Life Lessons
Stone Heart

What To Do Before Your Spouse Dies

I’ll never forget the day I asked my mother:  “Do you know what Dad has planned for you when he dies?”  My father was seriously ill. I worried about mom. And I was terrified to ask her that question.

When I finally screwed up the courage, she quickly deferred. “Oh yes,” she replied. But when I pressed her for details, she couldn’t deliver any. 

She also made it abundantly clear:  this was not a conversation she wanted to have.  I made it even clearer: avoidance was not an option.  Here’s what we did:

1.  We had “The Talk.” I had Mom sit down with Dad and we looked at all their financial documents:  bank statements, investments, estate planning, etc.  This was not, by any means, an easy conversation.  Nerves were frayed.  Mom glazed over.  Dad lost patience.  I kept scratching my wrist (a nervous habit) until it bled.  But by the end, Mom knew where every penny was and what arrangements he had (and hadn’t) made.

2.  We assembled “ The Team.” My Dad was very much a do-it-yourselfer.   Mom needed a team of professionals.  First on our list was an estate lawyer. Mom, my sisters and I met with him first, brought in my father, and together my parents created a very good, tax efficient estate plan. We helped her find an investment advisor and a CPA .  She meets with her “team” on a regular basis to this day.

3.  We updated documents.  We made sure the Will, Power of Attorney, EVERYTHING reflected their latest info and current wishes.

4.  We had annual family meetings. These gatherings, though often emotional, put everyone on the same page while Dad was still alive.  The meetings included my sisters, spouses, and all the grandchildren (we eventually had great-grandkids crawling around too).  My Dad let everyone know what his wishes were, especially for philanthropy, and enrolled the whole family to the board of his foundation.

By the time my father died, all my mother had to do was grieve.  Every detail was in order.  There were no surprises.  Practically speaking, his passing was seamless. 

Emotionally, it was devastating.  But being financially prepared mitigated the hassles and made the experience…well…easier.


If you enjoyed these “Words of Wealth”, head over to my website and sign-up for my FREE weekly newsletter at: www.barbarastanny.com

Just Keep Me Safe…Pleeeeeeease!

It’s tempting to keep all your money in cash because it seems so safe, right? After all, it’s guaranteed by the government. However, you’ll never build wealth when you’re losing money to inflation.

Stocks, on the other hand, feel so risky. Most of us, including the dictionary, see risk as “the possibility of loss.” But as smart investors know, risk is an opportunity for gain.

In fact, the biggest risk you take, as a woman, is not that the market will go down. Because it will. It always does. But it also always goes up.
 
The biggest risk that you and I take is that we will OUTLIVE our money…that our purchasing power, like a wool sweater in a hot dryer, will shrink over time.

So at least a portion of our money must be invested in assets that grow faster than inflation and taxes take it away.

If you enjoyed these “Words of Wealth”, head over to my website and sign-up for my FREE weekly newsletter at: www.barbarastanny.com

Women with Crossed Fingers

Pay Yourself First

In 1926, George Clausen, publisher of the first road atlas of the United States, wrote a slim volume of parables about Babylonia, once the wealthiest city in the world. The Richest Man in Babylon has become a modern classic that some people, including me, consider among the best finance books ever written.

When we first meet the richest man in Babylon, he is telling friends the secret to his fortune.
“I found the road to wealth,” he tells them, “when I decided that a part of all I earn is mine to keep.” The men look at him incredulously.

“Is that all?” one asks, insisting that of course everything he makes is his to keep.

The wealthy man just shakes his head. “You fool, you pay everyone but yourself,” he cries, pointing to the clothing sellers, sandal makers, and wine merchants. Instead, the rich man counsels them, pay yourself first. “For every 10 coins thou places in thy purse, take out for use but nine.”

This is the way of the wealth builders. They pay themselves first, knowing that a part of all they earn goes into their personal savings on a regular basis.

Are you living that way?

Interesting Image

Ain’t Never Too Late!

I was on a book tour, giving a yet another speech. But this one I’ll never forget because of what happened afterwards.

An older woman, leaning on a cane, waited patiently to purchase a signed book. She was 84 years old, she told me when it was finally her turn, and had been married to a very wealthy physician. He was always on the phone, yelling at his broker, which made her very uncomfortable. So she let him handle all the finances.

Ten years ago, he died. He not only left her no money, but all his investments were on margin (he used borrowed money), so he left her saddled with debt.

Before the shock even wore off, she said, she found a financial advisor, started taking classes, learned about investing.

“I’m a very wealthy woman today,” she told me proudly, announcing she’d just returned from a round-the-world cruise.

In one of those crazy coincidences, I bumped into her 7 years later. She had just turned 91. When I asked how she was doing, she responded with what I could only describe as a devilish grin: “I’ve done better in the market than any man would’ve done for me.”

It’s never, ever, ever too late to start!

Be Done With Debt!

Over the years, I’ve witnessed an inverse correlation between earnings and debt. As debt goes down, income increases. And vice versa.

Perhaps it’s because, as one person explained, “Now that I’m not worrying about how I’ll pay my bills, it’s like I’ve freed up all this energy to be so much more creative, strategic and successful in my career.”

Want more success? Tear up your credit cards and start paying them off. Then watch what happens!

The Absurdity of Arbitrary Deadlines

“Want to make God laugh? Tell Her your plans”–anonymous

 

There are no accidents, right? Yesterday, I had the same conversation with 3 different people within 24 hours.

They all had a common theme: the absurdity of arbitrary deadlines.

The first was with a friend freaking out over a speech he had to write for Toastmasters. This happened every time he tried to write one. It was making his life miserable. But he refused to quit because, he declared, “I promised myself I’d stick it out for a full year.”

The second was with another friend also freaking out over a coaching program she was dying to do but couldn’t afford. She insisted she had to do it now.  “If I don’t figure out this year what I’m really supposed to be doing,” she exclaimed, “I know I’ll never do it.” Did I mention she is 29 years old?

The third was with a first-time writer who’d given herself a year to complete a novel. The date was fast approaching but health problems kept interfering. Instead of cutting herself some slack, she sank into depression. “I feel like a failure,” she kept saying.

In their words, I saw the self inflicted craziness of my own making.

A while back, I gave myself a similar directive —finish my book proposal by the end of the year. Two years later, it’s nowhere close to completion. I’ve been beating myself up—unmercifully—ever since.

(Warning: Self flagellation does not further the creative process!)

Don’t get me wrong. Deadlines are a useful tool to keep us on track.

The trouble comes when we don’t meet them. Rather than rethinking the timing, we tenaciously cling to our commitment or brutally reproach ourselves for screwing up.

What if I started seeing things differently? Perhaps there’s a reason I’ve not finished my proposal. Perhaps the timing will turn out to be perfect. Only in hind sight can I possibly know what’s actually in my own best interest.

As today’s Abraham Hicks quote reminded me (no accident again!), “Life is supposed to be fun…If you are doing it for any other reason, then you are not connecting to your Source Energy.”

There and then, I made a decision.

From now on, if I’m feeling stuck, if doors stay closed, if nothing flows freely and it ceases to be fun, I’m viewing these as indicators that  it’s time to surrender rather than doggedly pursuing a rigid decision.

It all boils down to this: Would I rather live with the tranquility of trusting a Higher Source or tolerate the stress of self-imposed pressure? Duh!!!

Stanny’s Law of a Lousy Economy

Have the headlines got you spooked?

Let me introduce you to Stanny’s Law of a Lousy Economy. It goes like this: no matter how tough times are, there’ll always be people who are prospering. Why not you?

I discovered this law after I wrote Secrets of Six-Figure Women...at  the height of the dot com boom.  But when the bubble finally burst, I called each woman back to see how they were faring.

Even as the economy was tanking, many of their careers were thriving. They were finding new jobs, negotiating raises, winning promotions, doubling (even tripling) their client base, making more money than ever before.

“Just because it’s a down time,” said a woman whose coaching business was up 40 percent, “You don’t have to go down with it. There’s lots of opportunity. You’ve just got to find it.”

That’s not to say there weren’t those who suffered a job loss or saw lower profits. Yet even they were amazingly upbeat about their future.

I asked one woman how she felt when the hedge fund she managed collapsed. Her reply: “I regard it as a godsend. As long as the money was so good, it was tough to leave and look for something more challenging.”

These women viewed the slumping economy as the perfect chance to pin down new strategies, explore something different or position themselves for the inevitable recovery.

They  never used bad times as an excuse not to stretch. Rather than buying into bad news, they concentrated on their value.

One high earner had just negotiated a very lucrative compensation package for a new job. When her boss balked at her terms, she refused to budge.

“I have a lot to contribute and the company needs to compensate me appropriately or I’ll go elsewhere,” she told him.

I see exactly the same thing happening today. While many (read: underearners) are focused on doors closing, high earners are finding windows of opportunity.

Here’s just one example. A woman who came to my Sacred Success® Retreat last May just sent me this email:

“I’ve increased my business income 3 ½ times since the retreat,  compared to all of 2010. Most importantly, I am happy, peaceful and content.  I feel calm, more comfortable in my own skin.”

Why not you too? While most of the world is focused on hard times, I invite all of you reading this blog to look for potential opportunities. They’re there. I promise!

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The Beginners Guide to Surrender–in 6 Simple Steps

Surrender is NOT for sissies.  Surrender, by definition, means relinquishing control…a frightening concept for us control freaks.  Surrender drops you swiftly into a sea of uncertainty, at the mercy of your worst fears, producing serious doubts about ever being productive again. I’m speaking from experience here.

But, despite the discomfort, I’m fast becoming a fan.  Something happened when I stopped struggling to impose my will and surrendered to receiving guidance–financial success started to feel like a spiritual journey.

Primitive cultures and Eastern Religions had rites and rituals to honor the Time- Between. They took their people out of the villages, into the wilderness, allowing them to connect with their spirit guides, reassess old ways of being, recognize their true purpose.

But no one teaches us, or even encourages, this practice any more.

So, for those of you wishing to take some time out in a rich and rewarding way, I bring you The Beginners Guide to Surrender ( so named because it’s written by a total beginner…me!).  There’s no need to leave your village, or even your job. Just follow these 6 simple (though not easy) steps.

Step #1—Eliminate everything but the most essential.

 

I remember saying to my guy last winter, “I wish I could take the next month off!”

“Why don’t you?” he responded.

I gasped. Taking time off was unthinkable.  Or was it?  I decided to ease into it slowly, by saying ‘no’ to things that didn’t feed my soul, no matter how lucrative…or tempting.  I said ‘no’ to speaking invitations, ‘no’ to networking opportunities, ‘no’ to new clients, ‘no’ to writing my newsletter and blog.  If anyone asked, I was on sabbatical until further notice.  I continued a little teaching and coaching, but only because I wanted to.

As a result I was left with a lot of down-time…which, of course, is the whole point.

But to many, down-time is a dirty word. And I know why:  we’ll do anything to avoid the dreaded step two.

Coming up: Step #2—Allow uncomfortable feelings to surface.

 

The Beginners Guide to Surrender – Step 2

After you’ve eliminated everything but the most essential you’re ready for Step 2…

Step #2—Allow uncomfortable feelings to surface.

Uncertainty, fear , self doubt–all those demons we’ve been artfully dodging through over-work, over-eating, over-spending and other drugs of choice—will inevitably rear their ugly heads.

For me, my biggest fear was being invisible, disappearing, not mattering.  I knew that was exactly what I had to face.  Because, I knew very well, on the other side of  fear is power. And, more than anything, I wanted to retrieve all the power I had given away in a myriad of ways.  So, too,  I yearned to retrieve all that creativity I felt I lost.  To that end, I also knew that uncertainty, as anxiety producing as it was for me,  is  the natural beginning of all creative acts, a primal state of pure energy, a very fertile time.

It’s been an emotional roller coaster, but I buckled in for the ride. As I wrote in Overcoming Underearning: “When you learn to face that which makes you fearful, it need never control you again.” I genuinely believe that!

Check back tomorrow for Step 3 – Reassess, reevaluate….

The Beginners Guide to Surrender – Step 3

I’m here to tell you,  it’s going to be very tempting to jump into idle distractions–like going on a shopping spree or planning an ambitious project—anything to avoid those difficult feelings. What I did, when I found myself looking for excuses to escape (ok, I admit I fell off the wagon a few times), was to throw myself into Step #3.

 

Step #3—Reassess, reevaluate

The first question most people ask themselves, when facing uncertainty, is: what should I do? I’m here to tell you, that’s the LAST question to pose.  The first questions should always be: What do I need to  let go of? Where am I giving my power away? A big piece of surrender is letting go of what’s holding us back, reclaiming our power. How do you know what needs to go? Whatever you’re most afraid to release.

For me, I was willing to let go of writing, speaking, my business in general, my identity in particular….I was willing to make space for whatever was to come next.

I used the time to ask myself questions: What am I here to do? How do I want to live? Who do I desire to help? Where do I want to make a difference?

I journaled, meditated, read A Course in Miracles, joined a master mind group, processed my insights daily with friends.

Self reflection became my major focus.

Coming up – the result of my self reflection.

Meet Barbara Huson

When a devastating financial crisis rocked her world, Barbara Huson knew she had to get smart about money… and she did. Now, she wants to empower every women to take charge of their money and take charge of their lives! She’s doing just that with her best-selling books, life changing retreats and private financial coaching.

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