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How to Make Change Easier

Have you ever joined a gym to get in shape and then found you weren’t using it? Have you started a diet to lose weight and found yourself abandoning the effort? If you said “no” to both of these questions, you are among a small minority of people. We have all started down a road of change, sometimes life transforming change, and found ourselves giving up and going back to our old habits. We do this despite our best intentions and most determined resolutions.
Let’s face it, change is hard and the bigger the change the harder it is. However, there are ways to make change easier. The key is to use our rational thinking to create small wins for our emotional thinking.
In his book, “The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom”, Jonathan Haidt develops his metaphor of the rider and elephant. He says that he envisions his rational, logical thinking as a rider sitting on top of an elephant that represents his emotional thinking. The rider is holding the reins, looking like he/she is in charge of the elephant. However, if the elephant decides to go in a direction the rider doesn’t want to go, the rider is powerless to stop him/her. The best the rider can do is to gently guide the elephant; never force the elephant to do something it doesn’t want to do.
To successfully make a life transforming change, like getting in shape, losing weight, or even getting our finances organized and under control, we must motivate the elephant. A key characteristic of the elephant is its short-term outlook. It always wants immediate gratification. So, to successfully make changes, we must create short-term “wins” that provide emotional gratification for the elephant.
For example, if you are trying to get control of your cash flow, commit to spending just 10 minutes each day reviewing and categorizing your checking and credit card transactions. If you are trying to payoff credit card debt, focus on paying off the lowest balance card first so you can experience the joy of crossing that one off your list. These short-term “wins” will motivate the elephant and help keep you on track.
Your rider is very good at thinking of creative ways to motivate the elephant. When there is a change you want to make, spend a little time with your rider and start to write out all the ways you can think of to create short-term motivational “wins” for your elephant. Since the emotional elephant likes novelty, this exercise will help him/her support your change effort.
If the change you want to make is big, consider the help of a professional advisor. People who are serious about getting in shape will go to a trainer to show them exercises and help keep them on track. People who are serious about losing weight will go to Weight Watchers to learn about good eating habits and help keep them on track. In the same way, those who are serious about getting their finances organized and under control can benefit from a thinking partner who can suggest strategies and help find the short-term “wins” that will keep your elephant motivated.
Thom Allison, CFP®


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      Financial Satisfaction Survey


      Directions: The statements below will help you to think about and assess how satisfied you are with many aspects of your financial life. Indicate your level of satisfaction for each statement with stars.
      (1 star = "Not Satisfied", 3 stars = "Moderately Satisfied", 5 stars = "Very Satisfied")

      I am satisfied with...

      1. ...with my ability to meet my financial obligations

      2. ...with the income my current job or career provides me.

      3. ...with my spending habits.

      4. ...with the level of debt I carry.

      5. ...with the “extras” that I am able to buy for myself and/or loved ones.

      6. ...with the level and quality of insurance protection I currently have.

      7. ...with the amount of money that I save and invest on a regular basis.

      8. ...with my current investment choices.

      9. ...that I am on track to build a sufficient retirement nest egg.

      10. ...with the level of employee benefits I receive.

      11. ...with my style of personal bookkeeping and financial record management.

      12. ...with my ability to provide financial help to family members.

      13. ...with my estate plan.

      14. ...with my level of charitable giving.

      15. ...with the level of financial education I have attained.

      16. ...with how I respond emotionally to my personal finance issues.

      17. ...with my ability to communicate about my financial matters.

      18. ...with the feelings I have about my money life.

      19. ...that financial issues do not cause stress or strain in the relationships that are important to me.

      20. ...with the working relationships I have with my financial service providers (i.e., insurance agent, banker, broker, financial planner, accountant).

      © 2002 - 2018 Money Quotient, Inc. All Rights Reserved. This document is available via licensing arrangements with Money Quotient and is protected by federal copyright law. No unauthorized copying, adaptation, distribution, or display is permitted -

      Life Transition Survey


      Directions: In each section, select the transitions that you are currently experiencing and those you are likely to experience in the future. In addition, check transitions in the short to mid-term and long-term columns that you either hope to experience or anticipate with concern.

      Work Life Transitions

      1. Change in career path:

      2. New Job:

      3. Promotion

      4. Job loss

      5. Job restructure

      6. Education / retraining

      7. Sell or close business

      8. Transfer family business

      9. Gain a business partner:

      10. Lose a business partner:

      11. Downshift / simplify work life

      12. Sabbatical / leave of absence

      13. Start or purchase a business

      14. Retire:

      15. Phase into retirement

      16. Other

      Financial Life Transitions

      1. Purchase a home:

      2. Sell a home:

      3. Relocate:

      4. Purchase a vacation home / timeshare:

      5. Re-evaluate investment philosophy:

      6. Experience investment gain:

      7. Experience investment loss:

      8. Debt concerns:

      9. Consider investment opportunity:

      10. Receive inheritance or financial windfall:

      11. Sell assets:

      12. Other:

      Family Life Transitions

      1. Change in marital status (marriage):

      2. Change in marital status (divorce):

      3. Change in marital status (widowhood):

      4. Expecting or adopting a child:

      5. Hire child care:

      6. Child entering adolescence:

      7. Child with special needs:

      8. Child w/pre-college expenses:

      9. Child going to college:

      10. Child getting married:

      11. Empty nest:

      12. Family special event (Bat/Bar Mitzvah, anniversary party, trip):

      13. Helping and/or gifting grandchildren

      14. Concern about aging parent

      15. Concern about health of spouse/partner or child:

      Legacy Life Transitions

      1. Increase charitable giving:

      2. Give special financial gifts to children/grandchildren:

      3. Give parental pension (monthly stipend):

      © 2002 - 2018 Money Quotient, Inc. All Rights Reserved. This document is available via licensing arrangements with Money Quotient and is protected by federal copyright law. No unauthorized copying, adaptation, distribution, or display is permitted -