We all have different ways of learning and digesting information. Some of us are visual, others auditory and still others kinesthetic. Yet when it comes to knowing where we are with our money, there’s usually only one way of learning what where we are financially: by reading reports.
If you’re a visual learner and good with numbers, then financial reports are probably a great way to anchor yourself in where you are financially. For everyone else, though, financial reports just might be saying to you “blah blah blah blah,” much like the Far Side cartoon from the 90’s.
In my years of working with clients, I have often incorporated different approaches to teaching clients their numbers. At Creating Answers, we not only give clients reports, but we read them to them, have them read them to us, draw them on the wall, and sometimes have them write their numbers down themselves.
My most remarkable memory of the impact that this had with a client was with a client on her first visit. Admittedly, I was a little nervous about how I could help this client. She was extremely successful financially, as in multi-million dollar success; her industry was one that I’d had very little experience in, and I knew that she already had some very highly respected consultants advising her in her business. I wasn’t sure I was going to have much more to offer than she was already receiving.
In her first meeting, I handed her the financial reports and proceeded to walk her through them, asking her to speak the numbers out loud to me. She was floored. She’d been looking at her financial reports for months, but had never really understood them the way she did after she spoke them out loud to me.
There’s a huge body of work out there that explains the brain science behind all this. But that’s not my passion. My passion is to help people really understand and know their numbers. If you want to have a different experience with your numbers, try a method you’ve never tried before. Here are some ideas:
- Get a pencil out and transcribe your major numbers: income, major categories of expenses, and net income.
- Take your monthly financial report and go stand in front of a mirror and read it out loud to yourself.
- Get some crayons and butcher paper and draw your assets and liabilities in a chart or graph.
- Look at your 2013 income, expenses and growth of your assets and liabilities and write about 6-10 sentences about how you did last year (e.g. “my business earned 116% of what we budgeted” or “I have $3,400 less debt than I did at the beginning of 2013.”)
Keep trying a method until you find one that really speaks to you. Have some fun with it. And most of all, embrace the fact that truly knowing where you are financially is empowering and motivating.
Finance Gym offers personal finance coaching in professionally facilitated peer-advisory groups.