Dec 7: Replace bad money habits with good ones: Money Strong by Liz Davidson

December 7, 2023

Money, writes author Liz Davidson, quoting from the lyrics of an old song by the O’Jays, “can drive some people out of their minds.”

But her book, Money Strong, provides a step-by-step way to put you in control of not only your money, but your life.

“When you gain control over your finances, you can ultimately spend your time doing what provides you with the most joy and fulfillment and make what Steve Jobs called `your own dent in the universe,’” she writes.

She runs through the “money stories” of her family. Her personal money axioms include an effort to “spend wisely and on things that really matter to you, ideally things that grow in value over time or that you feel are really important to your quality of life.”

Money, she adds, “is something you have to earn, and it really only counts if your own efforts generate it.”

She has developed what she brands as the START framework:

  • Set yourself up for success
  • Tackle your stress
  • Advance towards the life you want
  • Role model good financial habits
  • Thrive by living your purpose

OK, so how do we START?

The book is set up in modules to explain (using examples and worksheets) how to put all the principles of START in place.

Davidson says we need to establish “your financial identity” first. Are you an investor-type, “future oriented,” focused on the big picture? Or a bargain hunter who gets “a rush out of getting a deal” and have “both a love and a skill for negotiating?” Could you be a “minimalist” who cherishes “the moments with those you love above all else?” Or a planner who loves to-do lists, and to “arrange, communicate and follow plans?” Other financial identities covered off in the book include givers (who think of other people’s needs first) and automaters, who “set money aside for (their) future.”

You should commit to one of these identities and then plan accordingly, she advises.

An interesting chapter looks at the use of “bright spots” to move forward towards financial freedom. This is basically figuring out what’s gone right for you in the past for other things, and then “taking what worked for them to achieve success in other areas of… life and applying it to their finances.”

Examples of the use of a bright spot – “some people discovered they were at their best when they found ways to get perspective, remind themselves of their end goals, and find a way to track progress,” Davidson explains. Other “created a mantra they could keep front and centre of their mind to focus on the things they could control, and let go of those they couldn’t, sharing their mantra with their families and friends for accountability and reinforcement.”

So, figuring out what has worked for you in life, and then integrating it into your life and money plan. Interesting!

In a module on how to “tackle your financial stress,” Davidson advises us to “let go of shame and fully accept that you cannot change the past” when it comes to money. Become aware of what stresses you the most about finances, and develop a recovery plan that “is realistic… (and) trackable, so that you can see your progress and feel a sense of both accomplishment and relief, which will keep you motivated to continue the plan.”

High interest debt needs to be eliminated systematically. She suggests breaking up debt repayment into small, “to-do” list steps that can be celebrated as they are completed. Once you have cleared up your debt, build an emergency fund (start small) and avoid going back into debt. “If possible, use your credit cards sparingly… and use a debit card instead for all purchases you make at stores,” she suggests.

It’s hard to do justice to a book this detailed in a short review, but the short-form takeaway is that you can leverage things that work for you in other facets of life to develop a plan to regain control of your money – and with that control, you will be able to focus on what you want to do rather than on the struggle of staying afloat.

We particularly liked the example of replacing bad habits with good ones – she cites the example of replacing drinking after a hard day at the office with dancing, something she loves to do. Change a bad spending habit for a good one, and things will look after themselves.

It’s a good habit to put away money for your future – a time when you may not be able to work as hard. If you don’t have a pension program at work, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be just the partner you’ve been looking for. Let SPP invest your savings in a low-cost, professionally managed pooled fund, and at the end of work, SPP will provide you with retirement income options, including a stable of annuities and the flexible Variable Benefit option.

Check out SPP today!

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Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.

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