Our Women & Wealth series offers insights about the multi-faceted relationship women have with money, career, managing their finances, and how that all affects their personal and family lives. During the past five months while navigating through the coronavirus pandemic, we have heard and read a lot about fear – not just women’s fears - and how that fear has been playing out in these uncertain times. We thought it would be useful to share some active steps you can take to feel empowered to take control of your financial life.
At GW & Wade we have found, even more so in these difficult times, how important it is for our clients to have someone to trust enough to discuss their financial fears. Our Counselors are more than just asset managers. We have deep conversations with our clients about their family, what their future looks like and what their past looks like. These conversations are helpful in identifying fears and addressing them throughout the relationship. Kelli Adams, GW & Wade Principal & Counselor shares, “Several of my clients call simply to hear some reassuring words because they are worried - our conversations have proven very helpful for them because they realize they are not alone and that we're here to help them. Finances don't stop at dollar signs, it goes much deeper than that and we are able to work through the depth of what money means to each individual client.”
I recently spent some time speaking with Leisa Peterson, CFP®, founder of WealthClinic, LLC, a money coaching and education company designed to help people break free of patterns of fear so they can create the abundant lives they most desire. Since leaving her career as a financial advisor in 2014, Leisa has helped thousands of people overcome their money fears, heal their relationships and move forward in life with confidence and peace of mind. She is the author of several books including her newly published book, The Mindful Millionaire (July 14, 2020 publication with St Martin’s Press). Leisa has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, FastCompany, Forbes, The Week, Huffington Post and has been featured on many podcasts and radio shows.
Laurie: Why did you decide to focus your career on helping people with money fears?
Leisa: After working with people and their money for much of my career, I came to notice a stark divide between the way people reacted to money, particularly when it came to women. About 50% of those I worked with had a balanced perspective in dealing with specific market conditions, like a bear market, but the other 50% were dealing with a general overall feeling of financial fear.
I would later find research by Allianz Life that confirmed my suspicion that about half of women in North America feel like they are a few bad moves from losing all their money. This research was further emphasized in March, right after the quarantine started, when I polled about 350 professional women during a presentation and 61% agreed they were worried about losing all their money.
Laurie: Why is it so important to tackle your money fear?
Leisa: For those who have a chronic yet unfounded worry about not having enough money, fear is in the driver’s seat of their choices. In those moments, there is little faith in oneself or the world at large and that can cause us to either avoid making important financial decisions or make decisions that aren’t in our own best interest, especially for the longer term.
Laurie: When you’ve helped your clients better deal with their money fears, what have been some of the outcomes?
Leisa: When we understand our fear, and get it into a more manageable form, fear can actually help us. That’s because your concerns can lead you to start saving more money, working smarter, and even increasing your income by taking on more responsibility at work. Fear then becomes a precious ally that helps a person take on new challenges that may have been avoided in the past. I’ve also noticed how this process inspires people to save more and, in consultation with an investment professional, rethink their investment allocations and risk tolerance.
Positivity is what helps you seize opportunities, reduce stress and focus your attention on the aspects of life that really matter. Learning how to better tolerate, and perhaps even embrace fear and the inevitable uncertainty that comes with being alive is truly one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves.
Laurie: What are some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome personally and how have you helped yourself?
Leisa: Part of my challenge was that no matter how much financial education I received and how much money I saved, I couldn’t stop worrying about money. I made it my mission to help, not just myself but others with these sorts of fears. The deeper I went down the rabbit hole, and the more research I did, the more I learned about how the brain works, how much our childhood affects the fears we have, and why our fears can be difficult to manage.
A useful tactic I have used to calm my fears is to allow myself to envision how I’d cope if my deepest fears came true. Instead of making my fears worse, this process reminds me of just how capable I am in situations of distress. By visualizing the process of how I’d go about helping myself in great detail, I realize that I can handle whatever comes my way and this helps me to relax and focus on the things I can control right now. Even if that is just taking a nice deep breath and becoming more present to my feelings.
Laurie: Can you share a few of your most important lessons?
Leisa: I learned that fear can sometimes keep you from thinking logically and accurately in the face of uncertainty. When these fears take over, we become consumed by all the things that can go wrong and at the same time have difficulty in reminding ourselves about all of the opportunities and possibilities that still remain.
Realizing I wasn’t the only one who felt fear in this way, I started learning about brain chemistry and what’s going on under the surface that causes us to react the way we do to stress. Learning how when adrenaline gets released into the body because of fear we become more prone to reacting rather than responding to all of life’s challenges. This taught me about the importance of hitting the pause button every time I notice my fear levels rising.
When I pause, I can sit in silence and focus on my breath which gives my body time to stop the rush of stress hormones into my body. Once that wave of energy has subsided I feel far more empowered to continue with my day without making irrational decisions or striking out at those closest to me.
Hitting the pause button also gives me time to feel compassion towards myself and my feelings.
Laurie: What do you think can help us the most when it comes to dealing with the general uncertainty and fear many of us are feeling?
Leisa: For anyone who is feeling anxious right now, the first thing I want to mention is that you are not alone and it is completely reasonable to be concerned. Especially when many of us are responsible for ensuring our own financial welfare. It is also useful to consider how fearful feelings can make us feel isolated and can sometimes cause us to feel weak or foolish, which only increases our anxiety. So, knowing we are not alone in our fear allows us to acknowledge our emotions and reflect on them without having to second guess ourselves.
Typically, we think that to be happier, we must push away our fear. Fearing that if we were to pay more attention to the things that frighten us, we would become consumed by our thoughts. Yet this isn’t how it works for most of us. Instead, we can alleviate our fears by looking inside of them to see what they are teaching us about ourselves.
From there we can notice if and when fear is causing difficulty in our day-to-day activities, including our ability to complete work projects, get a good night’s sleep, eat well and exercise. We might also notice if how we are feeling is affecting our personal relationships. By acknowledging and honoring how we feel, we become better able to tune into what’s working and what isn’t so that we can make changes if necessary.
Laurie: Thank you Leisa for your time and insight.
Financial Advice for Women by Women
At GW & Wade, we are proud that our team is not only equipped to meet all of our clients’ financial advisory needs, we also understand the unique experience of financial planning for women. We developed a Women and Wealth program to advise women on how to make the most of their financial lives. Our Women and Wealth team creates specific content and events to help you build your unique vision of a financially secure future. We invite you to learn more at info.gwwade.com/women-and-wealth, or contact us today if you are ready to get started.
The information provided above is general in nature and is not intended to represent specific investment or professional advice. No client or prospective client should assume that the above information serves as the receipt of, or a substitute for, personalized individual advice from GW & Wade, LLC, which can only be provided through a formal advisory relationship.
Clients of the firm who have specific questions should contact their GW & Wade Counselor. All other inquiries, including a potential advisory relationship with GW & Wade, should be directed to:
Laurie Wexler Gerber, Director of Marketing
GW & Wade, LLC
 The Allianz Women, Money, and Power Study: Empowered and Underserved, Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, 2016, https://www.allianzlife.com/-/media/files/allianz/documents/ent_1462_n.pdf.