Have you seen Brené Brown’s Netflix special? I’ve watched it twice already and read several of her books. I find her work to be very inspiring. If you are not familiar with her work, Brown conducts research and speaks on the topics of shame and vulnerability. She writes about the courage that it takes to be truly vulnerable. While Brown writes in the context of leadership, there are so many opportunities to apply her work to our personal lives. Here is an example of the power of vulnerability when it comes to financial success.

Do you have the courage to be financially successful?

Janet came into my office hesitantly. She had a bag full of files in tow and didn’t quite make eye contact when I introduced myself and shook her hand. I invited her to have a seat. As Janet sat at my conference room table, I noticed that she tried to take up as little space as possible. She kept the bag close to her and fidgeted with the strap.

When I sit with prospective clients who are divorcing or are considering divorce, I always acknowledge that it is a difficult appointment for them to attend. I’ll be honest and tell you that I have not always had the same empathy for those who come in for financial planning services. In my mind, financial planning is exciting. It’s about your future goals and all that you want to accomplish in your life. I am thrilled to take the journey with my clients and watch it happen for them.

The power of vulnerability

Still, I sometimes forget the baggage that couples and individuals are bringing when they attend their first financial planning consultation. For some clients, there is significant fear around handling money. That was the case for Janet. She stressed about this appointment for weeks. In my mind, I was looking forward to the opportunity to get to know someone and see if we might have a working relationship. In her mind, she was doing something that she absolutely dreaded. She had already put it off for months. She told me in all honesty that she considered meeting with a financial planner to be worse than going to the dentist.

Having a conversation about finances makes Janet feel extremely vulnerable. For Janet, a successful professional in her own right, talking about money makes her feel inferior. She doesn’t have a basic financial vocabulary and is genuinely concerned that someone will take advantage her. She is also ashamed that she has progressed as far as she has in her career and does not have much to show for it. Janet made the appointment because she inherited a large sum of money and as she said, “she didn’t want to screw it up.”

courage to be financially successful

Courage starts with showing up

As Brené Brown wrote, “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” Janet had the courage to show up and I was committed to meeting her halfway, letting her know that I saw her, that I was there to support her on her journey well beyond financial projections. I wanted to know her. We didn’t talk much about money in that first session. I actually rarely talk much about money in a first meeting. I collect some basic information but for me, it’s an opportunity for us to get to know each other.

Janet had to overcome a lot to attend that first appointment. Her fear was valid, too. There are many financial planners who are known for being condescending and others who have taken advantage of people. Another great quote from Brené Brown, “If we share our shame story with the wrong person, they can easily become one more piece of flying debris in an already dangerous storm.” Janet feared making the shame storm worse.

Letting go of the shame

Brown wrote, “If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” I was fortunate enough that Janet let me be that person. She gave me the opportunity to be empathetic and understanding. As a result, she is no longer ashamed when it comes to money. She now enters my office with confidence. Janet has executed on her financial plan for about two years now. Seeing the progress she has made toward her goals is so rewarding. She paid off her student loans and purchased a house. She has a solid emergency savings account and is well on her way to saving for an enjoyable retirement.

I know that it’s scary but if you don’t know what you’re doing financially you are not alone. Money continues to be a taboo topic and is often not discussed in front of children. Very few schools offer any formal education in personal finance and everyone has to learn it at some point. Finding a financial professional who can serve as your guide when you don’t know what you are doing can be the difference between a life stressed out about money and a life of financial security. As Brené Brown said, “Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be; embrace who you are.” Do not allow yourself to live a life of financial insecurity. If you need help, reach out and ask for help.


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