still somewhat limited, I can watch what I want to watch when I want to watch it. Why every network isn’t jumping on the opportunity to broadcast over the Internet is just beyond me. They can put commercials on Internet broadcasts. They can even delay the Internet broadcast by a couple of weeks so not as to compete with their own network affiliates. Even if network TV is not as lucrative as it was in the 1960s, the opportunity to make money is still there.
One of the Internet TV shows that entertained me for a month of so is Bar Rescue, a reality series. Jon Taffer, a bar management expert with the soul of a Marine Corps drill sergeant walks in to a bar on the verge of bankruptcy with the goal of giving the owners a new bar and a new lease on life. Every story is different and every story is the same. A couple of friends decide running a bar would be fun. They found a niche in their market; cheap booze, good music, or an entertainingly novel theme. They enjoyed success for a short time until the realities of running a business caught up with their bar and their employees. Now they are desperate enough to look like idiots on reality TV to save what is left of their investment. All of these owners and managers have excuses, lots of excuses, none of them want to fess up and say, “I made mistakes. I have to take responsibility for changing this mess into something better.”
As I talk with people about money, I think I have heard just about every excuse in the book. A few of them are perfectly legitimate. Terrible things do happen to good people. Most of them are just excuses. No one held a gun to your head and made you take out a Home Equity Loan in order to take your family to Disney World. No one but you ran up a $7,000 balance on your VISA card buying shoes and clothing you never wear. In 2008 when the market tanked, it was your decision to cash out at the bottom rather than hanging on for the ride. Now your 401K is a 201K.
Money is just a tool. Seth Godin observed, “If money is an emotional issue for you, you've just put your finger on a big part of the problem. No one who is good at building houses has an emotional problem with hammers. Place your emotional problems where they belong, and focus on seeing money as a tool.”
Life is really about happiness and peace. That is what we all really want. If your relationship with money isn’t contributing to happiness and peace something is out of whack. It is up to you to look deeply into what is real. In Bar Rescue, Taffer and his associates, go through the books with the owners. They show them exactly where and why they are losing money. Taffer brings in master chefs and world class bar tenders to teach the staff how to cook a simplified menu and how to mix a limited number of highly profitable original drinks. He then schedules a “stress test” bringing in customers by the bus loads to convince the staff of their own incompetence so that they will listen to his trainers.
You really don’t need to go on a budget, but you should. What you have to do is look at the truth. If you track and record every expense to the penny for a month, with or without a formal budget, you will know the truth. You can tell lies, pretending everything is OK. You make excuses for your behavior, but neither lies nor excuses will make any improvements. Happiness and peace begin when you take responsibility for the truth of your financial life. Happiness and peace begin when you extend compassion and forgiveness to yourself for your own mistakes and shortcomings.
The turning point in the show occurs when the owner and managers take responsibility for their own mess. While the dirty run down old bar is getting a make over, the staff is training in kitchen and bartending boot camp. When the bar reopens it is a new beautiful establishment with state of the art equipment. For opening night Taffer again brings in customers by the bus loads. This time things go a lot better, not perfectly, but a whole lot better. The show ends with a report on how things are progressing a month or so after the bar reopens. Usually the news is pretty good, but sometimes the owners go back to their old ways.
In the end it is up to you. You can read a book or take a personal finance course. It doesn’t take long to learn what you really need to know. Either you need to find a way to earn more money or find ways to thrive and find happiness on less. Both paths are available. Most of us find our own way that incorporates elements of enlightened frugality with a realistic approach to earning more money. Let your mind become still and calm. Learning to relate to your money can be a great teacher. The lessons you learn taming one of the great difficulties of life, can then be applied to more important issues, happiness, peace, learning how to be a blessing to others.