Monday Morning Quarter-Buck 06/11/2018: It's NOT Normal


“A great pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.” – Walter Bagehot

It’s been a few weeks since our last Monday Morning Quarter-Buck!  We apologize for the brief hiatus but stay tuned for lots of content over the remainder of 2018.  The team has been hard at work getting ready to educate on a variety of topics!

I thought the quote this week was fitting because it has been three-years since I went “independent.”  I can’t believe it!  I remember being told I would fail, and believe me, there are times where I wondered if it were true.  However, all of you reading this blog have continued to be an inspiration to me.  I also have a bit of a “watch me” personality.  A characteristic that was challenging to my mother when I was a child, but has been the light at the end of the tunnel.  Additionally, I am so thankful that I have such a supportive, encouraging husband that pulled me up in my moments of self-doubt.

On a sad note, it’s also been a heart-breaking couple of weeks as a few of our clients have experienced some major losses in their lives.  In one particular case, I was in line for calling hours and the person in front of me said the normal things like, “I’m so sorry for your loss, she’s in a better place now, she will be missed.”  I watched the face of the person receiving that news, it was complete despair.  She said, “I’m going to miss her so much,” and the person said “yes, of course, that’s normal.”

I cringed when I heard that phrase.  The person wasn’t trying to belittle the emotion of grief, but have you ever been told, “that’s normal?”  Does it really FEEL normal?  I’ll venture to guess the answer is no.  I remember a few years ago a doctor told me that my test results were in the “normal range.”  Yes, they were in the normal range for the US population, but not in MY normal range, and I DID NOT FEEL normal.  When I got him to ignore the most recent test result and look at the progress of the test results, he admitted it wasn’t normal. 

So why do we do that to each other?  Why do we tell our friends and family that something that is so abnormal is “normal?”  In my most recent podcast recording with Attorney Tony Ford, we discussed this a little bit, especially when it comes to estate planning – check out Episode 19 where we talk about Highland Park Scotch, wine in a box, Chianti Classico, the importance of estate planning, and Artificial Intelligence.

In addition to these sad events, this idea of “normal” has been heavy on my mind and heart lately as I’ve witnessed one of my nephews endure significant bullying because he’s VIEWED as not “normal,” yet he’s one of the most loving individuals I know!  Not to mention the emptiness I’ve seen in the eyes of my friends that have “lost” love ones recently, and even at a global level, where celebrities that we thought had it all simply didn’t feel “normal” and didn’t feel they had any other options.

I’ve also witnessed it on the financial side of people’s lives.  How much debt is “normal?”  Is any amount of debt “normal?”  Ask a 22-year-old recent college graduate if $40,000 in student loan debt and a monthly payment of approximately $400 feels “normal.”  Yet, that is the average amount of student loan debt the class of 2017 started their adult lives with.  I just read recently that student loan debt is now at 1.5 Trillion dollars!  This is extremely stressful for most of these young adults and their parents, so in my opinion, we need to change how we think about normal.

According to WebMD, in general financial stress is one of the top stressors, especially when we melt job loss, unexpected illnesses, financial consequences of an accident, under that same umbrella.  We are told it is “normal” to stress about these items, but I would disagree.  If you have a plan for these items, then you don’t stress about them, you know you have a plan if any of them happens.

I’m wondering if this is something that we tell each other because our country has a stigma when it comes to what is normal.  Think about something you may have said (I know I have) like, “I need a mental health day.”  Yet, we don’t take those days, why?  Somedays, we just need to disconnect and do something fun and different, or absolutely nothing at all!   During another one of my most recent Wine and Dime Podcast – Episode 17 with Raquel Hinman, we explored mental health and how it is a “hidden” medical issue.  We discussed what feels “normal” and what doesn’t and some resources that are available.

Because this has been weighing so heavy on my heart, it got me wondering how I could help my employees and clients with their own proactive mental health wellness?  Should we be preventative with our mental health, just like our physical health?  Should we have a check up (or check in) annually to make sure there aren’t any “danger” signs?  We are told that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so I took those questions to Elley Newton, who is a mental health counselor.  We chatted about how to keep our mental health in check and ways that people could be more proactive about the mind and body connection.  I was so intrigued that I want to offer a class on this later this summer (so stay tuned). 

I also read several articles that I found extremely interesting, one in particular was called, “10 Things You Can Do to Improve Your Mental Health Every Day” by Patricia Harteneck, PHD, MBA.  I’ve started a journal to track these items, as it helps me see my progress.  I’ve found the hardest one is to “open up to someone else.”  I find this ironic because that is what I ask of each of my clients every time I interact with them, and I hope this article helps you feel more comfortable with the process and ongoing communications.

I’d love to hear what you find most challenging, so much so that the first 5 people that respond will receive a great, easy read, book by one of my 403bwise colleagues, Dan Otter, Ph.D called “Financial Literacy for the Young, (and the Young at Heart).”