300: The Power of Financial Therapy: How to Improve Your Money Management Skills with Bari Tessler
My guest today is Bari Tessler. Bari is a Financial Therapist and the Founder of The Art of Money. She’s a pioneer in the financial therapy field and the author of The Art of Money: A Life-Changing Guide to Financial Happiness.
Bari’s mission is to merge emotional literacy with financial literacy, to help her clients understand the role money plays in careers, romance, parenting, creativity, spirituality, health, self-worth, and how we show up in the world. This work gives people the power to “unshame” their money stories, whether they’re struggling as individuals, couples, or creative entrepreneurs.
In our conversation, Bari and I discuss how her unique practice helps her clients work through so many of the problems that arise around money, the three phases of her financial therapy methodology, and why it’s so important that we do away with the taboos around talking about money.
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In this podcast interview, you’ll learn:
- What financial therapy is, and why almost everyone could benefit from it.
- Techniques you can use right now to check in with yourself as you make important decisions, financial or otherwise.
- The three phases of Bari’s financial therapy methodology.
- How something as simple as renaming our debt gives us the freedom to create a plan to pay it off and forgive ourselves.
- The three tiers that make up Bari’s financial map of intention–and why she doesn’t call it a budget.
- "Part of how I change our financial identities that aren't working anymore is by practicing the body check-in over and over and over, which brings awareness, which leads to understanding, which leads to eventual shift in habits and patterns." - Bari Tessler
- "Just as money has been such a taboo subject, death and grief has been such a taboo subject in our culture, sex and sexuality has been such a taboo subject, race and racism and racial inequality and how that affects our money systems has been a huge missing piece from most of the therapists and financial professionals that I know." - Bari Tessler
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Casey Weade: Bari, welcome to the podcast.
Bari Tessler: Thanks so much for having me, Casey.
Casey Weade: Well, Bari, I'm excited to have you here because you definitely bring something unique to the table that we don't get the opportunity to discuss very often, and that is financial therapy. There's a lot of different kinds of therapy out there, and most of us think of therapy, but we don't necessarily put financial in front of that word, therapy. But that's exactly what we do is financial therapy. And you have a unique take on this. I think, first of all, we just need to start with an understanding of what exactly is financial therapy.
Bari Tessler: Okay. So, the way that I define it is a merging of financial literacy and emotional literacy. So, that's my first answer. But usually, when I'm out in the world, I'm on an airplane or I'm at a dinner party or cocktail party, and people will say, "What do you do?" And I say, "I'm a financial therapist," they always pause and kind of cock their head and then say, "Ooh, I need that," or, "My mom needs that," or, "My brother needs that," or my daughter, sister, everyone is like, "I know someone who needs that." So, I mean, the simple version also along with that, it's a merging of financial literacy and emotional literacy is that I was trained as a traditional therapist, but as you mentioned, somatic therapist, which simply means a body-centered psychotherapist. We can talk about that more, just integrating mind and body and asking people to check in with their body. What's going on? What are the sensations? What are the feelings? And so, for me, though, is that my topics when I was training to be a therapist were all around intimacy and relationships and sexuality and grief and death. Those are my favorite topics, and that's what I thought I would be teaching on. Or you know, that's what I thought my private practice would be focusing on, all those topics. And then when my student loan came due, that was the big moment that I realized, "Oh my God, wait a second. They did not teach us about money or how to help couples when they're fighting around money."
And if on the surface, it's the biggest reason couples get divorced and it's not really that, right? It's that they don't know how to talk about money. It's the deeper things. You know, it was such a missing piece in my graduate school training when I was becoming a therapist that when my school loan came due, that was my moment and I realized, "I need to face this." And I know I'm giving you a long answer to what is financial therapy, but it's really if 85% to 90% of our money decisions are based on our emotions, then as a therapist, I need to understand what money emotions are, help my clients understand what their money emotions are, and give them tools and practices so that they can name what the emotions are, sit with them and learn how to work with them. Okay. So, to complete here, financial therapy is therapy that's helping people understand what are the emotions of money, what is their money story, and for me, what are all the practical skills that we also didn't learn growing up. So, we didn't learn emotional intelligence. We also did not receive a financial education growing up, right? So, I've merged these two things and I've been teaching this for 21 years and I love the deeper emotional, psychological work but I also am crazy about bookkeeping systems and money dates and we'll talk about that. But it was 21 years ago when my husband, he's my namer of everything, he saw what I was trying to put together because I had the master's degree, as I've already talked about.
And then instead of starting a private practice with couples around intimacy and relationships, as I mentioned, that school alone freaked me out so much that I realized I needed to learn about money myself. And I wound up taking a detour from starting a private practice. But I had finished the master's degree and I ran a bookkeeping business for four years for therapists and coaches and artists. And I learned more about people and their relationship to money by doing their bookkeeping than probably if I had been in private practice at that time. So, that was the transition which led me to realize I needed to integrate my therapy training with all the practical money skills and systems I was falling in love with. And that's when my husband realized I am doing financial therapy and he named that. And I was one of the first people to be using that term but I have to give my husband credit and now it's becoming a whole field. And there's a whole financial therapy association that was created about six, seven years after 2001. And so, that's the short version of what is financial therapy?
Casey Weade: Well, I was recently having a conversation with a close group of friends and therapy came up, and we talked about just the taboo of therapy that most people say, "I don't need therapy. I don't want therapy." And even if you want or maybe need therapy, it takes some type of extreme event to get you to that point where you actually seek therapy. And I would think that that might be even more so if you put the word financial in front of it. They go, "Well, I don't need financial therapy." What do you find as kind of that taboo or that moment in time where people go, "Okay. I do want financial therapy and this is why I need it?"
Bari Tessler: Well, it's so interesting that in your community or your friend group, therapy was taboo. And I know it is in many places but I also grew up in a community in Chicago where at 16 I asked my parents if I could go to therapy because it wasn't that odd or taboo. I asked if I could go so that I could understand myself on a deeper level. So, in my world and then training to be a therapist, it's like everyone goes to therapy. But I understand that it's still so taboo. I mean, talking about money in your family, for many of us was taboo, right? No matter what economic class you came from or even what lineage you came from, we're not supposed to talk about this or we talked about it or we fought about it with our families but you don't talk about it outside of the family like still it's taboo in many places. But for me, since I've been doing this work 21 years ago, I started teaching my methodology, which is the Money Healing, Money Practices, and Money Maps. I know we'll talk about that. Those three phases, that's my framework in tiny little groups in California. So, in California, people were more open to this and they realized that they were having money issues, that they were realizing they were having money challenges. And I think for most of us, first stop is money shame. Like we think we're wrong around money. We think we suck around money. We think we're stupid around money. I mean, that's a lot of folks in my world. We feel everyone else learned how to do this except for me.
And I know that for me that, as I mentioned in graduate school, it wasn't taught. I didn't learn that much growing up. You know, my father taught my brother who's five years younger than me about investments, but not me. Right? So, again, I just feel like at some point many of us realize there's something that's not working in this area or I'm feeling really strong emotions or there is skill sets or financial things that I haven't learned. So, for some people, it is the big like they're going into debt or they're filing bankruptcy. I mean, those are really the big ones or they're having trouble paying their mortgage. But for a lot of folks, they realize in much smaller ways that something's not working. Okay. So, they're fighting with their spouse. They don't know how to have money conversations with their children or their parents that are aging. Those are the smaller ones. It's, "I'm afraid to talk with my friends openly." "I fight with my spouse." You know, we don't know how to have compassionate, loving conversations. The credit card bill arrives and I look at it and then I go running to my husband or wife going, "Oh, my God, you spent what on what?" You know, or you try to have a money conversation before bed, which is not good. Yeah, I've tried it all. None of that really works. But I think we realize that we're challenged around this area of life and we may not realize, "Oh, wait, we did not receive a full money education or financial education growing up."
But we just realize in these smaller moments that something's not working or something is not right or we're afraid to look at our numbers. We're afraid to learn a bookkeeping system. You know, I'm starting to name the smaller ones that kind of creep up or we don't know how to negotiate. So, I'm going to pause but so for me, in my world, therapy is normal. I'm a trained therapist. Everyone that I know has some level of strong money emotions, whether it's shame, anxiety, sadness, anger, regret, guilt. Like that's normal terrain from me. And so, one of the reasons why I started writing a weekly blog to put out articles or started doing the podcast or started teaching in groups rather than doing private therapy, which I only do occasionally, was to put this out there. And so, we could see we are normal. This is normal. We're not alone. Everyone has strengths and challenges around money, you know? And so, like, I wanted to normalize this. And again, I work with people from 25 to 75 years old at all different income levels from all different economic backgrounds and lineage, and we all have challenges and strengths as well around money. And so, I started putting the content out there on a weekly basis since 21 years ago and, yeah, 21 years ago, people were more afraid to do financial therapy or had shame to work through or it seemed really out there what I was talking about.
And as you know, I started teaching those small groups over and over and over from ten people and then 20 people and then 50 and now about 500 a year. It became more mainstream. More and more people realized we did not receive a financial education growing up. We also did not learn how to work with those emotions. And it's important to learn all of that in baby steps.
Casey Weade: You know, we kind of came to this conclusion that we can all use therapy. We should all be in some form of therapy to some degree because it's a misunderstanding about what therapy is. Many think I'm going to therapy because they're going to tell me what to do with my life but it's largely about meeting with someone that's going to ask you really good questions so that you better understand who you are. And maybe I'm getting this wrong. This is just our assessment of what therapy looks like. So, in that light, do you get a sense that everyone, everyone, no matter their degree of financial education, could use some type of financial therapy to some degree?
Bari Tessler: Yes. I mean, in my world, that's how I see it. But every once in a while, I'll get someone where money is really black and white for them. It's really matter of fact, it's all spreadsheets, and they're really comfortable with numbers. They're really comfortable with spreadsheets and numbers. And it's like they don't understand how this is emotional for other people. So, yeah, I once had a financial planner who worked in the banking world come to me, and money and numbers were very natural for her. This skill set was really comfortable. She felt very confident. She did not understand why everyone around her had really strong emotions or that they couldn't read a spreadsheet or do a budget or stick to a budget. And so, she came to me to work with me privately so that I could help her twofold. One, help her be able to work with her own clients because she wanted to start. She was a financial planner, but she was having a lot of clients come to her with emotions. So, she wanted to learn more compassion and she wanted to understand why people have so many emotions around this. And then in doing so, she realized that she had her own money stories. She had some of her own challenges with her parents or her upbringing that she had kind of tucked away and didn't want to look at or hadn't remembered.
And so, in learning some of the tools and practices that I teach so that she could help her clients work on their emotions, help them bring more awareness and understanding. In doing so, she started getting in touch with some of her own money challenges that happened in her childhood or more that were happening with their parents. You know, she had a mom that was hoarding things and had to work with her mom around. There's money issues and all family dynamics.
Casey Weade: Yeah. And I can definitely relate as a financial advisor, we often feel like we're sitting in that financial therapy or couples counseling chair, but we're also there for education. People are coming to us for some type of formal financial education. They want to know more about the technical aspects of financial planning to some degree. Now, for you as a financial therapist, isn't it most people are attending therapy to be asked good questions and not necessarily for formal education, right? But you're teaching financial literacy at the same time as you're doing therapy?
Bari Tessler: Yes. You know, so okay, twofold. And then I want to say, when people are coming to financial planners or accountants and bookkeepers, they are coming to you for your financial expertise. But it's so helpful if you do some of your own money work as well. You understand what your own money story is, what your own strengths are, what your own challenges are. You understand what set of money emotions come up for you because they do. Because in your traditional training, you weren't necessarily taught about money emotions or you weren't taught how to have healthy conversations with your spouse around money or how to do that. So, I think you all need a little more training because folks are coming to you. You know, you got to have like the good bedside manners. It's like they want you for your financial expertise but they also want you to not have judgments. And they also want you to be calm and even loving and caring when they're having a moment, when they're freaking out, when they cannot read that financial statement or when they get scared and you can tell. So, I know a few financial planners who have gone and gotten master’s in counseling as well because they realized at some point that their clients are coming needing more therapy.
Okay. So, that's for you guys. For me, though, again, I do occasional private sessions where I open up 10 or 15 thoughts and I work with a couple or I work with a woman who is starting her own business or leaving the corporate world and is a creative entrepreneur, and I love doing private therapy. But for the most part, I'm teaching my work in a group and I'm teaching it based on my methodology that's in my book, The Art of Money, that's also in my year-long program. And so, it's the money healing work, which is what I've already mentioned a bit, is understanding what your emotions are. I give tools on that. I want to share a tool in a moment about how to understand more of what your money emotions are in the moment when they're coming up but it's understanding money, story work, doing work on forgiveness, completions. There's a lot in the money healing work, right? That's what I call the therapy work but then there are two phases that are more financial literacy. And the second phase is money practices, and the third phase is money maps. Now, I want people to do some of the therapy work first so that they can understand their money emotions. I keep repeating this. We're bringing more awareness to this whole area, what's happening in the moment when they go to have the money conversation, what's happening in the moment when they go online to do some online shopping, what's happening like in all of these different money moments.
They have to understand more of their money story and their money emotions but that also helps when they start learning financial literacy, because when they go to learn a bookkeeping system for someone like me who grew up dancing, so I'm more of a creative person and then trained as a therapist when I was going to learn Quicken, QuickBooks, Excel, I needed two things, well, three things. I needed a trainer, a teacher who was loving. And you could be a good teacher, not just a financial expert. I also needed breaks where we nibbled on dark chocolate. Okay. And that's silly maybe to some people but I needed my dark chocolate. Like I needed my little snack while I was learning something hard. I needed brakes to break it down. And the third thing is we had a box of tissue. It was hard for me. I did not think that I could use the other side of my brain, really, as a therapist, creative person. There are many folks out there like me in the world who grew up not being good at math and thinking, "If I'm not good at math, there is no way I can be good at money or if I'm not good at math, there's no way I can learn a bookkeeping system." And that is not true at all. If you have a good teacher who takes breaks, if you need to have a little crying break to talk about what it's bringing up or just some chocolate along the way, and then I think everyone can learn a tracking and bookkeeping system and I think it's essential. So, I think folks need to know what their numbers are.
And for a lot of my folks, there's a lot of judgment at first. Like I spend how much on food or, you know, and so on and so on. There's usually a critic that comes up. And so, I support people while they're learning a bookkeeping system to say, "Hey, it's going to take 3 to 6 months before you learn a tracking system, and it's going to take a full year before you feel comfortable and confident." And some of you, yeah, like my husband can learn a bookkeeping system in one evening because he's really tech-savvy. Not me. You know, the tech stuff used to freak me out, and so I needed a trainer and someone to hold my hand and to slow it down and to learn over a long period of time. So, that's just one piece of financial literacy. I always say that in my Art of Money methodology, we teach all the basic foundational financial literacy that you need to have before you go to your accountant or your financial planner because a lot of folks just go to a financial planner. You know, they're given that really 10-year or 20-year plan and told to stick to it, and then so many folks don't know what to do. They haven't learned a tracking and bookkeeping system. They haven't learned how to read their numbers and understand their cash flow and spending habits and patterns. They haven't learned to integrate their values. So, I want to bring in two practices now. Are you good with that or do you have a question?
Casey Weade: Oh, please. I'm just hoping one of these is a body check-in.
Bari Tessler: Okay. We're going to start with the body check-in.
Casey Weade: And I want to do it. Can I do it right now?
Bari Tessler: Yeah.
Casey Weade: Yeah. Because I want to know like before you do that, though, can you explain? I can clearly envision you asking me great questions. I can clearly envision you offering some good financial education. I can't very clearly understand how the somatic piece of this works, but I'm intrigued.
Bari Tessler: Okay. So, when I started creating this methodology 21 years ago, the very first tool I knew I needed to bring over was the body check-in. This was the first tool I was taught in graduate school, and it is simply this. So, we're going to take a minute. Okay. And you can close your eyes or you can keep them open. And I'm going to invite you to check in with your body on a few levels.
Casey Weade: And if you're driving right now, don't shut your eyes.
Bari Tessler: Don't do that. Exactly. You can pull over. Do this later. So, check-in with your body or just let yourself notice what's happening on a physical level. So, how are you seated? Are your legs crossed? Are they open? Are the soles of your feet touching the floor? Are your shoulders up? Are they down? Just let yourself notice anything on a physical level. Okay. That's step number one. Step number two is let yourself notice if there are any sensations happening in your body. So, is there any rumbling in your belly? Is there any movement happening? Some people know what a sensation is or can identify that easily. Other people might say, "What the heck? What's a sensation?" Is there any stillness? Is there any movement? Do you notice any sensations? Tingling? Cold? Hot? What are you noticing in your body right now? On the third level is letting yourself notice what's the emotion or feelings that are present right now? Is there one? Are there a couple? What is the emotion or feelings in this moment? And these are all emotions like there's really only four or five happy, sad, angry, right? But for some people, they may notice, "I'm feeling anxious," or, "I'm feeling pretty pissed." You know, if we're in the middle of a money moment, some people might feel really angry. Some people might feel really sad. Some people might feel what they define as or name is guilt or they're having...
Casey Weade: When are we using this? Are we using this right when we open a session? Or are we using this when we notice that someone is having an issue?
Bari Tessler: Let's come back and then we'll check in and then I'll explain that. So, the first thing is checking in on a physical level. The second part is checking in on a sensation level. The third part is, what's the feeling that's present? Is there one or a couple? The fourth one is, where is your breathing in your body? So, is your breathing up in your throat? Is your breath in your chest? Is it down in your belly? There's no right or wrong way. Just let yourself notice where your breathing is in your body. Okay. And then lastly, I always say, what is one little adjustment that you can make right now to support you in this moment to help you be more present? It could be taking a deeper breath, bringing your breath deeper into your body, could be loosening your jaw, could be doing the little shoulder shimmy. It could be making sure the soles of your feet are on the floor. Okay. That's a body check-in. That is it. So, checking in physical level, sensation level, what's the feeling or emotion? Where is my breathing in my body? And then to end it, to complete it is what is one little adjustment that you can make right now? Okay. So, how do you do a body check-in or what do you do with it? So, body check-in, I invite people do a body check-in before you're going to have a money moment, before you can have a money conversation, before you're going to negotiate a raise, before you're going to talk with your mom about her estate, before you're going to do some online shopping.
And also do a body check-in in the heat of the moment, in the middle of it, when you realize you're freaking out or you're feeling really pissed or you're feeling anxious or you're feeling like you want to run out of the room or you're feeling such sadness and you don't know why and/or you do a body check-in after all of these moments as a debriefing. So, this is step one. It's not you do it once and you're done. This is a practice for the rest of your life, right? What does it do? It slows you down, brings you in the moment, helps you start to bring awareness to the money emotions, helps you start to understand what your money stories are in this moment. So, so much is happening. Okay. I can tell a few stories on how this works in real life, like in our day-to-day. But a body check-in is simply a tool or practice to be used to help prepare you for a money conversation or when you're going to make a big money decision or go to the car dealership, do a body check-in before, right? In a money conversation, do it before but also, sometimes we forget to do it before. Sometimes we remember in the moment when we're having all the emotions, do a body check-in. It doesn't mean you're going to be able to calm yourself down first time you do a body check-in. It might mean you check-in and say, "Whoa, what is going on with me? Do I need to walk around the block? Do I need a snack? Am I dehydrated? Do I need to go get some water? What is going on with me? You know, I'm having a really strong reaction," or, "Look at me. I'm about to buy that fifth sweater. I have four in the closet. I don't need a fifth sweater from this place."
Or an after is always after. How did that money conversation go? How did that money decision or money purchase go? As a debriefing, what can I do different? What worked? Did I make any mistakes? How can I learn from them? And how can I do it different and better next time? So, are you getting where this is going or...
Casey Weade: It feels like a 5 to 10-minute meditative body scan. You know, very similar.
Bari Tessler: Yes, it's very similar. Some people, if they have a meditation practice, they do their own version of this. Some people, they call it, "I'm going to get centered now." Many people have a practice that's similar to this, and many people are using a practice like this in other areas of their lives. They're just not bringing it to their relationship to money. So, that was when I started creating this methodology and I was still throwing away my bank statements and terrified to learn a bookkeeping system and look at my numbers, I realized I'm living all these great practices like my life has meaning. I am very creative. I'm very playful. And I knew that I needed to bring all of those qualities to creating a money methodology. So, the body check-in is just one. But this is a somatic practice. It helps you get out of your head, which many of us get stuck in. And it helps you just check-in, what's going on right now? And all of that can help you slow down, calm down in the moment, and eventually help you learn like what is your money story? And I'm sure you've talked with many other people. We all have different names for money scripts people call it. I call it money story. It's just what did you learn from your family of origin? And what are you still continuing today that's healthy or unhealthy? Or where are you rebelling?
Or were you and your sibling, you know, and three people can be raised in the same household, same parents, same grandparents, same money messages, same money beliefs, and then interpret that different based on their own nature and personality. So, I was named the spender early on. My sister and brother were the savers. My brother had a bank and he was the bank at age five. And I think I borrowed money from him. So, how does our financial identities get shaped and can we change them? You bet. And part of how I change our financial identities that aren't working anymore is by practicing the body check-in over and over and over, which brings awareness, which leads to understanding, which leads to eventual shift in habits and patterns.
Casey Weade: You're right. I won't use that probably at the right times during the day. We just don't make time for these things. Right? I'll have a meditative practice in the morning before a workout or in the evening before I go to sleep but not throughout the day probably when it's actually needed the most. What's actually happening inside of our body when we do something like this? What's happening biologically, what's happening neurologically, that's actually getting us to where you want us to be?
Bari Tessler: Yeah. I'm not going to be able to explain the theory on this in any way. There's like no academic bone or theoretical or research bone in me. I mean, when I studied this, this was 25 years ago. There's now so much work and it's called somatic experiencing. That's part of it. They all talk about self-regulation in the brain. And by doing a body check-in, which is just one little practice that helps you self-regulate in the moment. So, I'm going to explain it in a very simple way. That's what is happening because for many of us I talked about like a lot of the main basic emotions, right, anxiety, shame, regret. We didn't even talk about joy, excitement, hope. But then there's also more extremes for some of us, which is fight, flight, freeze, fun. And anyone who's doing somatic psychology and somatic experiencing has moved on from my training 25 years ago. And they're all doing trauma work and somatic trauma training, which talks about the brain, which talks about self-regulation, and all of that. That's not my work. I'm more of like on the ground. I'm going to give you the tools and I'm going to work with you in that moment. But if anyone is going, "Oh, I have fight, flight, freeze moments around money," then go find yourself a somatic experiencing therapist who can help you work and work with you privately. But let me tell the story of how this is showing up in my life and how to use the body check-in. I'll give two short stories.
So, one of them is nine years ago my family going to buy a car. Okay. And we had one car and I was very happy with one car. I was working on our carbon footprint and didn't want a second car. Well, my husband was riding his bike in the snow and I was driving the car. And so, he became clear, "We need a second car," but he wanted an electric car. He had wanted an electric car since he was a kid. And so, it's on the weekend. My son was four years old. We go to a cafe, a new cafe, and just there happens to be a green car dealership right next to this cafe with the exact blue electric LEAF cars that my husband had been looking at and researching. So, of course, what happens next is we're in the car dealership. The sales guy is doing his spiel. And we're talking monthly pricing, we're talking finance charges, and we're going about to do a test drive. And I notice that I'm starting to get anxious. I'm noticing that my breath is starting to move up my body. And I'm doing a mild version of hyperventilating. Not full-on, but a mild. I'm feeling anxious and I know myself enough. I've done body check-ins, I'm 53, since I was 21. So, I know. What do you do when you're having some feelings and you're starting to hyperventilate? So, I know that it's time to go to the bathroom because the bathroom is a wonderful place to go do a body check-in. So, I said to my husband and the car salesman, "Give me a moment. I'll be right back." I run to the bathroom and I start checking in, like with my body and I'm, "Okay. My breath is moving up fast and furious. Okay. Can I try to get my breathing down?" I was trying to do that.
Then I asked my questions like, "What is this reminding me of? Oh, this is reminding me of I don't like making fast money decisions. I don't like doing it." Now, a few years later, we had to buy a home in 36 hours, and I loved it and I thrived on it but still, in this moment, I didn't like fast buying decisions. I didn't like it. And so, I just acknowledged that and I was able to get my breath down into more of my chest and down to my belly. And again, if someone's doing a body check-in for the first time, they may not be able to do that. But if they practice it over and over and over and even work with a somatic experiencing practitioner, they'll learn how to do that. And so, after a few minutes got my breathing down with honoring I'm anxious because I don't like making fast money decisions so what can I do now? Like, what are the practical steps? So, I left the bathroom pretty more calm than I was when I entered. I came out. I said, "Husband, we need to have a money date." So, we had a 20-minute money date in the car dealership and asked our questions like, is this purchase in alignment with our values? Yes. It's an electric car. Do we have the cash flow for this? Yes, because we know our numbers. The third one, is this decision going to impact our larger goal of buying a home? We didn't think so.
So, you see, in real life, for many of us, we're going to have big emotions around money or at least the folks in my world and that I work with have big money emotions. This is just a simple tool to bring in the moment so that you can check-in, name what the emotion is, sit with it for a few moments, sit in it, not tell it to go away, not run away from it. Just sit with it for a moment. Honor it. Ask yourself what is reminding you of? What it's bringing up? And then next asking, what kind of practical support do I need now? And after our money date, we made a great money decision and we left the lot with the blue electric LEAF car and then we did a debriefing after. How did that go? Would we do that differently next time? And so on.
Casey Weade: So, you started this methodology and correct me if I'm wrong but you started this methodology, your financial therapy methodology, your three-phase methodology in 2001?
Bari Tessler: Yes.
Casey Weade: And we talked about all the research that's occurred over the last 20 years. You touched on it a couple of times. We know behavioral finance didn't really enter the mainstream until 2002. So, how has your methodology evolved over the last 20 years, given all of your research and other research that's come to the forefront?
Bari Tessler: Yeah. So, again, I peek at research and I read a lot of the money books, but for the most part, I'm reading fiction and memoirs and I'm actively working with my community and students. So, when my methodology was created 21 years ago and I think the first names were I called it conscious bookkeeping at the time because that's when I was running the bookkeeping business. The first phase was financial therapy. The second phase was values-based bookkeeping. The third phase was life vision planning. So, I've just simplified it all. The Art of Money, it's now money-healing, money practices, many maps. But even from day one, like that first group in my living room in an apple orchard in California where I taught ten people, the very first evening, I didn't do a body check-in. I don't think I did. I think I went right to, "Talk about your childhood and your money stories," and I could tell on people's faces. It was too fast. It was too quick. You know, they weren't ready to tell their money stories about their childhood yet.
Casey Weade: I have to interrupt you there. So, when people come in to our office, we're not asking them, "Okay. Show me your statements." That's the last thing that we want to see. You know, we're going to start with the softer side. Why are you here? What's important about money? What does money mean to you? What was money like growing up? And we get that kind of, "Why are you asking me this?" So, I completely understand.
Bari Tessler: Yes. And I think you can ask a few of those questions. You know, "Tell me five things that you do well around money." You know, that's sometimes one of the first things they say because usually people come to me saying what they do wrong. And so, I always want to know, "What have you done well? Or where do you feel proud?" And they might say, "I'm really good at tipping." Or they might say, "I'm a single mom and I've raised my son into his 20s and he's a wonderful young man." So, sometimes I go that route at the beginning and I love that you start with a softer. You may just need to ask one or two questions like what are your values, right? And how do you spend money according to your values or in alignment and what feels good for you and what are some of your goals? Instead of, "Tell me about your childhood." Because I noticed right away they needed a moment. And that was part of why I probably brought in the somatic tool immediately, like, "Okay. First, I'm just going to give you a tool to help you pause, slow down, have a little meditative moment." So, what I'm trying to say is that I fine-tune my methodology over and over and over by teaching it in these small groups, seeing what worked, what didn't, where I went too fast, what I left out.
You know, I remember also in that first group that people were still ruminating on past so-called money mistakes or where they had regrets. And I hadn't brought anything in about forgiveness or forgiving yourself, forgiving someone else, forgiving on honoring who you were at that time. That 25-year-old you did the best they could with their upbringing, who they were, what their strengths and challenges were at that time. And so, again, I create my work by getting in there in the trenches and teaching it over and over and over and creating little, teeny, little worksheets that are now in my first book, some of them, and they'll be in the second book that will be out by the time this goes live. You know, it's 200 pages of journaling questions. So, yes, I read the money box and I do my own therapy and I have mentors but if I want to go to money research, I go to Brad Klontz and the Klontzs and I interview Brad. So, I, like you, interview so many people and I'm like, "Tell me the recent research or what do you learn?" So, I go to them but that doesn't excite me as much or that's not how I think. I really just get in there and I'm fine-tuning my methodology over and over and over. I will tell you one significant piece that I've added. So, along with deepening in the money healing practices and in the money practices, we've even talk like we do money dates daily and weekly, just saying hello to money. We renamed categories.
People used to think that was so weird like, "What do you mean you're renaming your categories based on values?" But that's a fun thing that I do. The money mapping has changed from budgeting to really about how do you make a good money decision. Because people say to me, "I don't even know if I can join your program. I don't even know if I can afford your program because I don't know my numbers or I don't know how to make a good money decision." And I say, "Yeah, it's true. Like, you need to do all of these three phases and be practicing them over and over before you know how to make a good decision." But the biggest thing that I've added in and this is something that happened about, well, in 2004. I went to create a mini-memoir interview series where I was interviewing folks from all different economic classes, from all different lineages, and asking them about their money story and what they learned growing up and what were their challenges, and how did they get through the big money challenge and where do they triumphant, on and on. But I did that and I wanted to make that a diverse community. And I wound up at the end of the day, it was still a predominantly white group of folks that I was interviewing. So, for me, that was something that I realized doesn't work for me is to only be interviewing white folks on their money stories.
Just as money has been such a taboo subject, death and grief has been such a taboo subject in our culture, sex and sexuality has been such a taboo subject, race and racism and racial inequality and how that affects our money systems has been a huge missing piece from most of the therapists and financial professionals that I know. And so, I started on a path of that's where I do my research and that's where I interview and that's where the Money Memoir series is now folks from, again, all different lineages, lots of black women that I interview and Hispanic women and Asian women. And I want their voices to be heard and I want their stories to be told and the beauty and the pain. And so, I think that's a really significant piece that's come to the forefront all over the world, but especially in the U.S. And it's something that we need to be talking about everything from the wealth gap and not just with women but also then black women and Hispanic women. And how that goes to a colleague, financial planner, Rachel Robasciotti, who created social justice investing and created an entire investment firm on that and on and on and on. So, that's been one of the most significant shifts where my work has always been micro because that's my specialty. That's who I am. I want to know who you are. I want you to know who you are and who you're not. And I want you to understand how you work in relationships, in your marriages, and I want you to bring this work to your children and your parents and to your work in the world. And I know that like the back of my hand, the macro side is where I've had to do a lot of reading and research, and that's what I do with a lot of my spare time.
Casey Weade: Your methodology has three phases. We have money healing, money practices, money maps. Can you just unpack each one of those for us a little bit more?
Bari Tessler: Sure. Okay. So, we've done a lot already on the money healing part, right? So, step one is practicing the body check-in and bringing that to all your money moments before in...
Casey Weade: So, is that where all the somatic stuff shows up right there in the money healing piece?
Bari Tessler: Yes, but then it doesn't end there. It's not like you get to money practices and you start having a money date and you just stop with the somatic tools or stop with... So, everything you do in money healing, you continue to bring with you as you're going to have a money date. Also, it doesn't mean that one day you're just not going to have any emotions anymore around money, like you're just going to figure it all out and like, you know, when you get a curveball, when money stuff happens, like you don't have any emotions. You got it all figured out. If you get a tax bill like there's, you know. But what it does is it really turns down the dial. It gives you empowerment so that in these moments when you're having an emotion, you just don't run away from it or ignore it. You actually can meet it and say, "Hello. What emotion are you?" and just learn how to sit with it and tolerate all the challenging emotions to all the good ones. There are folks that I work with, they start filling their courses, they start making more money, and that freaks them out too. They're like, "Oh my God." and they get scared. Are they going to be a good steward of their money?
So, the somatic piece is learning how to tolerate the sensations, the energy, your breathing, the feelings in your body, no matter if it's challenging emotions, no matter if it's really exciting, potentially exciting emotions. It's how do I tolerate, how do I work with all of that in life? Because there's going to be ebbs and flows. But when you do some money healing work and you get to the money practices, for my folks, there are a lot more ready. They go to learn a bookkeeping system or look at a financial statement and their eyes may start to glaze over at the beginning, but they go, "Oh, body check-in," and they go, "Oh, can you explain this to me again?" Or, "Oh, let me go to the bathroom," or, "Oh, let me drink some water here." So, when they're in the money practices and let's talk about new practices. So, money practices are creating a self-care practice around money, as you were saying. You know, people do meditation practice in the morning. They do it at night. I want you to do one around money as well. So, does that mean having a money date and a money date to simply just sitting down and saying, "Hello, money? What do you need right now? What is one next practical step that I can take? Do I need to go online and look at my balances today?" I do that every day. Do I need to go through my accounts to see if there has been any reoccurring charge that I don't want anymore, which I call a money leak or something that I forgot about that I really need to cancel or was there fraud?
You know, so there are all these little moments and money date can be reaching out to a financial planner. It could be reading a chapter in my book where I define what an accountant is, what a bookkeeper is, what a financial planner is, the differences through all those roles and expertise, and some questions to ask when going to research and interview someone. So, a money date is just sitting down and saying hello. For some of us, it's 5 minutes a day at the beginning or it's 20 minutes every few days or it's 30 minutes. So, part of money practices is creating a self-care practice around money. And that's every day at the beginning to get the habits and grooves going or it's a twice a week and then monthly. It's learning a tracking system whether you do that by yourself or you have someone else train you slowly how to learn a tracking system and learning how to not just navigate the system and track what comes in and what goes out, but then starting to understand your spending patterns, what's working, what's not, how much income am I bringing in? Where am I overspending? What's negotiable? Which expenses are? Which ones are not? And so on. So, there's a lot of work in there. There's also one more piece is the values renaming.
Casey Weade: And that's part of the money map piece?
Bari Tessler: No. That's part of money practices. So, this is from day one. This was also practice. I was seeing everyone talk about values-based investing 21 years ago. All the financial planners were starting to talk about that. You know, they were all getting into the ones I knew, socially responsible investing.
Casey Weade: ESG investing. Yeah.
Bari Tessler: Yeah. So, I wanted values-based bookkeeping. Again, bookkeeping was boring and dry and awful and why would you do it? So, I wanted to make it more interesting and exciting. I wanted you to be able to sit down at your bookkeeping and see what's important to you and who you are and what life you're creating. And so, you can see, are you in alignment with your earning, your spending, your giving, your investing, and so on. And so, I have people make a list of their values like you do as well probably. And then you can just go to your existing categories like rent or mortgage, groceries, and rename them based on values. Or you can just go to your list and see, can you go any deeper? So, a few examples. A lighter one is just how you rename rent or mortgage? And for some people may be home or it may be sanctuary or it may be Love Shack. And I asked if you have a financial...
Casey Weade: If I'm paying for my love shack, it doesn't feel as bad as rent, right?
Bari Tessler: Exactly. Exactly.
Casey Weade: This is a good expense.
Bari Tessler: Yeah. I mean, the reason I got this years ago, I was giving a talk to about 100 financial planners, they were all in suits, and they said, "Give me a new name for mortgage or rent." And one woman sit up and said, "Love Shack," because she was recently remarried for the second time and a great, happy face. So, that's kind of silly but it's not for some people. It shifts their interaction. Okay. Some deeper ones are around debt. Usually, people call it in their mind net down debt and I always look at debt as, yeah, some of it can be addictive spending certainly. But usually, there's something else going on there. It's you are leaving the corporate world to start your own business. You had a big health challenge that you had to pay for or there is a death in your family.
Casey Weade: Student loans.
Bari Tessler: Say that again.
Casey Weade: Student loans.
Bari Tessler: Student loans, right? And so, there's always something more going on there. And so, I want to rename that and I've had people I had an accountant who thought the naming was kind of silly at first because there's nothing like that in traditional accounting. But he renamed some medical debt that him and his wife had because his wife had cancer and she was a survivor. And so, he renamed it to honor that they have more time together and I don't remember what the name was, but he said he could not believe that just renaming that medical debt to honor his wife's life and their life together and that they have more time together made such a difference in how he thought about it, how he felt about it. You know, some people are fine paying taxes. Other people are challenged by it. We rename that community contribution, right? That's something that I do. Another one less example is a woman wouldn't even look at how much the debt was, let alone the interest rates, you know, the finance charges, which I'm always like, what is the finance charge? That's so important to me. And with her, I said, "What is this debt? How was this debt accrued?" She said, "It was this whole trip to Italy that changed the course of my life and really made me change into the person who I am." I was like, "Well, wonderful. So, what are you going to rename it?" And she was like, "My big Italian adventure experience."
And from just this simple renaming, she went looked at the amount of how much it was. She looked at the finance charges. She came up with a monthly payment plan for the next year-and-a-half, and she stuck to it because when she went to her bookkeeping to go pay that every month, she got to see what she really got from that, the return on the investment that's not just always financial literally or that there's always more going on.
Casey Weade: We do this naturally with vacations quite often, right? I'm saving for Puerto Rico. We don't do this with our retirement contributions. We don't say financial freedom contribution. But I think that it's much more exciting saving for Puerto Rico than it is saving for retirement because we have it really put it in the right place in our mind.
Bari Tessler: Exactly. And that's why I also encourage a few different savings accounts or a few different retirement account with names. Instead of emergency fund, don't do emergency fund. I mean, life happens. Curveballs are going to happen but I call like my cushion account or my cash flow account or life happens account.
Casey Weade: Flexibility, yeah.
Bari Tessler: Yeah, flexibility. Exactly. Or I do one of our retirement accounts is more future because for so long I know all you financial planners, it's so natural for you to think about the future and plan for many people. It doesn't come natural. I had to really train myself. I was great at the past, the present, but I could not get my money thinking about money and future. This is years ago and so I would always be like, "It's about honoring my future self. It's honoring future self." So, that's a bit about money practices, right? The money dates, learning a bookkeeping system, renaming things. So, when you sit down to engage with your bookkeeping, it's more meaningful, it's more creative. It may even be more playful. It may be more interesting to get your family involved, to get your teenagers involved, and so on so they can be more part of the discussions. And your accountant will understand. We've worked with many accountants who understand this. And then the third phase, just the complete money maps, is this is where we do a budget but I don't call it that. Because who wants to do a budget? We call it a money map or map of intention. And I do it in three tiers.
So, we do basic needs, comfortable lifestyle, ultimate, and it's more of just an exercise like how do you define basic needs? And then what are the actual expenses and what are the numbers? And add that up. And are you trying to just meet your basic needs? Or are you trying to get from basic needs to comfortable? And what does comfortable lifestyle feel for you? And what would you add in there? Would you be paying down your debt completely? Would you donate more? Would you travel more? Would you dine out more? What's happening there and what's the number? And then the third one is ultimate. And what's amazing is it looks different for every single person who does a three-tier money map. You know, my comfortable may be someone else's ultimate. Someone else's ultimate may be my comfortable, depends on what phase of life we're in, where we live in the world, and so on. And again, that's just an exercise that I have people do. And then they usually pick one tier like, "I'm going after my comfortable this year," and you take those numbers and you put it back into your bookkeeping system. And then on a monthly money date, you check in the set of projections versus what's actually happening, your set of intentions versus how it's going, and you're constantly adjusting and tweaking.
And then the last piece of this is what we've already talked about. It's how do you know when you're making a good money decision and what are all the pieces and parts from doing the body check-in to knowing your numbers to being geared with a set of questions to ask yourself in small purchases, medium, and large. And then we move into money legacy. And so, that's a little bit about those three phases and you can see they all work together. You don't want one without the other. The body check-ins and the money healing work continue all three phases. And you practice this in small steps over and over and over and over.
Casey Weade: Yeah. So, if I were to summarize, we have our money healing as a starting point. We're going to better understand ourselves the way we think about money, and that starts with understanding what's happening in our body. Number two, transitioning the money practices where we're going to actually set some actual rituals up, some practices up so that we can get in this rhythm of spending time with our money and those feelings. And number three is actually putting a map together, understanding where everything is, why it's there, and where we're headed in the future. I can see such massive value. I hope everyone reads this book before they come in and visit with a financial planner. You know, let's start here and you can just imagine how much more powerful, impactful that meeting is going to be with a financial planner if you were to start at this point, start with this three-phase methodology prior to meeting with your next financial advisor, financial planner. And I think this book isn't one of those books that just is a sales pitch. I really love that you've provided some great value in there, and you also have a wonderful workbook that goes along with it.
We're going to be giving away The Art of Money: A Life-Changing Guide to Financial Happiness to our listeners right now. If you'd like to get a copy of that book, The Art of Money: A Life-Changing Guide to Financial Happiness, and be able to check out the workbook as well, we're going to have links to all these things in the show notes at RetireWithPurpose.com. However, you can also get a free book simply by subscribing to the podcast, writing an honest rating and review for the podcast, then shooting us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your iTunes username. We'll send it to you for absolutely free. With that, I want to thank you so much for coming on the show. It's been a true pleasure and really quite an adventure. I've learned a lot. Thank you for this time.
Bari Tessler: Thanks so much for having me.