Is Your Financial Confidence “Shallow”?

Ed Kerns |

Whether or not you watched the Oscars earlier this week, you’ve likely heard about the performance of Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga singing their award-winning song “Shallow” from the movie A Star Is Born. While Lady Gaga is widely known as a powerful singer who always brings a theatrical flair to her shows, I wasn’t surprised to see how she created such an intimate mood for this performance. Bradley Cooper, on the other hand, while generally seen as a solid actor, isn’t known for his singing.

Even though he’s got his critics, he put in a lot of work to be able to pull this off. To get a sense of what he had to overcome, Cooper shares in an article from O magazine, “I had no idea how to breathe. I knew nothing about singing – nothing. It’s such a difficult art form singing in front of people, because you lose your breath right away when you’re nervous.”

Something similar often happens when I sit down with someone for the first time to discuss their finances. We talk about the past and what they want for their future. There’s almost always nervousness. For many, sharing financial information and personal desires and values regarding their money is no less nerve-racking than singing in public. I can relate. I’ve dealt with my own brand of shallow confidence with one of my hobbies: singing. Therefore, I relate to Bradley Cooper as he prepared for his movie role. My wife hears me sing all the time when I play the guitar around the house. Apparently, she thought I could use a little help so she got me singing lessons for my birthday a few months ago. I wasn’t amused with the gift and told her to get her money back. I wasn’t diving into the deep end of public scrutiny.

As I maintained my protest over the coming weeks, deep down I wanted to have the confidence to do this. A few days before the first class, I agreed to go. Six weeks of group singing lessons. Two hours before I went to the first class, my wife looked back at the email she received from the voice coach and saw that I’d be required to sing a song a capella the first night and that it would be videoed. That breathtaking nervousness rushed back in, but I still went. The group only consisted of three people. Me, Ellie, and Cole. Ellie’s twelve and Cole’s sixteen. I felt like Kramer from Seinfeld in that episode where he’s taking karate classes with children. Kramer may have been at the same skill level as the kids, but I certainly wasn’t at the same skill level as Ellie and Cole. They’re good. My talent? Shallow.

Still, I showed up each week. I did the homework. The nervousness, while remaining, subsided. With the help of my teacher, Jen, I began to find my voice. While I was the one most in need of improvement, I was crowned with the dubious achievement of “most improved” on our final night of class. Obviously, there was no Oscar for my performance. But, I overcame my fear and made a lot of progress.

Where’s your financial confidence? Is there an area where it’s more shallow than you’d like? Maybe it’s shallow in getting organized? Maybe it’s shallow in understanding how the markets work? Maybe it’s in being honest with where you are financially and being willing to make necessary changes? Maybe it’s something else?

A big part of Bradley Cooper being able to play a singer in a movie, and especially pulling off such a spectacular live performance, was being able to rely on a professional like Lady Gaga. I’m no Lady Gaga, but in a very similar fashion, the work I do with clients has a similar effect of eliciting their best potential. There is a composed confidence that comes from knowing you’ve given your best performance and left it all on the stage. You and I may not walk away with an Oscar for making important, everyday life decisions. But if we’ll apply the same approach to our finances, we just might walk away with peace of mind and plenty of money to live the life that we want.

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