I climbed a wall today. I don’t mean figuratively. I mean that I got up early in the morning and met my business partner and clients at an indoor rock-climbing gym in Manhattan with every intention to literally scale a wall to the top. Wow! What an experience. It took a great deal of determination and the right mindset.
Our wealth-coaching program, Proactively Educating & Acquiring Knowledge (PEAK), is designed to help people become smarter with money and develop wealth-building strategies that will allow them to live the lives they always wanted. We named the group that we coached the PEAK Climbers Club and used the imagery of going on a hike or mountain climb as our analogy. The analogy gave participants the vision of something adventurous and fun attached to the financial journey upon which they were embarking. We completed the program with what was supposed to be a fun, interactive event. This time, we chose indoor rock climbing, because we thought that it was a nice metaphor for the journey through which we had just taken them. I was about to learn how incredibly right we were.
PEAK is different from your traditional financial education program because we start with a quantitative temperament tool that helps participants understand their unique character traits and personal tendencies that impact how they view and use their money. I believe that you have a better chance succeeding at tasks, such as your money goals and finances, if you understand yourself fundamentally. For example, how you behave in various life scenarios, what you gravitate to most commonly, and essentially what makes you “tick”. You have to start with your mindset.
During the program, we help you to identify your core character traits by taking you through an evaluation and then matching your outcomes to your habits and the relationship that you have with your money. Our goal is the help you develop the right money mindset so that you can then begin implementing effective strategies to build wealth.
That’s where we start. From this point on and throughout the remainder of the program, we help you to build constructive and positive habits with your money while we teach you the foundational elements of wealth management and investing. Everything that you build is based on your initial evaluation outcome. This way you will complete the program with greater knowledge and understanding about yourself and how to build wealth through realistic and intelligent strategies personalized to your character traits and life situation. You truly walk away with a blueprint for a new money management and investment strategy, tailor-made specifically for you.
This blueprint is such a powerful component of wealth building. If we don’t understand our intrinsic relationship to our money, then it becomes increasingly difficult for us to develop the productive money management habits and principles that can rectify difficult financial situations.
I often see the confusion, nervousness, and sometimes fear on the faces of new clients who don’t know what the outcome will look like, but have made the decision to trust the process. Often, the biggest and hardest step in developing a plan for your life is simply beginning. Usually, the unknown is what elevates our fear the most. Little do we realize that when we strategize wisely, especially with the help of a professional, there is usually never anything to fear at all.
So, this was my experience with rock climbing. It being my first indoor rock climbing event, I was embarking on something new, and it made me nervous when I looked up at that tall wall with purposefully planted ledges on it. As I stepped up onto the first boulder, I will admit that I felt fear. But, when my feet rested on each ledge, and I felt the firm base underneath me, my anxiety lowered – just a little. Having a strong foundation is everything to us. From an early age, we are taught that having a strong foundation is everything to us. Whether it is through family, the formation of the right friends, a home to live in or, of course, money, having a foundation is what gives us peace of mind.
Deciding to take control of your financial foundation can sometimes feel like you’re about to climb boulders. There were large and small ledges on the rock-climbing wall, and I had to take the time to determine which would be the best ledge to take the next step onto, or reach for with my hand. A few times, I would reach for a particular ledge that I thought would have a proper rim to hold on to, but when I felt around, I would find that there was nothing there. I had to rescind my reach, backtracking to my original resting spot; all the while making certain that I was balancing my weight properly so that I wouldn’t fall.
How similar is this to deciding what to do with our money, what kinds of accounts to open up or close down; prioritizing what debts to pay down first and how to pay ourselves. What avenues should we take, when we know that we have a particular goal in mind, but we’re not sure how to reach it? How do we know on to what ledge is safe to hold? I looked down from the wall and was so glad when I saw one of the rock-climbing employees standing cautiously underneath me.
When you’re stepping out boldly to develop a financial strategy for the first time, take stock of where you are right now in your life. Match that against your goals and objectives. Do what research is necessary to determine what products and strategies you’ll need to put into place in order to get from point A to your projected point B. This step is also where developing a working budget becomes necessary. It helps you tremendously to build on your strategy and establish a focused plan for achieving it.
Seek help. There is a tremendous volume of online tools available to consumers to assist you with budgeting and money management. Seek the help of a financial professional to determine what types of financial vehicles are right for you. What accounts should you be opening and what should your specific investment strategy look? Professionals are there for you just like the rock-climbing guide was there for me – to help prevent a fall.
Was it hard? Absolutely. The measure of hard or difficult varies for every person, and we all need to start right where we are without judging ourselves too harshly against the next person. Use other people’s success as encouragement to propel you forward, instead of stopping you in your tracks. This is why I wasn’t intimidated when the cute little blonde girl, who couldn’t be more than six years old, scaled the wall past me to the top. No, I wasn’t intimidated at all.
As I continued finding the right ledges to step to next, I started to feel the slight burn in the muscles on my arms and legs. At times when I couldn’t find the right ledge, I would jump down, step back and examine the wall to try to map my path before I started again. I had made up my mind that morning that I was going to climb that wall. I promoted it during my program and giving up was not an option. I wasn’t expecting the experience to be so hard and exhilarating all at the same time. At times, I contemplated giving up and then thought about what would happen if I did.
This was the part of the journey that made me think about what a good metaphor this experience was in relation to developing your financial plan. Many people start out feeling scared and overwhelmed by the journey. In the beginning, it’s important to have the right mindset. You have to make the decision to take the journey. Once you start, it can feel very overwhelming because you’re not always sure which way to go, what steps to take. Once you’ve passed these stages, and you’re on your way, you may find that you run into roadblocks that force you to modify your path, such as losing a job and having it take much longer than you ever anticipated to find a new one. It’s possible that you may already have a job. But, it is difficult to transition to a new one so that you can move to the next stage of your career and accomplish those dreams that you’ve been harvesting for so long. Or perhaps the unexpected comes in some other form, like an accident that forces you to slow down or pause from your work for an indefinite period.
These are the life situations that force you to jump off the wall, take pause and remap your strategy. If you’ve been working with a good financial professional chances are, you have established alternate routes that you’re ready to take. In other words, you have a backup plan. Establishing the right insurance for yourself and your business, and establishing an emergency fund to carry you through rough patches.
During our program, I witnessed participants go through a series of different experiences. People made a conscious decision to change their money situation by signing up. That was the first important step. And as the next few weeks continued, they learned about themselves and their money habits, which is where the real magic happened. I witnessed individuals who had complete ‘ah ha’ moments about their lives and the authentic ways that they should truly be building their wealth to manifest the life experiences that they wanted to have.
I also witnessed individuals struggle with having to face their current money circumstances, and then slowly feel empowered with each small change that they began to make. It was as if they were ultimately finding their ledges and new plateaus on the personal boulders that they were climbing.
However, they didn’t need to worry, because I was right there supporting them, watching them, and giving them guidance around the right equipment to utilize. For example, helping them to set up an emergency account or roll over a dormant 401K so that they can begin putting their money into motion again. Also, restructuring the types of investments that they had their money in, because the current ones didn’t match their life situations or future goals. It’s amazing how good it makes you feel when you see the smiles on other people’s faces because they’ve found the path to continue growing their wealth.
In the end, I loved indoor rock climbing. The path became rocky and rather uncomfortable at times, but I committed to the process of getting to the top.
It doesn’t matter if it is boulders or money. The principle of committing yourself to the journey remains the same, and when you reach your destination, the scenery can be breathtaking and feel so exhilarating.