Category Archives: Money Knots

Misplaced Loyalty

Loyalty can be a truly wonderful thing—on both the giving and receiving side—and like most things, being loyal can lead to some negative results.  The misplaced loyalty knot I’d like to talk about is all tangled up with biology and anthropology.

It starts before we are born.  On the biology side it really stems from those big brains we have—or rather how much more growing they need to do after we are born.  We have to be cared for by the parent for a much longer time compared to many other species.  It’s not just about walking and talking, it’s also about the complexity of human society.  We need to learn how to communicate and behave.  All very complex things going on in a brain that isn’t really ‘grown’ until early adulthood—despite our strong teenage opinions!

We have tons of things to learn, and we learn those things from our parents.  To make that learning more effective we are biologically hard-wired to be loyal to the parent.   We take whatever they say or do as the “gospel truth” when we are little.  We HAVE to!  They are our protection from danger, our source of food, and our primary source of knowledge.  We absolutely cannot afford to piss them off—they might abandon us!  And if they did that, we would die.  That is as true for us today as it was when we humans were hunter/gatherers long ago.

That hard-wired loyalty has a bit of a dark side though.  When it comes to money it gets messy.  And around money, all that loyalty creates huge problems for generation after generation.  It’s that thing where we don’t talk about money since it’s so taboo!  We learn about money without any actual training,  by observation only and thus we absorb and create many odd ideas.  Not only are the ideas a bit strange but they are hidden—we aren’t conscious of them.

This misplaced loyalty creates a bunch of strange results:

  • If your parents fought about money you will likely fight with your spouse about money.
  • If your parents fought about money you may very well decide that money is evil and bad, and make sure to have as little of it as possible.
  • Women will often unconsciously make sure they do not make more money than they perceived their fathers did as some kind of loyalty.
  • Perhaps the only way your parents expressed affection was with money, so that’s the currency for you to give or receive affection.

On and on it goes, and we don’t actually consciously recognize we are caught in these old familial traps around money because they somehow just “are”—they are so ingrained in our brains we have never ventured to distinguish and analyze them.

That is exactly what I would invite you to do!  Spend some time thinking about—maybe even journaling—about you and your money.   Do some digging.  See how what you are doing with money relates to how your family handled and talked about it.  You’ll find that you are doing something very similar to what you perceived your parents did, or you are doing the opposite of what they did.  The ‘perceived‘ word is in there because the topic is so taboo you probably don’t know what they actually did with money  You only know how you percieved what you saw and heard around money.

It’s a knot well worth untangling because this misplaced loyalty has been influencing your relationship with money all your life.  If you look more closely at it you can then make a choice to keep it or change it.  That’s the problem with taboo things that never get discussed.  We don’t even recognize we are caught in them, let alone that we have a choice.   Give yourself the choice!


Shell Tain, The Untangler

If you’d like some support understanding how this loyalty piece played out in your family, just give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at

Other People’s Money… Knots

This week I have invited my friend, Arthur Breur, to be a ‘guest blogger’.  He came up against a very interesting “money knot” while asking for contributions to support an overture he composed for the Tualatin Valley Symphony.  And it you want to come see its debut performance here’s where to get your tickets for the May 21st, 7:00 p.m. concert. Take it away, Arthur!

Tualatin Overture by Arthur BreurI recently experienced an interesting “money knot” situation that Shell and I thought you might find value in.

First, a little bit of my own history.

I have composed music my entire life, and I consider it my best talent and skill. But I have never worked “full time” as a composer. I have worked in print, graphic design, and website design, and many years ago started my own “multimedia” business that currently focuses on web development.

Around my 40th birthday, as many people do, I started to think about my life and what I really wanted to accomplish. Where had my dreams gone of composing? I still thought of myself as being a composer, but I had barely composed anything for years.

I pulled out the old sheet music from my various compositions, in every state of completion, and started working on them again. That was about nine years ago, and in those nine years I have easily composed as much music as I had over the twenty-some years before that.

A few years ago, I took these efforts one step farther and joined the Tualatin Chamber of Commerce as a composer. I have always made sure my company belonged to the local chamber, but I wanted to make it official that I was now also “in the business” of composing music.  It was a first step toward getting paid for writing music, and therefore being considered as a “professional” composer!

Then, through an event put on by the Chamber of Commerce I was introduced to the Tualatin Valley Symphony. That’s right: a symphony orchestra performs practically in my own back yard! Well, to make what could be a very long story very short, in late October 2016, I met the orchestra’s Conductor & Music Director, Mark Perlman, and he offered that if I composed a piece for the orchestra’s May 2017 concert, they would perform it—which was the moment of inception for my new work, the Tualatin Overture.  Through all this  I was deftly stepping over the idea of my composing actually generating income!

Enter the Chamber of Commerce “AM Networking” events.

When I first conceived of the Tualatin Overture, I did not spend any time imagining that it was a commission. It was an offer from the conductor of a non-profit community orchestra to perform a work, but it was not the offer to pay me for it. I was eager to create a piece of music that would be performed by an orchestra, and I strategically planned that it would be something I did for the City of Tualatin, hoping that doing so might give the work extra “legs” beyond a single performance—but I was not expecting that I would be compensated financially by the orchestra or by the city.

At some point it occurred to me that, even though this was not a commissioned work, I need not be entirely on my own spending so much of my own time and money (sheet music needs to be printed out, copyrights need to be filed, etc.) on the project. While I was the only person who would be creating the music, surely members of the Tualatin community—businesses and individuals both—would feel that this project was something that they could support. So I came up with the plan to appeal for patrons of the work, and I planned that the first group I would reach out to would be local businesses. The perfect opportunity for this kind of request was the Chamber’s weekly AM Networking event, which includes the opportunity to pay $5.00 for one minute of time in front of the members of the Chamber—usually more than 50 business owners and representatives.

So I stood in front of the Tualatin Chamber and reminded them that I was composing the Tualatin Overture, and announced that I was looking for patrons whose names and businesses would be included on the score and in the program notes I would be creating for the composition. I had come up with the initial target of getting total commitments of $1,000 that day, and asked for five or more contributions of $200 each.

And here comes the “money knot”—and the surprising outcome.

After the AM Networking ended that day and people were milling around chatting, a member of the Chamber—who happens to also be a fan of my music—very forthrightly, and with every intention of helping, suggested that asking for contributions of $200 was just too much, and I should have asked for contributions of, say, $20 instead. Yes, it would take more contributions, but I would get more people contributing at a more “manageable” cost.  (I immediately noticed that this person’s perspective was influenced by a money knot, of not ‘asking for too much’ and that my situation was an example of what Shell refers to as others dumping their ‘money stuff’ on us.)

Then, right as I was having that conversation, another chamber member walked up and said they wanted to be a patron for the overture, and offered a contribution for $500 on the spot. They certainly had a different money perspective of how much was ‘enough’ or ‘too much’, and suddenly with just a single patron, I was halfway to my starting goal!

Later that same day I reached out to another chamber member who had not been able to be at the AM Networking. This was someone who is a long-time fan and who had previously commissioned me to compose a song as a birthday gift for a relative. Without my mentioning a number, they offered to write a check for $500.

So within the day I had achieved my initial target of $1,000 from just two eager patrons. I have continued pursuing more patrons and will so until I have to print the “final” score and program notes for the premiere performance.

I can’t help but wonder how the day might have turned out if I had asked for $20 contributions—or if I had asked for $500 contributions.  It’s very interesting to look at how our thinking about money can either limit or expand our possibilities.

And now here I am, a working composer, making money at my craft.

— Arthur Breur

Thanks, Arthur!

Shell Tain, The Untangler

If you’d a bit more conversation about how money thinking effects your money results, give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at


Sometimes Crunching the Numbers Helps

Yes, I’m known for touting that you don’t need to be a number cruncher to be in a good relationship with your money, which is true.  What is also true is that sometimes crunching the numbers actually helps.

CalculatorWhen it really helps is when you “make things up”, when you decide that something is true without checking the numbers.  We often decide that money stuff is worse than it really is.  It’s another one of those places where our little kid brain is running the money.  A place where you get stuck, sometimes for years, assuming a situation that just doesn’t add up.

Ironically there are often two almost opposite reasons people shun crunching numbers, both of which are motivated by fear.

One reason is waiting to make a move until something feels uber safe.  One example of this is that you can’t quit the “day job” you hate for the “dream job” you love until you have bunches of money saved.  The pivot point here is, “How much is a bunch?”  What amount will have you feel safe?  Hard questions often made harder by not actually crunching the numbers.

For example: recently a client had the idea that she needed $30K in savings before she could make the shift from a job she hates to her budding career in Real Estate: $18K for living expenses and $12K for business expenses.  There was a crunching error in here in here that was making her goal seem doubly hard to attain.  The real number that she needed for a 6 month “Back-Up Fund” in her situation was $12K for living expenses and $3K for business expenses.  Her fear has caused her to push up the living costs and to way over estimate the business costs of the new job.  Now she’s going after a number of $15K, which is much more attainable.

Often the other reason to shun the crunching is the “Ostrich Effect”.  You know that one, right?  The “stick my head in the sand and pretend” idea.  This one usually is about overspending.  It’s driven by the little kid part of us not wanting to have to “stop playing and do our chores”. This part of the little kid is often coupled with another part: “the monsters under the bed” part—the fear that once the truth is known it will be so awful you will not be able to tolerate it.  The truth is that once we know what is really going on we feel better.  There is something about knowing what is going on that has us dig in, make plans, and focus on what is really important to us. I’ve seen this happen many times over the years.

What both “seeking safety” and the “ostrich effect” have behind them is fear.  Fear that it will be insurmountable—it isn’t.  Fear that if you look it will get worse—it doesn’t.  Fear that you can’t ever get this money knot untangled—you can.

See, the problem is not actually the money or the number crunching.  It the fear.  FDR said it best: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  Why not see if crunching a few numbers can help you realize what really is possible and set the fear aside?


Shell Tain, The Untangler

Need a bit of support around the crunching? Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or check out my website at

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