I’m really excited to welcome to final episode of series one of the In Her Financial Shoes podcast a pioneer in the field of financial well-being Chris Budd. We talk about Chris’ own personal journey, and the writing of his book Financial Wellbeing of which he donated all the proceeds to a cancer charity.
Chris previously ran his own business, Ovation Finance, which he has since sold and also written a book about entitled Eternal Business. Chris continues to write novels, all of which are available on Amazon. In addition to writing, Chris runs the Financial Wellbeing podcast which I absolutely recommend. As if all that isn’t enough, Chris is also running a financial well-being conference later this year, so keep your eyes peeled for that!
Chris and I talk about the crossroads he came to in his own life, and the ways in which money is about far more than money. Money is about happiness, and happiness is about finding our own true purpose in life. Chris and I take a deep look at the things that can contribute to both our happiness and unhappiness in life in this episode.
Chris also covers what he calls the five stages to financial well-being, which are the stages he covers in his book. We talk about these in depth, as well as the value money creates in your life.
Listen to the interview
Hi Chris, it’s so great to have you. We’d love to know a little about yourself?
Great to be here. In 1998 I set up a financial planning business which was sold last year to an employee ownership trust. A few years ago I wrote The Financial Wellbeing book, all the proceeds of which were donated to the Penny Brohn cancer center, and it was them that actually inspired the book.
Penny Brohn talk a lot about well being, and at time when I googled ‘financial well-being’ it actually only returned two results. Now of course, it’s a much more widely used term.
What I loved about your book was the simplicity of it and how easy the steps were to implement. Talk to us more about what inspired you to write about this concept?
There were two things; after many years of financial planning with people, I’d helped a lot of people to realise that they already had ‘enough’. When people come to this realisation that they have enough to do the things and live the life that they want, they realise the options that gives them. What I often found is that when people find they have enough to live the life that they want, their next step is to seek purpose. Generally, that purpose comes in the form of helping other people and philanthropy. So it really struck me that it’s not money that makes us happy, but what we do with it and what we do for others.
My wife is a cancer nurse and had started working with Penny Brohn, and she was telling me all about their ideas around well-being and living well with cancer. They really focus on helping their patients to live well, look after themselves, reduce stress, and generally take care of their well being as cancer patients. I remember feeling really inspired listening to her, and in my excitement I declared that I’d write a book called ‘How Financial Planning Can Help Prevent Cancer’, which thankfully my wife told me probably wasn’t a very good title!
But the idea of reducing stress by taking care of our finances was at the core of the plan. Money is very much a tool, and there is lots of research which tells us that if we focus on the material side of money; money itself and material possessions, then it fails to make us happy. But if we approach and use money as a tool for a wider purpose, it has the ability to make us extremely happy.
So really it was Penny Brohn that inspired the idea, which is why the proceeds of the book were donated to them.
So why do you think we focus on money in the physical sense, rather than seeing it as a tool?
Not all societies do! In Scandinavia for example, they are much less focussed on the material aspects of money than perhaps here in the UK and in the USA. My suggestion would be that we live in a society which has a vested interest in making us be focused on money. If you think about the advertising and marketing industries in this countries you can see that. The messages that we see in advertising, the media, and popular culture is that you can achieve happiness through material possessions, and also that respect is given where there is more money.
One of the questions I ask when I’m coaching is ‘what is your definition of success?’ For me, the definition of success is freedom and flexibility of time. For me that is extremely important.
Do you think our early experiences of money also play into this? What are your early experiences with money?
I think I was an annoying little entrepreneur actually! I remember my dad used to work for a pensions company, and we used to go to his office on a Saturday. I distinctly remember as a kid that I used to pilfer things from the stationary cupboard there which I’d then take with me to school and sell it.
The other thing that was one of the most defining things for me around money was that my father went bankrupt when I was in my early 20’s. We lost everything including our house, and it still emotionally affects me to this day. I remember deciding there and then that I never wanted to be a victim, and I would never let something like that happen to me.
It’s so interesting that you chose to take that message from the situation. In your experience as a financial planner, what challenges would you say people often present around planning their finances?
The approach that I usually propose is coaching first, then planning, then advice. So financial advice I define as being technical knowledge and advice in relation to a specific product such as tax or pensions. But before you do that, you need to know what your future financial plan is that you’re then going to apply the advice to. I believe that there should also, and perhaps crucially, be coaching before all of that; talking about the why, the what, the purpose, and the future around the money that you want.
Without first defining the future that you want, unpicking the why’s of the financial goals you have and the purpose behind them, I don’t believe you can effectively plan financially.
I love that so much. From my own personal experience I completely agree that finding your purpose is so important. And that’s why I find the work that you do so inspiring.
Financial planning is really very simple; all you have to do is work out what you want from life and spend your money on that. Of course that can be incredibly hard, and the most difficult thing is working out what your purpose is. On one of our podcast episodes Greg Davis concluded that we are almost hard wired to make bad decisions about money.
It’s a bit like when you try to quit smoking; when you know that the first month will be the hardest not because you’re battling your mind but because you’re battling a chemical that’s trying to leave your body, you accept that it’s not your fault and that you may need some help. Making bad decision about money is much the same – once you know that clever marketing is trying to inspire bad decisions, and your cognitive bias is doing the same, you can accept that and be more resolute in pushing back against it.
Absolutely. I was talking recently about the process of anchoring the decisions we make to past experiences. So how do we go about finding purpose when we perhaps don’t feel as though we have any?
There’s a really interesting study from Harvard, and there was a Ted Talk about the subject too.
Harvard studied around 950 people and asked them at the beginning of the study what they thought would make them happy in life. Overwhelmingly the answers were money and success. The university went back every two years and interviewed the same people, asking them about their happiness; were they happy, and what things were making them happy. They have continued for the last 75 years and funnily enough found that neither fame nor money had any effect on happiness, but that the quality (not to be confused with quantity) of their social contact had a huge effect, even going so far as to show that those who reported loneliness died earlier.
So there are 5 areas to well-being as a whole;
It’s so important to not just focus on one area, but on all five as a balance, with social well being as the most important factor.
In my experience coaching, I would say that women often present to me as being better at spending their money to improve their social contact, whereas men tend to be more focussed on acquiring goods and status.
Yes, but it’s utterly stupid isn’t it?! I quite often use the example of personalised number plates; to me a personalised car number plate is a clear sign to the world that you’re not giving enough money to charity!
When we focus on achieving status and material goods, it absolutely does not make us happy in the longer term, whereas when we focus on improving the quality of our social contact, it absolutely does. We never compare ourselves with those who have less than us and think ‘aren’t we doing well?’
So where would you say to begin with analysing those 5 areas of your well-being in order to achieve balance?
Well really it’s about looking at how you are using each area to support the others. So, for example, how are you using your finances to support your community well-being (community being the wider social family as well as your literal community).
There’s a concept called self limiting beliefs which I talk about quite often. We place limitations upon ourselves and what we think we can do in our current situations based on these self limiting beliefs. So we may believe that we are stuck in a certain place in life, or a job, or even in debt because we have the self limiting belief that we cannot do anything about it.
So, let’s move on to the 5 stages of financial well-being; what are they Chris?
- Having a clear path – having a plan and identifiable objectives for life.
- Having control of your daily finances.
- Dealing with financial shocks – having the ability to cope with financial shocks, such as the right protection in place and emergency funds.
- Having financial options in life.
- Gaining clarity and security for those we leave behind.
These don’t necessarily need to be addressed in that order, although of course in the book I do cover them in this order. Once you take these actions, quite often people report an increase in general well-being.
People often don’t like to think about the fifth stage, or in fact money at all. But all it really takes is a few hours to get everything in order so that you can stop thinking about it and get on with enjoying life.
Ultimately, I think the most important thing we can do as a starting point is to spend some time thinking and talking about what will make you happy and excited in your life, and through that defining your purpose. Through this, you can then begin to plan your finances around your life.
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Follow Chris on LinkedIn
Harvard Ted Talk – The longest study on happiness
Paul Armson – Enough
Carl Richards – The One Page Financial Plan
Chris Budd on Amazon
Rath & Harter – Well Being: The Five Essential Elements
Tim Kasser – Hyper-Capitalism
The book that changed Chris’ life; Slavomir Rawicz – The Long Walk
Chris’ favourite novel; Dodie Smith – I Capture the Castle