Category Archives: money

Cuckoo Clock Phenomenon

The other day my massage person and I were talking about how sometimes a long-term client just disappears for some amount of time, and then often returns some time later.  I can’t be sure in all instances, but my guess is that what is often happening with this kind of stuff is something I call the Cuckoo Clock Phenomenon.  

On some level the client acts as if you, the practitioner, live in a Cuckoo Clock, and between interactions with the client you are inside the clock waiting for them to chime the hour and ask you to come out.  They are rightly thinking of themselves, not you.

When you are in a personal service type of profession like a coach, massage therapist, virtual assistant, etc., clients often end up leaving your ‘practice’ without warning.  They just stop, which can leave you dangling.

In many ways this is just fine. You are providing a service, and that is how the client thinks of you.  It’s not personal.  For them, when you are not with them, they do not think of you.  These are your clients, not your friends or family.  You do the same thing.  I don’t think of the dentist or the person who pet-sits my cat when I’m out of town in between when I need their services either.

Part of what gets this in a tangle is that when we provide a service based largely on our own selves, it can feel more personal when the client leaves or takes a long break. It very likely that if they do disappear it’s not about you. It’s about something else.  That something else could be a myriad of things, many of which you haven’t even thought of.

One of the things I find intriguing  about this, is that there is more often than not a money component in the disappearance.  Or at least the illusion of a money piece.  Let me give you an example of my very own!

When I first moved to Portland I was getting massages by a perfectly good massage therapist.  (Yes, I think that at least two rubs a month are a necessity)  All of a sudden, one day, I had the thought that “I can’t afford this any more!”   First I kinda looked around and thought “Who said that?”  Then I dug a little deeper.

Nothing had changed in my money situation—I had the funds to continue with the massages.  What I finally realized is that what had changed is that I was simply tired of the method the person used.  The massages were fine.  I just needed a change.  Frankly that was too weird and awkward for my brain to process, I had to make up a more viable reason—and money is always good for one of those.  Of course, it costs too much.  On some level that makes sense because I no longer valued the massage in the same way.  What is really more likely is that “I can’t afford it” is a great excuse.  Getting clear on this was very helpful to me.  I got clear that I could still afford to get a massage, I just needed a different  masseuse.

See here’s the deal.  Money is the most taboo topic, ever!  If you want to get out of something just bring up the money and people will quickly scurry away.  And it goes deeper.  Something like a massage, coaching, or fitness training are often thought of as indulgent, or selfish—not as self-care, growth, or improvement.  When things get tough financially we are more likely to sacrifice those things that help us feel and do better with some kind of “things are already tough, so let’s make it harder—it will build character” logic.

This is a likely scenario when you have a client that all of a sudden disappears and  then returns sometime later.  The return indicates they liked the service you provided.  If that’s true, then the disappearance was probably something about money.  Or at least that the client thought was about money.  And the client figured you will just be sitting inside the Cuckoo Clock waiting for their return, right?


Shell Tain, The Untangler

If you end up in this kind of money tangle as a practitioner or client give me a call at 503-258-1630 or check out my website at

Emotion Based Money

Here’s the real secret about money in our society:  It’s not supply based, it’s emotion based.   The market responds to emotion.  It responds to rumor and innuendo.

Sand $ SignIt used to be that the success or  failure of economies and businesses was  based on things like the Gold Standard meaning there was actual gold stashed away to back up the value of the money.  The gold is no longer there.  Now the value of money is much more amorphous.  It’s based on what “experts” say it is.  When it was based on gold there was the possibility of determining how much money there was.  Now it’s based on numbers.  A super computer could probably determine how much money there was at some magic moment in time but it’s like counting grains of sand.  There truly is plenty of it for everyone.

Even the treasury knows that.  For example, the US government doesn’t actually care how much counterfeit money is floated.  The government wants to stop counterfeiters, not because the fake money will devalue the dollar, but because we, the users of money, might be afraid it has devalued it and panic.  See how it’s “emotion based money” even for the government?

And you, too, are bringing emotion to your money.  You feel good about some purchases and bad about others.  You have emotion and even shame around debt or bankruptcy.  You have emotion around how much money others do or do not have.

Money itself isn’t actually emotional.  These emotions belong to us, not to money.  Money is just a human construct.  All it does is keep track of what you are up to. If it were a person and you asked it how you were doing it would say “you have $545.39”. It wouldn’t say “fine”, or “not too good”.  It just doesn’t work that way.  It’s literal and non-judgmental.

Emotions in themselves are wonderful things.  However, when we assign emotion to symbols, and money is really nothing but a symbol, we lose track of what’s real.

Maybe it’s time to take a good long look at your emotions around money and to see if they are serving you and your goals.  Perhaps you might let go of your anger at others who have more and focus on enjoying what you have.  Perhaps you might choose to have more so you can help others.  Perhaps you might choose to have less money in order to remove stress and enjoy life more yourself.

What might be different if you choose to stop having money be emotion based?


Shell Tain, The Untangler

Want some help taking the emotional charge out of money? Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or check out my website at

Money’s Wish List

So what do we do with Money over the holidays?  Most of us use it and ignore it at the same time.  We spend it with the idea that we will catch up with it in January.  Actually, it’s more like April.  It takes that long for many people to catch up with, or recover from, their holiday spending.

At the very least it seems we put our money thinking on hold.  And yet what do we expect from Money during December?  We earnitexpect it to be there.  We expect it to stretch to meet our needs and desires.  We expect it to magically appear.  And we expect it to do all this cheerfully.  Hmm.

Remember that thing about how we are going to be in relationship with Money all our lives? How about the question: “If we knew we were going to be in relationship with a person forever how would we want that relationship to be?”  I’m guessing that we wouldn’t expect anyone we were in relationship with to do what we expect of Money over the holidays.

So what might Money want?  What’s on Money’s wish list? You’ll have to ask your Money to find out. (Yes, talking to your Money is a good thing.)

Here’s what I think Money will say to you.  I think it wants what everyone really and truly wants.  It wants your time and attention.  It wants to have a shared experience of deep caring with you.  Well, isn’t that what we want from our loved ones?  Stuff comes and goes and frankly it’s very few presents that make a lasting impression.  What we want is positive time together.  Money just wants some of your time and attention.  It might even want your acknowledgment and appreciation for the frenzy you put it through during the holidays.

And Money as a loved one?  That may be throwing you off but think about it.  Sometimes Money doesn’t give us everything we want but neither does family.  Sometimes we have to work really hard to keep things going with Money and the same with family.  Sometimes Money seems to let us down and so does family.  And sometimes Money comes through and helps us, just like family.

Money will be with you longer than family.  You will interact with Money every day.  What’s the relationship you want?  What’s the relationship Money is asking you for?

Oh, and Money has some obstacles in communicating with you, doesn’t it?  It can’t talk to you; it has to get your attention in other ways.  What if you tried to notice what it might be trying to say?   What might that bounced check be saying?  What might the pile of unopened bills be saying?  And what might the unexpected money that lands in your lap be saying?

So check in with your Money and see what its wish list looks like for this holiday season.  Can you possibly fit in giving Money a bit of what it’a asking for now?  Maybe there is something on Money’s wish list you could give it?

If you’d like to explore how you and Money can get along together better, give me a call at 503-258-1630 or check out my website at


Shell Tain, The Untangler

Money in the First Position

Ever do that thing where you go into the store and head directly for the sale rack as if it’s the only thing available?  Or maybe you stayed at a job you hated because they gave you a raise?  These are just a couple of examples of the Money Trap I call Money in the First Position, and it’s a stinker!

First let me explain what a Money Trap is.  A Money Trap is somethimoney trapng that takes you off course.  It’s like a hole you fall into, and a trap that snares you.  When it comes to our money it is specifically something that takes you away from your goals, values and dreams.  It’s, above all, a distraction from your purpose.  There are bunches of these traps out there.  Some are common to most of us and some are yours alone.  This Money in the First Position one is pretty common.

The title comes from a nod to bank loans.  The main mortgage on your home is in “the first position”.  What that really means is if something happens to your home whoever has that “first” gets paid “first”.  I call this Money Trap “Money in the First Position” because what happens is that money is the first thing you consider, and often the only thing.

But wait you say, isn’t money an important thing to consider?  Yes, it certainly is.  The trap is when it’s the ONLY thing or when money is given too much weight.  There is nothing I like more than finding a great price for something I want.  The problem is when I buy it based on the price even if it’s not really what I want

Money is an important part of most decisions but we get in trouble when it’s the only part.  Dr. Phil has a great line about this: “If you marry for money, you earn every penny.”  It’s a big price to pay!

People often use Money in the First Position to actually protect themselves from having to explore new territory.  By asking the cost of something first you can dismiss it as “too expensive”.  That’s one of the most common results of this trap.  We dismiss something because of the price before we even really know what it is and what its value may be.  It would most likely be more effective to buy a pair of slacks that fit perfectly and you wore every week for twice or even three times the money you paid for the “perfectly adequate” on sale pair…and if you have the Money in the First Position trap running you, then you won’t even give that a chance.

The real problem with all of this is misunderstanding money.  Getting more money or a better deal isn’t the goal.  Getting what you truly desire or want and having the money (cost) make sense is the goal.   That’s the sweet spot.

So notice where you put money in your decision making.  Is it top of the pile?  It is the only thing you consider?  Or is it an important factor mixed in with other things that are also relevant?

I can help you untangle this and other Money Traps, give me a call at 503-258-1630 or check out my website at


Shell Tain, The Untangler

Time Travel

Most of us have spent some time pondering time travel. That idea of being able to go back and do something differently, or even just go back and relive some time in our past, is timetravelcaptivating. It’s also great fun to dream about and imagine the future. We think this is the stuff of science fiction novels, which it often is. And we do it all the time.

Yes, as humans we practice time travel. Many of us spend much more time time traveling than we do being in the present.

I’m sure that my dog, Decaf, used to dream. She would run in her sleep, just pedaling those back legs like crazy. That could certainly be considered time travel. But mostly dogs are in the present. “Ah, here, bone! Wow! Hey, over here, really good smells. Woof!” Many of us have experienced a similar phenomenon with cats. “Yes, you may rub me there, that is nice. Oh, I’m done now, meow!”

I hadn’t really considered this idea until I was on a call last week with Jim Smith ( He talked about the idea that we are all time travelers. This idea entranced me, and naturally (for me anyway) that lead me to thinking about how time travel effects how we think about money. It’s a money knot to untangle! Ha!

Most of the angst we have about money has little to do with where money is in the present. In this moment your money is what it is. It is dollars and cents. It is numbers. It is NOT emotion. The emotion in money comes from the past and the future. It comes from your time travel and the time travel of your parents. They worried about money, being afraid it would never be enough. You learned to worry about it, and not only did you time travel with it, but you agreed with theirs. If you travel back in time and consider your past, there has always been enough wasn’t there? Sometimes enough was less than at other times but there was enough, right?

And your worry about the future is that there won’t be enough. You travel ahead and fret about it. If past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, then you will also have enough in the future, since you had enough in the past, right? Part of the problem is that deep down you probably believe that worrying about money actually helped you do better with it.

I’m going to disagree with that idea, and explore it in the present. So, think of something about money that is worrisome. Okay, now fret a bit about it. What are the thoughts you come up with? Most likely something about “I must save more. Who knows what might happen? What if I lose my job? What if the house catches fire?….” on and on. Notice that the worry actually takes you time traveling into the future. We can plan for the future, we can dream of the future but we can’t actually be there, can we? So worrying now just distracts you from the present and sends you time traveling. It gets you emotional and more importantly distracts you from being here now.

Here’s a revelation. All those choices that you made about money in the past are what created where you are today with money, right? And when you made most of them, you weren’t really conscious of them in the present moment. In that past place you were worrying about money in the future. You weren’t really and truly noticing what you were doing with your money in that now. You were making choices without clear thought or direction. That’s where the money mess started. Right there while you were distracted with time traveling.

There is only one place to fix your money…NOW! It’s not about the choices you made in the past or the ones you make in the future. It’s the ones you make now. We all may have some “clean up” to do around our money choices and thinking, and it starts now, right now.

How about practicing actually being in the present when you are dealing with money? What is that purchase you are making? What is it about? How does it support you? How does it really reflect what you want from your money? Be in the now with money…and know that doing that will change the future and the past from here on out!

I’m here to help you untangle your money knots. Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or check out my website at


Shell Tain, The Untangler

Married For Money?

I’ve always kinda liked Dr Phil.  Maybe it’s that he’s feisty?  Anyway, one of my favorite ‘Dr-Phil-isms’ is “If you marry for money, you will earn every penny.”  I think the money knot around that is worth exploring.

marriedThe biggest problem about marrying for money, or doing anything just for the money, is that money is never the actual issue.  It’s bass-ackwards.  Money is reflective of other things. Money is just a symbol for all the things we want that we think will make us happy.

If we make or “earn” our money doing something we love, we are honoring who we are.  In that case, we are living based on the core stuff that is truly important to us.  When we do anything  “‘just for the money” we are falling into the “Money In the First Position” Money Trap.  That’s the one where we make the choice solely for and about money.  Frankly, doing almost anything just for money isn’t worth it, is it?

Okay, I hear you thinking: “But what if I need money to pay the rent and feed my kids, and do a yucky job to get that?”  In that case you are doing the work you hate to make the money to support the kids you love.  That’s not the same as doing something just for money.  Would you actually keep that job if you didn’t have the kids and the rent to worry about?

The reason that doing something just for money rings so hollow is that it’s not really about money.  Again the bass-ackwards thing.  (Okay, I enjoy using that word)  It’s about the life you imagine you will have once you have money.  And there is the fallacy.

Remember that thing about money being reflective?  If you are just about having money, you are waiting to be in your life until you have the money.  What’s the money supposed to give you?  Happiness, safety, peace?  Maybe even love or fame?

None of those things start after you have money.

Money can reflect those things, but it never creates them in a satisfying way.  There’s another rub.  We don’t actually want just the money, we want the money to make us happy.  Ah, not money’s job.  Money’s job is to show us where we are putting our energy and efforts, to show us what we are choosing.

So are you choosing to spend your efforts and energy in making money, and hoping that it will make you feel good about yourself and life in general?  Or are you choosing to live every day using your energy and efforts to enhance and reinforce what you really care about, and allowing the money to reflect that?

So I think what Dr Phil really means is that it will be brutal and hard to marry for money, because you won’t be honoring who you are, you’ll only be chasing money, and that is bass-ackwards!



Wasted Money

We’ve all wasted money.  It’s part of being human.  Something looks good in the moment but turns out to not be a great idea in the long run.  We waste money on stuff, experiences and even people.

We buy clothes that don’t fit with the idea that some day they will.  We buy colors that we know don’t work for us because they are on sale or our mom likes them.  We go to an event that is not our thing just to make someone else happy.  For me that would be most sporting events, just so you know.

wastedWe stay in relationships that aren’t working and pay out bucks for the privilege.  We buy the purple chair that we fall in love with but doesn’t go with anything else we own.

We buy food that we don’t like but is healthy that eventually goes bad and gets tossed. We’ve bought lemons and not made lemonade.

We’ve done all sorts of things that waste money and the truth is that we will continue to do that.  Of course, we can get better at it.  We can be clearer about what we really want.  We can stop settling for things we don’t like.  We can stop letting others over-influence our choices.  That’s all good stuff to do, and it will truly help you to both waste less money and treat yourself better.


Wasting money isn’t as bad a thing as you think it is.  More of it always shows up.  You are absolutely hard wired to have at least enough.  If you’ve followed me for any amount of time you know that I have this whole thing about enough.  Most of us live in that land, Enoughland.  The bad news about that is that it would be more peaceful and easy to live in Plentyland. The good news is that living in Enoughland means that even if you fall down you will get back up quickly. There may be some bad and ugly spots, but you won’t stay there.

Would I like to have never wasted any money in my life?  Oddly, I’m going to say “No”.  Sure, I’ve wasted money, bunches of it.  I’ve made silly choices, dumb choices, even heartbreaking choices.  However, the life I would have had to live to never make any of those wasted money choices would have been awful.  It would have made me crazy and made everyone around me really, really anxious.  Those ‘wasteful’ choices have all helped me to learn and to grow.

The money that got wasted is like the mirage losses that people pine about.  Mirage loss is a term I just made up, this second.  Here’s what I mean.  Let’s say you bought a house in 2000 that you paid $200k for and in 2005 it was worth $250K.  When you sold it in 2008 you got $225k for it and you think you lost $25k.  That’s a mirage loss.  You didn’t actually ever have that money so you didn’t lose it.

The cost of continuing to fret about the loss is more expensive than the actual loss. Think about it.

Say you bought the dining table that was butt ugly and eventually got rid of it.  Okay, wasted money.  Isn’t it better to have gotten rid of it and ‘lost’ the money than to be sitting at that ugly table every day?

So here’s what I say:  “Thank goodness for all the wasted money I spent.  It was worth every penny.”  How about you?  What do you say?



The Kid You Left Behind

I simply love having money conversations.  They inspire me with even more learning about how our money stuff works.  During a podcast recording session with Michael Knouse of I realized there was a piece of the idea of us all having five year olds running our money that I hadn’t actually blogged about…yet!  So here goes:

Let’s start off remembering about how you learned aboutkid money.  Oops, you didn’t actually learn about money, did you?  You learned about how people felt about money and most of them didn’t feel good about it.  You learned that it was taboo, verboten, simply not discussed.  And you learned that, well, even before you learned to talk. You noticed that this money thing was important.  Your folks dealt with it every day.   So you watched and came to conclusions, conclusions that never got revised or improved upon because nobody talked about it…nobody.

In many ways the story of money stalls out right there.  It’s why I say we all have 5 year olds running our money.  Only 1 person in 40 knows how much their parents actually made in dollars when they were young.  That translates to at most 2.5% of people talking to kids about money.  That’s a very small group.

So here you are, grownups with money knots.  Big gnarly ones.   You might have debt, you might have trouble asking for it, you may even feel like everyone else knows this stuff except you.  Most of all you are likely to have a sense of shame and failure.  Wow, what a mess.

Well, here’s the truth.  You left your 5 year old self hidden away handling your money.   You didn’t know you did that.  It never occurred to you.

For just a moment, picture yourself as a 5 year old.  Really bring that cute kid to mind.   Imagine yourself in your play clothes, with dirty hands and junk in your pockets.  Got it?  Well, that’s who has been handling your money.  Now notice the look on that little kid’s face as the subject of money comes up.

Wide eyed and bewildered? Scared? Serious? What do you see?

This is truly one of those things that we just never realize until we do.  You had no idea you were leaving your little kid self in charge of this big person issue – money.  It was taboo to talk about, even with yourself.

Want proof that you left this part of you in charge?  Just look at what you do with money. And look also at what you don’t do.  Do you avoid looking at it like the plague?  Do you spend with wild abandon?  Do you get angry with money?  Do you obsess about money?  Do you hoard money?  Do you waste money?  All those things, along with some other similar choices, are what little kids do when they are up against it.  Think about it.

Here’s the remarkable thing.  Your 5 year old self has been running your money all this time and for a 5 year old they’ve done a pretty good job!  You left them holding the bag, in charge of the money, and never really came back to help.  I think all our 5 year old selves deserve medals for selfless devotion to a task they weren’t trained or prepared for.

And you deserve a break for not even knowing it was going on.  How could you?  No one talked about it.

So now it’s time for you to make a couple of changes:

1.     Give your 5 year old a fun, easy job.  Playing with your dog, helping make cookies, etc.  No more money management for that part of you!

2.     Find a different part of you to take over this job.  Someone who is willing to exercise strategies like getting expert help, paying attention, and learning how it works.

You wouldn’t actually pick your 5 year old self to run your money, would you?  I also suggest you don’t pick your teenage self for the job, and I know there is a great you in there that would really benefit from getting clear on this money stuff.

Look at it this way: If your 5 year old did as well as they did, imagine what you could do now?

Maybe a first step is to listen to the podcast of Michael Knouse and myself chatting this?  He’ll be publishing our call this coming Monday, July 13th.  I’m actually Episode #81.  He’s been busy with all sorts of fascinating people.   Check it out! But not until the Monday!



Timing and Perfection

Many of you know that I was a CFO/Controller for many years, and a big chunk of those years I worked for American subsidiaries of Japanese companies.  They had this interesting perspective around budgets.  They very much wanted the budget to be accurate, perfect if you will.  Neither over, nor under!

Mostly, in the US, under budget is a good thing, although there are fascinating stories of people spending in lavish and weird ways to make it appear that they really did need everything they asked for…the film industry comes to mind.  But I digress.

Initially, I was pretty bewildered when I was informed by the home company’s accounting perfectionthat I was supposed to have the budget be right on.  I informed the powers that be that “the only way to have the budget be entirely accurate is to complete it after the end of the period”.  And that report is not actually called a budget.  It’s more of a Profit/Loss statement.  You see, it’s a timing thing.  I can’t actually see into the future.  I can predict but I can’t  know what it really is until the future actually arrives.

I bring this up as a new way to look at the whole perfection knot we get ourselves tangled in.  We want to be perfect, have everything nice and tidy, in life and in money.  The problem really is that we won’t know what perfect will be until things are done.  And there are so many possibilities of outcomes, deciding that there is only one that is perfect seems a bit premature, doesn’t it?

The other thought that comes to mind is that while we are pushing for ‘perfection’ we are also missing possibilities for delightful side trips along the way.  This idea makes me think of how we create rituals around things, expecting that by having the ritual be perfect the experience will follow and it too will be perfect.  Holiday dinners come to mind.  And yet maybe the year when the Turkey burnt and you all ate PB & J sandwiches was really the best one of all time? Maybe the definition of perfection needs to be a bit less perfect?

It’s one of the challenges around money isn’t it?   What would the perfect amount of money be?  And what did you miss noticing, experiencing and enjoying while you were in pursuit of that number?

This blog was inspired by a little ditty, referred to as a Grook, by Piet Hein.  It seems to me to be the perfect closing J

Timing Toast

There’s an art to knowing when,

Never try to guess,

Toast until it smokes and then

twenty seconds less.



Information Extremes

Around some things we say way too much, and around others not enough.  Sometimes we research and gather data like crazy, sometimes we just wing it. How we gather and process information is yet another place where we do that black/white, on/off, base 2 extreme thinking.  To paraphrase Dr. Phil, let’s take a look at how that’s actually working for us…

What’s really under this thing I’m calling Information Extremes seems to be something about assumptions.   We assume we already know everything we need to know.  We assume we can’t learn more.  We assume others already understand.

I really ran into this when I lived for two very long years in South Carolina.  Now in many ways, this was not the best place on earth for me.   It felt odd.  I didn’t understand the culture or how to maneuver through it.  One of the things that really made it hard was a perspective I named ‘Everybody Knows’.  It worked liked this.  No one felt the need to extremessupply details about places, events or many other things because ‘Everybody knows’.  When the newspaper has a head line that says ‘Fourth of July Fireworks at the Fort’ I actually have some questions.  Questions like which gate do you use, is there a fee, what time does it start, can you bring food, what are the rules of the event.  None of that information was available because ‘Everybody Knows’. Except of course those of us that don’t.  This phenomena extended to all sorts of things including directions to turn at the corner where the filling station was, the one that was torn down 30 years ago was.  It came from this community having done things the same way for many, many years.  Somehow, anyone naïve enough to move there was just supposed to tap into some strange collective unconscious to figure things out.  I know this happens in small towns all over the place, yet the city I was in was the state capital with a university and a large military presence, so I wasn’t by any means the only person who couldn’t qualify for the ‘Everybody Knows’ club.  As you can no doubt tell, I felt less than welcome.

This is a prime example of how we assume the yes/no logic will work.  Long ago in my initial coach training they talked about yes/no not really being a choice.  That really struck me.  Think about politics: are two options really enough?  Aren’t we settling there?  I find I frequently don’t actually get to vote for what I really want, but more for the option that I dislike the least.

It’s like when you are watching the courtroom scene on the telly.  How irritating is it that the person on the stand has to answer yes or no, with no explanation or elaboration allowed.  Creates a pretty narrow view doesn’t it?

Here’s the money piece to this.  We assume we don’t know, and never will.  We assume it’s too hard, too confusing, too scary…too extreme.  We pick feast or famine as a model.  If I’m scared of money and have avoided looking at it, I assume the only way out is to get a green eyeshade and analyzes every money transaction in great detail.

What about the middle?  What about choosing that?  What about taking steps to something new, learning and applying one new skill or tool at a time? What about just looking?  How about a dimmer switch.  I love those things.  I have options between all the light or no light.  I can have some, a little light, more light.  Every little piece of money information you choose to gather or learn about brings more light to the topic.

So when it comes to money, and choices about all sorts of things, forget the Information Extremes, say boo to Everybody Knows, and exchange the switch on the wall, and the one in your head, for a dial!