Friday, April 22, 2011

How Crayons Create Financial Peace

Chloe's Crayon Drawings: "How I spend my money now" and "How I want to spend my money"

My biggest revelation about how to help others with their financial issues came when I began working on my own financial issues. In Telling the Truth, I point out the rather obvious fact why so many American’s with money problems can’t seem to get beyond them: we don’t talk about money so we have no opportunity to tell the truth about it.

We are a financially illiterate society. There are few places that you can go to work on your money, talk about your money, make your money better. I lay awake at night sometimes dreaming up solutions to this societal problem. And bit by bit, I create answers. That’s how we came to start Financial Boot Camps, and that’s how I tripped upon creating this exercise for a Boot Camp: draw your financial life with crayons.

The accountant in me questioned the exercise that the right side of my brain had created. “Um, that’s silly.” But the right side of my brain, the creative side that has been fed and nurtured by studying a lot of research into the psychological and emotional aspects of our relationship with our money said: “Forge on!”

The exercise was simple. The boot campers were to draw their financial life in a crayon pie chart,first “How I spend my money,” and then “How I want to spend my money.” Only four areas were to be included: past, present, future and others. They drew, and as they were sharing their pictures and explaining what they’d drawn, one boot camper, “Chloe,” had a rather large part of her “How I spend my money” going to her past. This surprised me. I know a lot about her financial situation, and I know that she has little, if any debt. So what was going to her past?

She said was spending all this money (and time, and physical energy) on her rental properties every time a renter vacated. She hated it. It was dragging on her. Most of her rental properties she had once lived in, and thus, she saw it as her past. The accountant in me wanted to tell her she’d done the drawing wrong. Rental properties are assets, investments, spending on your future. That portion should have gone into her “Future” section. But the creative in me sat on my hands and listened.

Then, rather amazingly, over the course of the next 4 months she:

  • discussed the drawing with the Boot Camp,

  • then her spouse, and

  • then their financial planner.

  • She made a decision to put one of the rental properties on the market.

  • They slowed the home improvements they were spending time and money on.

  • They got an offer; the buyer said stop ALL work immediately.

  • They went into escrow.

  • The house sold.

  • The money now sits in an investment that does not require time, or physical energy, or monthly reinvestment.

Most importantly, Chloe has peace of mind. She feels much happier and much more aligned with how she wants to be spending her money, her time, and her physical energy. She has her weekends back, and she has her money solidly invested.

All from a crayon drawing.

So why do I think that a crayon drawing so inspired Chloe? Sometimes we work so hard to make the perfect spending plan, and have the perfect financial plan, and we balance our checkbooks to the penny. Yet something still isn’t quite right. Sometimes, the calculations, and the financial advice, and the reports aren’t the answer. Sometimes, using a crayon, evoking the 5 year old within, creatively looking at how we “are” living our life, and how we say we “want” to live our life, provides the greatest inspiration to find financial clarity.

Now, go find some crayons.

Stacey Powell, creating more financial clarity at, tweeting at @CreatingAnswers and showing off Financial Art at Facebook.

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