Financial Advisor | Austin, TX | The Art of Finance | Blog
The Art of Finance is a fee-based financial planning firm dedicated to helping creative minds negotiate the complexities of personal finance.
Financial Planner, Austin, Texas, Artist, Creative, Creativity, Actor, Dancer, Art of Finance, The Art of Finance, AoF, finance, money, personal finance, creative minds, ATX, TX, Capital
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07 May Hello again…

Hello dear ones, 

I’ve started this newsletter so many times. Start and stop. Start and stop. What can I say to properly communicate what has occurred over the past year? Who cares about what I think anyway? What. Is. Communication. Even. Like. Now?

I don’t know how to encapsulate the messy journey of this last year so I’m giving myself permission not to try. As if someone could possibly attempt to tie this up with any kind of bow. If you have been through a particularly hard time, I just want to say that I am so sorry. I am sorry for those who have lost loved ones. I am sorry for those who had livelihoods ripped from under them. I am sorry for those who have had to watch their kids be traumatized by all this. I’m sorry for those who haven’t gone through those things and feel like they don’t have the right to their grief. I just want to give everyone a hug honestly. 

For our family, this time has looked like constantly biting off more than we could chew and spitting it back out. It looked like accepting Daniel Tiger as legitimate child-care. It looked like reveling in a perfectly cooked dinner. It looked like…not cooking dinner. It looked like being buried in a foot of snow for a week, somehow keeping power and getting survivor’s guilt. It looked like finally giving myself permission to NOT do things I “should” be doing. It looked like lots of therapy. It looked like watching our amazingly cool toddler grow into a real kid. It’s been so hard, but with breaks of blinding beauty in between. 

Somehow though, The Art of Finance has managed to remain a thriving business. We’ve been able to accomplish some really important things that I am genuinely excited to share with you. 

  • We rolled out our very first hourly financial planning offering. No more having to hire us for six months to a year. We can work in smaller, more concentrated chunks for an hour or two for people who just need a nudge in the right direction. It’s been very popular and Philip and I really enjoy the format. 

  • I (Julia) became an Accredited Financial Counselor® or AFC® for short. It took 1,000 hours of approved client work and a three hour test to make it so and I’m very proud of it. Now I get fancy letters by my name like Philip. Muahahaha!

  • We hired an incredible fifth team member, Erin Galloway. I cannot possibly say enough lovely things about this Vermonter. She also got to celebrate passing the AFC® exam and is working toward completing her certification hours this summer. 

  • We’re rolling out a brand spanking new service this very week: low-cost financial counseling for those who are still struggling to break out of the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle. Up until now, we’ve required a full month’s worth of income in savings in order to become a client of any type. For the industry, that is a crazy low threshold. But we also know it’s cut us off from a large percentage of people. Erin’s specialty is working with folks at this stage so it is a serendipitous addition to our menu of services. 

  • We’ve transitioned to an all-digital model. Prior to Covid, we were actually conducting around 60% of our meetings via Zoom (that’s right, we were OG Zoomies) and now we’re at 100%, with plans to keep it that way for the next year or two. I was super hesitant about this move. Our ability to truly connect on an emotional level is an absolute necessity to our work. Thankfully that ability seems to remain unscathed and everyone seems to find the time as helpful as ever. 

Thanks for letting me share all these things with you. Even though it feels like we’ve been stuck in a holding pattern for so long, it’s been encouraging to look back and see that progress has been made. 

In fact, I’d like to challenge you to do that for yourself. Look back. I guarantee you will be surprised at how much you’ve actually accomplished. Didn’t throw a cast-iron skillet at your spouse? Accomplishment. Didn’t vandalize a politically-charged bumper sticker during the election? Here’s your trophy. Took a break from social media? A shiny self-care medal for you. Went for a walk instead of screaming at your kid? Parent of the year. In all seriousness though, the fact that you survived is an accomplishment worthy of celebration. Through all the things we lost, we still managed to win here and there. 

Accept this digital hug for now as a raincheck for the real ones we will hopefully be reveling in soon. 

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26 Jun Real Talk


The Art of Finance wants to share some important things with you. As we move through an increasingly socially-aware world, we think you deserve to know where we stand on a few issues as they relate to systemic racism and economics. 

1.There is a deep discrepancy of wealth between white households and households of color. This was created intentionally and systematically over many generations. For more reading on the subject, here is an incredibly comprehensive study by the Brookings Institute that delves into the devaluation of assets in specifically black neighborhoods.

2.This issue has had a stark effect on the demographics of financial professionals. The year that Philip received his CFP certification, less than 3.5% of his fellow CFPs were Black or Latino. We see this and acknowledge it for what it is: the byproduct of systemic racism. 

3.Our firm is not immune to underlying bias. We are an entirely white staff and have attracted, to this point, a majority white clientele base. This is something that we notice and intend to address. While we don’t have a specific strategy worked out in full yet, we do intend to bring in voices other than our own to help us craft it. These changes are not being made for the purpose of having more clients and making more money. This is to make sure that we are doing all we can to create a safe and empathetic place for all types of people to talk about their money. 

It is also important that we consistently use our platform to promote the ideas, thoughts, and teachings of non-white financial educators, not just our own. Here are just a few of our favorites that we would love you to follow and learn from as well. 




We now have a favor to ask of you. You, dear reader/follower/client, have the right to hold us, and other businesses putting out similar statements, accountable. Ask for receipts. This is not a one-and-done-we’ve-checked-the-box sort of thing. We will do our best to keep you informed of any important internal work and strategy. If you have constructive feedback to share, we are open to it. No matter how we go about this work, it will not be perfect. But it will be progress. 

We hope you and those you love are staying healthy and holding each other accountable for doing good work inwardly and outwardly.

The Art of Finance (aka: Philip Olson, Julia Lorenz-Olson, Helen Novielli, Chloe Gray & Erin Galloway)

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07 May Feel. Your. Feelings.

Friends! Romans! Pandemic Compatriots! 

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve gotten the chance to sit down and form some sensical sentences. 

But I’m going to cut to the chase and get real with y’all. It is imperative that you FEEL your feelings right now.

I’m guessing your feelings are going through some rough seas at the moment. I know mine are! One day I’m high on cloud 9, the next, I’m like a shell of my normal self. Wondering how on earth we got here and if I’m living in some sort of twisted Truman-show world. It’s happening to me and I’d put money on the line that it’s happening to almost everyone around you right now. Now, I’m not just telling you to feel your feelings because I’m some sort of woo-woo energy-healer-type. I’m telling you because there is a deep cost to not learning. Let me explain. With plants.

These Texas sage bushes are from the exact same store, planted at the exact same time, in the exact same pots with the same soil. The difference? One had proper draining holes. The others? Clogged. By the time I realized the problem and solved it, it was too late. The damage was done. Friends, the longer I breathe on this spinning rock, the more clear it is that a well-drained life is some sort of key. Perhaps not to eternal happiness. But definitely to health.

The problem is that the work of draining isn’t pretty. It’s not usually accomplished by writing a few journal entries. No ma’am. It involves hard conversations, often with other humans 😬. It involves crying. It involves sweating (yes, as in exercise, or as I like to call it now – “joyful movement”). It might involve hiring a professional to help you chip away at crusty layers of old trauma. Unfortunately, we’re also offered endless options when it comes to distractions. Scrolling. Buying 😒. Busy-ing. I now know if I spend more time avoiding then confronting, I’ll find myself with a metaphorical knife in my rib. My feelings straight-up car-jack me, Grand Theft Auto style. But in my better moments, I’m able to remember that they’re NOT the enemy.

Your feelings are there to protect you! They are there to warn you of possible threats! They also help point the compass towards rewards. But the more you ignore them, the more they morph into metastasized versions of themselves. And the more they do that, the more likely it is you’ll find yourself kicked out of the driver’s seat. Listen, as someone who deals with a medicated amount of anxiety, I KNOW sometimes it’s impossible not to find yourself there. But at least having the language to acknowledge what’s happening is sometimes just enough for me to keep one hand on the wheel.

So, I’m going to write you a permission slip today. Remember like we had in back in middle school? You have PERMISSION to feel grief right now. Even if you have it particularly “good” right now. I’ve seen lots of people (myself included) robbing themselves of their ability to process grief because others have it harder right now. Here’s the hard truth, that does NOTHING for those people. This ain’t the pain Olympics. It does not give that person their job back. It does not give that frontline worker a proper mask. You also have just as much permission to feel joy. Please don’t cut it off when it shows itself. All we’re doing is squandering a precious, precious resource. 

In closing, I want to share some resources that have helped me develop stronger feeling skills over the last few months

1.This graphic. Done by one of my favorite writer/illustrators Emily McDowell. So good. So helpful.

2. The book Burnout. This. Is. Your. New. Bible. For. Emotional. Wellness. Well-written and practical, it’s helped me completely re-evaluate my relationship with physical activity and stress. It’s also allowed me to put words around the particular challenges of being a woman in our modern world.  

3. Brene Brown’s new podcast. The weighty nuggets of gold this woman and her guests drop often leave me wishing I had a third arm to raise in praise. I do want to highlight the episode on Comparative suffering and Grief. Also, her interview with Glennon Doyle should be required listening for every female person. 

4. Developing a richer feelings lexicon. Did you know that actually being able to accurately describe a feeling in words can help you through it? Maybe instead of being “angry” you’re actually resentful. Maybe instead of “happy” you’re hopeful. Heck, you may be feeling emotions now that are completely new to you! Check this out for context. 

Ok friends. That’s all I’ve got for today. I’m hugging each and every one of you in spirit. 

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09 Jan 2020 Announcements!

This time 10 years ago we felt like we were floundering. We had been married for 2.5 years and out of University for less than that. I remember wondering if we could be successful actors like we’d been trained to be. Would we stay in Austin? Could we move to Canada? (Ha! Sometimes I confess I find myself wishing that one had panned out.) How could we afford a new car payment? Would we ever want children? Would we ever make more than $45k combined a year?

If you had told me then that 10 years from that moment I’d own a financial planning firm, look at an Emmy with my name on it every day, survive 43 hours of natural labor, AND have a successful PBS show, I’d probably have laughed in your face. I wonder what fanciful dreams I chuckle at now are lying in wait for me in this next decade. 

However, there are TWO things that aren’t a mystery that I am pleased as punch to finally get to share with you. 

1. WE HAVE A SPACE ALL OUR OWN. You read that right. 800 square feet of amazing space is ready for us to welcome clients to The Art of Finance to kick off this next decade. We’ve been at a co-working space since we opened  four years ago and we’re ready for the next step. At the time of this writing, we’ve changed out fluorescent lights, were horrified by but managed to make friends with beige, removed ugly fans, obsessed over colors, scoped out desks, and have generally been psyched as heck to move in. So, get ready for some Pinterest-level cuteness in 2020. You can follow me on my insta for updates on that @julialorenzolson.

2. OUR 2020 THEME – I’m about to say something unpopular, but here it goes. The whole “new year new you” can take a hike. As a matter of fact, I think 2019 you was pretty freaking awesome already. I also think that the cycle of self-loathing, self-correction, self-sabotage is toxic for me anyway. There are a LOT of people getting rich off of convincing us we’re not ok just as we are. I’m not knocking change. I hope everyone is constantly looking to grow in wholeness, greatness, and intentionality. But so often we’re distracted by crippling self-consciousness, irrational fears, and baggage built up from past traumas. Those things will always be around, but they don’t have to have the last word. I believe if we get to know and build compassion for the self we are rather then chasing after a fantasy version of ourselves, we just might find some peace. So, in 2020, we’re embracing the theme of self-awareness. Because if you haven’t done the work to discover why you do what you do, how can you possibly hope to do anything differently in the future?

We’re wishing you both peace and adventure this year, friends. Let’s do this. 

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04 Dec The Twelve Gifts Of Christmas

As we come out of turkey comas, it’s time to deck those halls and make merry. But can we take a second to be honest with ourselves? It doesn’t matter how much you love the holidays, they aren’t always easy to handle. Sometimes, the list of things you think you should do to be festive is just too darn much to handle.

So, let’s stop “should-ing” all over ourselves and give ourselves a present or two this season.

I present to you 12 ideas that cost little to nothing.

  1. A solo dinner date: When was the last time you took yourself out to dinner? I’m not talking anywhere fancy (although you certainly could). But get yourself out there to try that new place your partner isn’t interested in. There’s the added bonus that it’s cheaper AND it’s easy to get in almost anywhere as a single diner, no matter how hot the spot!
  2. Space: Too many people in your house? Lots of parties to visit? Give yourself (or the introvert in your life) the gift of space and step away when you need to. Seriously, just close the bathroom door, bring a book with you, and give yourself a half hour of peace. Unless you have a toddler. They have no boundaries. You just might have to walk around the block. 
  3. Non-screen time: Sometime during this month, pick 2 days where you’ll take 6 hours away from your screen. That’s right. Six. Make it a family thing! Horrible with directions? Pre-plan your route or stick to the neighborhood. The amount of time we spend on our screens is flabbergasting. You know it and I know it. Give it a rest. I promise you’ll feel better at the end of that day. 
  4. A gift list: As someone who really and truly wants to give meaningful gifts, my world changed when I actually ASKED for a list. Listen, I get that you’d love to just intuit by magic the things that people are into. But that’s just not how it works. People want to get stuff that they WANT right? So just ask. Preferably before Christmas eve. Emails and texts work juuuust fine. 
  5. A good purge: More than likely, you’re about to get some stuff. And guess what? You already have stuff that you probably don’t want or need around anymore. Need help getting in the mood? Invite your bestie over. Pour the wine. Turn on some Marie Kondo or Queer Eye and get tossin’. 
  6. Volunteer: Why not take that Christmas cheer and spread it around to those who have some extra needs? Now, doing this properly IS going to take some time. Volunteers, while well-meaning, take TIME to actually make useful. So, just find a few hours here and there to devote to going through the hoops and then making it happen. Then right after you complete it, set a January date in your calendar. That’s when they’ll be needing you the most. Also, it’s good for you
  7. Sparkle: I do not care how grinchy you are, Christmas lights on a dark, cold night are good for your soul. You don’t have to go all Griswold yourself, though. Do some Googling for the best Christmas light neighborhoods in your city. And get ready to feel like a seven-year-old again. In a good way.
  8. “No”: Give yourself the gift of “no.” It’s hard to learn how to say “no,” especially when you want to do everything and help everyone. But just say that teeny little word with zero apologies or justifications. I am giving you permission to say “no” for literally any reason whatsoever. You can actually say “no” to things that you don’t FEEL like doing. Imagine that. 
  9. A great podcast: I have said it before and I’ll say it again: Podcasts have absolutely changed my life. They are the primary source of media that I consume these days and there are SO MANY good ones out there. And for goodness sakes they’re FREE! My current faves include Food Psych by Christy Harrison. It is literally changing everything I think about my body and my relationship to food and exercise. Then there’s Esther Perel’s two podcasts. This woman is like the Michael Jordan of relationship counseling. She. Is. Incredible. The way she gets to the heart of people’s issues is second to none. She is my idol. Check out “Where should we begin?” and “How’s work?”
  10. Figure out your love languages: Going into the holiday season without knowing your own love languages or those around you is like driving with a blindfold on. Take the dang quiz and change your life. And for those of you who are already into this stuff, find out your APOLOGY language. Talk about a game changer! 
  11. Find your enneagram #: While we’re on the whole quiz thing… Figuring out my enneagram number this year was a total mind-shifter for me. It’s like Meyers Briggs, but way, way more comprehensive. I actually found the various quizzes unhelpful and not very accurate. Simply reading through all 9 types will definitely give you a better sense of all the options. And while we all have a bit of every type within us, one should feel most like home. 
  12. A handmade gift: There is very little that stokes a sense of accomplishment like actually making something with your own two hands. So, here’s the challenge. Make ONE homemade gift. Just one. Pinterest is your friend here. This does not have to be fancy. You can bake something. Or steep some herbs or fruit in oil or liquor of your choice! Easy. Peasy. Limoncello. Squeezy. 

Hopefully, these 12 ideas will get you through the 12 days with a little more peace and sanity.

From our house to yours we wish you all a very happy holiday season. 

PS – We’ll have two VERY exciting AOF developments to share with you NEXT YEAR!!! So don’t go anywhere. ; )

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31 Oct The Practice of Thanks

Thanksgiving is the best holiday. 

There. I said it. 

And yes, I am well aware of the rather problematic history behind the day itself. For more on that, fellow history nerds should check out But I digress. 

99% of my Thanksgivings have been spent with my mother’s side of the family. The day is reliably filled with delicious things to eat, football games, the traditionally required family baseball match, games, and lots and lots of Miller Lite. But, to a person, everyone’s favorite part of the day is the grateful circle. Before a bite is eaten, every single person gathers in a circle, holds hands, and shares what they’re thankful for from the past year. It’s where I announced my pregnancy, where little ones grow ever taller each year beside their parents, and everyone gets inevitably misty-eyed.

But, I think we can all agree that waiting for one day out of the year to reflect on the things we’re grateful for just isn’t enough. Gratitude is unique in that it’s not like a battery that can be used up. Gratitude begets more gratitude. Too few of us, myself included, don’t approach gratitude as a meaningful practice like we would, say, exercise. If we’re honest, we treat it more like that friend we adore being around, but who we just can’t seem to make quality time for anymore.

So, what to do?

Here are some practical ways to incorporate a practice of gratitude into our lives. Some of these things I actually do; the others are things I personally aspire to. 

The journal: Write down 10 things you are grateful for today and try to do it as many days as you can each week. This falls into the “I do it” category. Now, I hate to say “do it EVERYDAY” because, if you’re like me, the word “every” makes you want to check the heck out because it’s hard to commit to anything but breathing and eating everyday. So, give yourself the space to say, “It’s ok, this is something for me, this is not for anyone else and I don’t have to prove anything” and then do it when you can. Ideally, I start my day from a place of seeing possibility where my default might be to see implausibility. I can honestly say it’s had a really great impact. It is also merely the first half of a bigger journaling practice called Start Today which you can learn more about here:

Thank you: People liked to be thanked. It’s as simple as that. Ideally, in hand-written form with a dang stamp on it. Can’t muster that? Good news! Thank you emails count too! Who have you had a helpful interaction with lately that made your day better? Remind them that their seemingly insignificant action actually meant a lot to you. Trust me, it will change their day. And probably yours, too. Giving thanks has a verb in there remember? Give. Heck, maybe even thank yourself sometimes. Thank yourself for the great choices you’ve made so far. Thank your debt for purchasing things you wanted to get. Become an awkward fountain of thanks for 24 hours and see how it feels.

Giving money & time: What is gratitude without action? A few years ago, I was a member of a church that left a lasting lesson in giving my money away. I remember the pastor saying that every time he wrote a check to something that wasn’t for him, it was a heart check. It was a way to check in and loosen the natural but strong grip we tend to have on our cash. Money, in many ways, is seen as power. And no one likes to give up power! But I have made giving a practice. So, where there was a twinge of doubt or fear, there is now a wave of gratitude. Gratitude that I have way more than I need and that I get to hopefully be a small part of softening the hard edges of this world for someone else. 

Stargazing: Ok, I know this might be weird, but hear me out. I think a core aspect of gratitude is somewhat spiritual. Entitlement and gratitude can’t really coexist in the same space. If you think you’re where you are 100% on your own, well, I don’t know what to say other than you should probably apologize to all the friends and family who have had to put up with you. You are where you are thanks to many forces that have nothing to do with you at all. It’s both humbling and scary. Sometimes, when I get caught up in the maelstrom of life, I take a moment and look up when it’s dark outside. I am reminded of how very small I am. I look up and see these tiny bits of light that burned billions of years before my time and will continue after it. Suddenly, the fact that I didn’t land that dream client or that I have terrible allergies doesn’t seem all that important. I’m just grateful to get this chance to take a crack at being here. 

Unfortunately, gratitude just doesn’t come naturally for most of us. Just like running or biking, it’s an exercise. Your gratitude practice is an exercise for your soul.

So tell me, what have you experienced this very day that made you thankful? 

And how are you going to translate that to the actions of gratitude?

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01 Oct 5 Scary Things People Say About Their Money

Halloween decorations are popping up all over our neighborhood. And hey, I love a good scare as much as anyone else. But as a financial planner, there are a few phrases that send a chill up my spine faster than any campfire story.

What are they? Come in a little closer to the fire, and I’ll share them with you…

1. “I can afford the payments.” Whenever I overhear this at a party, the person is usually trying to justify a big purchase. A car, new furniture, a Macbook Pro, solar panels. And I get it. That $4,000 mountain bike I dream about is a lot less scary if it’s “just $179 a month.” But when I hear “I can afford the payments,” I know it probably means, “I can’t actually afford to buy this, but I’m getting it anyway.”

The hope is that you’ll be able to make enough money in the future to make the payments on time. But no one imagines getting sick or losing a job. And it’s easy to forget that we’ve already committed to make payments on a bunch of other stuff. Then, three or four years down the road, you wonder why it feels like there’s no breathing room to save, give to charity, or pursue a dream.

2. “You’ve gotta spend money to make money.” A classic catchphrase of entrepreneurs (like me and Julia). And there’s a nugget of truth in this one. To build and grow a thriving business or investment, it usually does take some money… eventually. But that doesn’t mean you can endlessly throw money at an idea, believing it’s the only way to grow.

If someone tells me they have to spend money to make money, what it usually means is “I don’t really understand how much risk I’m taking on.” Fast forward a year or two, and sadly that money often is gone, the dream dead and forgotten, and the person has moved onto something else.

If you decide to put money toward a dream or endeavor, make sure that you’ll be okay if things don’t work out as you planned. That way, if you spend money and don’t make money, you’ll still pull through.

3. “How can I create some passive income?” Ugh! Passive income: Money that shows up in your account without you having to do anything. Sounds great. It’s also a myth. It takes decades of somebody’s blood, sweat, and sacrifice to build a “passive” money machine like real estate or an autonomous business. If someone did that work for you, you’re lucky, but it’s still not exactly passive. What this really means is, “I think there’s a shortcut to wealth and the good life and I need to find it.”

Gary Vaynerchuck has a great video about this. In his characteristically blunt way, he explains how  passive income was created by tons of work done by you or someone else to create something of ongoing value. There’s nothing passive about building something like that. 

4. “My credit card is my emergency fund.” Oh boy. Real talk now: Julia and I lived this frightening reality for years early in our marriage. We rationalized, “If I have a $20k credit limit, and I can’t use it when times get tough, then what’s the point of having it?” But under the surface, we really were saying, “Expensive emergencies happen to other people, not us.” As we eventually learned, this is just a ticking time bomb. If you have an emergency, odds are good that paying off the credit card will suddenly become much harder. Think layoff, economic recession, or a long-term health problem. Using a credit card as a safety net is like wearing a lead life vest. With many interest rates above 20%, a financial speed-bump can quickly turn into a full-blown crisis. 

It’s safer to say, “I’m working to build up a three-month emergency fund so that a personal emergency isn’t suddenly a money emergency.” A little delayed gratification can go a long way to boosting your financial health.

5. “My partner has a spending problem.” Again, guilty as charged for saying this one. You might think your husband or wife spends way too much. But you may also have a stingy partner that doesn’t recognize how they’re part of the problem. I was this guy, the OCD reactionary spouse who resented every little purchase Julia made while ignoring my own big splurges.

In our experience, money problems are the fault of both partners. It’s never 100% on a single party. This situation cries out for a real, jointly created budget with realistic goals and boundaries. Also there needs to be some fun money for both partners with no strings attached so you can both be impulsive without resentment. And honestly, it probably calls for a little bit of counseling. Banish this monster in the closet by admitting, “We both have frivolous, silly things we love to buy and we budget with those in mind.”

Nobody’s perfect with money…not even financial planners. We all fall prey to these mindsets from time to time and find ourselves slipping into habits that don’t work in our best interests.

Give yourself a treat this Halloween and start to remove some of these scary phrases from your life. What steps have you taken to move away from these or other financial pitfalls?

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02 Sep 10 things we learned from our 5 week trip.

We are finally back after an incredible 5 week trip to the PNW. It’s a trip we’ve been planning and dreaming about for the last two years. We’re so excited that we finally made it happen. And we learned a lot along the way.

  1. Replace your radiator caps. We drove our 2001 Honda Accord all the way up and all the way back. It’s obviously an older car (we walk our talk guys) so we made sure to get it checked out and fixed up before we left. We first went to the steady-eddy neighborhood place that has done right by us in the past. But we got spooked at seeing a 3k estimate. So we got another quote and split the needed work between two shops because the second shop ended up quoting us a few hundred dollars less for the biggest piece of the work. Cut to 5 days later and 70 miles out of Albuquerque, the hood starts to smoke and the engine starts to buck. So we end up on the side of the road, in the middle of the desert. Literally the exact scenario we were trying to avoid. Thankfully, we only had to wait about 2 hours for an (expensive) tow into town. And wouldn’t you know it, it ended up being our radiator cap busting and melting the whole thing down. Turns out our steady-eddy first shop DID point it out to us but we breezed right past it and the second shop didn’t mention it at all. The lesson here is; when you find someone worthy of trust…TRUST THEM. Don’t penny-pinch when it comes to repairs.

2. Stopping for people is a good thing. Like I mentioned above, we were stranded with Clem on a fairly busy highway.  But no one stopped for the first 45 minutes of the 2 hours we were out there. Thankfully we didn’t really need anything physical. We had water, we had umbrellas to shield us from the burning desert sun, we had snacks, we even had a tow truck on the way but it was demoralizing to feel like no one really cared. But every time I felt sad about that, I equally felt called out by my own history of inaction. Here’s a classic situation of when you know better, you do better. So next time you see someone, do your best to get over safely. They might not need your physical help, but it can be a huge morale boost just to know that a random stranger cares enough to check-in. Let’s not forget, we’re all on this spinning ball together here, lets act like it.

3. This country is enormous. No matter what you think, we truly have so much uninhabited space in the US. I’m not saying people should take over every inch of that space, but I was in awe of the true vastness of our landscape and how much physical space we have to grow into. It might just be me but judging by the political landscape we find ourselves in, there’s this deep feeling of scarcity. Am I saying that we have infinite resources? Of course not. But I think we have way more than we give ourselves credit for. 

4. Babies are natural addicts. Apparently in the PNW there is an abundant blackberry crop. It’s actually an invasive species, which is too bad. But hey, you can stop on the side of the road and stuff yourself with blackberries all over the place. Clementine quickly learned what these bushes were and would ask for “moh!, moh! moh!” all the time. A cute, but slightly worrying, intensity of fixation. Woe to the parent who had to eventually pull her away.

5. Maps never tell you the full story. When we booked our Airbnb, we booked it about 3 miles out from a Portland WeWork office with the intention of biking to work. What the Google map doesn’t tell you is that it’s basically one 3 mile long, will-breaking hill. It was easy to get there, but so so hard to get back. It’s just a reminder that you can prepare as much as possible, but there’s always a curveball.

6. Whenever you’re on a trip with family, you’re gonna need alone time. Philip and I were both intentional about giving each other space to explore on our own and to not be tied down to the daily things every day. It was good for our mental health to have time apart and to do the things we really wanted to do without everyone in tow.

7. The Enneagram hype is legit. Yes, the enneagram is technically a personality test, but it’s more than that. A lot of work has gone into it over many decades. It’s a great roadmap and more complex in it’s findings than the Myers-Briggs. Turns out, Julia is a 7 and Philip is a 1 and we’re working on figuring out what that means and how we can use it to better understand ourselves and each other.

8. Always buy Tillamook ice cream. We went to the Tillamook Creamery, the temple of all things dairy (sorry diary-free people!). If you care about dairy products, you need to make the pilgrimage. While it seems like a big behemoth of a company, it’s actually owned by a co-op of about 90 farming families. While they had the best grilled cheese sandwich I’ve ever had, it was the ice cream that really blew me away. It’s better than Bluebell. I know, I know…Texas sacrilege. But don’t shoot the messenger. Go try it!

9. Moab is magical. Google told us to go through Moab on the way out to Portland. What Google didn’t tell us is that it’s like being on a completely different planet. Now, I’ve seen beautiful classic American southwest landscapes, but nothing has ever been as intense or dramatic as Moab. I hiked over red rock fins in Arches, Philip mountain biked a majestic canyon, stargazed on a full moon night, and even saw Saturn’s rings through a borrowed telescope. Remember, when times get tough or overwhelming, just get out there, look at the stars and get some perspective.

10. Always have backup form of payment. Not only did Moab take my heart, it also ended up taking my debit card. Ok ok, I left it there at a diner on accident. But no biggie, we’ve got Philip’s card right? Well, someone in a foreign country decided to use it to buy themselves a Netflix account…sooo there went that!  We don’t use credit cards so our only backup ended up being our business debit cards. Which is normally a total no-no for us, but we didn’t have a choice. We moved things around in YNAB, came up with a new budget, and properly tracked it, but it was a headache. So, ALWAYS have a backup, even if it’s just a $20 bill.

Other than the debit and desert debacles, it was truly an all-around incredible trip. We can’t wait to level it up next summer.

Tell me, what is the greatest lesson that traveling has ever taught you?

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12 Dec The Vet Bill

She was covered in blood.

I almost didn’t notice because people in front of me had walked right past her.

But there was something about her that made me pause and take a closer look. She had her phone up to her ear and a look of shock on her face.
“Are you ok?” I asked. (Ugh. Only the lamest question the English language can put together.)

“No. My dog just got run over by a car. I’ve had this baby for four years. I can’t believe this.” Now the blood and matted dog hair all over her made sense.

I came across her while at a conference a few weeks back, standing outside a vet’s office, as I was moving from one session to another. But I just couldn’t pass this woman by. And here I was, in a horrible situation of desperately wanting to help but feeling like there was nothing I could do.

She watched as the car that had dropped her off sped by and said, “Oh, I think they kept my money.” Apparently the person who hit her dog had stuffed a few dollars in her hand but then her ride drove off with it.
So, we just fumbled about as best we could. I ran over to our conference HQ and grabbed a handful of granola bars and kombucha and tried to convince her to come and sit down somewhere. But she understandably wanted to stay at the vet’s office. I told her to holler if she needed me and that I would be close by. Of course, I didn’t get her full name or number. Dumb dumb dumb. And all night I just thought about her and wondered what I could have done differently.

Then it struck me. Maybe it wasn’t too late! There might be something I could still do.The next day, when I returned to the conference I walked into the vet office and asked what had happened. Turns out it was the worst of the worst: her poor pup had to be put down. I asked, “Does she have an outstanding vet bill?” Yep. $545 dollars. Can you imagine? Being heartbroken and having a massive bill to pay? So out comes my phone and I check the giving line-item in our YNAB budget. “I’ll pay it in full,” I said.  

“Are you sure?” Darn right I was sure.

Now listen up. I am not some super generous angel person. I drive by people I could easily help every day of my life. It’s not something I’m proud of, but that’s the truth. But I truly think MOST people would want to do the exact same thing in this scenario. After all, I wasn’t the only person who gave toward that bill! Apparently, 2 or 3 other strangers who had come in contact with her had done the same thing. But if I’m honest, I look at personal budgets all the time and depressingly few of them have a single line-item for giving. So I am just sharing this story as a reminder. Somehow all of us (including myself) are continuously convinced that taking that next dream trip, buying that outfit, or upgrading our living space will give us that “thing”. You know what that “thing” is for you right? I know I do. And sure, it does, sort of. But it’s kind of like candy. Sweet and fun and gone in a few days, if not a few moments.

Spending money like this is like eating a healthy, delicious meal. It’s not like a party but it’s deeply satisfying. It’s as though, somehow, my money is getting to do what it’s truly MEANT to do.

And gosh, now with a baby, I feel like my empathy is on a whole new level. I see my child’s face everywhere; Syria, Guatemala, in Flint, Michigan. And I see my own face as a mother everywhere. Sometimes I just get so overwhelmed by it all I sort of break down. But that’s no way to live. So let’s just not forget in our busy lives that this is why we’re really here. To look out for one another. And yes, sometimes we look out for people with our MONEY. And if you want to get to be the person who buys groceries for your hard-up friends or smashes GoFundMe’s in the face, then determine that THIS is the day.

Today you’ll decide to finally promote yourself to CFO of your own life. Heck, that’s what we do! So call us. Or pick up a book. Start that course. Climb on board the financial peace train, my friends, however you choose to hop on. It’s not an easy ride all the time, but it’s so, so worth it.

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10 Feb Oh boy! … or girl

Looks like a small human (with a very distinguished profile) is going to be making an appearance in the Olson household in 2018.

We had been toying with the idea of 2017 being the year of the opening the family door for a while. So barely two months before little bub showed up, we started the “Baby Fund” line item in the budget. Yep. Our baby’s first “appearance” was in our budget. But I didn’t take it deadly seriously. It was just meant to be symbolic of a slight shift. A dinky $200 towards something that might never even happen. But looking back, I think this was more than just a new line in the budget. It was a way for us to irrefutably document our decision to give this crazy thing a shot, together.

Honestly, this area is one of the few things where I have felt a gap of understanding between me and our clients. I’ve paid off debt when I’d rather go in vacation. I’ve scrimped and scraped to save an emergency fund. I’ve bought a house. I can personally commiserate with all that. But supporting kids? It’s just not something that I have had to do.

But here we are.

Trying our best to plan and prepare for the unknowable.

Every day I have doubts. Have we put enough away? How can I make sure the business keeps humming in my absence? Will it be healthy? Will having a biological kid totally mess up all my adoption plans? Holy moly, what about college? Am I literally going to shift from human to animal from sleep deprivation? Labor?! I can’t even…

But the horrifying truth is, we are all looking into the dark when it comes to the future. There is nothing guaranteed about life, let alone the next five minutes. All we can do is commit to learn from whatever gets sent our way to help ourselves and those around us.

Thanks in advance tribe for your support. We look forward to sharing parts of this new journey with you all.

Now I’m gonna go get some more sleep.

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