Many of us on this list have noticed the powerful similarities between behavior with food, and behavior with money. I’ve really enjoyed talking with some of you about the similar mechanisms.

What’s it like for you now?

My brain is extremely literal. Food goes IN (to the body), and money spent goes OUT (to other people who will then give me things). So I would rationally assume that these directions would cancel out potential similarities. Maybe it does for some people, and they don’t know what the heck I’m writing about here.

Not me, though. Food and money behaviors are eerily similar. My former food binges had an awful lot in common with my former spending sprees (secretive, desperate, belief that it will make a whole lot feel better afterwards, Gollum with the “Precious” ring, remorse afterwards, etc).

And my former food restricting felt so similar to trying to control financial fears and my financial reality (willpower/tension/holding on very tight, delaying any pleasure or sense of security until an indefinite future/ once I’ve been “good” enough through deprivation, wanting to punish myself for past “mistakes” with overeating or overspending, as if I can change anything that has already happened. Natalie Portman’s character in Black Swan.)

I’ve had clients in the past, or people who were considering working with me, ask for a formula for their spending and saving. They’ve said, “just tell me exactly what to do and I’ll do it”. If that worked to fix money problems, here is basically what anyone and everyone could do for financial health:

-know your net worth, and make decisions that will increase that number during your working years, while also caring exquisitely for your health in the meanwhile

-spend at least 20% less than you earn if you’re employed, more like 40-50% less if you’re self-employed and pay your own taxes. Know those actual numbers and how it works, instead of just thinking guiltily, “I should save more”, as you change no financial behavior.

-save for the future, for the likely time where you’d like to have more options to slow down or stop working, or when health concerns may require it beyond your preference. Know your desired retirement savings number, and get automatic contributions coming out of your spending account(s) and in to your savings account(s). Then don’t touch that saved money until you have absolutely no other choice, and legitimately need it to live on.

-If you’re not one of those people who believe in debt as a strategic tool (as I am not at this point), don’t rely on credit cards. If you use them, keep them paid off. Rely on cash power instead of hoping your credit score will prove that you can extend yourself financially to create more debt, to get “stuff” that you’ll need to work even harder to pay for.

-Spend no more than 30% of your take-home pay on your rent or mortgage. (Yes, even in the Bay Area.)

-Make a monthly predictive spending plan, and track it versus your actual spending.  Do this respectfully, without getting obsessive or compulsive about it. Follow the plan, and make sacrifices when needed to keep your spending in check and meet your savings goals.

-Understand your investments. Choose sensible things that you understand how they are making your money, make more money for you over time.

That’s it! That’s most of the recipe for financial success! So are you ready to Nike that list, and just GO DO IT??!!!

I imagine there are some people in the world who can “behave” in balance, without driving themselves crazy, when told what to do.  People who can just accept suggestions and take them peacefully and never have to look back.

The neat and tidy part of me longs for that recipe to work, without any bumps in the road. People have told me how to do it, there is all the information…..and I still behave weirdly with money (and food) sometimes! What gives?!

Back on the food topic, I found myself thinking tonight, “I just need to find a nutritionist who will tell me exactly what to eat, and that will solve the problems.” I’ve had some minor health issues that could turn in to major health issues, if I don’t start hydrating better ever day, and eating more vegetables. Aren’t those just the most obvious things in the world? But even after years of spiritual practice in the food arena, getting tons of support and working with many nutritionists in the past, my behavior is still not meeting this simple criteria.

It’s not a knowledge problem. So what is it?

What might be going on for you, if you know certain truths about financial behavior which you haven’t practiced (or practiced consistently…almost anyone can make a start at this stuff)…?

I recommend you read this article about what financial behaviors to NOT pass on to your kids

(And remember that there is a kid inside of you who wants to feel safe and healthy, who is watching your financial behaviors, as well…)

I especially liked this quote:

“One of the biggest financial problems many households have is almost a silent one. It isn’t debt itself, but rather the quiet acceptance of it as some sort of “friend” in your life. If you come to see debt in that way, your kids will too.”