Growing up, I got the message that it was totally acceptable for women to avoid the financial realm of life; the money stuff was the men’s problem.
Over the past decade, one of the most fulfilling personal shifts I’ve made has been to become more proactive about the money realm of my life — absorbing more financial education, and generally facing – not avoiding – the details of financial management that a conscious life requires.
When I encountered Bari Tessler’s work, however, I went from pushing myself to be more in touch with my money situation to loving being in touch with my money situation. Looking at the books, reflecting on what’s there, and making shifts accordingly, has become one of my favorite ways to spend my time. Believe me; I could never have predicted that.
So today, I’m very happy to share with you a little about Bari’s work. She has a new book out that’s so helpful, that I recommend highly.
I asked Bari to share with us a little about her work.
TARA: How did you come to be working with people around their relationship to money?
BARI: Never in a million years did I think I would be a Financial Therapist supporting people in their money relationship. In my early twenties, I decided I wanted to be a therapist, but I assumed I would tackle topics like sexuality, sensuality, food, body, intimacy and relationships. It took a long time for me to realize that the portal I would use to beckon people into more mindfulness, compassion, and intimacy was money.
By the time I was in graduate school at Naropa (studying somatic psychology, authentic movement, and rites of passage), I began to realize that financial literacy — of any kind — was a huge missing piece in my education.
Even in my incredible graduate program, where we acted as our own case studies and scrutinized our relationship with every topic under and beyond the sun, we never talked about money or our relationship with it.
For me, this all came crashing to a head just after I graduated — the day I got my first student loan bill in the mail. I didn’t know how on earth I was going to make those minimum monthly payments. I didn’t know how I was going to find meaningful work in the world — a career that utilized my gifts, served my community, and allowed me to thrive, financially. I felt ashamed that I didn’t somehow already know how to do all of this “money stuff.”
That day, I made a life-changing decision. I wasn’t going to run away. I was going to look money in the eye and figure it out.
And I was going to do it my way, which meant understanding money on a practical, emotional, psychological and spiritual level. I was going to listen to my body’s wisdom through it all. I was going to infuse it with my values (deeper meaning, playfulness, creativity, beauty, serving others) and everything that mattered most to me.
I started learning everything I could about money. I stayed up late reading about bookkeeping and accounting. I learned QuickBooks and hung up my shingle as a bookkeeper. I started doing bookkeeping for artists, healers, and creative folks, who often handed off their “money stuff” to me like a hot potato: they were ecstatically relieved not to have to deal with this icky area of life anymore.
Everyone around me, no matter their income level, background, religion, or musical tastes, was suffering around money in some way. Most of us never learned how to manage money, let alone navigate our feelings and emotions about it.
I began guiding small groups of really brave people into deep money work. Over many years, I led group after group, honing my methodology. We examined our money stories. We shed our shame and created money healing rituals. We explored how our income and expenses could become sacred vessels for our values. And we also shared our numbers and got smart about savvy tools and practices.
On June 14th, my first book, The Art of Money: A Life-Changing Guide to Financial Happiness, was born into the world.
TARA: It is amazing to think about how often we don’t get that education, and how therapists are often trained to look specifically at so many areas of life – but not this one.
What’s one money issue you see coming up for women in particular?
BARI: I don’t love making generalizations about women-specific issues. So many of the issues people face with money are universal. That being said, one theme that comes to mind is VALUE. Again: this is true for many men, as well, but I see more women struggling with this.
Many women arrive at my doorstep struggling with profound questions about money and value. How can I honor my value within my money relationship? What does that even mean? How can I claim my value? How can I FEEL my value, in my bones? How can I translate my inner sense of self-worth into my earning, spending, saving, and gifting? These questions cut very deep, very quickly. They’re about money — but they’re never just about money.
Many people have attempted to answer these questions with the modern mantra, “charge what you’re worth.” This is well-intentioned, but it utterly misses the mark. We are worthy simply by being born a unique, precious human being — and this has nothing to do with how much money is in our bank accounts or even what we charge for our services. To charge what we’re “worth” would be infinite and incalculable.
By starting with the inner work of claiming our value, we can translate our self-worth into external actions. We can stop over-yes-ing and under-no-ing, over-giving and under-receiving. We can take strong (if baby) steps towards healthier, more empowered relationships with money and every aspect of our lives.
TARA: That certainly resonates with me. Before we wrap up, I wanted to share with everyone three takeaways from the book that I found super helpful.
1. Most of us have some kind of money shame. It might be about the wealth have, or came from, or the resources we don’t have. It might be about financial mistakes of the past. Whatever the cause, that shame keeps us stuck in unhealthy patterns. For me, just reading the stories of others’ money shame was very healing.
2. It’s okay to make Money Dates fun. Reading about your ritual of how you go over your books – candlelit, dark chocolate by your side – was such a revelation to me. I started to think about how I can have more of that sensibility, that this is a special time of self-care, and it really changed how I approach those sessions.
3. Pay attention to how you name your spending. You talk about how, in budgeting, it can be so powerful not to just write “mortgage” on the balance sheet, but “Home” or “Sanctuary.” To not just write “Food” but “Nourishment” or even “Healthy Family” or whatever that category is really about for the person. In this way, we start to see spending as not just a drain on resources, but a reflection of our values – or we notice where it isn’t. And you also write about how we name and think of our debt matters, looking honestly at what was going on during the period we accrued it, and honoring it – whether it was schooling or an unpaid maternity leave or just a painful time in our lives. When we see what that time was about, and what it gave us, we can feel less resentful – and therefore motivated to move forward it paying it off.
So tell our readers, where can we get the book?
BARI: I am beyond excited to share my book with you! It’s so many years in the making, and I couldn’t be happier with it. It includes my entire, 3-phase methodology (Money Healing, Money Practices, and Money Maps), woven together through intimate stories from my own money journey and those of my dear community and colleagues. It’s warm, un-shaming, and includes simple tools and practices anyone can start using, right now, to transform their relationship with money. (Watch a short video of Bari reading from the book at her favorite local bookstore, here.)
The Art of Money: A Life-Changing Guide to Financial Happiness, is now available online and at many local bookstores across the US and Canada. Details and where to buy are right here on Bari’s website.