From: John Friedman
Sent: Saturday, January 05, 2008 9:08 PM
Subject: The First Week of January Test
Greetings all —
This is a group email, going out to clients and friends of JFRQ Consulting, about the First Week of January Test — an easy to use, quick as can be, test to help you determine how well you’re faring on the second prong of the two-prong definition of financial health I’ve developed over the years (described more fully below).
To begin, then — quick! — answer this question for yourself, honestly, unhesitatingly, and top-of-minded’ly:
How does it feel to be back in the saddle after the holidays? Are you feeling all charged up, rarin’ to go, and like you have a brand spankin’, perfect and all-shiny-new 2008 stretching out in front of you, together with oodles of goodies to fill it up with? Or are you feeling something other than all that?
Hmmm … and just what does that sort of thing, you might ask, have to do with financial health? For the answer, please read on …
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The Test Described.
Financial health, as I define it, has two main components:
1. The Numeric Component of Financial Health (a/k/a the Balance Sheet or Money-Stored component)
The first component of the definition of financial health has to do with your stored-up wealth: is it of a scale that allows you to perceive your life and the lives of those whom you include within your life as being not overly encumbered or threatened or constrained by your financial situation?
Note well the use of the word overly in there, to account for the fact that most of us will never perceive ourselves as being 100% financially unencumbered, 100% financially unthreatened, and 100% financially unconstrained.
So the first prong is mostly about all things considered, do I have enough? And here, for most folks, more is better.
2. The Non-Numeric Component of Financial Health (a/k/a the Income Statement or Money-In component)
The second component of the definition of financial health has to do with how well your economic self coexists with all of your other selves: is what you’re doing to bring money into your life (or, if you already have enough, if what you’re doing with the money already in your life) giving you a grin, or is it giving you a grimace?
After all, if what you’re doing day-in and day-out to make your economic way in this ol’ world of ours is tearing away a part of your heart, ulcerating a rip into your stomach, and stressing-out a swatch of your wazoo (the most painful part of the body in which stress can reside …), how can that be financial health?
So the idea here is that, somewhere out there, each of us has within us a happy integration between all of our selves, where our money life is totally consistent with who we are, and in fact amplifies and reinforces the better parts of our selves, generating an ever-so-sweet virtuous circle.
The Roots of the Test.
I initially wrote about The First Week of January Test several years ago, in an essay on my not-really-a-blog blog, called (you guessed it) The Financial Health Blog at http://financialhealth.blogspot.com.
That, then, is what the First Week of January Test is all about, and from whence it came. Now it’s on to a short section on how you can best use the test to further your own financial health, remembering all the while the tried and true MBA’ism that, that which is measured is more likely to be controlled.
The Test Applied.
The odds are that many people reading this email are doing so during the first hour of the first Monday of the first full workweek of 2008. That point in time, or thereabouts, is perfect for putting yourself to the test. You can do so by asking yourself:
How do I feel, now that I’m back from the holidays, looking out at a brand spanking new year — all shiny and new? How’m I doing in terms of balancing, on the one hand, what I love doing, and, on the other, how I spend my days?
And for those of you in a to-do frame of mind, here’s your to-do: please measure yourself on The First Week of January Test by (a) writing a paragraph or two about all the different financial health plusses and minuses you’re feeling this week, and (b) as part of that writing, assigning a number from 1 through 10 for how all of that feels, with 10 being sheer nirvana and 1 being the worst rut you’d ever dare let yourself be in. Do that every first week of January from now on, and, by gosh, pretty soon you’ll have yourself a nice little record of how well you’ve been doing when it comes to improving the balance between what you love doing and how you spend your days.
Those wanting to have a tool for drawing groovy pictures of your First Week of January Test results, please do let me know. Because, as many of you know, I’m always happy to teach a piece of dumb software how to draw smart pix of interesting numbs …
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Cheers, all, and may your First Week of January Test test results start out great and get greater year after year after year after year …
Excerpt from An Exquisite Balance re: The First Week of January Test
Thursday, January 5, 2006
Now let’s look at how all of us economic beings feel in the first week of the new year.
It’s good to do so because, at this time of the year more so than any other, we can all judge how well we’ve aligned our economic selves with the other parts of our selves. We can do that by seeing how we feel as we climb back into the saddle — back into our working selves — after being mostly off work for a week or maybe even two.
So how’s it feel?
Many of us find that climbing back into the saddle after being essentially off work for a week or maybe even two is pure torture. We’ve realized how much more we like life when we’re not doing what we do to be economic beings, and even though we might wonder whether we would find it as much fun if our lives were always like one big holiday break, we imagine that we could figure out how to make it great, and that, at the very least, we’d like to have the challenge.
Others of us find the climb back into the saddle tantamount to coming home, as, for us, being away from work is like being away from our selves — removed from that which is us. Those of us who feel that way probably figured out ways to be working here and there over the holiday, because not working is, in essence, not being.
A subset of us folks in this latter category feel that torture element especially strongly because for us the holidays means family time, and, in an unhappy twist, being with family is like being away from home.
A lucky few of us, though, are at home both when we’re at work and when we’re at play and everywhere in between; we’ve aligned our economic selves with the other parts of our selves (Schedule C filers and business owners note: when it gets harder and harder to distinguish between personal and business expenses, you are accomplishing something that is very good medicine for most people).
So as we climb back into the saddle after our time off, and as we stare at a brand spanking new year ahead of us, all shiny and fresh, we feel good on all accounts: we’re happy to be back at work because there are so many exciting things to look forward to, and to accomplish, in the coming year, just as we’re happy to have had wonderful time off with family and fewer accomplishings to check off the old list. Both are good; both are in balance; both feed the other; both make our world go ‘round.
If you are lucky enough and smart enough to get to that lofty state (methinks it takes both), then retirement takes on an entirely different meaning. Indeed, for those few who find the balance described above, the whole idea of a cliff retirement (i.e., the kind of retirement where one day you’re working full time and the next day you’re never going to work again for the rest of your life) looks risky, fraught with peril and just plain ol’ out of balance. Why come to think of it, it could even kill ya!
So as you sit there in your particular saddle the afternoon of January 5, 2006 (or whenever it is that you might be reading this), here’s hoping that you feel both (a) reluctant to be back in the saddle (because you had such a great holiday and want more more more) and excited (because you are so very much looking forward to making the year a wonderful one for your economic self, with much promise, lots to do, and lots of creation and good to be accomplished).
Here’s hoping, then, that both the rearview mirror and the forwardview window make you feel equally (precisely equally) smile-ful, that you feel equally (precisely equally) smile-ful when you contemplate both the social parts and the working parts of your days to come, and that your only regret (not often contemplated, but necessarily contemplated as you go along on your merry bliss-ninny way) is the fact of your own inevitable mortality. But that regret is for a day not today!