Money Coaching Blog

We sure do get this money stuff tangled up, don’t we? This is the place where I untangle pieces of it. Most of it’s about money while some of it’s about something else that strikes my interest. All of it is about noticing how things get knotted up and how to untangle the knots. Oh, and if you have a topic you’d like me to explore, just let me know. I’ll be happy to give it a good shake and see what untangles.

Surviving SPAM – A Lot!

I’d really love for this to just be a bad Jeopardy category title — unfortunately it’s not!  It’s more a hard-won cautionary tale.

By now we ALL are up to our butts in daily SPAM, phishing, and other nasty email stuff.  I actually tracked it, and in February I received over 3000 emails that exemplify this.  Yes, my spam filter goodies caught many of them, and I am now I am also adept at using ‘ignore’ and ‘junk’, not just ‘delete.’

Today’s story is a more twisted tale about my receiving lots of unwanted email.  It’s about being inundated with ‘blog comments’ that aren’t comments.  They are sales pitches, weird things, and some were even in cyrillic!  This all started in January, and frankly it was driving me nuts!

I contacted my techno/puter genius and he came up with a solution to solve the problem.  It was all about having people ‘sign in’ to the blog before leaving a comment, thus avoiding the robotic messy spammers.  I would still maintain control on accepting their ‘membership’ in the blog, and approving their posts.  I thought all was good…little did I know!

I didn’t really notice that I hadn’t had any sign-ups or comments until someone emailed me directly with a comment and mentioned that they couldn’t figure out how to leave a comment on the blog.  Our next step was to include some language that we thought would clarify the process.  After that I asked a couple of trusted friends to try it out.  They got mired and stuck in it.  Ouch!

Only then did I remember a very crucial thing — to not make it hard for fans or clients to engage with me!  I’ve had some past experience in having clients irritated with me, when technology beyond my control wasn’t ‘friendly’, and certainly didn’t want to repeat that in any way!

It was about this time that I remembered that I had leapt in to the ‘apparent’ issue without really getting to the core problem first.  We all do that, we are trained to do that.  I remember when I was first exposed to working in a company, that the ‘rule’ was to not bring a problem to your manager without also having a solution for it.  Old habits die hard, and even though I now know better, the pressure of being uber spammed had me ‘regress under stress’, and my puter person had taken that stress at face value.  Oops!

As I got back to the core issue, which was making it easy for real people to leave a comment, the clouds started to part.

There was a fundamental flaw in my initial interpretation of the flood of spamsters fussing on my blog.  I thought it was because of the huge increase in this stuff I was experiencing everywhere.  I was wrong.  Turns out that a handy app/plugin named Akismet was the culprit. I knew I had this and assumed it was something that was free for everybody…after all, I’ve had the website for a while now.  And on WordPress it said that the software was ‘up to date’.  What I finally discovered, with the brilliant insight of my tech person, was that the software was up to date, but the license wasn’t!  Really!  Yipes!  God forbid that should be made clear to those of us that don’t speak fluent programmer-gab!

Makes sense though, everything went whacking in January.  It probably was when the previous license expired or a free trial ended.  And then all hell broke loose.  And near as I can tell no one ever notified me that I had it on a trial, or that the trial period or license had expired.

So now things are all good.  You don’t have to ‘join’ anything to leave a message.  No passwords for commenters.  No confusion for my readers.  I have paid for a year of magic Akismet.  It is catching and marking as SPAM about 20 ‘comments’ a day from the bad guys…yippee!

It cost some money, took way too much time, disrupted some clients, and probably caused some general consternation that I don’t even know about for some people.

Sometimes, I must admit, I do wonder if all this ‘progress’ is really worth it?  And in hindsight, I do appreciate the reminder — or perhaps we should call it “swift kick in the arse”— to dig deeper around what the issue really is before I leap into a solution!


Shell Tain, the Untangler

If you’d like to kvetch about SPAM give me a call  503-258-1630 or check out my website at

The Big Secret About Getting Fired

Throughout my life there have been many times when I feel like Cassandra.  She was a Greek prophetess cursed by Apollo so that her prophecies, though true, were fated never to be believed.  For me it has often been about stating what I felt was obvious and having others look at me like I’d just landed from some other planet.

One of those areas in which I notice I have a really different perspective is ‘why people get fired.’  It looks like they got fired because they made mistakes, embezzled from the company, or didn’t do the job effectively.  My experience in corporate land says that’s not so.

Before I detail this out let me say that I’ve only been fired once, from my very first job.  I have, however, fired people, seen others being fired, and heard a myriad of stories from friends and clients about being fired.  I know this really isn’t about Money, and yet I keep running into this with clients.  My point is to expose that this does happen, and warn you so you don’t get caught in it yourself.

You may have a very different opinion, and here’s what I notice: What gets you fired is not really about the work you do, or don’t do.  It’s how you fit in the culture of the company.  It about whether or not the people in power like you—and by the way, those people may not be in the top slots on the org chart!  It’s a system thing.  Are you a fit?  Or do you stand out?

In many ways, a Company—just like a Country—has a personality.  In order to fit in and be successful you need to align with that personality.  If you don’t, you won’t last.

Oh,  they will find a more plausible reason to let you go than that you don’t fit.  But nevertheless, it will really be that you just don’t fit.

In my experience if you get hired and really aren’t competent at the job you will be let go within a short time—six months or less.  If you’ve been there awhile and somehow now they don’t like you, and you are sensing impending doom, know that it’s about  that you don’t fit in the current culture, or perhaps in where the culture is going.

The irony is that NO ONE actually talks about this.  Thus my Cassandra thing!  I worked in various Corporate lands from 1970 to 2000 and found this to be present everywhere.  As a manager I admit that I would find other issues/mistakes to come up with a viable reason for firing the person.  They were all true and valid.  However the real reason was that they just didn’t fit.

If someone fit in the culture those mistakes would be forgiven or overlooked.  If you don’t fit you aren’t forgiven.  Certainly in some ways this is awful, it’s like cliques in High School.  And it’s what is happening.

So my suggestion is to look for kindred spirits and places you ‘fit’ as a person, as much as you look for a job that suits your skills.  It’s no fun to stay where we don’t fit, and it’s more than likely not worth the money however much it is.

And if you are in a place that you did fit, and somehow the culture has changed, dig deeper and see if your being suddenly always in trouble, or let go has to do with that… there may be some financial compensation for you if the game has changed.  For example if you recently got a raise or a promotion, and then get transferred to another boss who fires you, there is something else going on—something for which you may be able to get some compensation.

Bottom line — fitting in is often way more important than being competent.  Just sayin’


Shell Tain, the Untangler

If you’d like to chat about Cassandra things of your own, or how to navigate these ‘not performance based’ problems give me a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at

Do Budgets Drive You Batty?

The typical answer to that question is an emphatic YES, THEY DO!  Many times in a presentation I have  asked: “How many of you have created a budget?” — most of the hands in the room go up.  Then I ask: “After you created the budget , how many of you actually ever looked at it again?” — almost all of the hands in the room go down!  My guess is that, as one of my ‘followers’, creating and using budgets isn’t your favorite method of managing your money?  Okay, maybe I understated that: You probably think of a budget as a form of torture, right?  You are not alone!

Before I get into exploring that, just in case you are worried that I’m going to end this blog suggesting that you use or create a traditional budget, have no fear!   What I’m actually going to do is explain why budgets don’t work for you, and suggest some other options.

Budgets can and do work… for analytical types.  You know them, they are those “logic first” people, the ones who create spread sheets and data bases for fun.  They are great people.  They are historians.  They like looking at all the data and coming to conclusions.  Good for them.  If you are one of them, you probably already have and enjoy using a budget.

If you aren’t one of those analytical types, all it means is that you are not happy crunching numbers.  You might be more ‘feeling’ oriented, more emotionally based.  Or you might be more ‘in the moment’ than interested in history and trends.  If that’s the case one of the biggest problems with a budget for you is that it’s after the fact.  What I mean is that you don’t have control in the moment.  You do what you do, spend what you spend.  Then you come home and as you load your spending into the budget spreadsheet you have either succeeded or failed.  By then you don’t really remember what your thoughts or emotions were when you were making the purchase, so you feel a bit lost.  Around this point is where most people feel shame, judgement, or even some bit of failure.

And there’s the rub, the thing that makes us batty.  It feels like something happened to you that you just couldn’t control because you are looking at the event before or after, instead of when it’s actually happening.  That’s why it feels so upsetting.  You are judging your action outside of the time when the actual choice was made.  At best you have a memory of what it felt like, not a clear vision of the choice.

If you are more of a big picture, emotional and/or an in the moment person, analysis after the fact won’t actually help you change your behavior.  It may make you feel bad about it, but it doesn’t give you any insights.

What will help you make better money choices is to find a way to be conscious of what you are spending—and why you are spending it—right in the moment that it is happening!  Make a list of things that often motivate your choices in the moment.  Things like:

  • Being tired, hungry
  • Feeling lonely, angry
  • Wanting something new, an emotional lift, some fun
  • Anxious to just get it done, settling for less than what you wanted

There are myriad possibilities, and you know what your go-to ones are.  Write them on a  card or note them on your phone. While you are standing in line to pay for your items, check if any of your purchases hit one of those spots?  and then make a choice to either buy it or not.  Understand what you are up to, make choices that truly work for you both in the moment and the long run.

A system like this, or my GOSH Model (which you can find on other blogs of mine) WILL help you be more conscious of your spending.  That’s what this whole budgeting thing is truly about — being conscious, aware, and purposeful in your spending.

Focus on having your spending and how you use your money reflect what you really care about. Your money will reflect your choices.


Shell Tain, the Untangler

If you’d like to explore just how you can let go of a budget and still have sound money practices give me a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at

Small Change?

What if both the idea of change, and its implementation could be less taxing than we imagine?  Actually not change as in coins, but change as in the verb.  Let’s explore that!

All sorts of things in life can be intimidating.  As humans we particularly like habit and routine.  It’s easier than looking at everything with “new” eyes all the time, truly!  So perhaps our inherent ‘risk aversion’ has gotten tangled up with an aversion to change?

Additionally our handy, dandy Inner Critics make change seem daunting and scary.  They tell us that all sorts of bad and complicated things will happen.  Then they tell us that we can’t change, that it’s too hard to change, that we aren’t capable of change—over and over and over again.

And big change is challenging, and arduous, I agree.  The new question is: “what if it’s actually about small change, instead of big change?”  Radical idea, eh?

One client I’m working with is in the midst of the discovery that you don’t have to change everything to be more effective.  A small change can be very effective on many levels.

Here’s an idea to embrace.  We don’t actually have to start over from scratch, we may just want to tweak things a bit!  We each have unique talents and strengths.  We are each a unique compilation of possibilities.  There is strength and value in that uniqueness.  Getting more effective results is more about small changes than trying to start from scratch.   Additionally if you try to change ‘everything’ about yourself, you are actually more likely to zoom right past and thus keep the part that’s not working, leaving it still not working.

When you lean on the support of what you are good at, it’s much easier to shift or change the parts that aren’t working well.   You are coming from strength, which is really effective.  One of the crucial aspects to making small changes work comes down to figuring out where the ‘sticky part’ is!

What I’m really trying to say here is that you don’t have to crawl through broken glass or become a different person to find more fulfillment or inner peace.  It’s more about narrowing in on small changes that can have a big impact.

Those changes are mostly around what we make up!   We make up stuff about:

  • How we are ‘supposed’ to be
  • What others want or need from us
  • What others think about us
  • How we judge ourselves

Which all comes down to a large pile of judgement (Inner Critic) which makes changes look big, hard, scary, and downright impossible.  And yet some changes are truly just small shifts.  Now those small shifts that make a big difference often seem to be in the land of boundaries.  Remember those?  Those handy little fences that manage everyone’s expectations!

So how about experimenting with making some small changes, and setting some simple boundaries between yourself and others?  What might happen then?  Oh and what might you do with those super talents of yours if you had a wee bit less distraction and judgement circling you?


Shell Tain, the Untangler

If you’d like to explore just what boundaries to set where give me a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at

Perfection is a Money Trap

Money is one of those areas where we have all made some mistakes.

  • We have bought things that didn’t work.
  • We have spent too much money on stuff we never used.
  • We have given people presents they didn’t like.
  • We have lost money on the sale of a house
  • We have gotten “taken to the cleaners” in a divorce.
  • We have run up charges and interest on our credit cards.

And yet we are mostly still here, and kicking!

Sure some of these things were and are avoidable.  And yet they also still serve to give our Inner Critic great fodder for berating us!

There are a couple of things I want to clear up about these ‘errors in judgement‘ and ‘mistakes‘ we all make with our money.

First, you got through them !  The problems may have been messy and costly, but you survived them!  It’s one of the things I think our ancestors that went through the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl got trapped in.  They somehow missed that they made it through the troubles, and that they didn’t happen again in the same way.  We tend to practice “one trial learning” with many things.  We tend to either try and hide our head in the sand or decide it will always be like it was, and avoid getting anywhere near the part we think is scary.  We stay trapped.

The other thing I’d really like my readers to consider is the value of the messing up.  Huh, you say!  How can there be value in having gone through that terrible time, that mess?

It’s all about learning!  As humans we actually learn by making mistakes, by being imperfect.  You don’t just get on a bike and ride it the first time.  You wobble and pedal and fall off.  The same process happens a bunch in other aspects of our lives, including money.  We screw up, make mistakes, and learn.  If we don’t make mistakes we don’t learn!

But instead of accepting that we make mistakes, sometimes in order to try and avoid “errors”, we try to be — or appear to be — perfect… yipes!  Just how patient are you with yourself?  Do you keep trying to attain something close to perfection to avoid judgement?  And do you notice that most of the judgement come from your inner critic, instead of the people around you?

Many of us have this thing in our heads about trying to be ‘perfect‘.  I truly think it’s one of the traps our Inner Critics use to keep us stuck in a rut.  Somehow we think we are supposed to be perfect without practice, failing, or learning.  Instead I really like the perspective that Maya Angelou put forth:  “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

We do recover, we do persevere, and we do learn.

Money is just one of the assets that we ‘spend’ while we are learning.  Money, Time, and Energy all get spent.   And I’d like to suggest that Money is really just a reflection of the other two: Time and Energy.

Here’s the really interesting question.  How much time, energy, and maybe even money do you spend trying to be perfect, protecting the idea that you are almost perfect, or even hiding that you aren’t perfect?  What if instead of getting trapped by perfection, you actually celebrated your mistakes as ways to learn?  What if it’s really about focusing on the learning, and not beating yourself up about that mistake you made?

It’s really likely that your attempt at perfection is a reaction to some really ‘old stuff’ that actually is no longer present in your life, right?  Like avoiding being judged or lectured.

Seems to me trying to be perfect has us holding on to, and getting stuck in, our errors in judgement, instead of learning from them, perhaps laughing them off, and most certainly moving on… what say you?


Shell Tain, the Untanlger

If you’d like some support letting go of trying for perfection, just give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at


Talking vs Action

There’s this fascinating thing that most of us do: we try to talk change into happening.  We depend more on what people say than on what they do!  It gets us in trouble!  Also, I think it gets us in internal trouble too.  We keep trying to fix or change things with words, instead of—and in place of—actions.  Somehow we think if we just keep asking and talking about how we need or want things to be different, they will be different.  Based on results, I’m not sure about that.  In fact, I’m more and more convinced that it’s both frustrating and ineffective.

Actually I have found, over time, that the old adage “actions speak louder than words” is well worth heeding!  Talking is a good thing in many ways.  It truly helps us understand what is going on, and it supports our coming up with strategies and ideas.  However, it doesn’t actually change things without corresponding action.

Let’s get real here.  You know that you have told yourself over and over that something needed to change… and that it didn’t actually change until you behaved differently, right?

In addition much of this ‘talking’ thing is based in our hope that others will change if we just talk to them.  If we just somehow explain how much they have hurt us, surely they will change!  It’s a thing that in Coachland is often called “the dream underneath the complaint”.  Surely the person you are talking to will see your pain, understand how important this is to you, and change?  Kinda not.  In all likelihood they are actually waiting for you to to change.

Yadda, yadda, yadda, on it goes, over and over.

There is a way out, though, radical as it may sound!  It’s about you behaving differently, instead of talking more.  It’s really kind of fascinating.  It’s a system thing.  As you change how you respond, and how you act, eventually the system changes too.  What that means is that if you behave differently, people will treat you differently—eventually!  Initially they will try to bring you back to the old dance.  It is, after all, an ingrained habit.  If, however, you persist in new ways of ‘being’ in the situation, others will either change with you or disengage entirely.

Meanwhile, you’ll be actually expressing who you are, and what you want, through your actions instead of having the same conversations over and over.

This reminds me of a friend I had long ago in South Carolina.  She had this adorable yet mischievous little girl.  The little girl had done something wrong, and her Mom told her that they were going to have to go in the other room and talk about it.  The little girl’s pleading response was “Oh, no Mommy!  Not the talk!  Anything but the talk!”  There’s more wisdom in the little girl’s response than is immediately apparent.  “The talk” doesn’t change anything, it doesn’t give her new actions to try.

Personally I’ve been trying out this place of “being and doing” what I want to have happen, instead of talking about it in several places.  I’m finding it does require patience and fortitude—and that it is quite effective.

As we approach a new year, we often set intentions or resolutions.  How does this idea of less talking and more doing factor into what you want to change or improve?


Shell Tain, The Untangler

If you’d like some help in this dance of shifting from talking to doing, just give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at

Are You Dirigible?

In looking for something to lend a bit of cheer this time of year — and perhaps some new money perspectives — I’ve come up with a new slant on your money beliefs.  What happens when you treat your money like a blimp?

A couple of weeks ago I was watching a truly silly 1930, Cecil B. DeMille film called ‘Madam Satan’.  I love these pre-code movies with the risque dialog and wild clothes, not to mention wacky plots.  This one is about the wife trying to get her cheating, playboy husband back from the ‘party girl’, Trixie.  Of course most of the action centers around a costume ball which includes auctioning off the ladies to rich guys!  The party is being held on a Zeppelin because that is what every wildly rich person does, right?  It’s quite a ride.

You won’t be surprised to find out that in the midst of the musical numbers and witty repartee there is a thunder storm which causes the Dirigible to go down.  It is a DeMille movie after all.  Naturally, there are some clever ways our ‘heroes’ end up surviving.

All this reminded me of the actual definition of Dirigible: “capable of being directed, steerable” — thus a blimp, air ship, or Zeppelin is a ‘steerable balloon.’

Okay, now this is not just a bit of whimsy.

It got me to thinking about the challenge that many folks have ‘directing and steering’ their personal money.

Your money can certainly feel like this big bag of air that seems to get untethered and wander off on its own, leaving you holding the string.  Perhaps it even feels like it has a mind of its own.  For many folks, things like student loans and credit card debt feel like big unwieldy things looming over you.

The crucial thing to do is to become more “dirigible”.  How might you make your money easier for you to manage, control and “steer”?

Like most complex things, it’s about smaller chunks, and processes.

How do you manage other projects?  What techniques work for you?  I’ll bet that there is a way you can use those same ideas around money?  Going back to the blimp analogy, it feels like you have to steer your money the way ‘experts’ do.  To that I say “not so much”, especially when it comes to your day-to-day money “dirigibility”!

The important thing is to find an simple way  to pay attention to what you are up to with your money — a way that allows you to ‘direct and steer’ it and also to enjoy and engage in the process.  Something more manageable than a giant zeppelin above you  that you try and steer from a tiny basket underneath!

Play with this a bit and see where it takes you.  And of course, if you need a bit of support in figuring out how to be more dirigible with your money, let me know!


Shell Tain, The Untangler

Rabbit Holes

While working with a client the other day, I hit upon this amusing way to conquer your inner critic.  Well maybe not exactly conquer?  More like avoid getting swamped by?

It’s all about Mr. Bunny here.   He’s a great example of how that inner critic (gremlin, monkey mind, whatever) works — it focuses on distracting you, big time!  Think about all those cartoons where Bugs drives Elmer and others wacky with distractions, interruptions, and wild antics.

The result is that the object of all this behavior just cannot think straight or function.  And that is exactly what your inner critic wants.  It wants to keep you safe by not having you do ANYTHING different.  After all you are currently safe, right?  You are not, in this moment on fire, so you must be safe.  What I’m pointing to is that your critic has an exceptionally narrow criteria for safety.  As long as you are not in imminent danger, it does NOT want you to do ANYTHING different.  Guess what — the best way to keep you from doing something different is to distract you!

This distraction technique can be very irritating, and hinder your progress.  I propose a new way to both think about it and react to it and it’s about the rabbit in two big ways:

First, it’s about the distraction technique of taking you down a rabbit hole.  Changing the subject, fussing about some detail, even getting angry — all examples of ‘falling down a rabbit hole’.  If you can imagine Bugs pushing you down that hole, it just might give you the idea of avoiding the hole!

Second, it’s all about the ‘Yeah, but…’ technique, which to my ears sounds amazingly like or at the very least rhymes with “Wabbit”.  You remember Elmer Fudd saying: ‘You wascally wabbit!‘  The ‘Yeah but…’ happens when someone has an idea.  Before the idea can actually get any traction the critic instantly blurts out a ‘Yeah but…’   Yeah but we don’t have the money for it.  Yeah but it will be hard.  Yeah but you’ve never done it before.  Yeah but…on and on it goes! The result being more distraction to take you off course, to stop you from getting anywhere close to going after your dreams or goals. What if when you said:  ‘Yeah, but…’ you could picture Elmer and the wabbit (yeah/but) in your brain?  It just might grab your attention long enough to help you recognize the ‘yeah, but’ as the distraction it is designed to be.

Here’s the bad news: Sorry, our critic voices are not going away — AND — you CAN choose to not let them overtake you  and run your life!  A very effective way to do that is with humor.  Our inner critics want you to take them seriously.   And one of the techniques they use to help that along is to get you seriously distracted from anything that might result in you doing something new and different.  Humor is a very effective way to interrupt the critic’s game!

Frankly, my job and goal is to help you actually leap into doing something different because as the old adage goes:  ‘You can’d keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.’  See if a bit of Bugs can’t help you create new and different results!

Okay, it’s a bit cliche, but I can’t resist it ‘That’s all folks!’

Shell Tain, The Untangler

If you’d like some help in avoiding your own rabbit holes, just give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at

The Upside of a Bad Money Behavior

This week I’ve invited my friend, Kathleen Burns Kingsbury to be a guest blogger.  She and I have been chatting about money and how it effects our clients every month for years now.  As you can tell from her words below we clearly have a similar take on how money thinking stymies us! See more about her, at the end of the blog.  If you’d like to check out her fascinating new book:  “Breaking Money Silence®” 

Have you ever wondered why you don’t always act in responsibly ways when it comes to money? Or maybe you are financially fit and find it hard to understand why a loved one seems to spend or invest money in an irrational manner. The reason is simple. There is an upside to every bad money behavior.  That is why it is so difficult to change poor habits, including unhealthy financial habits. The short-term gain keeps you coming back for more.

Dana is a great example. She loves to buy expensive gadgets, but knows that she spends too much of her take home pay on these toys. Dana knows that this spending behavior is getting in the way of her goal to save for a down payment for her first home. When asked, Dana tells me that she wants to stop overspending on electrics.  But her actions tell a different story.

What Dana doesn’t realize is that buying something new gives her a rush, makes her feel good after a long week at work, and boosts her self-esteem. All her friends fondly call her “the gadget queen.” There is a big upside to this unhealthy money behavior. Until Dana appreciates the benefits of this habit, it will be hard, if not impossible to change.

Do you identify with Dana? Do you have a habit or behavior that you would love to stop but find it difficult to let go of? If so, here are some inquiries for you to consider.

What is the short-term benefit of this money behavior?

As a trained behavioral change specialist, I always look for the brilliance in the bad behavior. In other works, what are the benefits of staying stuck or not changing? In Dana’s case not changing her spending habits helped her feel good about herself and good in the moment.

What would it be like to not receive this short-term benefit?

The first step in changing an unhealthy habit is realizing how it serves you. In Dana’s case, the bad habit was paired with feeling good and special. If she is going to save more money, and spend less money she will have to grieve the loss of the excitement she feels each time she buys the latest gadget. This is not an easy task, but possible. It is easier to sit with uncomfortable feelings once you label them and know that feeling them is temporary and part of what will ultimately help you heal. 

What other coping strategy can I use to get these needs met?

Dana’s desire to feel good about herself is not unhealthy and in fact, is a good thing. It is just that how she is going about it is hurting her financially. When you want to change a habit make sure you find other ways of meeting your underlying need. In Dana’s case, she started a blog about gadgets. This way she didn’t have to buy every toy, but could stay up on the latest trends in electronics. She also was still seen as “the gadget queen” by her friends and that was an important part of her identity.

Asking these three questions will help you identify the upside of any unwanted money habit. While the answers are not a magic wand, they do provide valuable data to aid in the change process. So the next time you are beating yourself up for a bad habit, instead wonder about the upside.

Kathleen Burns Kingsbury is a wealth psychology expert, founder of KBK Wealth Connection, host of the  Breaking Money Silence® podcast, and the  author of several books including How to Give Financial Advice to Women and How to Give Financial Advice to Couples. Her new book, Breaking Money Silence:  Shatter Money Taboos by Helping Your Clients Openly Discuss Their Finances was published September 30, 2017. For more information, visit

Thanks Kathleen, I love having you come play!

Shell Tain, The Untangler


First Things First

When it comes to untangling our myriad of personal money knots, it seems to me there is an essential concept that is missing.  It’s about putting first things first.

Do you have some challenges with money?   Around 97% of us do.  There are bunches and bunches of problems people have with money.  Although there are many, many variations, it mostly it comes down to:

  • Not having as much as we want.
  • Not knowing how to manage it.
  • Spending more that we make.

In other words we realize that something isn’t working for us around money.  And whatever we have decided the missing piece is, we then seek to ‘fix’ it directly.  We try to make more.  We take a class on budgeting.  We set rules around spending.  All that sounds like a great idea… and yet, it doesn’t work, does it?

It’s actually pointing to a much bigger issue, one that I discovered long ago in ‘Corporate Land’.  In my day as a Controller/CFO, the ‘rule’ was to not bring up a problem unless you had a solution.  Sounds good, but there is a big trap in there.

The trap is that you end up ‘fixing’ things that aren’t the actual problem, and thus actually creating more problems.

Huh?  Well in business the fix is usually a form or a procedure, and if it doesn’t address the real underlying issue, it just makes for more bureaucracy and fiddly irritation, right?  I finally learned that the longer process of actually discussing the issue came up with much more effective solutions!

So let’s go visit a hypothetical married couple and see what’s happening in the money tangle of their marriage.  For grins lets say that he keeps a budget to the penny and is watching money all the time, and that she never looks at it and spends it on things that make her feel good.  They fit the criteria we had above — not having enough, not managing it well, and spending too much.  I’m guessing you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that talking about money is less than fun for them? It’s pretty messy and challenging, right?

So what solutions do they try?  My guess is all sorts of things that are based on changing the behavior without actually understanding what caused it in the first place.  They get into a push-me/pull-you power game that doesn’t take into consideration the ‘Why’ under the behavior.

And yes, I’m back to my concept that we all have 5-year-olds running our money:

  • Because it is the most taboo topic on the planet
  • Because no one talks about how to actually deal with it
  • Because we make up ways to manage it that make sense to our little kid brain
  • Because we then leave the little kid part of us in charge so we don’t have to deal with it

And so I come back to ‘First Things First’.  No budget or plan will work until you understand what your little kid part decided about money.  No lecture or personal rant from yourself or your spouse will help until you dig deep and find out what you made up about money.

By what you ‘made up’ I mean conclusions that you came to, most likely as a child, about money.  Let me give you some actual examples of conclusions clients have shared with me:

  • Money ruins families
  • Money was the only way my family showed affection
  • Money was the only criteria for success in my family
  • My family believed money was bad and evil

Are there all sorts of wonderful ways to manage and handle your money more effectively?  Absolutely!  I have, use, and share a bunch of them—and they don’t help at all until you’ve untangled the underlying knot.  Until you’ve addressed the likely ineffective thinking you’ve been operating under for years.

Please give yourself the gift of addressing first things first before you leap into the action steps!  The results will be much more effective, truly!


Shell Tain, The Untangler

If you’d like some help in untangling that really old hidden money knot in your head, just give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at