Amy Jo Lauber lives in a modest-sized home in South Buffalo with her husband, Paul, and their 12-year-old daughter, Madison.
The South Park High School and SUNY Buffalo State graduate is a lector and president of the Parish Council at Our Lady of Charity St. Ambrose site, near her home.
She drives a 2012 Honda Fit.
It’s hard to believe she’s a certified financial adviser in 21st century America.
“I actually had a guy hire me because when he pulled up there wasn’t a Lexus in the parking lot,” she said.
Lauber, 45, operates Lauber Financial Planning from a second-floor office on Seneca Street in West Seneca, across from the Southgate Plaza. She doesn’t focus on stock market speculation or insurance. Her wheelhouse: helping individuals, families and small business owners deal with the stress often found on the road to financial health.
It’s a road that can get pretty bumpy this time of year.
“The biggest problem is that nowhere are money and emotions as tangled up as they are during the holidays – because budgeting, to some extent, means limiting,” Lauber said. “That flies in the face of the spirit of generosity, and no one’s really honest about that.”
Psychologists refer clients to you who are struggling, in part, financially. What do those mental health providers say about this time of year, when some people are spending twice as much money as they expected and getting swept up in the holidays? Why do we do that?
We all want to be together and enjoying each other’s company, having the spirit of generosity and abundance. You’re not going to find that at the store – but we keep trying. There’s a great quote by (the late motivational speaker) Zig Ziglar: ‘Money won’t make you happy, but everyone wants to find out for themselves.’ I don’t think any of your readers will find that a huge revelation. Of course we know that, but we don’t act on it. We never want to appear as if we don’t have enough. That’s a big sense of shame for a lot of people.
Why is that?
Because we use money as a measuring stick, unfortunately, and yet we know money won’t make us happy. When people ask, ‘What are your kids going to do? What do you think they’ll be like?,’ we say, ‘I just want them to be healthy and happy.’ Not healthy and happy and have a new car, and have all new furniture and have diamond rings and, and, and. … Why do you want those things, to tell the world, ‘I have, therefore I am?’ That’s messed up, but we do it all the time.
Talk about the left brain-right brain tug when it comes to financial decisions.
It goes back to the practice of mindfulness, which has you focusing on the emotional as well as the rational mind. The combining of the two is called the wise mind. The left brain is very rational, where most of economic theory is based. That’s why so many people struggle with money, because we make most of our financial decisions with our right brain, our emotional brain.
You have to pay attention to that emotional side, because you have to pay attention to what you’re needing, what your feeling. If you ignore it, it’ll just keep popping up. Whatever the case may be, give it the time that it deserves … kind of holding space and listening to the emotional side of it, and making the rational decision after hearing out the emotions. It’s kind of like giving your kid a candy bar in the grocery store so you can finish your shopping: ‘Here, let me give you what you need, so I can do what I need to get done.’
How can you use both sides of the brain to make sound financial decisions?
I think you have to start with the emotional side. You really need to take the time to dream, to think about what you want the good life to look like, living the good life but on your own terms. Not trying to impress people, win people’s favor, admiration. None of that, but what does the good life look like for you?
During the dreaming process, how specific should you be?
As specific as you possibly can. I’m a big fan of vision boarding, journaling, any tool that you can use to keep those images in your head. If you say, ‘My good life includes travel’ – that’s a big component for a lot of people – cut out some pictures, think about where you’d like to stay. There’s a lot of energy behind that dreaming, and if you can get more specific, you’re more likely to achieve it.
What are some of the top tips you have for healthy holiday spending?
It is important to set some limit, what’s realistic. If you find yourself pushing the limit, you really have to ask yourself why. A lot of it is managing expectations. You have money coming in. What other bills do you have to pay? Are you going to take money from savings? Have you been setting money aside all year? How are you going to approach this, and get wildly creative with what you can do with that money?
How far should we look ahead in terms of finances?
Just after the holidays, start thinking about the upcoming year: How much do you normally spend? I’m not encouraging people to spend less, just to be mindful and spend within your means. Right after the holidays have passed, and you’ve enjoyed them, look forward to the holidays next year, and how to commit some resources each month so you can enjoy them without stressing. Everyone thinks they’re going to pay off their credit card bill with their tax refund, but they don’t. They go on vacation because they’re so stressed out, or they buy furniture.
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