I recently got to do 5 Questions with Lea, so I decided it was Dr. Thia’s turn for another round of ask the coach! I wanted to ask the coach a few questions where the answers weren’t obvious to me what she would say! I hope you enjoy this article with thoughts from Dr. Thia, MPower Co’s Director of Education!
What do you think is one important mindset to take into your courses?
Not only is an open mindset important for people to bring to our courses, but it is also important to have for day-to-day living. A growth mindset is the understanding that abilities and understanding can be developed. Those with a growth mindset believe that they can get smarter, more intelligent, and more talented through putting in time and effort.
It is realizing that there is no finish line when it comes to life-long learning.
Why are you so passionate about the field of positive psychology?
I’m proud to have spent almost 40 years teaching adults how to have better financial futures. I urge people to be life-long learners and the best way to teach it is to model life-long learning. About ten years ago, I considered the financial stability my husband and I had worked our lifetimes to achieve. I also looked at my co-workers in financial education that practiced what we teach. Instead of seeing people enjoying their success, I tended to see people that were fundamentally dissatisfied with their lives. They wanted an even greater net worth. They wanted more awards. They wanted to keynote even more national and international conferences. Write more books to make more money. They were not happy people and I was just like them. I was in the midst of all this stress and striving, and realized that nearly all of us were missing out on enjoying life – like experiencing happiness and contentment.
What if I quit pursuing happiness and could be happy right now? Not only would it change my life, but it would also impact my young adult children, my husband, and everyone around me. As a scientist, I didn’t find the self-help books substantive. About that time, I discovered a graduate program at my university on positive psychology. Positive psychology is for people that are by most professional measures, doing okay but are people that know their life could be even better.
Who doesn’t want to dial up their well-being? Many of us are doing okay most days, however, we realize our lives could be better. We are pursuing happiness, but not getting to enjoy it today. Positive psychology is about dialing up your current wellbeing.
What’s the purpose of financial activity? It isn’t just to buy goods and services and provide financial security for the future. The role needs to be supporting well-being and happiness both today and in the future. It is the missing link in how to maximize finances to live a good life.
What’s the purpose of financial management? To be happier – both today and in the future. I was a pioneer in combining the fields of financial education and positive psychology and exploring the synergy between the two.
What is the value of having a money and well-being coach?
You can be an expert in your field and have not taken the time to learn about financial management.
Your strengths can be in something other than financial management. Some talented people’s brains just don’t get it when it comes to financial management. I had a doctor once that was brilliant, but he was brilliant in medicine and not in finances. I could have lived on the money he wasted. We agreed, laughing together, I would have allowed him to do brain surgery, had it been needed, but I would not have had any confidence in him balancing my checkbook.
You’re impulsive. Ready! Fire! Aim! Financial coaches help to protect us from ourselves. When it comes to investing, for example, two principles are:
Buy low, sell high.
It is time, not timing in the investment market.
What do people tend to do when investment markets are fluctuating? If we’re not careful, we may buy high and sell low. Not keeping our money in the market for the long-haul short-changes our money’s time in the market.
Why do you think money and finance is such a taboo topic?
In the old days, it wasn’t lady-like to be informed or to talk about money. A few, by their actions, still believe that today. I don’t.
I don’t think it should be a taboo topic in families, but it is for many. I think we are uncomfortable talking about it because most of us don’t feel confident about our financial knowledge and skills. The insurance industry, banking industry, investment industry, and legal industry have done a terrible job of providing quality education. All these fields complicate their communications with complex words and jargon. They tend to talk in circles around us and exhaust us. No wonder many people aren’t confident they have unbiased, correct knowledge of finances.
I also think we hesitate to talk about money because it is such an emotional topic. Money is the #1 source of conflict in families. We need to talk about it more, not less, to the point that it becomes as common as talking about the weather. What’s the stock market done in recent months? What’s inflation running? What consumer goods are particularly rising in prices?
Why did I choose to study personal financial planning for my graduate degrees? It is deeply personal and tugs at my emotions. My parents couldn’t talk calmly about money. They were wonderful people. They loved each other. But they could not talk about money without it becoming a power issue of who was going to control the decisions about how money was spent and saved. They made good decisions, but the process of making the decisions was painful for me to watch as a child. I didn’t want that to be my reality as an adult. I have a personality that likes to study what I don’t understand – and that’s what drew me to this important academic field.
Fortunately, it hasn’t been my reality. My spouse and I share some financial goals. He supports me in some individual financial goals he doesn’t share, and vice versa. We can talk about sensitive topics like our estate planning and insurance strategies with our adult children during dinner and on the way to sporting events. I don’t want to pretend we are perfect financial managers. We occasionally get ripped off or make an impulsive purchase – and we learn from it and know how to battle financial fraud and return unsatisfactory items. On the other hand, we have the confidence to constantly learn and seek to be effective financial managers. I love to buy and sell cars, for example, because I am confident, and pretty easily hold my own with auto dealers.
What are the biggest misconceptions about money that you see over and over again?
Three immediately come to mind and I see people continually acting like they believe:
- You can borrow your way to financial success. No, you save your way to financial success.
- I’ll save for retirement and the kid’s college later. Tomorrow never comes.
- I’ll pay attention to my finances tomorrow. I’m too busy today. It is never convenient to pay attention to your finances. Do it anyway.
What are tips people can use now to improve their life?
The questions you ask yourself are key:
- Do you want to live like a poor college student in retirement? If the answer is no – then it is important to plan for retirement and to set aside money for those years now.
- When you have choice time – ask yourself, “What’s the happiest use of my time, right now.”
- When you are worried, “Would it be a problem if I weren’t thinking about it?”
- At work, “What’s the best use of my time to meet my employer’s goals right now?”
- When is the last time I played? Find a kid and play – wreck some toy trucks, get out blankets and make tents over the dining room chairs, play Uno, have a pretend animal clinic, relearn what it is to play.
- Put the damn cell phone down, push away from your computer and start living again.Most people want to have an even better life. What’s the most significant barrier to making it happen?
Dr. Thia is the author and coach of our online course Happiness Habitudes, which is all about living a happier life starting now. If you are ready to learn more about positive change, happiness and well-being, MPower Co can support you in your journey with research-based and evidence-based knowledge, skills and motivation. Dr. Thia, who this ask the coach post was all about, is ready to work with you! Learn more about Happiness Habitudes on the course page.
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