Aug. 4, 2020

3: Mindfulness and Money with Spencer Sherman

Welcome to the Mindful FIRE Podcast, where we explore living mindfully on the path to financial independence and beyond. I’m your host Adam Coelho and I’m glad you’re here. 

Today we talk to my friend, Spencer Sherman, a financial advisor, mindfulness teacher and owner of Abacus Wealth Partners. Spencer lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. I learned so much from Spencer in this episode and I’m excited to share it with you.   

In this show you’ll learn:

  • How a huge fire in the office building where Spencer worked changed his life forever. And how and why he ran back into the building
  • That most people believe that their net worth equals their self worth and how Spencer works with clients to change that belief system
  • Why Spencer says that “enough” is the dirtiest word in the English language and how if we can practice “enough” in our lives we can see that we can and already do have it all, right now
  • How our beliefs about money impact how we live our lives and that we can begin to change behavior just by recognizing and becoming aware of the behavior
  • Some simple but powerful practices to start to bring more awareness and choice to your relationship with money and with others in relation to money. 
  • Spencer’s advice to save money and have a plan but recognize that the goal is to be with your life in this moment right now. Don’t live in the future

And so much more. I hope you enjoy my wonderful conversation with my friend Spencer Sherman.

Full Show Notes |
More Inspiring Interviews |
More Guided Meditations |


Adam Coelho: [00:00:00] Welcome to the mindful fire podcast, where we explore living mindfully on the path to financial independence and beyond on today's episode, I'm joined by my friend, Spencer Sherman, a financial advisor and mindfulness teacher in the San Francisco Bay area. Spencer is the founder and owner of Abacus wealth partners, a wealth management company.

That helps their clients align their financial resources with their deepest values and aspirations. In this episode, you'll hear an incredible story of how Spencer ran back into a burning building. When a fire broke out in his office, building early in his career and how that fire changed his life and how he thought about everything.

And you'll also learn how our beliefs about money, impact, how we live our lives and that we can start to change our behavior by simply bringing awareness to these beliefs. And you'll hear Spencer's thoughts about how most people equate their self-worth with their net worth and why that's so dangerous.

You'll learn some simple practices to start bringing more awareness and choice to your relationship with money. And you'll learn what Spencer calls the dirtiest word in the English language, the word enough, and how if we can practice feeling that we have enough. And that we are enough. We can realize that we can and already do have everything we really need.

And we go into so much more. I really enjoyed recording this episode with Spencer and I hope you enjoy it as well. Welcome to the mind. Fire podcast, Spencer, 

Spencer Sherman: [00:01:33] how are you? I am great. Adam, how are you today? 

Adam Coelho: [00:01:37] Very well, thank you. I'm excited to have you on the show today.  I'd love to start by hearing a little bit about your backstory because I think you have a pretty interesting path that includes both financial independence, financial advisory, and also mindfulness.

So I'd love to hear about your path. 

Spencer Sherman: [00:01:56] Yeah. So how I got here, right? Growing up. I wanted nothing to do with money. When I was a teenager, I told my father that I will have nothing to do with the money. That was the vow I made to him and to myself. And then I was I was actually at a yoga, a part of a yoga retreat center.

I lived at this yoga retreat center. For a few years. And it was the director of the place who actually encouraged me to go to business school and that you could do more in the business world then in the world of psychology, that was the other career option for me, was becoming a therapist.

And there was something about the field of financial advising that combined the psychology, the therapeutic aspects. That I was very attracted to and then the analytical aspects, and then this ability to affect maybe made many more people than just in a one-on-one relationship. And I think, I didn't know this consciously at the time.

I know it now, but I think the other big driving force, Adam is all the suffering around money in my family. And that somehow I must have subconsciously sensed this need to heal that. I went through business school. I became a financial advisor and. And then there was this major fire and it was one of the largest fires in Philadelphia's history.

And I was working in this big office building on independence square. The fire started on the ninth floor. I was on the second floor. It took the Philadelphia fire department in three days to put out the fire. And during that time I started realizing that all my stuff was in that building and that my whole life was in that building.

My whole self-worth net worth was inside and somebody else also felt similarly. And the two of us convinced the fire Marshall to let us into the building right after they had put up the fire, which is not at all safe. I later learned. And I'm walking through this, these dark hallways with these.

Accompanied by these two firefighters and water's like knee deep through this murky water, in rive at my office and grab my computer and a bunch of files and all this, all my, all of my stuff that I thought was so important and only to get at home and to see that it was all worthless. The paper files were illegible.

They, they were all had water damage. The computer was beyond repair and it was this wake up call. To this sense of how much I valued my stuff over my life. And that was a theme in my family. And one that I I, that fire was a big turning point for me. Like this wake up of.

Cause, on the news, they talked about the risk of electric electrocution in an after fire. There's the smoke inhalation of spend. There's all kinds of issues. Why you wouldn't want to be going into a building after a fire. The least of which that none of my stuff, had any value anymore.

But I saw my attachment, my greed around this stuff, and it was painful and it was a huge day of awakening. 

Adam Coelho: [00:05:22] Yeah. Yeah. That's it's interesting. Yeah. I read that on your bio, but to hear it told, yeah, right after the fires put out, you've rushed into the building, which. Could have collapsed, could have electrocuted.


Spencer Sherman: [00:05:38] mean anything could have happened. And it was just the most crazy thing. And I, it's hard to believe that the fire Marshall let us in, but somehow, we negotiated for it to go in there. And said, you've got five minutes to get your stuff and get out. It was totally insane.

And I woke up to that and thought that the mist, how I misplaced my value and how I, and this is, it turns out to be a common theme. I don't think I'm alone in this that a lot of us equate our self-worth with our net worth. And it sounds silly because most of us would say, including me at the time, there's no way that my self worth equals my net worth, but we don't act that way.

We behave as if they're comparable. And we look to we look at the rise and fall of the stock market. We look at our financial statements. We look at how much money we're earning. All of those are pointers to just numbers. They have nothing to do with our self-worth. But we look towards them to get our value and certainly the culture very strongly supports that.

So I've been, one of my missions has been to disentangle that that equation that they don't have anything to do with each other. I think my self-worth along with yours, along with everybody else's is priceless. I mean our health, our creativity, our sense of humor, or, ability to connect with one another all those things.

And, I think it's very relevant today with this pandemic that are way beyond the value of our. Finances, even though yes, a certain amount of money is necessary for our, for our survival beyond a certain level, a sufficient level and money has less and less. Marginal benefit. And, but we are beings have like infinite and exponentially growing, expanding benefit, the more we're able to connect.

And that's one of the, one of the dangerous actually of having money or being on a mission to just get money is it can distract us from the truth of our own wealth. That's right here. Yeah. Yeah. That was really, I'm 

Adam Coelho: [00:07:57] struck by what you said about that. You were valuing your stuff and your net worth and your money the kind of material possessions over the, your life in that was a theme in your kind of money backstory.

Spencer Sherman: [00:08:13] Totally. Absolutely. My mind. Talk 

Adam Coelho: [00:08:15] a little more about how you, how that shows up in your life and how you see it show up. Cause you said it's very common. My 

Spencer Sherman: [00:08:23] father put a lot of emphasis on what, how much money he made. And he was very proud of that, but it was, there was an overemphasis. There's a, there certainly something that Wonderful about earning money and being able to pay your bills and all that.

But it was so overemphasized and it is so over emphasized in our culture. And one of the things that he asked me every day was like, what did you accomplish today? Was all about productivity. And it was really about what kind of grades did you get, on that level, it was all on that external level and kind of undervaluing the internal gifts that we all have the, or the internal, the ability for us to just.

Experienced joy that has a value as well. And what I see is you asked about how do I see it show up for people right. With, I see, I, I've worked with thousands of clients over the last 30 years. I founded a financial service company services company soon after getting my MBA from Wharton business school.

And what I've seen is people. Just over overindulge in working, working endless hours or being focused on a certain number, like one once I get to 5 million or then things will be different. In fact, I had a situation like that. It was another sort of. Best day, worst day of my life.

And I think a lot of us have had those sort of same day can be the best day and the worst day of our lives. And this one happened, I was a financial advisor for about five years in my early twenties and this this client came in and he said to me, if you can double our money, we'll.

We'll be able to retire. We'll be able to do whatever we want. And this is back on the East coast and, put, he was saying if we put it in sort of California more Buddhist kinds of terms he's essentially saying if you can double my money, I'll be free. It's like basically said, I'll have no worries.

I'll be able to do whatever I want. I won't have to. Continue being a physician. It was like that. And he had a couple of million at the time and I took this on. I was so excited cause I thought, wow, I know that, just with the market's help, he's going to double his money over time. It's going to happen.

And I'm going to produce such freedom for somebody that was so compelling to me. And. About five years later, this was a very strong market period. His money did double and he was coming in for a meeting. And I'm now in my later twenties and I am just super thrilled to share the news that I say, your money has doubled.

You are now free. I've gotten you to the level that you told me you would need to have freedom. And he get, he, instead of being happy, he had this look of dread on his face and I knew something was up. And then he looked down and he said, very softly said, you know what? I've been thinking about this.

And I actually think I need another doubling. My money. I actually need twice as much to get there. And it was just this complete deflation in my body that he looked more stressed. Then he didn't want to, he had half as much money. Which is a, not another actually point or two today that I always say that it's good to keep in mind that if you have less money today, and I know that so many of us are really struggling.

And for those who are really struggling, yes. Get the help you need. But for others that might have just lost some money. Look back two to three years ago, five years ago, 10 years ago, when you had less than you even have now, and perhaps you were happy then, or even less stressed about money back then when you had less.

 He, like I said, look more stressed and I left that meeting saying, this is the worst profession on the planet. I am done being a financial advisor because even if. You do your job and make somebody money. They nothing happens. In fact, they, he seemed to go backwards with the extra money, which is possible.

You can actually have less freedom, more stress more gripping onto money, less, less inner security. As your money grows it's possible. And then I had the realization that no, that was not just the worst day of my life, Adam. It was also the best day because it shit, it told me that there's another path I have to take with money that I have to work with people's beliefs around money.

And their conditioning around money and how they were raised and just the sense that there's so much value in the money. I have to undo this conditioning, if I'm going to help people. And I can really help people is that this is it's not going to happen from just doubling their money.

It's going to happen. It's not, probably won't happen at all from that it's really going to happen from some inner work. Yeah. Wow. 

Adam Coelho: [00:14:02] That's really interesting. It sounds like that his reaction really woke you up to the fact that it's not about the money. It's about how we think about and feel about the money and the story we tell ourselves about the money that if that's not addressed nothing, no amount of money will actually.

Change that 

Spencer Sherman: [00:14:22] absolutely. Cause it's also because I feel it's possible, Adam, money I hold is really this incredibly powerful tool and it can be used for whatever, however we want to direct it. It can be used for good. It can be used  for increasing one's greed and suffering in life.

So it's possible that one could double their money and feel more free or feel this sense of like able to be more generous with their money. And that could lead to more freedom. It's probably not as I'm thinking that it's not just the doubling of the money. It's what does that do for the person?

And if it leads to doing positive things in the world and generous acts in the world, I think that can really. Help someone evolve in a spiritual, emotional way. It can be a very positive experience to have one's money grow. If that's the if good. If good actions come from that money, I read 

Adam Coelho: [00:15:24] something that you wrote in about what your mission is at Abacus, your firm.

And you said that you. Do you seek to help people align their financial resources with their deepest values and aspirations. And I think that's what we're really talking about here. Just having more money in your bank account, doesn't really help you if you're not aligning it with your purpose, with your values, with your aspirations.

Spencer Sherman: [00:15:54] And 

Adam Coelho: [00:15:55] there's some real, I think, in our work that needs to happen. To figure out what those things are first and foremost, but then to check in am I actually aligning things w my money, my finances, my time with those values. 

Spencer Sherman: [00:16:12] Yes. Yes, absolutely. You're you said that so well that, having a goal, which is, can be so common for a lot of people.

I just, I want to have a million dollars or $5 million or 10 million, whatever the new number is today. That it has this magical sound to it. And we ascribe so much to these numbers when in fact. I've seen so many people arrive at these numbers, just like this client I shared and nothing happens.

There is not going to be any arrival when your money gets to be a million or 5 million or 10 million. So if that's, if you can really.  Except that that just wishing for certain numbers is not going to bring you the happiness you expect then there's the possibility of how can I have everything I want right now?

How can I have it? All right now? And that's being a lot of the direction of the firm I created is focusing not just on the future, but on making your life work with what you have with having,  your dream is to travel all the time and you don't have any money maybe you should be working on ships or something like that.

It's like, how do you embrace who you are today without having to necessarily wait 20 years for some pot of money, right? 

Adam Coelho: [00:17:35] Yeah. And that's it's very. It's very interesting. I'm very interested in the mindful sorry, the financial independence retire early community. And while I think it's a really great idea and mission, or kind of goal to reach financial independence early in life so that you can.

Design your life and spend your time on the things that are meaningful and purposeful and aligned with your values. I think it's a whole nother thing to actually figure out what those things are and to realize that we could be living that way. Now, I feel myself. As I've deepened my practice, my mind, my mindfulness and meditation practice.

I've started to realize that I'm always living for some future, right? If only I had X dollars, if only I had a house instead of this apartment during the pandemic. Always some future time where everything's just going to work itself out. And many people in the financial independence community, myself included pick a number 25 times our annual expenses, just the 4% rule I'm sure you're familiar with, but then why, so I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

If then be 

Spencer Sherman: [00:18:57] happy. Yeah, I think you said it,  it's funny, but when you were talking about, yeah.  When I have this amount of money ban then life again, that's a common refrain, right? I've even have that have pad that reframed during a meditation sitting, I'll say as soon as this meditation is over, then.

Then I can really start my day and I can do the project that I that's really gonna, really the main part of my day or something.  There's just this tremendous conditioning in our culture towards a way from now. Towards an M and mostly towards the future. I Also, certainly there's a lot of focus on the past too, but it's anything from, it's sorta like the, somebody once said to me, the most common line in movies as a form of getting me out of here.

Like here is not okay. There's a better, the better here is in the future. And that's what you need to be focusing. But the more you condition yourself to think that there's life is going to arrive when the million dollars happens or when the bell rings and the meditation session that's when you can actually exhale, the more you've trained that mind.

To be future conditioning. So when it arrives there, when the bell rings or when your financial guide calls you and say, you've got a million dollars, the mind has now been trained to anticipate the next future thing. No, it's not. It doesn't just rest in the present because the bell rings or because the money arrived.

And I feel like that's what we need to start doing. Yeah, how do we enjoy our lives and our finances today and start to bring the beautiful practices of mindfulness to our money life, and to start noticing, and what gives us what brings us joy with our money? What brings us dissatisfaction or suffering with our money?

What, how do we have conversations around money with others that bring us fulfillment? Or which ones are we avoiding? So I think that's what, I'm one of the things I'm trying to get myself and others to start doing is to. It's still, as you're saying, Adam is to start living in this present moment around our finances and find a way to to feel fulfilled and to enjoy what we have today, which I know sounds really radical, but it's a prescription for happiness.

It's a set up for being okay with the way things are, which is. Incredible state of being, that's like the state of equanimity, is to be at ease with the way things are, is a very lofty place to be. 

Adam Coelho: [00:21:36] I totally agree. How do we do that? How do we 

Spencer Sherman: [00:21:39] practice that? Okay. Fair question. So it's a big question, right?

That's a good question. And there's a number of things. I've hinted at some of these things. I think the less regularly be pay attention to our numbers. The less we pursue. So checking the stock market less frequently, or checking your financial statements less frequently, not pursuing the thoughts about, Oh wow.

If only I won that lottery, if, if only I had a million dollars only I had that house. If only I, had his job or that situation, my life would be better. Those thoughts popcorn up all the time. But our work is to not pursue them, to have those be very brief encounters with those thoughts and not turn them into long conversations.

Instead of like very just, Oh, there's that thought of, wow. Maybe I should, my life would be better if I won the lottery or if I had, a million dollars or something and then letting it go. And then there's a number of other things that one can do. So one is really feeling into, and if it's okay with you to add, I'm going to say a dirty word on the podcast and.

It's okay. Of course the dirty word that you're, that I don't think you're allowed to say in this culture for sure. Is the word enough. I think at the most profane word, there is more per thing than any word. My six year old daughter would use it's it's like I, what I would suggest is start using that word, start trying this practice on that.

What you have and who you are is enough as you are in this moment. Just start saying that. And if you can't do it with money at first, do it with time. Cause we all say that we're over busy. We don't have enough time. What if you just started saying to people? I have enough time. I have plenty of time.

I'm not overwhelmed with dizziness and just started. To shift your perspective on time from scarcity to enough and saying with money. So that's another practice one can take on. And then another practice is a practice of generosity. So generosity is an antidote to scarcity. It's and I think especially, and it doesn't have to be generosity with money.

It could be generosity with time or skills, but giving of yourself to others is a wonderful way. And especially now, when we give a little bit of money and the amount is it isn't as important. When you give a dollar to somebody you're telling your brain in some ways, That you have enough. And it's like getting back to what I just said.

That's a very important thing to get to that place of where you have, not where you, yes, you're open to more and that might be what happens. But if your current money situation doesn't change and you find a way to find peace with that, And generosity quells. Some of that clinging towards if only I had more, because you're actually giving it in the opposite, you're giving stuff away to others, whether it's time or money or resources And then there's I'll share another practice, Adam, if that's okay.

That this is from the Brahm of a Horace, which are these four highest emotions that the Buddhist spoke about for the four Brum of the horrors. And one of them is loving kindness. And that the third one is the poly term is we Dita and in English, that means sympathetic joy. And it's about wishing for enjoying the success of others, being happy for others, joy also somewhat un-American thing, right?

Cause we're supposed to be competitive with each other. And if you win at them, that means that I lose. So I have to hope that you fail or something like that. We have all that crazy stuff from the culture but this idea is that in your meditations, Wish the person who you're envious of say financially, the person who has the 5 million, you actually wish that their life becomes more successful, more expansive.

You wish to their happiness. And I have done this. In all kinds with all kinds of different people in my life, I've done it around money. I've done it around people who seem to have more friends than me, or better connections or more happiness or better a better house or whatever. It just dissolves the envy.

It dissolves it to a point where I start feeling good about what I have. So it's a very powerful practice. That probably seems crazy the idea of wishing well to somebody who has more than you, but to try it on. Interesting. Yeah. 

Adam Coelho: [00:26:48] Is it a variation of a love and kindness practice where you what are the phrases that you would wished 

Spencer Sherman: [00:26:53] for them. If you made your success increase. Yes. May you may. Your success increase in, may it continue forever. May your happiness increase and continue for forever. May your health increase and continue forever. So it's similar to to a loving kindness. Some of the loving kindness phrases of may you be happy, may you be peaceful?

May you be well? But it has this extra tone of. Really wishing further success for this person that already has success or really being really delighting. It's not just, you're not just sending good energy to them. You're actually really feeling the joy at bear happiness, which might take a while to cultivate.

Cause at first, when I started doing this album, it was like, no, I don't really wish for this person's happiness success, but I'll just start it. I'll just do it anyway, just to see what happens. And in that something shifted. And I, this was a person. Who? I just could, not, in some ways I couldn't stand their personality, I couldn't stand how much success they had in the world and it started happening.

And it, first of all, it healed the relationship person. I think in many ways, then the relationship got a lot better and who knows what if it was directly caused by that. But the other thing that happened is that I no longer felt the separate financial separation between me and him. Yeah. And it enabled me to feel more relaxed about my own finances, my own financial life.

So on all those levels, it was a big surprise how well it works. And one of the things that I'm very much on a mission about is helping people wake up to the stories, the beliefs they have around that, that we hold as sacrosanct, that these beliefs are absolutely indisputably. True. And in fact they're just messages that may be true.

May not be true, but  we grip them so tightly and an example of this is, many people grow up with beliefs around that. You shouldn't charge more than a certain amount. I see this a lot with women where they undercharged for their services because of some beliefs that they're carrying from the past.

Or, all of these beliefs that we've been talking about how future oriented we are. So to start examining some of the beliefs that you grew up with around money to start to uncover some of the money stories is a very powerful, awful way of breaking down some of this conditioning. And for me, one of the strong messages around.

Money for me was, don't talk about money and that's a very loaded message cause you can't talk about it. And certainly in this culture, it's like a lot of people think it's the most taboo thing more to do than sex, but that also can create a lot of shame. If you're not allowed to talk about it, it can also, have you make less money if you're not, if you're not comfortable speaking about it, it can often lead to a whole breakup.

Of a family like it did in my family. I lost my aunt, my uncles, and my first cousins, because my father and his brother-in-law were not able to have a money conversation. It was so taboo. Yeah. That they just decided to part ways. And my father lost a sister. And I lost my first cousins, my aunt and uncle, these people lived across the street from us growing up, but at age 10, they moved away, completely lost connection to the point where I keep at twenty-five years later, I hired a private detective to actually find them.

And I reconnected to my first cousins. I missed out on. Many decades of can of knowing them because of a, an issue around money. Wow. Yeah. That's. That's 

Adam Coelho: [00:30:59] powerful. If you can start to become aware of these things, 

Spencer Sherman: [00:31:02] right? Because if we can actually truly become aware of our tenancies and have that recognition, that in itself can lead to our, transforming our behavior around that issue.

If we can deeply see it and know it in ourselves.  And this is where mindfulness comes in, because as we develop that ability to witness our lives, And see things much more clearly. With that clear knowing, then we S we start to say, wait a second. When I pursue that thought, or that behavior around money, it creates discomfort or suffering for me or for others.

I'm going to pull back. I'm not going to do that again. And we can actually change behavior just by, just from recognizing the behavior. Bringing it into awareness. Yeah. Yeah. Sometimes, that's often the first step, but it could also be all the steps. 

Adam Coelho: [00:32:00] Yeah. I certainly find for myself that I need to realize things multiple times.

Yeah. Perhaps with years in between, right? Yes. These things are so below the surface. So encoded in the way that we see the world, that it's really easy to forget and just go back to Oh yeah, that's just normal. That's what the world is. But really, it's just a belief that I have about the world.

Curious about, are there any practices that you recommend or that you do to bring those to light or to help people bring those to light? Either kind of meditation practices, awareness practices, or like journaling practices or anything 

Spencer Sherman: [00:32:39] like that? Yeah. I've been leading workshops at many places, including strip spirit rock meditation center.

And I am working now to actually bring my course, which was called the Dharma of money, creating your money karma. I've been working to bring that online in, in that force. I do actually journaling and I also do some guided meditation around uncovering the these childhood beliefs that we have inherited.

And that's what I would suggest is it's start to start to tune in and asking yourself, where did this tendency around money come from? W how old was I? When I first learned that money is evil or money shouldn't be talked about, or you should marry rich or not marry rich or whatever the beliefs are, you should have a lot of money or that money is the only source of security.

One of the things my father said to me is money is the only thing that will give you security, and you can never have enough of it. It's a complete catch 22. Cause if you can never have enough of that you never going to get security, right? Yeah. Totally. 

Adam Coelho: [00:33:53] Yeah. Is there like a prompt for those journaling, to identify the money?

Spencer Sherman: [00:33:58] Yeah, I would say some good prompts are, what did you learn from your father? What did you learn from your mother? What'd you learn maybe from aunts or uncles? Or what'd you learn at school around money and the way you spend it, the way you should save it or not save it. In the way you should give it away or not give it away in a way you should invest it or not invested in a way you should share it with, help out friends or not help out friends.

What are those messages you received or about asking for a raise at work or or discussing money? I know people who just, they will. Go out to an expensive dinner that they can't afford because they can't say to their friends that I can't walk this restaurant, they're actually really hurting themselves with that belief that, we just can't talk about money.

So as you start to uncover that belief and feel the pain beneath that belief and the suffering it's caused, one can start to release that. And maybe replace that belief with something that feels way more empowering, which is not necessarily just talk to everybody about money. I don't necessarily think the opposite is the right thing either.

It's gotta be appropriate. And I'm not saying suggesting that wants to just tell everybody how much money you make, et cetera. But I think that we have gone so much to the extreme of being unable to talk about money that actually gets us in trouble. So many times somebody will tell me about something they did in their life, that they feel a lot of shame around.

Like they impulsively bought a car, a house, a timeshare or something that they impulsively did something with money. And they realized, but they should have done is mentioned it to a friend. Do you think this makes sense to what I'm doing? Or talk to some neutral person, but there's no acceptance for that in our culture.

There's often this, no I, so I know I'm going to hear a no from my friend. I'm just going to do it anyway. Cause I don't want to hear no, like you don't, there's not a culture of. Discuss discussing things around money. It's so private. I don't want really, I should know the answer. I should know the answer or it out, I can't call up my best friend and say, Hey, we're thinking about doing this.

You have any thoughts for me? I've got to just do it. Money's already shrouded in shame, so we eat it that way. So what I'm suggesting is yes, everybody on the other great thing is to have a money ally. It just needs to be somebody who has common sense. Who's not, probably not a good friend of yours, I would say.

But somebody who can. You can trust to give you the truth, even if it's the truth you don't want to hear. And then you can be that, be the money ally for them. So it can be a reversible kind of roles. And that can be so helpful because when we're in the money situation, we often emotion takes over common sense.

And if we've got that money, ally, that person can be that sounding board for us. Say, Whoa, wait a second. Does this really make sense for you to take on all this debt to invest in real estate in 2006 for seven? And when it was so easy to get debt, and I know some people went completely bankrupt because they just completely overleveraged themselves.

Now, have they spoken to even a non-financially sophisticated person, that person might've said, Whoa, What's driving you to make these very speculative, risky investment. 

Adam Coelho: [00:37:47] Yeah. Just having someone you can go to, to talk about money in a nonjudgmental way. Sounds 

Spencer Sherman: [00:37:53] yeah, I think yeah, it's just to keep some of our over our strong tendencies in check.

And I it's happened to me as well. I feel like I've also done that. The guy could have benefited from checking in with someone before I did the impulsive purchase. I'll look to 

Adam Coelho: [00:38:14] dive in a little bit more into this idea of enough. I saw the video you did, and that's the Bastable type Ted talk thing.

And it was very interesting and is really the driving ideas of this podcast because of the whole thing of if only I get to X million dollars, if only this, then I'll be happy, but this idea of enough. If I can feel enough right now, then I don't need to chase any of that. I don't need to be grasping.

I don't need to be resisting. So I'd love to hear you talk a little bit more about what you think about enough in your life and maybe how you help your clients discover what 

Spencer Sherman: [00:38:56] enough is. I think that includes. In a sense that each of us is enough as we are, that our beings are enough that there's nobody like us.

Like Oscar Wilde said, be yourself, everyone else has taken really feel into that. The message of that quote to me is that who you are, is so distinct and so special, that there's nothing you really actually need to do. Other than if your gifts away, that you have it all within you and there's nothing to strive for.

There's nothing to reach for you. You are enough just as you are. You're brought to this planet to give your gifts just as you are. It's not like in 20 years, it's right now. And with money, it's appreciating what you have. And we put so much focus on what we. What we, all of our wants, which are very future oriented, instead of on our hats, I would say to start making that shift from wanting to having what about look at all the stuff that you have in your life, the health you currently have, right?

The friends you have the sense of humor. You have the environment that you live in him. The. The money that you currently have, the food you hit or have all the things that you currently have. And to start asking yourself, what do you love about what you currently have? That would be a shift for a lot of us, even to go into our garage, notice the stuff maybe we've put in there because we had too much clutter in the house and start to see the abundance that's in our lives today.

And that includes those things that are not so material like our friendships. I That's an important thing to recognize those things have. A huge value. I think it probably priceless, but we often don't count them in, even though they're incredibly valuable. Our friendships and connections to others in our lives and our health, all these things have real value.

Yeah. I mean that, I know I saw an exercise once that if you take something, you have put it in your garage or put it in a closet and put a note on your calendar to retrieve it in three months. You will so appreciate and value that items so much more. So we forget what we already have. We're so conditioned focused on what we don't have on, but we see that others have, and we're very outward focused instead of inward focused.

And there's so much here right here that we miss it. We miss the wealth that's here and the stuff that we already have around us. So I thought that I would say that's, that would be a huge cultural shift for us to start to make and then to start, in our PR and our meditation practice, too.

To really live this as well. That, that each there's no goal with the meditation practice. There's no place to get to. We're not trying to change anything or improve anything or just being with what is, or just acknowledging ourselves exactly as we are. And that, from that there often comes this like subtle joy starts to wake up in us when we're so intimate and accepting of our current.

Life, our current inhale and exhale, our current stuff.  We feel this joy in just, it's just a calming down when we're no longer efforting outward reaching for things. And just relaxing with the shoulders down and receiving all that we have in our lives. There's an incredible Ease that can come from stepping into the sense of enough.

And, I, you watched that funny that little mini Ted talk I did where I mentioned that John Rockefeller, the world's first billionaire will ask, how much is enough? And he said just a little bit more, that is so we laugh at that and I laugh, but it really is. There's a truth to that.

Absolutely. If we were really honest with ourselves or maybe with our wanting minds, we would see that's what our minds want. We want a little bit more, no matter what we have, it doesn't matter that we might have twice as much as we had 10 years or 20 years ago, we want more still. And if you can get off that train you and come into the sense that what you have is.

Might be enough. And I mentioned earlier, there's some of us that actually need more food or shelter or clothing, and by all means, do what you need to do to get have enough so that you can reach that certain level. But this there's been many studies done on this. Once you get beyond that modest level of living the gains are so small gains in happiness and starts to diminish over time.

So there's so by coming into this place, that enough you actually let go. Of all this anxiety will I ever get to a million or 5 million or 10 million or whatever the number is, w  or that my life is going to be better once I own this second home or move or something, and you start resting, it doesn't mean you shouldn't still get the second home, but you're getting it with a sense of ease with what you already have.

And then you're going to be able to enjoy that second home, because you're not going to be wanting. I got the second home, but now it needs to be renovated, then it will be okay, then I'll have my life. No, you're just, you're saying no, I'm not going to keep playing that game of that next month or next year or next, when this happens, then I'll arrive.

Then I'll be able to rest. You start resting right now. Yeah. 

Adam Coelho: [00:45:00] It makes perfect sense and seems totally radical and 

Spencer Sherman: [00:45:03] impossible. Totally radical, it's, it really is. It really is this sense. Because we're so trained to, to keep improving our self-esteem living, to keep going for more. That's just built in us.

Our parents want that for us. Like you should have a better life than I had. I think what they really mean is that more joyful life or more free life. It comes out as I want you to have more stuff than I had, especially for people that whose, maybe parents had to really struggle.

They survived that they were at survival. And in coming over to this country, there can be that sense of I want my kids to have, big house to be able to afford college for their kids, et cetera. But really what they're saying is I want you to be happy. I want you to have peace and ease in your life.

And those things come from finding an okayness with who you are and what you have right now. Not even an hour or right in the smoke. Yeah. 

Adam Coelho: [00:46:09] John  very often says that you are whole and complete. Right now in this moment, there's nothing to attain, nothing really to do. Just seeing that you are whole and complete right now.

And no matter how many times I hear it, it's yes, but. There's just such that urge to, to get, to do more, to improve, to grow, to learn. And I think it's really about finding that balance, realizing you're enough. And also that you can. Invest in yourself and your talents and your knowledge and all of that.

And I find it's a tricky balance. I feel very much on the on out of balance. A lot of times I'm laughing a lot because what you're describing, it just it's like describing my life, my parents, my world, and Know, you mentioned you look in your garage and you see all the things that you forgot you even had.

I'm like, I wish I had a garage, it's just it's this story. I've been telling myself Batman sure. My whole life, but becoming more and more aware of it now. 

Spencer Sherman: [00:47:16] Yeah. Yeah. That, that, that's it's is that awareness is the key and. It's just like in our sitting practice it's this it's there's no time lost.

There's there's no, it's just coming right into this moment and start practicing that this breath is enough. This body's enough just as am. That's another thing that we're always all about improving this body, but of course it's aging, but just accepting this body as it is. Excepting the mind and the heart as they are accepting our stuff as they are in with them.

The ironic thing Adam, is that when we're in that place I have found for myself when I've been in that place of being relaxed and okay with myself as I am, I actually produce more. Imagine, maybe even more likely to make money or two, because I'm worried and I'm in a more creative space and I'm not striving and efforting.

Being one feels the sense of enough. One is not in a place of scarcity and their scarcity. There's also a lot of fear. And fear drives adrenaline. It drives that, that amygdala, that fight flight response and we're in that we can't be as creative. So this whole enough principle really permeates many other facets of life, including our ability to be creative and.

See that. Okay. I'm out of money. I need a job. I could be going into an overdraw fight flight mode. I probably am. Let's say in a fight, but if I can start to calm myself down and maybe say, wait what is it? That's enough right now. I got this breath going. I've got this heartbeat going and that's enough.

And if I can calm myself down. All of a sudden, I might have an insight. Oh, I need to call all my friends and tell them my situation that I lost a job. And I'm looking for work. Because now I feel like I, I can do it because I'm no longer in this paralyzed fear place. Like a friend of mine actually did a version of that.

She told a dear friend that she was struggling financially and it took a lot. I think it took her getting to this place of ease or equanimity to be able to share with a good friend that I can I'm out of money and that good friend shared it with the larger community mindfulness community. Actually in my town and a bunch of us gave her money and that it was both the amount of money she received, but I think it was also that her breaking through her power, being able to share her truth led to.

A real ease in her life. Let's do a flourishing of her life and she's actually working again now, but it really, it was very heartening to her that the way she was supported by the community that came from her ability to be with what is, yeah, 

Adam Coelho: [00:50:32] that's really interesting. And it goes back to what you said about being grateful and appreciative for what we have.

And one of the things that she had was. Her mindfulness practice, her ability to calm herself, her friends, the community. All of those things are things that we would, if we're in that scarcity mode, we wouldn't even recognize as assets and calming herself, allowed her to see that clearly and changed everything.


Spencer Sherman: [00:51:03] It's really interesting. Yes. Yes. And when she made the. When she shared with her friends, she was not coming from a place of striving, more needing. And, so you, same way you think about two people going for a job interview in one, the same financial situation, but one is exuding desperation and the other one is exuding confidence and calmness.

Who's going to more likely to get the position. So this idea of enough of really stepping into that and embracing it as much, this is not a binary thing where we're either going to be. Yeah, you, I feel like we're enough or not enough. It's really a movement towards embracing enoughness as to who we are and what we have.

 And what we do to make that more and more the messaging that we're listening to, rather than the outer messaging, which is all about, you're not enough. You need to change the way you look. You need to change the house you live in, you need to, prove yourself. You need to have more money.

You need to, everything about you needs to change. You're just not okay with, but with yourself as you are. 

Adam Coelho: [00:52:16] Yeah. And I think that's really powerful. Thank you so much for this discussion. I think it was super enlightening for me and really a good, a reminder of why this practice of enough and just bringing awareness to the striving that is very common with most of us.

And I'll speak for myself. I'm very present right now. And most of the time It was a really good reminder. So let's switch gears to the mindful fire final four. And the first question is what is something that you are extremely grateful for right now? Some something or someone that comes to mind that you're grateful for?

Spencer Sherman: [00:52:58] On a, I am grateful for this, the interconnectedness that I feel with every person on this planet now more than ever, that we're all experiencing this pandemic. On some level, there's, we're experiencing it somewhat differently, of course, depending on where we live and our life situation, but we're all on the same side for her rare moment.

Nobody likes this pandemic. Nobody wants to, to get the coronavirus. And that is to me is very unifying. And we have this common enemy. And to me that can really unite us in a way okay, we have this common enemy, it's not each other. So what can we do to ameliorate the situation?

What can we do to prevent future viruses or other things like this from happening?  Let's join our hearts, our minds, our brains together and figure this out. That would be that's that would be a pretty incredible thing to come out of this. If the world is a more collaborative, peaceful world, instead of a more adversarial me versus you kind of world.

Adam Coelho: [00:54:12] It could be a wake up call, like the fire was for you. 

Spencer Sherman: [00:54:15] Yeah, I think so. Really going from it's all about me to go to it's all about me or it's all about the us, the United States too. It's all about we it's all about us. Yeah. We're all 

Adam Coelho: [00:54:28] in this together. We're all really shows. Yeah. We keep saying it right.

But let's hope that we really take to heart. Yeah. Yeah. Because 

Spencer Sherman: [00:54:35] it's true. 

Adam Coelho: [00:54:36] Yeah, just how fast this thing's spread, how much global travel we have, like this is not changing. So we all 

Spencer Sherman: [00:54:43] wake up together. We're seeing that. Yeah. 

Adam Coelho: [00:54:48] Cool. The second question is what piece of advice would you give to someone on the path of mindfulness?

As an aspiring meditator.  

Spencer Sherman: [00:54:58] That I would say to be mindful of the word. I think it's a fine word, aspiring, and to be mindful of not turning into striping to really relax. It's this right effort. I would say. It's like bringing in intention a strong intention, I'd say like at the beginning of your practice to bring in a strong attention for your sitting that morning.

And then to let go of any outcome and to just be with yourself as you are, to be that incredibly Be your own girl. To be that, that loving presence for yourself, whatever arises to have that be okay. Even if you're irritable during the whole setting to have that be okay. Or maybe there's going to be a time when you just get up and say, I'm going to do walking meditation, or I'm going to take a run or something, but to be okay with whatever arises.

I would say  is been a key teaching for me is to not. Do not again, if that enough principle  is to really open to what's present. And often when I do that, the meditation actually becomes so much more joyful and I don't want to get up and go take a run. I just want to sit. When I allow myself to be with the air, let's say I'm feeling irritated or bored when I'm actually fully present with that.

It can actually transform to joy. 

Adam Coelho: [00:56:29] I can relate. The third question is what piece of advice would you give to someone on the path to financial independence?  

Spencer Sherman: [00:56:36] Thinking about gears, I've been so many people have written about this. And I know,  Vicki Robins has written a lot about financial independence, your money or your life, and that you can do this on way less money.

If I think you have to define what does that mean? Because a lot of people just talk about it. What would it mean? Write down the details of what financial independence looks like to you. What would you be doing? That's different than what you're doing now? And then how then I'd ask the follow up.

How could you be doing those things now and not wait till that financial dependence? If I was watching your life, when you were financially independent, how would I know you were financially independent? What would I observe in watching you? What would be your daily actions? Would you be just playing golf all the time?

Would you be meditating? Would you be still working in the same job? Would you just be, is your expectation that you just be free and happy all the time? I would write all that down and get really clear. And then by all means I think there's virtue in saving money and having a plan of when you're no longer dependent on money.

But to recognize that the goal is to be with your present each moment, now that this is your life, there is no bear. There, there may not be, you don't know it's going to the world is uncertain, like to live as fully as you as possibly can in this moment, embrace this moment and to let go of any.

Ideas. The idea that you're going to get to financial independence stopped working for most people. It doesn't work that way. They get to financial independence and they want to, they still want to give their gifts to the world and often a vehicle for doing that is through work.  Maybe it will lead you to find work that you love up that you can, you don't have to wait for financial independence to do the work you love.

Adam Coelho: [00:58:29] Yeah, I suppose I think it was in that same presentation you gave, you said work like you don't need the money. Yeah. 

Spencer Sherman: [00:58:36] Yeah. Yeah. And I think that's what we're all aiming for. It's, I know a lot of people that are working, even though they're, they've got lots of money and they're not working in jobs, making a lot of money, their teachers or counts therapists.

And they have millions of dollars. They clearly don't need to be doing it. It's what gives them their sense of purpose. That's what makes them come alive. So that's, what's tricky about the old notions are about some of the financial ads because they show you somebody playing golf or, and I don't know if they're that many people or if you're that person who's going to feel really fulfilled just playing golf or shuffleboard 24 seven.

Want to give our gift to the world still in some way, and maybe you're getting, you'll give your gifts to the world through playing golf all the time. Most of us do it in other ways. That's 

Adam Coelho: [00:59:29] great advice. And the F the last one is how can people find you online? They want to learn more about your work connect with you for your financial planning firm or any other way to get in touch.

Spencer Sherman: [00:59:42] Thank you, Adam. Yeah, so the, my personal website right now is. Mindful And I also have another site that's in development called Dharma of And then the, my firm's website is Abacus wealth. Dot com advocates like the Chinese adding machine and the, an Abacus And we're also offering pro bono sessions during this virus time.

So you can take advantage of those with us as well. Wonderful. 

Adam Coelho: [01:00:18] That's really great. And I also noticed on your website, Abacus wealth, that you have some money meditation's get into some of the enough and the kind of money story, things like that.  I'll also include that in the in the show notes for this show.

Spencer Sherman: [01:00:38] Cool. Wonderful. 

Adam Coelho: [01:00:39] Thank you so much, Spencer. It's been a pleasure. Thank you so much for joining me on the mindful fire podcast. 

Spencer Sherman: [01:00:45] Adam, it's been wonderful. I loved your questions and Mavis, may you know this These this interview, benefit, many and including each other. I'm still working on these things.

It's not like I've like this I've completely mastered any of these things I'm talking about.  I'm an active student. Along with everybody else. 

Adam Coelho: [01:01:06] That's a great reminder. This is a work of a lifetime. Yes. 

Spencer Sherman: [01:01:10] Yes. All right. Thank you so much. Thank you, Adam. Thank you. Thanks 

Adam Coelho: [01:01:15] so much for joining us on today's episode of the mindful fire podcast.

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Spencer ShermanProfile Photo

Spencer Sherman

Founder of Abacus Wealth & Creator of the Dharma of Money course

From Spencer's Website

My Story
In 1987, I earned my MBA from Wharton and began working for a large brokerage firm in Philadelphia. It was exciting to get up each morning, stride past Independence Hall, where the Constitution was adopted, and arrive at my stately corporate office. But disillusionment came quickly. Like all commission-based firms, the firm I worked for expected me to sell products and investments—helping clients was secondary. I began to dream of partnering with my clients to help them make big financial decisions and use their money in the most beneficial ways. I wanted to feel completely free to help them without any conflicts of interest.

Then came the conflagration. It was the worst commercial fire in Philadelphia’s history. It not only destroyed much of the building, it totaled my computer and all my client files, yet it was the necessary catalyst for me to create a financial firm like no other. I set up an office in the sunroom of my home and began to identify the necessary ingredients for delivering the best returns and financial advice. I discovered that the key to success is keeping emotion out of the equation. The best way to manage emotion is to create structures, such as the Abacus Sustainable Portfolio (an ultra-diversified, rigorous investment program), which protects my clients from making emotion-based investment, business, gifting and spending decisions.

I had to acknowledge that my Ivy League MBA didn’t help me forecast the markets, so I stopped trying. (Many academic studies confirmed what I knew—that your odds of winning a lottery are better than your odds of predicting the markets consistently. The vast majority of professionals trail the brainless indices.)

People made big changes in their lives as a result of our work. Their time was freed up to take epic vacations with their family. They retired earlier or worked less. They gave more to philanthropy and transferred gifts to family members sooner rather than later. I helped clients transition wealth to the next generation, and helped those who were heavily invested in real estate to diversify. I helped others, who had the bulk of their assets in one company, to create a portfolio that would minimize risk. And I wrote The Cure for Money Madness so that I could share my secrets of financial success including how well-managed emotions lead to wiser business and financial decisions.

From operating as one person, to now working with over 70 Abacus team members, I look back on that fire and see that I was reborn on the ash heap of those client files to help people align their financial resources with their deepest values and aspirations, and to leave a legacy that inspires their community.

How I’m expanding what’s possible with money
My book, The Cure for Money Madness, was the springboard to help as many as possible relate to finances in a new and healthy way. I work with advisors, clients, and participants in my workshops and classes to identify their unproductive money patterns, as well as their fear and confusion, and create new behaviors around spending, saving, giving, and earning. I want each of us to use our money in the most impactful ways; each year, I give 10% of my income to charities focusing on world peace and reversing climate change.

Outside of work, my passions include
Silent Meditation Retreats–it’s one of the most powerful things I’ve done. Teaching Mindfulness, especially to those new to meditation. Running at Baker Beach and Ragle Park. Backpacking in Desolation Wilderness. Swing and Salsa dancing.