Financial Life Focus

How to clearly navigate your financial life

Seeing the World Through Your Lens

What you believe becomes your reality.

 

I enjoy taking photographs. There is something peaceful yet exciting about seeing an imagine in your mind -- then capturing it forever. One of the most interesting things is that, usually, upon examining the picture you find more than you even saw when it first came into focus through your lens, and something you never intended becomes the focal point. You know you’ve seen examples of these -- someone unintentionally photo-bombing a posed scene; an interesting shadow in the background; or a misaligned hand that seemingly comes out of nowhere.

 

The fact is, we see the world through our own lenses as well. But rarely do we see more than our mind will allow us -- our brain has fixed our lenses only to pick up the familiar and the comfortable; in other words, we see things as black or white. Take the upcoming election, for example, we see the faults of those we disagree with and are unable to in those with whom we tend to agree. Our brain doesn’t like to move us into the gray scale area of determining whether some negative things we hear about the candidate we support might be true or conversely false about those we don’t.

 

The same rules apply when it comes to our money. Our brains are hotwired when it comes to money beliefs and behaviors. Some people are more comfortable savings while others cannot hold onto a nickel. Moving outside of our comfort zone takes a great deal of work and determination. For someone who is a saver, spending money is difficult. They must be shown that they will not be endangering their security by making a purchase. Conversely, those who have difficulty saving can come up with a thousand reasons why they need to make that purchase today. Our fixed focal lens can either become our support for beneficial habits or become an untrustworthy ally in poor and dangerous habits. 

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Looking through our personal lenses, we see the world in such a way that it must make sense to us. There are a great number of factors that go into this fixed vision;

 

1. Time: we live at a break-neck pace. Who has time to step back and consider?

 

2. Media Bombardment: living in the 24-hour news cycle, we are rarely turned off to the constant stimuli being shoved at us. Filtering information takes time and effort.

 

3. Background: We learned our “normal” as children. We watched our parents, save wisely, spend foolishly, fight about money, give to charity, etc. Our money beliefs come from our childhood and rarely do we take a step back and ask whether what we learned was supportive or destructive.

 

Considering these factors, it’s little wonder many people struggle financially. It becomes the luck of the draw, unless you are prescient enough to look back and decipher the negative messages and work like crazy to replace them with new and improved positive ones. Very rarely have I ever heard a client tell me that they used to be savers but now have changed their habits or vice versa. The only time I see clients change habits is when there is enough fear or motivation placed into their picture to push them from inertia to action. For example, someone in their mid-to late fifties who is eyeing retirement all of a sudden becomes a save-a-holic. It's like someone who never owned life insurance until someone close to them dies. 

 

It’s not too late to look closely at your own photograph and look carefully at what is there; look in all the corners, in the background and the foreshow, look at the colors, the angles and the shapes. Can you open your mind to seeing more than you thought was there or can you imagine what might make your picture even better? After all, it’s your lens that determines what you see.

 

Michael F. Kay, a Certified Financial Planner, practitioner and a CPA, is president of the firm Financial Life Focus.

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