Money management advice for caregivers

Family caregivers need to manage money wisely. Here's some money management advice that you might find helpful. It's all about living more simply and identifying what really brings you peace and joy. And it requires you to take active steps to get there.

Let's start off with the power of money. You can use money like a tool. Any tool can be used for positive or negative purposes. Obviously, you want to use it in a positive way--to enhance your life, to enhance the lives around you.

By "enhance", I mean use money to help your life, not to hinder it. Use it to bring more peace to your life, not less. Use it to simplify your life rather than making it more complicated. Use it to create a virtuous circle, not a vicious one. Use it to create a healing environment for your loved one and you, not a destructive one.

I had to learn this money management advice the hard way. Business failure taught me as much or more than my MBA. And my family member getting sick was the impetus to use money in a healing way. Once I understood the power of money better, my business life was successful again and my caregiving years were more effective.

So, money is an incredible force that can make your life better if you understand how to use it. Let's take a look at a concrete example.

Imagine a more stable financial situation

Imagine a scenario where:

1. your income is enough to cover your bills
2. you have enough savings to cushion a catastrophe
3. you are not working out of desperation
4. your low monthly costs reduce income pressure

In a situation like that, you will have more emotional freedom for your caregiving efforts. You will have put yourself in a position where you don't absolutely need that high-income, high-stress job. That alone will take tremendous pressure off you. This in turn helps you relax and you bring that relaxed attitude to your loved one. In this way, money management advice ends up getting us into all the other territories of life.

The situation I have described does not have to be a pie-in-the-sky. It does take time and effort to create. It also takes a willingness to look at your life, every aspect of it, and determine what really brings you peace and joy. For example, does a bigger house bring you joy? Or a smaller one, with a lower mortgage, allowing you to pay it down quicker and get that monkey off your back?

And, it takes hard work. You have to do something with the money management advice that you seek. You may be making a reasonable income, at a job you can tolerate, with a 20 year plan to retire (and then life starts), and you're saddled with big debt. Consider how this situation affects your own stress and how your home may therefore be a high-stress environment. Is this a situation you want to be in? How would you like to change it?

Re-evaluate the big picture

In other words, re-evaluate your life's purpose and goals. If you've been on a track that you laid out many years ago, consider where you are at now. How has caregiving affected your life? How has your loved one affected your life's purpose? Have you noticed a connection between your own well-being and that of your loved one?

And, whose money management advice have you followed in place of trusting yourself and your own experience?

If you don't know how to answer those questions, take some time to meditate and settle down a little. What comes up for you? How has your life gotten out of balance? Where would you like to steer your ship?

And how to get from where you are at to where you want to go?

Start with where you are

First, track how you spend money. You don't need my money management advice or financial software to get the big picture of your finances. You might know off the top of your head. If not, take out a single piece of paper and write down the following on the left side of the page:

1. Identify your monthly net income.
2. Identify the biggest monthly expenses.
3. Identify your assets (everything you own).
4. Identify your debts (everything you owe).

If you cannot do this from memory, that will give you an indication how far removed you are from your financial reality. Anyway, the point of this exercise is to get a rough idea of where you are at, financially speaking. This is your starting point.

Simple goals associated with each line item

Now on the right side of the page, write your goals in terms of each category on the left. Pay special attention to simplifying your life. For example, reduce the number of bills and credit cards. Reduce the amount of your bills. Pay off debts. Favor simplicity over complexity where possible. Consider selling assets that don't add to your well-being or barely get used.

In terms of investments, consider the following idea: what investments do you personally feel comfortable with? Which ones make you unsettled and disrupt your sleep? Which ones are close to your heart--where you have a strong feeling for them, and which ones could you care less about? Add those kinds of considerations to the usual financial ones.

Remember, this is about heading down the road to more peace and joy, and while money plays a role in traveling down this road, it can also be a roadblock.

When you read this money management advice, consider that no matter what anyone says, including me, use your own judgement on these matters.

So, remember, while money is only one aspect of your life, it is connected to all parts. Your relationship to money is the key. Instead of money having power over you, take some of that power back and start to use your money wisely to enhance your life. It's all about viewing your life holistically.

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