In this week’s parasha we see a very early example of financial planning. And we actually see many of the stages needed for a successful financial plan.
Step 1 of a good financial plan is articulating your goals. Pharaoh’s goal was to feed his people during the seven lean years he knew were forthcoming. Being mindful while articulating goals is always very helpful. When we are mindful of our values and our shortcomings, we create goals that are more realistic and that we are more likely to reach. Pie in the sky goals can be very frustrating while stretch goals help us to stretch and grow. Have you articulated your financial goals? Have you written them down? Pharaoh did!
Step 2 of getting your “financial house” in order is compiling all your paperwork. Every receipt, every paycheck, every scrap of paper gets gathered and accounted for. Joseph certainly had a good accounting of all grains he had collected for Pharoah, though verse 49 of chapter 41 tells us, “And Joseph gathered grain like the sand of the sea, in great abundance, until [one] stopped counting, because there was no number.” What a great problem to have!
Step 3 is where mindfulness really comes in. In his 2016 article, Thomas Smith tells us the next thing we have to do is create heuristics or mental shortcuts that help us make good choices in the moment. When we are in the supermarket and we see the expensive coffee we just love we have a mental shortcut, what will I take out of the basket that is on my shopping list so that I can buy this fancy coffee. We have mindfully chosen this mental shortcut and it helps us overcome the impulse. Pharoah’s heuristic was, “go to Joseph and do what he says.”
These first three steps are the tools in your toolbox to start making choices. Step 4 is establishing a budget. Again, mindfulness is very important here when we really chose our priorities. What is more important? A bigger, nicer car or 4 more pieces of clothing each month. Neither is a good or bad choice if it is made mindfully and you stick to the budget. Perhaps a choice that really puts your goals and values to the test is, “Should I give $100 to charity or should I put $100 in savings?” Is a compromise of 50 / 50 acceptable based on my values? Again, the only bad choice is no choice at all.
These first four steps deal with the past and present. Once you have done all this work, and it is a lot of hard work, you get to look to the future and carry out step 5 – financial planning. A written (yes, written) plan of what your goals are and what you will do each week and each month to reach that plan. How much will go to reducing debt? How much will go to saving for a new car or buying a home? How much do I need to set aside for emergencies? How much will go to retirement savings?
I am willing to bet that I have not really taught you anything new so far. You have probably read these steps many times before. But have you taken these steps? The mindfulness literature that most people are familiar with is the techniques to achieve mindfulness like breathing, meditation and yoga. But part of the literature includes the “hindrances” or things that trip us up when we are trying to be mindful. And these align so well with the things that trip us up when we are trying to be financially responsible. In Smith’s article he quotes five hindrances as being (1) attachment, (2) aversion, (3) ignorance, delusion, and confusion, (4) envy and jealousy, and (5) pride. How much are we attached to having new clothes every month? How averse are we to saying “no” when our friends invite us to go out for drinks? How jealous do we feel when someone at work goes on and on about their new car? How much does pride prevent us from giving up a house we really cannot afford?
One last piece of advice to you – use the KISS principle. Keep It Simple, Stupid! A great quote from Thomas Smith’s article, “If the devil’s in the details, angels rejoice in their simplicity.” Just like Joseph’s simple plan of storing up food in the good years to feed the people during a famine.
©2020 by Shaya Kass, PhD
You can reach Dr. Shaya Kass at Shaya@MindfulAboutLife.com or at 1-800-544-0559
This newsletter is published by Dr. Shaya Kass and is meant for informational purposes only.
Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash. Available at https://unsplash.com/photos/lZ_4nPFKcV8
The article discussed in this newsletter is: Smith, T. E., Richards, K. V., & Shelton, V. M. (2016). Mindfulness in financial literacy. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 26(2), 154–161. https://doi.org/10.1080/10911359.2015.1052914