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How are you finding clarity in life beyond the financial plan?

The best antidote to fear can be to seek to seek solace in things that bring us comfort and joy. Susan Strasbaugh shares how wellness routines and connections to others can clear our minds for better decision-making.

Transcript

Tim Maurer:
Hello and thank you for tuning into Ask Buckingham, an ongoing video podcast series where we invite thought leaders across many disciplines in wealth management to respond to your timely questions with timeless answers. My name is Tim Maurer, and I have the privilege of hosting these short discussions as the director of advisor development for Buckingham Wealth Partners. And I want you to know that I’m also a wealth advisor with more than 20 years of experience and a client of the firm.

Tim Maurer:
The volume of information coming at us these days is so vast, and the pace at which that information arrives is so fast, that it’s a struggle to keep up with what you need to know in order to make the best decisions for you and your family. Our hope therefore, is that this ongoing conversation will become a source of clarity in the midst of confusion, and provide insight that helps you better understand what’s going on in the world, financially and otherwise.

Tim Maurer:
Today we’ll be hearing from Susan Strasbaugh, a wealth advisor in Colorado Springs with a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with us. And here’s the question that we’ll be tackling this time. Susan, there’s obviously life beyond your financial plan, or my financial plan. How are you finding a better sense of clarity and peace in your life right now, in the midst of this health and financial crisis?

Susan Strasbaugh:
I have been working for many years on mindfulness practices, really working to keep myself present, and to take a deep breath when things feel overwhelming. They can feel extremely overwhelming these days. News is hitting us from every angle on the coronavirus and the stock market meltdown, and it can come at you pretty fast and furiously. And I think it’s just really important to take a moment, take a deep breath, and then look at… Do the thing, the next best thing I need to do. And then after that, what’s the next thing to do? And slow down and take it one at a time.

Susan Strasbaugh:
Another thing that I really believe in is practicing gratitude, so spending time each day to think about the things I’m grateful for, that really changes the perspective. I feel extremely fortunate to be in the position I’m in, and have a home and food on the table. And I’ll tell you a unique gratitude, something I was grateful for this week that I haven’t experienced before. Yesterday I had the opportunity to pick up groceries at my local grocery store, where they come out and deliver them to the car so you don’t need to go in. And at home unpacking the groceries, I don’t remember ever being thankful for having a carton of eggs. We take so much for granted in our country, and we’re so fortunate. And so when something like this happens, it really makes you grateful for the little things.

Tim Maurer:
Sure. Now it’d be really easy at a time like this, when we’re seeing our sense of control and even the various decisions that we can make on a daily basis, they’re being restricted, right? You can’t just decide after a stressful day, “All right, let’s go out to a restaurant so I don’t have to cook dinner,” for example. You might be able to get carry out. But when we see this number of decisions and this degree of control that we have over things constrict as the economy constricts with it, how is it that you point yourself in the direction of gratitude, rather than feeling a sense of lacking?

Susan Strasbaugh:
Well, again, I think it’s just a practice. Just taking the time to think back on the day, and what were the things in the day that were positive. I found in conversations with clients recently too, that that’s what they’re really noticing as well. They’re feeling a sense of empathy for people that don’t have the same resources they do, and may be in a different situation. And so we’re all feeling extremely fortunate, and want to know how we can expand that, and really be able to help others, as well.

Tim Maurer:
Yeah, I think you touched on really interesting one there. It’s not even just about a mindset. While it certainly plays a meaningful role, we can feel more grateful by turning our intention in the direction of helping somebody who has greater needs than us, can’t we?

Susan Strasbaugh:
Absolutely, yes. Yeah. I mean, locally the food banks need more help than ever. I’m on the board of our local food bank, and actually today was the day that our largest fundraising of the year was supposed to happen. So needless to say, we didn’t gather a thousand people to ask for money, but we’ve done a virtual events instead, and the community is really stepping up. We need more food than ever to provide to other citizens. And for instance, children that are not in school right now, being able to provide them lunches and breakfast. We’ve set up programs like that. So that really, that really helps to have something like that that you’re doing to help others.

Tim Maurer:
Yeah, exactly. All right, so we’re talking about a mindfulness practice that you’ve developed over the course of many years, that now is kind of giving you an extra degree of peace and clarity in the midst of this. We talk about gratitude and increasing that level of gratitude by getting proactive, and actually helping people that have greater needs than we do. But last thing, I’m curious, is there anything else that you’re doing to take care of yourself? You live in an awfully beautiful part of the country. Are you getting outside at all, some physical exercise?

Susan Strasbaugh:
Yes, absolutely. Ironically, today in Colorado, we’re in the midst of a blizzard, so the coronavirus and the stock market meltdown weren’t enough. Things are getting a little nutty. But other than that, every day I’ve been out taking a long walk with my dogs, and that really is a wonderful way to clear my head at the end of the day and recenter. I’m also, throughout the day when things start getting a bit overwhelming, I step aside and just do 10 minutes of stretching and breathing, and then that 10 minutes is enough to come back and work again for another three hours, and really be there to help others.

Susan Strasbaugh:
But self care, I think for anyone who’s in a caregiving position, for all of us right now, we’re all stressed, we’re all being hit with a lot of information, and it can be overwhelming. So whatever it is that helps you take care of yourself. If it’s reading a book, turning off the news, turning on Netflix and watching a silly movie instead, those are all things that we’re doing and I think really important in the midst of all this. Oh, and I’m really enjoying cooking, taking some time to cook really good meals in the evening. Yeah.

Tim Maurer:
Well, it’s interesting because in the midst of such challenging circumstances with all of the potential things that we could do on a daily basis, even as advisors for the sake of our clients, it’s easy to set self care aside, isn’t it? Whereas it seems as though it’s times like these that we need to even ratchet up our intention to ensure that that self care takes place, so that we can, as Stephen Covey put it, sharpen the saw and do our best work for our clients.

Susan Strasbaugh:
That’s absolutely right. I mean, we’ve all heard it before, but the idea of putting on your oxygen mask first so that you can help others is essential. If you’re not taking care of yourself, there’s not going to be anything left to take care of others.

Tim Maurer:
Absolutely. So one last question related to the application of the wisdom you shared with us. We started off by talking about mindfulness. Is there any particular aid or app that you have used to guide you in that practice? Because otherwise it can feel a little out there. A little ethereal.

Susan Strasbaugh:
So I started many years ago using the Headspace app. It’s a really accessible way to meditate, breathe, whatever you want to call it. That’s really all it’s about, is just centering and focusing on your breath and being mindful. I now use something called Insight Timer, which has a lot of different… Both, you can just use the timed version, where you set a timer and breathe on your own, or there’s all kinds of various teachers on there. You can do guided meditations, and those are really helpful. I find those to be very helpful right now in the midst of this stress and anxiety, to have someone walk you through the practice.

Tim Maurer:
Absolutely. I have as well. I like to think that I’m about the worst mindfulness meditator on the planet. Doesn’t take much for my attention span to dart off in different directions.

Susan Strasbaugh:
I get it.

Tim Maurer:
I’ve been using Headspace for years. I think I’ve logged over 4,000 minutes on that thing. And regardless of how poor of a mindfulness meditator I may be, I have found that app to really truly be an aid and a help in order to keep me on that path. And I too have experienced the meaningful benefits of it.

Susan Strasbaugh:
Yeah, agreed. He has a pretty magical voice, Andy. The founder of the…

Tim Maurer:
Andy Puddicombe. He does. And one of the things that I like too is, it’s not too out there, right? It feels like a practical application that he’s guiding you through, as opposed to something that’s overly warm and fuzzy and super spiritual. And I found that to actually help me in my meditation practice as well.

Susan Strasbaugh:
That’s exactly right. And I think that the evidence is out there. We’re evidence-based advisors, the evidence is out there on mindfulness practices. It actually changes the neural pathways in your brain. So that’s pretty spectacular. When people at MIT are saying, yes, this is the thing to do because of the science.

Tim Maurer:
Yeah, you might not be able to change what’s happening out there, but you can change the way that your brain reacts to it. That’s a pretty powerful encouragement.

Tim Maurer:
Well, thank you so much, Susan, and thank you for tuning into this episode of Ask Buckingham. If you have a question that you’d like to see us address, you can do so by navigating to the website, askbuckingham.com or emailing your question to question@askbuckingham.com. Remember, there are no dumb questions, but unfortunately there are plenty of really poor answers out there. Our hope is that in giving you straight answers to your questions, you’ll be able to apply that knowledge in pursuit of good decision making. So please follow us. And by all means, ask Buckingham.

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