Does talking about money make you want to hide under a blanket? If so, you aren’t alone. Money is a taboo topic for many, especially for people with variable income or non-traditional work. Join personal finance expert and advisor (and professional opera singer!) Chris Enns and I to talk about how to make those money conversations go more smoothly.
We tackle lots of tricky topics, from how to deal with the complex feelings (including inadequacy and shame) that come with the money subject, to how to engage with money conversations despite overwhelm, how to cut through the muddied language, how to customize your language and metrics so that your money makes sense to you, and much more.
My favourite comment from Chris on talking about money or any other difficult topic is this:It's essential that if we want to gain more control over a thing, we have to understand what we think about it now. via @rags2reasonable Click To Tweet
Chris and I had a lot of fun on this interview. It’s longer (and swearier) than usual, but I hope you stick around for the whole thing!
Prefer to read instead of watch? Scroll below the video for the full transcript.
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Chris Enns – From Rags to Reasonable at http://ragstoreasonable.com/
Because Money Podcast: https://www.becausemoney.ca/
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Lauren Sergy: Hello everybody, my name is Lauren Sergy and this is Talk Shop, the place where you can learn from industry experts how to become a better, stronger communicator in all areas of your work and life. For many of us, one of the most intimidating conversations we can have, one of the last taboo subjects out there is money, how we make it, how we spend it, how much we have, and definitely how we feel about it. Here to talk about this difficult subject with us today is Chris [Ens 00:00:31]. Chris Ens is an opera singing financial planning farm boy with a passion for helping artists and others with variable income make sense of their money. Chris’s personal insight into the financial realities and mindsets of artists and freelancers make him uniquely positioned to have real down to earth conversations about the way we think, view, and talk about our money. He actively blogs on his website, rags to reasonable and is also co-host of the popular personal finance podcasts because money. Chris, thank you so much. Welcome to talk shop and right away before we get started. How does a farm boy turned opera singer, professional opera singer not a dabbler, become a personal finance planner?
Chris Enns: Yeah. Well it’s. It’s the most common career path there is.
Lauren: Of course. It’s obvious.
Chris: There are many of us, maybe there’s not many of us. I feel like if I add the farm farm boy, I feel like I might be in unique territory. Please, if you’re listening to this and you are also in my camp, I will get over being unique and wallow in the joy of having another person like that. It’s just been crazy, but like right from the beginning, I don’t ever really know how I got from the farm to opera. It’s just this weird combination of liking music and then doors opening and the right ways and then before you know it, I didn’t know that could be a career. I didn’t know that could be a thing. And so I fell into that and then felt the same way about falling to this more conventional, at least more conventional field, but I didn’t know it was a job.
I’d never met with a financial planner. When I started to kind of fall into the field, it wasn’t because I was like, “Oh, this is the thing,” that I noticed. I just was looking for some more balance and fell into this and the doors opened and then yeah, it’s a weird thing. It’s a nebulous and a long story that probably isn’t interesting enough to tell the entire thing, but it’s weird and I’m extremely lucky and extremely grateful to have had opportunities and people and doors open at the right time and especially people, you know it’s just so much about the people that you meet and the people that you get to talk to and they just tell you a thing that tilts you an inch this way, then you go that way a little bit and then it takes you an inch this way. And it’s helped me so much kind of define the next step, even if I didn’t know exactly where the next 10 steps were leading.
Lauren: Right. Well, and one of the things that I found so interesting looking at your blog was the fact that when most people think, okay a financial planner, they think okay you came at it from an accounting angle and wanting to get the more human side in on it and it right on your website. I’m a professional opera singer. And I went creative people who like personal finance? I love this person. I absolutely adore him. I’ve never met him.
Chris: And those people exist a little bit more than I think we all think because we’re in the creative field. We’re like somebody’s got to create a field exactly known for their financial acumen, but there are definitely islands within. And once I started getting to know being open about my interest in financial things in the community, all of a sudden people start popping out all over like I do this and accounting, I do this and planning, I do this. And you feel fine that there is a community of financial people within the creative community. They’re just little islands floating all over the place, so it’s been fun to find them.
Lauren: Well, and within the creative community you don’t just help creatives and artists with their financial planning, you assist anyone basically with a variable income and I think that’s an area that maybe not many people who aren’t in self employment or in a creative field realize how common really variable incomes are. And of course with money being a fairly taboo subject still strikes me absolutely batty. With it being a fairly taboo subject, it must be even trickier for the variable income and artist’s side to have real conversations about it.
Chris: You know, there’s so many things behind our lack of conversation. There’s so many things about finances that are so isolating and so full of shame and inadequacy and this feeling that it’s just you. And so when I started to work my work started with my community, my opera community, my kind of circle of artists, but specifically related to the people I knew and the people that I worked with. And as I grew and I kind of started to meet more people that were found ways to connect to what I was talking about, whether they were in specifically in my discipline or not, one of the big themes was this complication of variable income and it’s one of the things that happens right at the beginning. And one of the big things that separates people, a word that I’ve been starting to use more and more as the idea of money misfits or non traditional finances. That people that if they would walk into a bank, they just wouldn’t feel like it was for them. Not that the bank isn’t for them, but the financial advice just doesn’t seem to fit.
And one of the first blocks lots of people get who make variable income is that somebody will throw down a budget in front of them or a budget template and say “you need to do this.” And they’ll have to write down what’s your average monthly income. And they’ll just be like, not for me. I don’t know. I have no idea. Before any of the other questions before any of this thing.
And it’s an important piece of information to know for planning and all this stuff. But when it’s so easy or a lot easier for a more conventional financial life that has paycheck, you’ve seen this, but that becomes a major block. And so when you start kind of thinking about variable income, you realize how much more it connects to all kinds of fields and all kinds of people. And a lot of the way work works now. The way the job market works now and the way lots of people have their conventional job and another income.
So people have variable income even if they’ve got a regular paycheck as part of their income and so managing multiple income sources and variable income and figuring out structures to make that work and figuring out ways to regulate. That’s the thing that I think I get the most excited about working with clients with the work that I really like is just creating that, a feeling of control and a feeling of I’m being in charge when everything seems different all the time and how do you kind of put that through a filter and make it seem less insanely daunting.
Lauren: And the conversations, I love the fact that you are facilitating these conversations within the community. You see a lot of variable income of course in the online business space and the entrepreneur or solopreneur business space. And addressing that variable income, there’s almost like this dance around it. I’m not sure if it’s quite the same in the fine arts community, but within a lot of the creative communities that I’m in there is this dance around it that if you’re not bringing in something steady through the months, what you’ll hear people promote is how well they did in this month.
Or in the case of a lot of online entrepreneurship, I had a five figure launch. I just had a five figure launch. Look how amazingly successful I am. And then you think, yeah, but for the rest of the year there were about six months where you pulled in nothing because you were preparing for this one week where you pulled in a ton of money. So the language really gets muddled.
Chris: The language gets muddled and the impression that you’re trying to put out that is fostered, gets muddled. And people are trying to succeed and people are trying to look like they know what they’re doing when a lot of us are walking around with imposter syndrome, not because we’re inept just because it’s really common to just feel like, oh, I know how to do this, but somebody asked me this. I’ll be totally stumped. It’s just, that’s just how a lot of the world works. And if you’re listening and you’re not one of those people, then congratulations that must be wonderful. We’re trying to figure it out and things like that. I totally understand why people want, especially when they’re selling something, coaching specifically that that highlights that that service kind of really promotes. I’m successful because I had 100,000 dollar month.
You’re like, okay, fine. First of all, how much? How much does that net? How much did you spend in order to make that actually bringing home and what’s the cost of making that money. And too exactly like you said, like what does that kind of stretched out over because I think that the [inaudible 00:09:41] opera business all the time is that we do a big gig that paid quite a bit of money and then you think, oh, I’m feeling great. You spend a lot, and then you’re back to zero. And so stabilizing that and equalizing this and teaching your brain how to look at a $10,000 check and say, I have no extra money. This is just enough to get me to the next check. It’s really such a mental thing and the same way that it’s a mental thing to teach yourself when you get paid a thousand dollars that I did not make a thousand dollars. I made 800, 200 of that belongs to the government. And yes, there are systems that you can put in place, but it really is training your brain to start seeing the money that you’ve come in differently.
Because I think that so many of us are that month something, we start measuring ourselves by our best month and start deciding that, oh, I made $6,000 in a great month. That what I measure every month by. Maybe that’s not a reasonable. We measure ourselves by our most successful productive day. We measure ourselves by our best and sometimes that can encourage us to push ourselves and that’s great, but generally that’s just not a realistic depiction of where kind of our average is and where we should set our expectations and especially if this making you feel like a dirty rotten failure. Then maybe there should be a little adjustment because it’s. Yeah, it’s tough. It’s tough when we talk about the conversation around money surrounds people, really promoting their successes and never talking about the struggles or the realism so that it becomes so weighted on this side that you have no sense of how you’re doing or where you’re standing?
Lauren: Yeah, and that’s where the conversation around money from the communication standpoint that I approached a lot of this from. That’s where that conversation aspect of it becomes so interesting. Has money in particular. It’s rarely about how good you are with the numbers. It’s largely behavioral and a lot of the behaviors can be sorted out about what people are saying to each in terms of the worth of money and how their businesses are doing and everything else, but also that internal dialogue they’re having with themselves. So how much of your work in financial planning is involved in delving into what we’re telling ourselves about our personal and our professional worth?
Chris: It’s a big part, you know honestly what got me excited about this work wasn’t because I all of a sudden went from opera to being in love with spreadsheets. The numbers are not so why I love-
Lauren: But the spreadsheets they’re so sexy.
Chris: They can be a delightful way to spend an afternoon. If that’s all there was in this job, I would be right out. It’s the fact that so much of it, money is hard not because people are bad at math, although lots of us are bad at math. You know, I do my math three times. It’s not my strongest point. Money is hard because it touches everything. It touches identity touches family history. It’s the way you grew up. It’s the way you’re facing goals and what do you want. Just these giant giant questions. And since I mainly deal with people who haven’t made the priority of the highest net worth possible, that isn’t their main goal. So when we talk, we’re not necessarily saying, how can we just make your money grow as big as we possibly can, which some people in a lot of the finance industry is based around. And that’s fine. It’s totally fine.
But since my kind of a audience and the people that I talk to are more creatives and people with nontraditional finances, people who are trying to build things and trying to do things, finances are often, some of them feel it’s just getting in the way. They just feel like it’s there and they deal with it. It’s not [inaudible 00:13:51]. And so when we start to work, the most important questions, ones you just mentioned are the questions of what do you believe about money? What do you believe that it’s stopping you from doing. There’s so many interesting money dialogues that we tell ourselves and they, and they affect the way we think they affect the way we make day to day choices. And I think it’s essential that if we want to gain more control over a thing, we have to understand what we think about it now. And because, and this is the real symptom of this lack of conversation because you think it’s something we don’t talk about, but we work out ideas in conversation. Conversation’s the way that we put things out and we figure out what we believe.
Lauren: The Socratic method. Dialogue.
Chris: Hundred percent. It’s a method. It’s not a solution it’s engaging in this conversation of just what is happening right now? And it helps us figure out what we want, what’s important what’s important to them. I don’t really relate to that. That’s why it’s important. And so when we don’t do that, sometimes you’ve never asked the question what do you think about money? You know, how did you deal with money in your home growing up? How did you know, what do you feel, just all around the idea of money. And it was a really interesting thing for me because I didn’t grow up thinking about money. When I started to face some of those things and go I guess I do believe that, that’s a weird, that’s not helping me kind of take steps forward. Whether or not it helped me at some point, how can I just start to shift that? Or how can I challenge that? Beliefs are way more powerful than me just putting a formula in front of somebody and being like, oh you just need to $300 more a month and you’re great.
Lauren: If it were only that easy.
Chris: A hundred percent, but that’s how so much of financial industry talks about it like it’s that simple. They sit around and go I don’t understand why people have debt and I don’t understand why people just aren’t saving more. And you’re like, you don’t understand.
Lauren: No you don’t understand. Maybe you shouldn’t be talking to them about.
Chris: Exactly. But it needs to start with listening. That’s the thing. You don’t understand, this is a true statement. But instead of saying they could just do this and you’re like, you don’t understand, start by listening. Why do you find it impossible to say that? Why have you found that you keep on turning to debt over and over again? And some people just don’t think about that as a problem. And then maybe you engage with them about the things that it’s costing them and those trade-offs. And at the end of the day, there’s some people I’ve talked to, they’re like no I’m still okay with it. And you’re like okay, but you’re making the decisions like that. You make your decisions. You’re more informed about the situation now. But it’s, you have to start by listening to people. That’s just step one always.
Lauren: And the, the talking to people piece is an interesting one and I’m gonna cast back to one of what I think is one of the best posts on your blog and the post that made me immediately go onto twitter or go into email. I forget how I contacted you first and say I need to have you on my show. The post is titled Real Artists Don’t Have Jobs and Other Crocks of Shit. And this article so clearly lays out the toxic conversations that happened not just in arts communities between artists but also in entrepreneurial communities and solopreneur communities as well. So why do you think so many people follow this notion of artistic or vocational purity? I mean, why are we denigrating day jobs?
Chris: It’s tough. I struggle with that question all the time or I’m really interested in that question because even when I graduated and started kind of doing my job and started kind of being a slave to this belief that real artists have day job, that real artists struggle, that real artists starve before they would sell out, any of these words.
Lauren: Or it has to be some specific kind of job, like it’s okay to wait tables, it’s okay to work in a bank.
Chris: No, and it’s okay to do some things related to your art income, but some things related to your income are not okay.
Lauren: Don’t teach kids lessons.
Chris: But the crazy thing is that everybody has a sense of what these rules are. Nobody told me that, like I can’t relate that voice to anybody being like, oh this is how it is. And so it’s very interesting to me where this sense came from and where this kind of, I love the term that you use about like vocational purity. And I think maybe some of it is wrapped up in this, our generational idea of the dream being doing what you love. Wouldn’t it be amazing to just you should be able to do what you love. Your career should be something you love and you can make a living doing it. Wouldn’t it be great if all the things were wrapped up in one thing? You could work and love it and make money. And that especially in the artist world is like, how often have I ever heard oh you’re doing that. Well you know, least you love it.
And you’re like, yeah but, and this is funny because when I was an artist, I really weirdly thought that we had a monopoly on loving our work. Now I work with financial planners who show up on Monday and they’re like, if you love what you do, you’ll never work. You’ll never feel like Monday is a Monday at all. They love it. They love their job. You realize, I think the thing that I’m the most interested in and where some of that day job feel came from and where a lot of those kinds of posts and thoughts can come from is this idea that it we’re so limiting ourselves and how we apply our creativity. Especially for those in a creative field, refused to apply creativity in ways that we’ve built a lot, refused to admit it that it works and that people have developed balances that are there work here. This is where their income is from and it up time and energy to do something that they love. And it opens up time and energy to spend.
And they basically take the same thing that a lot of us want to put in one big ball. And they said okay, I can’t quite do it in one ball. I don’t know, for whatever reason I can’t quite do it in one ball, but I can do this here and I could do this here and I could do this here. And I actually, I’m really pretty happy and balanced and I’m satisfied. And that’s pretty good. And so I think one thing that people sometimes think when they’re trying to do this thing and they’re miserable, and they’re doing it and it’s just not working, you’re trying to put everything in one big ball is that at least the people that are working these things and aren’t trying what they’re doing must be miserable too or even worse. And that’s just not true. And it’s shutting ourselves off from a greater idea of what balance could be, it’s shutting yourself off from this idea that there’s just more than one way to do life.
And I think that when I started to get out of this single minded focus look, I started to see so many examples of that. I started to see artists and artists in my own field with my exact same training that had that were fostering other passions, that were bakers. And then they sang in the evening sometimes and then they had construction jobs during the day and they really liked it. They weren’t just doing it to putting in enough money so they could eventually quit and do this thing. No, they liked this. They were balancing it, they were picking out this diverse cool life. And I was like, that’s closer to what I want than this one thing.
Lauren: Well it’s much more sustainable over the long term I think because of course if you’re piling all the pressure on that creative pursuit to provide everything, to provide your financial fulfillment and your emotional fulfillment and your professional fulfillment, that’s a lot of pressure being put on one thing. An aspect of the conversation that I think though really colors that is survivorship bias, which is basically our fascination with the stories of the people who did that and who made it. Because of course we’re not going to hear about all of the artists who have very successfully balanced out a part time arts career with their construction job and their family life or all of the online entrepreneurs who also continued working at the library five days a week or whatever so that they could meet other obligations. It’s the survivorship stories that we really cling onto. They’re more interesting. It’s like if you go the other way, it’s a little on the boring side, so we don’t get to hear as much I think at least about the people who took the slow and steady route. They’re not part of the conversation, and part of me thinks is this something you’ve seen or am I just being really cranky? This does make me very cranky.
Chris: Just cranky. It’s part of the same thing you were saying before, it’s the lopsided conversation thing. It’s the five figure month. It’s the same thing over again. But you know what drives me even crazier about this specific thing is that we’re only highlighting one kind of success. And I think that also what we’re not looking at is that, I’ll go to use the opera career as a as an example, some of the people that are highlighted are the people that are working at the biggest opera houses in the world. They’re working all the time. They’re making great money. They sing beautifully. You’re like, that’s the dream, that is success. That is the one that you’re going to write the story about how much struggle they had, but they stuck to it. That’s the thing. Then you sit down with some of these people, not all of them, always different stories. But sit with some of these people and they talk about how much they don’t get to do the art that they want to do, they feel trapped in a lifestyle that they’re not happy with.
They feel kind of like a slave to that kind of success. And you’re saying why is that successful? Why is that any more of a success than somebody saying, I remember talking to a painter and a writer in Europe. She had a job that was not too difficult, but she was doing some cleaning at a gym and she was like, I love my job because my brain can think, it gives me some exercise, like it’s not taking up too much managed. So when I get home I can do whatever I want. I can paint, I can write, I’ve got the time, I’ve got the energy to create whatever I want. And for me she’s happy, she’s able to create, she’s able to sustain herself. Why is that not success? And so we’ve got this lopsided conversation, but we also have this really laser focus on what success is and unfortunately I think that the arts and the creative spirit have dragged in the success metrics from some of the other industries. And I don’t think that it often applies to us. I think that when you’re talking about massive financial success in the arts, I don’t necessarily think that that’s a lot of what we started doing this for.
So many of us started to do something because we wanted to, there was some creative energy that we were going to scratch and those things don’t necessarily meet all the time. The art that you get to do for the most money isn’t necessarily the art that really helps you that you love to do. And so it becomes a really frustrating thing these overnight success stories, because they not only like you said don’t account for the people that do other things, but they also don’t tell the whole story. I think that we do a disservice to ourselves when we’re not constantly asking ourselves what is success to me, what do I want, what am I trying to build, where am I headed? And to try to take as much as possible, and finance is where we talk about the cliché of Keeping up with the Joneses a lot, and comparison.
I just read a book by a Shannon Lee Simmons, which is called Worry-Free Money, which is really great. And she talks about the Beyonce factor and the inadequacy factor and kind of kicks at it from another point of view, but just like especially us creative entrepreneur, solopreneur people, we need to allow ourselves to be super stubborn about what we want and about the finding your own terms of success, and then to set out what those metrics are so we know when we’re succeeding according to us, and block out the good and block out the bad that’s coming from the outside, because it doesn’t necessarily mean you are or aren’t succeeding.
Lauren: Right. There is still a moral code around part of the discussion. It’s very easy to tell ourselves this is what my definition of success looks like. Once we actually put the thought into it and say, okay what do I really want out of life? What does make me happy? And being very honest about it, but there’s still within our various professional circles, moral codes around money and creative work.
And you’ve written before about having a community around you and it’s certainly not that we can extract ourselves from our professional circles or our creative circles, but this moral code I think does muddy the conversation. So it might be, one that I come across frequently is that if you’re not making x, y, z amount, then you’re not really serious or another one in online entrepreneurship. If you’ve stuck with that day job, it means you’re not really committed. You just have a cute little hobby on the side. And the one that comes to mind of course with our artistic endeavors is that if you haven’t worn that starving artist mantle at least once, then you’re not committed to your path. Now we know that’s nonsense. We know that’s complete horse shit. Do you have any good comebacks to these kinds of conversations? Whether we’re having them with other people or whether they’re messing us up in our own heads.
Chris: I think it is muddy. And it gets muddier because everybody needs something different. I think there’s so many people that really believe this idea that if you have a backup plan, then you’re never going to just go for it. And you’re like, I believe probably that there are people out there that benefit from that line of thinking and maybe can, that’s the way that they thrive.
Lauren: If I hear one more story, like one more repetition of that story of how that [inaudible 00:29:51] burned the ships. Now granted I am the queen of backup plans.
Chris: But that’s okay.
Lauren: But good Lord.
Chris: It’s yet again, this idea that there needs to be a, this is how you make it one size fits all, anything. Enough of that, it’s just there’s just a whole bunch of stories of people that are different and how they did things. But it’s muddy you’re that way because I wish that I could just say oh no, backup plans are great. And it’s always funny as a financial planner, every time you talked to other planners that are advising entrepreneurs now like before you leave your job, you should have three to six months of salary, but you ask all of those financial planners if they’re working on what they did. None of it. We talked to somebody who helps people launch their businesses and she told the same story, just like it’s good advice. It’s great advice. I didn’t say it. So there’s good advice, there’s good practical things. But it’s just, it really is muddier than that. And I think I wish that I could just discount it all. I do think that there are people that benefit and have benefited and will benefit from putting themselves in a situation where they have to survive and thrive.
I firmly don’t believe, and this is the idea of the starving artist is that is that of struggle makes you a great artist. And I think that in a sense there’s truth in that, I just don’t believe that you have to manufacture struggle. I think that life will have hard things in it that will give you fodder to communicate deep emotions. And I don’t think that you need to work for it. And I just always work to provide the counterpoint always and just kind of say okay, so there’s this idea that starving and struggling makes you a better artist. That hasn’t been true for me. I’ll tell my story about going through a phase like that in my life and then how much more able to create I am when I feel stable and I feel comfortable. And so that’s my truth. And then we can just talk about it with a client and say, what would it look like? Wouldn’t it be better if, I always was my own bias right? It wouldn’t it be how much more creative energy would you have if you didn’t need to worry about just making it through the month and making it through the week and getting to the next step. And how much of this is real, how much of this is helping you, and how much of this is not helping you.
And trying to open up my bias to just listen to what is really motivating for people. Some people are motivated by fear. Some people are motivated by positivity and hope. And there’s lots of ways you can pull these levers and trick yourself into kind of motivating yourself into kind of pushing it farther. I wish there was an easy answer, but I am equally as frustrated by the metrics. The metrics that we set up to say this is success. And I go back to the same thing to be like, I have found it very valuable to spend the time thinking about what I want my metrics to be checking, and checking in with them and just being like, just so I can start blocking some of that out because it will drive you crazy. Whether or not you’re keeping up or whether you’re not, it will still drive you crazy because you’re constantly, the process and then that conversation and figuring out where your kind of successes and how to measure it. It’s really valuable and it’s not easy if you haven’t done it before, it gets easier the more you’re checking in with it. But man, everybody’s different. It’s all self awareness stuff is.
Lauren: It is. It really is. And again, it’s that communication conversation piece. We have to have the conversations with ourselves. We have to have the conversations with the communities, with our partners. This is how we figure it out, is by talking about it. A term that I would like you to kind of define for us is selling out. What are we saying when we say that someone has sold out? And not just the surface definition, but what’s what’s going on under there? That Chris, he’s sold out.
Chris: He’s sold out yeah. It’s tough right? Because it really is, I know I shouldn’t have. I should’ve, I don’t even know.
Lauren: I’m glad you did.
Chris: And people think, well this is the thing, right? So people might think that, and it was the words that kind of floating around my head when I started openly admitting that I had another interest and wanted to work at something in tandem and maybe move my direct life in that direction. You just imagine people saying words like quit and bail, all these words. So there’s this wrapped up in selling out. Selling out has this sense too of losing that vocational period, right? That we’re talking about before. Whatever you’ve defined yourself by this is the pure version. So for artists, a lot of the time it’s I’m now making commercial music that makes, it’s not good for your soul. It’s great for just for money, you sold it just for money. It’s tough. Because I was thinking about this, when you sent the question, you were like I was thinking about this. What does that mean?
Lauren: It’s loaded.
Chris: But I think that it’s linked to the word inadequacy. I think that there’s something in there because selling out, I’m more interested in the person saying it than the person doing it. And I’ve felt before both in the music career and in the financial planning career about the people in my industry that I feel are selling out. So it’s the word that I apply to others to not the most noble means. I don’t feel great about that, but I know that I’ve kind of done it in my head. I think that it might fit into an idea of your own inadequacy or this feeling that, I should be making money too, but therefore I need to kind of justify why I’m not as successful on that round because I feel like I should be, just measuring those two things against each other. It’s not about the fact that you might make less, it’s the feel that you should be making as much of them. So why did they make this choice that you didn’t? And how can I justify how where I am versus not? I think that it has to do more with kind of the person saying it.
And when I think about times that I’ve said it, it has to do with where I feel I should be in an industry, where should I feel like I should be getting that exposure. I should feel like I’m the kind of leader in that community. I feel like I should be getting that job. I should be getting the same kind of level of success, and so then you need to kind of put it back and be like oh but they’re willing to do that. And I would never do that because it doesn’t match up with my own idea of what being an opera singer is, or being a financial planner is. But that doesn’t mean that it’s the right way, just means that, yet again I kind of fall back into this theme of really forcing myself and my own specific situation to just narrow the focus, come back to this is my work, this is what I’m doing, this is what I want and what I need to do to get there and use the metrics for my success. And everybody else is doing their own work there.
And so that’s up to them. That’s their responsibility. And if people come to me and are really dissatisfied with that, if people are really unhappy with that, then we work. Then we, then we figure it out and then we look at those kinds of decisions and figure out maybe they sold themselves out at some point. I think that there is a lot of people who get sucked into other people’s goals and other peoples versions of success. And I think that’s the most powerful form of selling out because that can feel like you sold out what you wanted. And so this comes back to this cool work of the better you can define what you want, the more you can know whether you’re on that kind of pointed towards it taking baby steps or whether you’re not. And you can avoid those kind of looking back 10 years and saying shit, that wasn’t great. What have I done?
Lauren: What have I done?
Lauren: And by the way, this is easily the sweariest episode I’ve done. It’s liberating somehow, but there’s another crock of shit post that you wrote which brings up other phrases that I think would be great to unpack. One of them is as long as you’re loving it, that you need to always feel joy in your work. It has to be your passion. Do what you love and the money will follow is the one that usually in the entrepreneurship, the solopreneur and the online entrepreneur, especially world that comes out a lot. Do what you love and the money will follow. Why are we clinging to these mantras? We know they’re nonsense. We know this. Why do we cling?
Chris: We do, and yet I feel like there’s a generation that came after this, another generation that didn’t have a lot of choice in the work that they chose. Lots of people in the boomer generation, and before their careers were going to pick for them. And so I think a lot of them raised their kids and helped the next generation be like, “Look, you can do meaningful work. You can do the work that you really want to do.” And so we’ve done that lumpy thing. We’ve done that whole everything should all be connected. And it’s just, I can’t be that simple. It’s not that simple for me. I don’t love my work some of the time. I really like it most of the time.
And I think that there’s a definition of love in there. I find especially my work these days in financial planning, I find it really meaningful and effective and there’s a satisfaction in it, and that’s great. And that’s love. I just think that it’s a real over-simplification of work, and it kicks off this idea that you can separate it. You can find your job super mundane and boring and have a lovely life, that has things you love over here. It just does not need to be all connected. It can be, and it can be wonderful, but it drives me crazy. And often it’s in the arts it’s an excuse to underpay and undervalue. So you love what you do, therefore that’s payment enough. That’s great.
Lauren: On the speaker side of things within professional speaking and within a lot of other knowledge work, it’s but you love it so much. You’re so good at it. And this would be great for exposure and it would be so meaningful to the people that you’re talking to. Yeah but darling. The kids like having me at home and I like having money in the bank.
Chris: A hundred percent. I go back and forth about this idea of working for free because there’s a huge and justified blow back to the abuse of people by trying to pay them with exposure and all of those kinds of things. Totally sign on. But at the same time, I acknowledge the reality that we all work for free when we’re creating a business and when we’re coming up and all this stuff, there’s opportunities. And later on in your life there’s opportunities that are incredibly meaningful that you choose to work for free, when you have that freedom to be able to choose to work it for free. And so there’s this like, yet again early a lash back these absolute statements. It drives me crazy. And so on both sides, it’s all about context. It’s all the context about working for free. It’s all about the context of work and saying, what are you getting from it?
Does he expose your matter? Exposure can be a great way, really valuable thing if it’s actually valuable exposure to you, not just the word that gets thrown on the table. So yet again, it’s about taking responsibility for it and being like, no. If they want to pay you with exposure and it’s a great opportunity, you get in there. And look, if you can wrangle a few pennies out of them too that’s great, but put your value where you need it. If you need people to know who you are, don’t stop yourself just because they’re not valuing your time that you with money. That can be a shortcoming too, but it’s in the arts, there’s so much conversation for just needing to think about how to value your time monetarily better. I’m a hundred percent I can’t way over to be like just, your time is valuable. Other people love what they do too and they get paid for it.
Lauren: Something that can help out with that, at least a practice that I needed to adopt in my own works. I do this, this technically right now is working for free, but it’s strategic and there is a lot of value. It’s not that people should turn down every free gig. It’s are you approaching it in a very strategic manner. And until I sat down and define what the strategy is, again put it in words, make the words very specific and then repeat words to yourself. I was picking up too much free work. I was basically letting other people define what the value of exposure is in my terms or what the value of my work is in my terms. And it was always according to their perception. So once the definition came out, I was able to say yes, what they’re saying is in alignment with how I feel or no, what they’re saying is completely contrary. Please pay me.
Chris: A hundred percent, completely. And sometimes, I won’t even say anything, I love it. Its interesting that we keep coming back to this theme, to sum up for people that are like going point for them and as we collect. Conversation helps you figure out ideas, conversation helps you figure out what you want, talking to other people, talking to yourself, doing all this stuff. And then setting your own version of what you want and where you’re going and success at all of that. That’s the next thing. And then figuring out tools and metrics to help you get there. Like work, like all this stuff. And this is finance too. This is what I do with my clients, this exact kind of thing. We talk, we figure out what it is you want, and then we start talking about tools and tactics and all that stuff. Third, always third. I like that theme.
Lauren: What do you think is the most important conversation that we need to have with ourselves? And if you’re paired up with your partner because they can’t be left in the dark. When it comes to handling finances, whether you’re in an artistic field or not, what’s that most important conversation?
Chris: What I always tell people is just that the conversation is important. Honestly it’s just starting to talk. And so because right now a lot of people aren’t talking at all and I think couples are a great example because it’s really important whether or not you have separation within your financial lives or separation within your goals, it’s just really important that you can talk. And a lot of us leave financial conversations as single people, as couples, as families, until it’s a high pressure time. And so we have to talk about it now. Somebody just died and we need to talk about an inheritance. Somebody got really sick. We need to buy a big thing. I just found your 50 credit cards in the closet and now I realize, that’s hard. That’s a hard conversation. And so the whole point of talking is just practice in a low stress environment. Practice talking about how, talking about the most benign possible money things.
I keep on talking with a couple of friends in mind, the ones that we do Because Money with Sandy and John about coming up with a game that helps people just like come up with a really benign kind of financial conversations. They just get started, and I often will start talking about workshops with just like passing around. The last one I did and we passed around a lottery ticket. And I was like if this hit for $500, what do you want to do with it?
And then if it hit 50,000, what would you want to do with it then? So just to talk about this nice way to actually start talking about what your goals might be. $500 often will show you what your short term, what you’re thinking about right now. Would you wish that there could be money for right now. So often if people are like, I’d love to take a day off and go to the spa, you’re like you’re really craving some relaxation, entertainment, kind of some break. With $50,000, the people are like, “I pay off my debt.” Give you a sense of a long-term. Taking out my debt, I would put my stuff in savings. I would love to give a bunch of the people in my life. All of a sudden values start to come forward, and you can start to figure that out.
I think it’s so important that people practice talking. Because one of the biggest things that I would love for everybody to know about financial planning and financial planners and financial plans is that people often will come to a financial planner and they’ll want to plan. They’ll be like I want to do this, and I’d like you to project things, and I’d like to have a plan. The plan doesn’t matter. Deliberate to a person you’re like this is already wrong. This is, the numbers are already wrong because you made a decision in here that it’s thrown it all off. It doesn’t matter, and it never matters and it never should. The planning is really important. What’s the process that we go through together, and I do that with clients together just to be like hey, this is how you think about this. This is how you’re thinking about making goals, this is how you think about figuring out what you need. This is how you think about structuring it.
This is how you think about putting the things that you want in with the things that you need and making a plan to get there. And then this is how you kind of project that out to inform yourself. Because that plan the verb that you’re doing, that’s the thing that we have to do all the time because life is crazy and constantly changing and you never know what’s going to happen and that’s never going to change. So that’s That’s why conversation is really important. Not because of the conclusions that you’re going to come to and the answers that you’re going to find, or the questions that you’re going to ask and the processes that you’re going to keep on rediscovering. It’s the one skill within this whole, well not even financial world but just general world that if you practice it, you can use it every time something goes wrong or right. It’s just practicing that same skill.
Lauren: Over and over. And I’m gonna wag my finger at any of my students and clients who may be watching. You know how I keep saying practice frequently in low stress environments where you don’t have to? Chris is saying the same thing. Do it ’cause it works. That’s a mantra of mine. This is a skill. Speaking is a skill, communication is a skill. You have to practice it in a low stress environment. And you get great ideas for how you can do a stressful financial talk if money really freaks you out. Can you gamify it? Can you somehow bring that stress down so that there’s easier ways to enter into the conversation, and you’re not actively looking for a solution that’s just exploration. That’s beautiful. Chris, you specialize in financial planning for artists, for people in the creative fields, basically for people with variable income. Now, many people believe that financial planning is just for the rich. You have cast your net wider than that. How about if you tell us a bit about your services that you have for low income as well as the great office hours offer that you have out there?
Chris: For sure. Yeah. It’s one of the things kind of coming in. I feel like most of the experts in financial planning ar
e helping people with high net worths. And they have technical and complicated needs and need help and that’s great. But a really underserved community is low income people and middle income people that have financial questions that need financial support and need financial accountability and clarity and direction, and they don’t have access to it or they’ll go to the bank and talk to people who are also selling products and not necessarily find somebody that’s got their best interest in mind. And so I’m trying to figure out how to solve that problem. So two of the programs that I’m running right now is office hours. I’ll do once a month for 2018, I do free 30 minute Skype sessions. You can just come on and talk about questions, technical questions or just kind of talk at me for a while about the things that are stressing you out. And it’s a nice way just to see what it’s like to talk to a person about their money, check in with somebody.
Some people use kind of every month as kind of a check in, accountability side of it. It’s really great. It’s really fun for me. It’s one of my favorite times of the month. And then the other program that I run is called pay what you can financial planning. And so the way my site ranks reasonable works is that 10 percent of every dollar that people spend, in financial planning I put into a fund. That goes together with the money that comes in every month from some other patrons that are supporting this low income work. And I use that to subsidize financial planning for people. So for people with lower incomes, they can come to me and we’ll talk and we’ll go through the same process and they say what they can afford to pay. And I’ll subsidize the rest of the fee from the fund. And so they’re still full complete clients of mine and with all the same advantages that a client playing full price would be, but they can pay what they can actually afford and hopefully get the support they need.
Lauren: It’s a very generous program. I hopped on one of your office hours once. It was a great experience. Everyone out there, listeners watchers, take him up on this offer it, it is really, really excellent. Now of course you can find Chris at ragstoreasonable.com, but you can also listen to him on the because money podcast. I have been binge listening to it for a few weeks now. It is so much fun. I love it. Real conversations, but had in low stress environments. And it is very entertaining. So rags to reasonable and the because money podcast. Now, if you agree that we all need to talk a little bit more openly about our money, be sure to like this video, like the podcast, subscribe to my channel. Let’s keep the conversation going and of course head over to laurensergy.com and sign up for my newsletter. You will stay up to date on all of the interviews here on Talk Shop as well as news and bonuses that I only offer to my email subscribers. Have a great week. Keep talking about your money. Thank you Chris so much for being here with us and we’ll see everyone on the next talk shop. Bye Bye.