Four “Be’s” to be Financially Sound

After drowning in, then repaying, $77,000 in debt, I guess you could say I’ve learned a thing or two about personal finance.

I learned a lot of the ‘textbook info’, like the very real and brutal impact of cash advances.

I studied, then mastered the art of budgeting.

I learned the horrible consequences of credit card debt.

And, I learned how to reduce my expenses and earn more money.

But, perhaps more surprising to me was learning, as Angela Duckworth identifies, just how gritty I could be. The most simplistic definition of grit (in my own words) involves the number of times you’ll fall on your face, get up, and try something again.  

And, let me tell you…

I fell on my face.

After falling deeply into this massive financial rock bottom, riddled with an incredible amount of shame, I eventually learned about resiliency, and just how dedicated I could be when my back was against a wall.  

So, yes, like me, you need to know about the technical aspects of money, but more importantly you need to know about the money-stuff no one talks about, the stuff too many personal finance experts are overlooking.

Whether you’re drowning in the horrible depths of debt, or striving to save, here are four rarely-discussed ways to get there faster.

1. Be Vulnerable

In many recovery programs, the first step involves admitting there’s a problem in the first place.

This first step is a slow transition from denial of a problem to the acceptance of it.

Money problems work this way too.

I kept my debt ($77,000 of it) a secret from nearly everyone around me.

Even those closest to me didn’t know, towards the end, that I was only days from losing my home.

I became increasingly stubborn, (too busy keeping up appearances) to drop my ego and, in a sense, admit defeat.

I wanted to be viewed as a polished professional who had it together.  I was a Realtor at the time, and I couldn’t bear the thought of my clients, family or my friends, finding out my real financial truth.

  • Rather than decline lunch invitations, I’d accept them.  

  • Come Christmas or Birthdays, I’d go overboard on gifts.

  • Gym membership?  Yup, I had to have that.

I was unwilling, at the time, to get out of my own way.

I recall sharing the depths of my financial problems with a friend, and, for the first time, I honestly felt a massive weight lift from my shoulders.

It was like I was carrying a boulder around everywhere I went, and in this moment, I was able to set it down, and finally get busy making positive change.

Sharing, and acknowledging, my financial truth left me better equipped to fix my problem.

Learning to be vulnerable was (and is) a pivotal component of my new relationship with money.

I’ve become real and shameless about my connection to money.  Being broke or rich isn’t what identifies me.

A willingness to drop our egos, and show up as the person we REALLY are, not the one we pretend to be, is an incredible catalyst to financial change.

Being vulnerable with your financial truth looks like this:

  • Saying no when you can’t afford something;

  • Buying things you can only truly afford’

  • Telling someone you trust if you’re struggling with money;

  • Asking for help, when you’re not sure where to turn.

In the end, the only person you need to impress is yourself.

Shedding your ego will expedite your chances of financial success.

2. Be Intentional

Imagine you’re a runner.  You leave your house and start to run.  You aimlessly run with no route in mind.  How far would you run? How fast? Where would you end up?  How long would it take?

Maybe you’ve heard this before…

Failing to plan is planning to fail.

Your finances are no different.  You need to become proactive, rather than reactive with money.

For me, this happened first in the form of budgeting.  And, no, not everyone believes that budgets are the makings of financial success, but having a plan of some sort is really, really important.

A plan leaves you bossing your money around, or ‘telling it where to go’ (as Dave Ramsey says) rather than being left to wonder where it all went.  Planning comes in the form of day-to-day spending, long-term goals, and retirement planning.

Being intentional means you’ll get help where you need it.

Maybe you need help setting a budget, maybe it’s time to speak with a CFP.  

Being intentional means you’ve detailed concrete and specific financial goals.  And, it means that you’re willing to hold yourself accountable to get to where you want to go.

3. Be Bold

How many financial products or services do you encounter that you don’t fully understand?

Maybe you have a line of credit with monthly loan protector and disability coverage but you’re not totally sure they’re for?  Maybe you’ve signed your tax return not totally understanding what’s being filed? Maybe you work with a financial advisor and don’t completely understand the fees you’re being charged?

Guess what? If you’re anything like me, you’ve worked damn hard for the money you’ve earned, so you need to be bold, and ask lots of questions.

You need to move past discomfort and intimidation.

Have you ever signed a big financial commitment like a mortgage or car loan, and the salesperson glosses over the details?

I have.  And, I felt like a pain for being so curious.  Which is totally crazy!!

If you have nagging questions when you’re spending your money, investing your money, or saving your money, you have every right (and SHOULD) ask a zillion questions to fully understand the implications of whatever you’re doing.

It’s your right to be informed.

It’s not okay that sales and service people glaze over the fine print to fit you neatly into their appointment time slot.  Misreading or misunderstanding the fine print of most financial commitments is the cause of many financial hardships.

Get curious. Get bold.

When it comes to your money, feel entitled to ask a zillion questions.

4. Be a Dreamer

Sadly, the accumulation of my debt left me feeling worthless and less-than worthy.

When I began repaying it though, I started believing in myself again.  The act of repayment left me hopeful. And, for the first time in way too long, I started to dream…

I lit my fireplace, and some candles, poured a glass of wine, and with a paper and pen, I started to write the things I wanted in life. I wrote down material goals, relationship goals, fitness goals and more.

After writing my list, I folded it up, and tucked it into the smallest corner of my wallet, where it sat for a year-and-a-half.

A year-and-a-half later, having forgotten it was there, I found the note paper and opened it up.  I was stunned to see that every-single-thing I’d written came true.

I want you to do the same.

Let yourself dream.

While completing my MBA, we learned of BHAGs (or Big Hairy Audacious Goals).  These goals are ones so lofty, you’re left uncertain of being able to accomplish them.

Take some quiet time and space and consider… The big lofty, oh-no-I-could never do that, have that, or earn that things you want for yourself?  Write them down.

You are absolutely capable of achieving your dreams.

The people you see who appear to be ‘doing better’ than you, are no more intelligent, capable, or resourceful than you are. Take some time to dream.  Write down your thoughts. Then wait and watch as slow positive change starts unfolding for you.


Kelley Olinger is a professional freelance writer and blogger.  When she’s away from her computer you’ll find her road cycling or hiking.  Having repaid $77,000 in debt, Kelley’s passion is helping others ditch debt to embrace an abundant life through her blog, ReconcileYourWallet.