Money and Mindfulness with Spencer Sherman

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If Money Were Easy

Hosted by Mary Beth Storjohann and Neela Hummel

Money and Mindfulness with Spencer Sherman

If Money Were Easy
If Money Were Easy
Money and Mindfulness with Spencer Sherman

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Episode Summary

If you’re not careful, money can have an undesirable impact on your life, so it’s important to remain mindful and intentional around your finances. But what does that look like exactly? And how do you achieve that when there are so many social challenges surrounding money? 

On this episode of If Money Were Easy, Mary Beth and Neela talk with Abacus Wealth Partners Co-Founder Spencer Sherman, MBA, CFP® to explore these questions. Spencer shares how to remain mindful around your money and how to approach difficult money situations. He also talks about the value of understanding what your “enough” looks like and how that relates to financial mindfulness. Join us today and hear how you can invite joy into your life by breaking difficult money patterns we all face!

What You’ll Learn in This Episode:

  • How money looks with (and without) mindfulness
  • The impact of using a more mindful approach to money
  • Approaching an uncomfortable money situation with mindfulness
  • The benefits of getting comfortable with being uncomfortable
  • The importance of the uncomfortable pause
  • A question to ask yourself when you’re feeling stressed or anxious
  • How you can find joy around money
  • The three steps to practicing self-compassion
  • How breaking money patterns can bring joy into your life
  • The meaning of mindfulness and what “enough” looks like
  • Why it is so important to figure out your “enough”

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Transcript of the Episode

Mary Beth (00:14):

Hey there. Welcome to the If Money Were Easy podcast, the show where we teach you how to expand what’s possible with your money. We’re your hosts, Mary Beth Storjohann –

Neela (00:23):

And Neela Hummel –

Mary Beth (00:24):

Certified financial planners and Co-CEOs of Abacus Wealth Partners. Today on the show we’re going to talk about money and mindfulness. But before we jump in, a brief disclosure from our Director of Compliance. This podcast is for educational purposes and is not intended as investment, legal, or tax advice. Any opinion shared is not an opinion of Abacus Wealth Partners. Let’s jump in.

Neela (00:49):

All right, so today on the show we are joined by Spencer Sherman. Spencer Sherman is a leading financial advisor, author, public speaker, and the founder and former CEO of Abacus, a values-driven financial planning and investment management firm. That place sounds familiar! A successful CEO entrepreneur, public speaker, teacher, and author, Spencer bridges the worlds of mindfulness and money. He skillfully guides audiences, workshop participants, readers, and clients to examine intentions, practices, and actions that cultivate a wise relationship with what we value most. A meditation practitioner for over 35 years, Spencer attributes his compassionate leadership and business success to the daily cultivation of mindfulness. As a teacher, he works with leaders and changemakers to develop their own sense of enoughness, both personally and professionally. He’s the bestselling author of The Cure for Money Madness and has led workshops at Esalen and Spirit Rock Meditation Center. He has been practicing mindfulness since 1980 and is a qualified teacher of mindfulness-based stress reduction. He’s a certified Search Inside Yourself teacher, a New York native living in California. Spencer now devotes much of his time to sharing his mindfulness-based approach to money through books, Fearless Finance, and personal appearances. Spencer, welcome to our show.

Mary Beth (02:10):


Spencer (02:11):

Thank you Neela. Thank you Mary Beth, it’s great to be here.

Neela (02:14):

We’re so excited to have you here.

Mary Beth (02:15):

We’re very excited. And I have a raspy voice y’all, so we’re gonna bear with me today. But Spencer, I wanna kick off.

Spencer (02:22):

That’s good, your voice.

Mary Beth (02:23):

Thank you. Isn’t it? <laugh> I’m over here with my cup of tea.

Spencer (02:27):

It gives this podcast a little more gravitas with that rasp.

Mary Beth (02:30):

There is. We’re gonna miss this. We have two episodes today we’re recording. So the thing I wanted to kick off with Spencer, though, is money and mindfulness – can you just paint an overview. What does life with money look like without mindfulness and what does it look like with mindfulness?

Spencer (02:49):

Well, we’ve pretty much known life without mindfulness, and I would say it’s the least mindful arena in our lives. And there’s so many good reasons for that. It’s not our fault. It’s that money is this abstract, confusing topic when we’re growing up and we get all these messages, these imprints from our caretakers, our parents, the culture, and we make up these ideas about money. And often we see siblings of similar ages will get very different takes on what they both experience. They experience the same data, the same stories, the same experiences, and yet they’ll take away very different ideas about money and then you add to that it’s taboo. You can’t talk about money. And all of that together leads us to be very unmindful. Cause I can’t even say to you, Mary Beth and Neela, “Hey, I’m feeling a little anxiety that the check just came and I don’t know how to share this check.” I just can’t say anything. And I’m just gonna say, “Okay, I’ll take the check.” Even though I can’t afford to pay the check.

Mary Beth (03:57):


Spencer (03:58):

We’ve been very unmindful and I’m on a mission to move us towards mindfulness, to become aware of these emotions that we’ve pushed away around money, to become aware of these beliefs – that we’ve become so allegiant to beliefs like money is more important than anything. Rich people are happier, money grows on trees, doesn’t grow on trees, money’s hard to get and even harder to keep. It’s the fixed nature of those beliefs that really get us in trouble.

Mary Beth (04:32):

And is it through the process of becoming mindful that we start to identify those beliefs within ourself?

Spencer (04:39):

Yes. Yes. That’s what I’m saying. So what gets me so excited about this topic, Mary Beth, is that because we’ve been so unmindful about money, if we just bring a little bit of awareness, like 10% of our awareness to money, anything is possible. We can have such a big move in our lives if we just become a little bit mindful about the topic that we’ve been so unmindful about. And that can lead us in all kinds of great directions. Not just maybe having more money in our lives, but just having a whole new relationship with money, which may sound like, “Oh, well, a new relationship with money. That’s just one part of our lives.” Money permeates every part of our lives, right? So it’s gonna impact our romantic relationships, our work relationships, our friendships, everything can be inspired when we take on this more mindful approach to money.

Neela (05:38):

Ugh. I got, like, chills thinking about it. Because it’s this thing that we’re never really taught about that has such a profound impact on us and that touches all aspects of our life and we can’t really talk about it. So that’s kind of an interesting combination of events. So going back to the example that you talked about, you’re at the restaurant and the check arrives and you gave the example of what happens when we’re not feeling a sense of mindfulness. Tell our listeners what it’s like if you have more mindfulness and that moment happens, walk us through it.

Spencer (06:10):

Yeah, well of course. And I don’t do this perfectly <laughs>, right along with the rest of us. So when the check comes and I’ve been practicing this, what I’m doing now is instead of just reacting, and often my reactions are to just pick up the check – that’s my way of kind of pushing away the anxiety, is to let me just take the check because I don’t wanna bring it up. So now what I’m starting to do with being more mindful is I’m noticing the anxiety that’s coming up. Maybe it’s coming up at the beginning of the meal even, and I’m saying, “Wow, it would be wonderful if I didn’t even have to think about the check while I’m eating and I can actually digest my meal and enjoy the people I’m with.” So sometimes I’m saying it at the beginning of the meal, “How do you feel about sharing this check today?” Or, “How do you feel about me paying for lunch today?” And we’re sort of getting that handled right off the bat and then the whole experience becomes so much lighter when the check does arrive cause we know it’s gonna happen.

Neela (07:12):

Oh, I love that. I went to a group dinner and I very much empathize with that feeling where you’re sitting at a table and you’re sitting with like nine other people that you don’t know and you’re like, “Okay, now how is this gonna work?” And I remember the person that hosted the meal said at the very beginning, “Hey, this is how we’re gonna do it. Does that sound good to everybody?” Everybody’s like, “Yep.” And then the rest of the meal went perfectly. So I love that, Spencer. I think that’s some really, really interesting feedback.

Spencer (07:38):

Yeah. And I think that the whole idea about preempting things with money is so, so apt. I mean, with couples talking about things in advance, instead of just saying, “Oh yeah, I did buy a hot tub last month,” which is true for me. Yeah.

Mary Beth (07:55):


Spencer (07:56):

It’s being more intentional, more mindful. And then from that mindfulness comes this intentionality with money instead of this passivity with money, which then our actions when we’re passive, our actions then are directed by those beliefs that we inherited when we were three, four, five, six years old. And we don’t want to be directed by those beliefs necessarily. We want to be directed by our wiser adult mature selves.

Mary Beth (08:23):

So I love the concept of money and mindfulness. And I know it’s not necessarily easy though, right? So everything you just mentioned – sitting at the table, the check comes – and even if you’re just with a friend or maybe just immediate family and you’re like, “Am I paying?” The nature is to just pay because you don’t wanna do the struggle. And so the mindful component, like you mentioned, is what are you feeling in your body? But taking that next step to address it is uncomfortable. You have to do another uncomfortable thing to make progress.

Spencer (08:54):

Yeah. I’m going like this with my finger, Mary Beth, I’m like underlining that word uncomfortable, right? It’s uncomfortable. In fact, when one of your questions you said to me, what’s the best advice you’ve ever received? The best advice I’ve ever received is getting comfortable being uncomfortable. Because that will pave the way for so much more ease and success around our finances. Because that discomfort is breaking away from a very comfortable pattern. And often in our lives we’re in these comfortable patterns with money that don’t serve us, but they’re comfortable. I mean, just like any kind of addictive pattern, whatever it is, whether it’s with eating or money or anything, it feels comfortable. It feels soothing to just, “Oh no, I’m not gonna say anything about paying the check. I’m just gonna sit here and get through the meal.” On the surface, it feels like that’s an easier way to go, whereas it’s actually causing us more pain, more anxiety. So yes, I think the practice of mindfulness helps us cultivate this resiliency within ourselves so we can be with that discomfort and then find that pause. Often in life we’re in that reactivity, especially around money, right? We’re in that fight or flight place with money, with spending, with investing, we do things in those impulsive ways. And mindfulness helps us create the ability to pause. And in that pause we have that ability to make a choice. And that’s where our power lies.

Mary Beth (10:28):

So that discomfort is almost like a gift to yourself. That’s what you’re saying, that discomfort is taking that power to choose a different path.

Spencer (10:37):

Yes. You can notice the discomfort, that is an opportunity, that’s your lightning rod to pause and say, “Wow, I feel really uncomfortable about the stock market right now. It’s painful. It’s just gone down 20% like it did last year.” And can I be with that for a moment? Can I sit with that instead of just reacting? Can I be with the discomfort when the check arrives? And not just react, but say, “Okay, what might be the best response here?” Maybe I’m just gonna bring it up to everyone and just be real. Like, I don’t know how to handle the check, but can we talk about it? Right? Because there’s a part of me that just wants to pay it or not pay it and let our intelligence, our common sense come through instead of resorting to that pattern.

Neela (11:25):

What results on the other side of that pause? So to Mary Beth’s point, you’re already asking yourself to do something that’s uncomfortable and then we’re like, “Okay, we’re getting comfortable being uncomfortable.” And then you have that moment where you’re reflecting on where you are and how you’re feeling and how it feels in your bones. What do you get out of that? What is on the other side? Do you have all of a sudden this freedom from money anxiety? Why should we invite that kind of discomfort?

Mary Beth (11:54):

Please tell me it fixes everything.

Neela (11:56):

Alright, I’ve got my notepad ready. <laughs> And I’m taking copious notes. <laughs>

Spencer (12:01):

Well, so I heard this physician speak recently named Gabor Maté. And he speaks about addiction in this very widespread general way that all of us are in addictive patterns, not just with drugs. We’re in addictive habits with our thoughts. And often we have a lot of addictive thoughts around money. You know, we might have fears that keep recirculating. We have fantasies that keep recirculating. I mean, just that alone keeps us from doing something engaging that will actually move the needle with our finances. We stay locked in our fears or our fantasies. And then we have the addictive patterns of behavior that every time the market goes down, we might sell or try to do something with our investments. We might react in the store when we’re about to buy something and we just say, “Oh yeah, I don’t know what to do. I’m feeling all this stress and I’m just gonna buy it anyway.” Or, “I’m not feeling well today, so I’m just gonna cover up that feeling by buying something online.” So this pause gives us the opportunity to see maybe there’s another fork in the road. Maybe there’s another way of addressing this issue that might be much healthier for ourselves. And my new favorite word is interruption. When we interrupt our patterns, that’s where the magic and our lives is. I mean, why replay the same Top 10 hits in our minds or behaviors again and again and again? Why not have a life where we can approach money in new ways? And the way we get there is by creating these pauses in our lives of being able to just feel what’s happening and then say, “Okay, what’s the right path here?” Maybe if I don’t know what the path is, maybe the right path is for me to call a friend and say, “Hey, I’m thinking about buying this hot tub and I’m wondering if I can afford it. Can I just run this value as a sounding board?” Or maybe you call your financial advisor at that point and say, “Can I afford this addition on my home?” Instead of just saying to the contractor, “Yes, let’s do it.” So it’s that pause that, yeah, I think there is a lot of freedom from that ability to make a decision that doesn’t come from the old patterns.

Mary Beth (14:28):

So there’s the pause, which you’re saying is the noticing.

Spencer (14:31):


Mary Beth (14:31):

And so we’re noticing, and then if I’m following correctly, then we follow it up with a question or we’re pausing and almost asking ourselves a question of, “What am I feeling right now? What is the next step?” That pause interrupts the flow of thoughts. And then the part where we get mindful is we dig a little deeper. I’m noticing I’m anxious and that I have to do something to prompt myself though, right? Then I have to ask myself a question, “Is that correct?” The next step is to ask myself something and then give myself something to act off of. Or do I just sit with it? Could it be both?

Spencer (15:02):

Yes. There’s several good approaches here. So one approach is that as we’re with the anxiety, that anxiety will start to change. We might label things in this very generic way. Like, I’m just feeling anxious whenever I’m out shopping or whenever the markets are going crazy, I’m just feeling anxiety. But that’s actually not true. There’s like a thousand colors of anxiety that we’re feeling. And as we start to gain mindfulness, this awareness, we start to see these different colors. We see it changing. And as it starts to change, it’s not just fixed, it starts to unravel. As we gain this resilience to be with those difficult feelings, they will start to unravel. And seeing those subtle changes gives us this confidence. Another question that I love to sometimes ask when I’m in a stressed-out place is if a friend of yours had your exact situation that you’re completely stressed about, whether to buy this house or not buy this house, whether to pay for lunch or not pay for lunch, or something like that, you say, “What advice would I give to this friend who had my exact situation?” That can be really helpful. Or like a couple, one spouse is saying, “We should spend,” and the other spouse saying, “No, we should save.” I have that couple turn towards another couple. Imagine a couple that has your exact circumstances. How would you advise this other couple given their polarity?

Neela (16:31):

Which is the question that Mary Beth mentioned. So what is that question? What is the need that we’re looking to fill? And I love the idea of bringing somebody else in because there is so much emotion really in everything, but very much in money.

Spencer (16:45):

Yes. And the emotion clouds us. That emotion can be helpful as a lightning rod to alert us to something. And then the wiser adult part of ourselves knows that that emotion is interfering with common sense. And that’s why I like getting to objectivity. I mean that’s why I have a personal financial advisor, even though I’ve been a financial advisor for a few decades. 

Mary Beth (17:09):

Preaching to the choir.

Spencer (17:09):

I know a lot, but my emotion can still conflict with the right thing to do with seeing things objectively.

Neela (17:16):

Right. It makes me think of something completely unrelated, but the idea of Monday morning quarterbacking on like a friend’s relationship where it’s like, well obviously this isn’t working, but you’re not the one in the relationship, so you don’t know. And so by getting that third party person to weigh these facts that you’re presenting, it could potentially keep you from a casual hot tub purchase or something like that.

Spencer (17:39):

<laughs>. Yes. I mean, I know so many people who have talked about how their financial advisor has really helped them. If you can’t afford a financial advisor, so many people I’ve hooked up with are sort of money accountability buddies. And sometimes it’s two couples are accountability buddies for each other. And having, you know, those periodic check-ins with each other has been so helpful.

Mary Beth (18:02):

I love that.

Spencer (18:03):

You have to have that first mindful pause, as you said Mary Beth, to get to that place where you can take some of these actions.

Mary Beth (18:10):

Right! So at the beginning we talked about that we haven’t been mindful if we’re not mindful around money, it’s not anything that we practice, which is why we have so much shame and unhappiness around money. But how do we use mindfulness? And is it possible to access joy around our finances? How do we find joy with our money? Or is that just a wish and not anything that we can actually obtain?

Spencer (18:35):

I mean, to me, joy comes from being very clear. I mean, they say in Buddhist philosophy, they talk about joy coming from being very present. That you’re not stuck in the past. You’re not blaming yourself for your past money mistakes. Cause all of us can do that, right? For the rest of our lives. I can do that.

Mary Beth (18:56):

That’s on a repeat, right? Those highlight reels. 

Spencer (18:59):

Things I should’ve bought or whatever the things I should’ve done or not done. Or we can just stay stuck in the fantasy or the fear about the future. And being very clear on where you stand in your life and your present situation, just that kind of living in the present moment with full awareness of what’s happening, just that can bring us a lot of joy. And then the other thing I’d say is stepping out of patterns. I find that it is incredibly joyful to see myself get off that track that I’ve been on for decades and do something differently or do something wiser, hopefully, with money than I’ve done in the past. So that when a friend now asks me, “Hey Spencer, do you wanna invest in my startup company?” I’m much more likely to say, “It sounds great. I know you’re gonna make millions. And I’m actually at a point where I don’t need to make millions of dollars in that kind of investment. So thank you and I wish you well and I wanna support you. I might even give you some money. Here’s a little bit of money. I don’t want anything back from it.”

Neela (20:06):

<laughs>. I also don’t want any tax complications that come with investing in your private investment.

Spencer (20:10):

Exactly. So I, you know, I think all of this can bring us joy. I think that one of the practices I talk about a lot that’s coming up for me now is – one of the most powerful things we can do – is offer compassion to ourselves. And often we’re so hard on ourselves around our finances and that self-compassion about what’s happened in the past can do wonders for our psyche. Can bring on that sense of joy.

Mary Beth (20:41):

What does self-compassion look like? I think Buddhists know, or those who actually practice, but if our listeners aren’t practicing?

Spencer (20:47):

So there’s three steps. Hopefully I’ll be able to say them, three steps to self-compassion. And I’m taking this from Kristin Neff who’s a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin. And so she talks about this awareness of the feelings in the body. So, aware of what’s happening in the body right before you’re like, you’re offering yourself even that compassion aware of the anxiety. And then the second step. So that’s the first step, is just recognizing the feeling that’s compassionate, is recognizing the feeling inside instead of just going out shopping to get rid of that anxiety feeling. And then the second step is recognizing the universality of that feeling of that emotion. Often we think we’re the only one who’s suffering around money because like we talked about in the beginning, it’s so taboo. We don’t realize that thousands or maybe millions of people in this moment might be having the same issue around money or in their marriage around money. That we are not alone. And that can be very liberating. That can bring on joy. Just that. And then the third step in this self-compassion practice is to offer nurturing words to yourself. Like you think about the most benevolent grandparent you can imagine if you didn’t have one yourself. And what would that grandparent say to you in this moment about this money dilemma that you’re facing? And then offering those words to yourself and hearing them, really feeling them in yourself. Those nurturing words that can help really transform how you see the problem. Compassion, I say, is one of the most powerful forces on the planet as far as I’m concerned. I think a couple of other things I would say to fully answer that question, self-compassion to me is like being friendly to yourself. And often we’re not so friendly to ourselves. And there’s several layers here. It’s not just a level of giving yourself a massage every month or two. That’s one level of self-compassion. The other level is getting back to that word I mentioned, the “interrupt” word. How good are you at interrupting the thought patterns when you’re going down a negative thought pattern? How good are you at interrupting that pattern? I don’t have any money. I’m upset about it. Or my money isn’t where it should be, or I can’t retire, my job sucks. Whatever’s going on in your mind. Can you interrupt that pattern and take some action that might actually be effective? That’s an act of self-compassion.

Neela (23:24):

It also just sounds like it’s self-compassion and then it also brings with it compassion towards others. I mean you mentioned that there’s tons of people who are probably struggling with the exact same money issue you have, but everybody probably has something. Maybe they’re different struggles.

Spencer (23:42):

Yeah. That’s a beautiful insight, Neela. Yeah. That as we do self-compassion work, that’s sort of like the “put on your own oxygen mask first.” You then have so much more capacity for others. But in that second step of recognizing the universality of the suffering that you might be having right now, or that might be a strong word, or just the anxiety you’re having right now in this moment of money, you start to cultivate more compassion for other people that other people – you start to see, “Wow, that person that doesn’t have money and needs money and it’s maybe not their fault, probably isn’t their fault.” That, through their conditioning and their set circumstances, they wound up in this situation. And often when we see this, especially within families, it can be really hard. I mean, I know in my family there was just so much judgment of one family member because of how she handles her finances and it was really hard for people to feel compassion towards her. 

Neela (24:38):

And that brings up the different money stories that we receive early on. It’s interesting sitting here, you know, Mary Beth and I both having young children and thinking about raising kids, and we’re wondering what kind of money stories are we imprinting on them because they can be very much different –

Mary Beth (24:54):

Oh yeah.

Spencer (24:55):

And yes. And because you have multiple kids, it’ll be interesting to see if they take away sometimes very different ideas from the same message that you give them.

Mary Beth (25:05):

Oh, I already see it at seven and five. It is happening. It’s happening for sure. <laughs>

Neela (25:08):

Living it. <laughs>

Spencer (25:10):

Wow. So that’s great. I mean you realize that a lot of it’s so much out of your control. Like you don’t know whether it’s just their different personalities or they come in with different DNA and they’re wired to hear things differently. But yeah, it’s like you have to let go. And I often say, you know, cause I’ve taught classes on kids and money to parents, and I often say the best thing to think about is the modeling – are you actually modeling? Cause a lot of parents talk about saving money, but then whenever they want to buy something, they’re just buying it impulsively. Are you actually saving up for the electric bike that you’re buying? <laughs>

Neela (25:47):


Mary Beth (25:48):

Great point.

Spencer (25:49):

So the modeling, I think, is showing them that you’re saving money. You’re giving money. Doing those things alongside them, talking about it, showing them, taking them to the animal shelter. I mean, all that I think is very helpful for kids.

Mary Beth (26:03):

I want to go back to what you said about breaking patterns and that bringing joy. And I think that was such a profound point because we have so many patterns in so many areas of our lives, right? Even my husband and I talk about, we go to the same restaurant, we call ourselves creatures of habit and we go to the same restaurant. We love the restaurant. But what happens when we venture out and have that new experience or the new type of food and the joy that comes from that of having just that new lived experience? I mean, just from stepping out of that pattern that we have, we create joy. Or changing our routine of pickup and maybe like taking the kids out to a park after school one day, those little changes in our daily lives are so powerful in bringing joy. And so I can only imagine when we allow ourselves to break our money patterns and not do the impulse buy and allow ourselves to build the emergency fund and see what kind of confidence and joy that actually sparks. That feels like a gift that we hesitate to give ourselves.

Spencer (26:57):

Especially when we come to realize that the pattern isn’t a productive pattern. For example, the mindless spending can be a pattern, but then there’s also the mindless saving. You know, I’ve talked to employees for example, and there’s such a competition to race to the top, and racing to the top in that environment means accumulating the most money that they just save everything. And there’s no sense of, “Well, do I really need to save this much?” They don’t know. But they just do it. It’s just an automatic pattern for them to do. But there’s not any thought awareness behind it of whether they need to actually do it. So. Right. I think examining these patterns is really helpful. Cause you under-save, you can over-save.

Neela (27:41):

Right. Any behavior taken to an extreme is not healthy. I always think of something my dad says, “Moderation, and all things including moderation.” <laughs>

Mary Beth (27:51):

Yes. I love that. It’s really powerful, actually. That mindless saving. I don’t think we talk about that enough. We see it quite a bit in our profession though. But I have never articulated it as mindless saving.

Spencer (28:01):

And we’ve known people, we’ve had clients who get to this point where they’re like, “Wow, I wish I had done a little bit more in my sixties and seventies. Now I’m in my eighties. I don’t have the vigor to go on epic vacations to do interesting philanthropy.” So there is that balance there of not wanting to run out of money, but also not wanting to wind up with so much money that you feel you missed out on things.

Neela (28:25):

Right. Spencer, speak a little bit, it’s an area of passion for you. This concept of “enough-”ness. And I think this is very much connected to mindfulness. What does that mean cultivating this sense of enoughness? And how can mindfulness help you do that?

Spencer (28:40):

So this “enough” idea sounds very limiting or it might almost sound boring, but that’s not how I think of this mindset of enough. This mindset of enough to me is a really an exalted state. It’s a place where you’re okay with yourself as you are. You’re okay with your finances as they are. And when you reach that place, then anything is possible. Cause you’re no longer in this judgment. You’re no longer in this grasping things to be different. It’s not like you don’t have goals. You still might have goals, but you’re not grasping for things to be different. You’re not saying to yourself anymore, “Well, when my kids become independent then I’ll feel okay or then my finances will be okay. Or when I retire or when I reach a million dollars or 5 million or 10 million, then I’ll be okay.” It’s so counter to our culture, this enough mindset because we’re all raised in this culture pretty much with this idea of more is better. And of course there’s the famous story of John Rockefeller, who in 1916 was asked by a journalist, “What’s your definition of enough?” And certainly the world’s first billionaire should have been able to give a good answer for the definition of enough. And his answer was, “A little bit more.” And I think that’s so telling. It’s a beautiful response because you’re not gonna get to enough by achieving a higher number. It’s going to happen. It’s a very present moment idea of seeing that you can find this place of enoughness in this very moment as you’re listening to this podcast. This sense of enough time in your life, a sense of enough creativity, enough intelligence, enough house, enough money, that you do enough, you can get to this place right in this moment.

Neela (30:38):

And that ironically, once you’re there, once you’re feeling this sense of enough, you probably end up achieving more because you’ve broken those harmful patterns, you’ve interrupted the cycle of spinning in your head and maybe you end up cultivating more wealth or more generosity, whatever.

Spencer (30:56):

That’s exactly right. It’s very analogous to what we see in the sports world or going for a job. You want to hire the person who’s just so relaxed. They want the job but they don’t need it. They don’t come with this desperation or a salesperson that doesn’t come with a sense of desperation. They’re out for everyone’s benefit. They feel a sense of enoughness. Whether you buy the product or it’s enough, that’s the person you wanna buy from.

Neela (31:22):

Oh Spencer, I feel like we could talk about this for a long time. I’m already bringing with me a sense of calm. This message of we’ve all arrived, we get so caught up in this journey, but ultimately the “there” that we might have in our mind isn’t really a “there, there.” We are here, we’re enough. And you can still make changes and still lead a really full life. But bringing that calmness to your bones just has tons of benefits.

Spencer (31:52):

Yes, so much so Neela that it is ironic. But I have experienced in my life, I’ve seen it in many clients and students, that you achieve more when you’re in that enough mindset. You’re also moving into what’s called the parasympathetic nervous system. You’re in a much more relaxed place. And we all know from the work world, the sports world, when you’re relaxed, you’re on fire. That’s when anything is possible. I love what you said that we’ve already arrived to start moving towards that place instead of this idea that if all of my New Year’s resolutions come to be, then I’ll be okay. What if none of them come to be? Can’t you still be great even if none of them come to be?

Neela (32:32):

The idea of not moving the goalpost.

Spencer (32:34):

Yes. Right.

Neela (32:37):

So now Spencer, I feel like we have to call enough on this podcast and pivot towards our closing questions. I promised at least one mom joke. That was it. Nailed it. <laughs>. So Spencer, for our closing questions, our first one, and I think you already partially answered this, but we’ll give you another chance to give it another go. What is the best financial advice you ever received?

Spencer (32:59):

I mean, I said before, getting comfortable being uncomfortable. Because in life, the markets are going to go up and down. I mean that’s the thing that’s certain is uncertainty. And I think understanding that, accepting that at an early age, it can be a game changer. And it took me a while to get to that. To see that the best ideas are not going to remain the best ideas forever. Things are in flux and certainly we see that with the markets, with the investment markets. So recognizing that I think puts you ahead of the curve. I think the other one is this is such a world of comparison and there’s so many shoulds. I should own a house, I should have a certain car. And to really be allegiant to your own values, to really tune in, which is not simple to tune into. What do you really want? What kind of life do you want? What are the benefits of owning a house versus renting a house? And does that really meet who you are or who your family is? Is that the best path for you? That openness to really looking at all the possibilities, I think, increases your conviction – even if you end up doing the thing you originally thought you were going to do.

Mary Beth (34:15):

I think that’s such powerful advice, especially with social media. All we see are highlight reels. And it’s so easy to become distracted.

Spencer (34:22):

Yes. Right. That’s what I would say. Sorry, I couldn’t give you like a stock ticker. <laughs>

Mary Beth (34:26):

Those are great. I have like three little quotes we can just print out after this Spencer. It’s fine. We have a lot. The only thing that is certain is uncertainty. <laughs> Alright. What would you say is your favorite money mistake you’ve made and why?

Spencer (34:38):

Oh, well I alluded to that one also.

Mary Beth (34:41):

Is it the hot tub? It’s gotta be the hot tub, no? <laughs>

Neela (34:46):

I’m just envisioning what we could do with the artwork for this episode. And it’s gonna involve a hot tub. <laughs>

Spencer (34:54):

That was one. But a bigger one was when a friend of mine said to me, somebody that I trust a lot, and of course this is how it goes. It’s a friend you trust who’s really smart. He was really into tech and he said, “Look, there’s this startup that I want you to look at because it’s gonna make you so much money, blah, blah, blah blah, blah.” And then as he’s talking about me putting in so much money and it’s gonna turn into millions of dollars. And then the thought that I had, the biggest mistake was, “Well, so what if he’s wrong? So what if it doesn’t turn to millions of dollars? Maybe it’s only gonna be a million. That’s still okay. That’s still enough.”

Neela (35:36):


Spencer (35:37):

And that was the thought that got me to invest in my friend’s company, was what if it doesn’t do so well? I’m still gonna make a lot of money.

Mary Beth (35:45):

There’s still some sort of guarantee there.

Spencer (35:47):

There’s the still some sort of guarantee.

Mary Beth (35:48):

We don’t, do not, guarantee anything in this industry <laughs>

Spencer (35:51):

Exactly. I mean it went to zero. Of course we know the end of the story. But that delusion that I had that, “Yeah, even if it doesn’t do this well, it’s still gonna be a modest gain.” It didn’t enter my mind. You know, this is again, where we don’t look at the evidence. We get caught up in the emotion of things. Evidence will tell you that you have a very, very low probability of making any money in any one startup investment, no matter who the founder is.

Neela (36:22):

Oh yeah. The old data that 90% of startups fail. But in our minds we’re thinking we’re gonna find that top 10% is different this time. “This time it’s different” are the most dangerous words in the world.

Spencer (36:35):

Yes. And then the FOMO. I don’t wanna miss out on this thing. And I’ve shifted that to, you know what, it’s great if all my friends become billionaires. I’m gonna love that. Because then they can just give money to all my favorite charities. <laughs> That’s gonna be good. Cause I don’t want to wish badly for anyone. I want to wish them well. May all their startups flourish. <laughs> It’s okay if I miss out on all of those startups. And then of course, we also know that even if one made all those millions or billions of dollars, what we’ve seen in our firm is those extra millions don’t really change our happiness level fundamentally, they don’t. They don’t give us back as much as we might imagine.

Neela (37:18):

I think to add to the Spencer Sherman bumper sticker line is, “May your startup flourish, I think” is a great one. We’ll just throw that on there. Especially if you live in the Bay Area. <laughs> Okay, final question. Fill in the blank. If money were easy…

Spencer (37:34):

If money were easy, it’d be easy to prioritize what’s important. And in prioritizing what’s important, it would also be easy to say no to what isn’t important. And to me, that’s what feels very prominent right now in my life, is knowing what are you saying no to? Because underneath every no is a yes. But we’re not taught that growing up. We’re just taught don’t say no or no’s a bad word, but in a no is a yes. And when you say no to going out for dinner, maybe you’re saying yes to buying a second home or adding an addition onto your home. So to start reorienting your no’s that way so that you focus on your priorities. And at work, I would say, I mean especially today, our inboxes are so full. There’s so much we can do. Personal lives and our work lives. So many things we can tackle. And for me, if money was easy, I would be focusing on those things that have produced the most results. And that has not always been the case for me. I’ve sometimes done everything instead of looking at what’s actually done well in my life, especially in my career. Where have I made the biggest strides? And to focus on the things that give you the most bang for your hour.

Mary Beth (38:59):

I love that. Spencer, thank you so much for being here. This is wonderful. Thank you for listening to my squeaking and for all of your knowledge. Can you tell our listeners before we wrap up where they can contact you? Where they can find you?

Spencer (39:12):

Yes. They can email me at They can learn more about me at the website. And I’m doing all this speaking. If you want to get in touch with me and have me speak to a group – I speak to companies, to professional groups, to the general public, to financial advisors – you can get in touch with me at

Mary Beth (39:40):

Also, can you give us your Instagram because it’s great? So put your Instagram handle.

Spencer (39:45):

It’s MindfulSpencer, isn’t that funny? MindfulSpencer. I mean, cause I’m a work in progress. <laughs> It’s like a big thing to say. Mindful Spencer. <laughs>

Neela (39:56):

Increasingly mindful Spencer.

Mary Beth (39:57):

It’s a call to action for yourself.

Spencer (40:00):

Yeah. I feel like it’s a call to action. Thank you. Thank you, Mary Beth. It’s a call to action for myself. Yeah. Check out my Instagram page cause I’ve got all these funny videos of me. Oh, I just did one just a few days ago that I told an advisor at Abacus about. I started making an Instagram video at the end of a meditation retreat and I was breaking the rules cause you’re not supposed to talk on a meditation retreat. And I thought I was in a private spot and a woman overhears me and I think she’s gonna get in trouble. She comes on over and she says, “What are you doing?” I said, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” She says, “Were you talking about generosity?” I said, “Yes.” She said, “Tell me more. I think I’m interested in becoming a client.” That just happened.

Mary Beth (40:47):

<laughs> Yes. Spencer is Instagram goals for Nee and I. So, yes.

Neela (40:52):

Spencer, thank you so much. So many great nuggets and just a total joy. Love the work that you’re doing.

Spencer (40:57):

May this podcast flourish and reach millions, if not billions of people.

Neela (41:02):

May this podcast, just like your startups, flourish.

Mary Beth (41:05):


Spencer (41:06):

Flourish and whomever it reaches, may it flourish, may it be enough just the way you guys are perfect.

Mary Beth (41:12):

Thank you, Spencer.

Spencer (41:14):

Thank You.

Neela (41:14):

All right.

Mary Beth (41:16):

Thanks for tuning in to today’s episode of If Money Were Easy. If this is the year that you want to expand what’s possible with your money and you can use some professional guidance along the way, head over to and schedule your free consultation.

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