EP: 164 Seeing Through The Money Fog: Unlocking Financial Confidence, Clarity, And Control With Mikelann Valterra

Brave Women At Work | Mikelann Valterra | Money Fog

I’m excited to share that we have a repeat guest today! Mikelann Valterra, a money coach, and more specifically the Seattle Money Coach is back on Brave Women at Work.

We’ve had a few shows on money lately. I think that is because, at the beginning of the year, we are thinking about our money. According to an article in USA Today, the top resolution in 2024 is to save more money, especially with inflation and how expensive our cost of living is today.

If you enjoy this conversation, and I’m sure you will, I also encourage you to go back into the Brave Women at Work vault and listen to episode 107. During that show, we touched on the money fog. Now that Mikelann has written an entire book on the subject, we dive much deeper into the topic in this conversation.

During my chat with Mikelann, we covered:

  1. Her book, Rise Above the Money Fog, The Key to Confidence, Clarity, and Control Over Your Life
  2. We dove deep into what the money fog is and where it comes from (hint, hint, it’s childhood)
  3. The money stories we inherit from our families
  4. How trauma and even so-called perfect families can leave a mark when it comes to how we manage our money
  5. How we can start to overcome our money stories and build a better relationship with money
  6. We chat about money traps such as overspending, underearning, and even over-earning or golden handcuffs
  7. And we round out our conversation with the concept of receptive surrender, which was fascinating.


Seeing Through The Money Fog: Unlocking Financial Confidence, Clarity, And Control With Mikelann Valterra

I’m excited to share that we have a repeat guest in this episode, one that I love. We have such awesome conversations. Mikelann Valterra who is a money coach and more specifically the Seattle Money Coach is back on the show. We have had a few episodes if you’ve noticed. I’ve had money on my mind lately. I don’t know why. It’s because, at the beginning of the year, we’re thinking about our money. Mikelann talks about this.

At the end of the year, we probably go into a fog. We don’t want to think about how much we’re spending. We want to give our kids a wonderful holiday. We want to lavish gifts for our family or our friends. No one wants to talk to their financial advisor during the end of the year. When the new year hits, we’re like, “Those money goals.” What I did was look up the top ten resolutions for 2024.

For fun, there’s an article in USA Today. This is only one source. There are probably different thoughts on which one is the top resolution but in this particular article in USA Today, the top resolution in 2024 is to save more money, and that makes sense, especially with our current economic conditions, inflation, how expensive the cost of living is, and going to the grocery store. You all know it’s a reality in the US, and it probably is worldwide. Things are expensive.

If you enjoy thinking, “I have to get my money stuff in order,” and you enjoy this conversation, and I’m sure you will, I also encourage you to go back into the vault and read Episode 107. That was in early 2023, which feels like a million years ago. Go back and listen to it because my first conversation with Mikelann was powerful. During that particular episode, we do touch on the money fog.

You’re going to be like, “I heard about this in 107,” but remember, Mikelann has written an entire book on the subject of money fog. This time, we dive much deeper into the topic during this conversation. More specifically, during my chat with Mikelann, we covered her book, Rise Above the Money Fog: The Key to Confidence, Clarity, and Control Over Your Life. We dove deep into what the money fog is and where it comes from. Hint, it is from childhood. We can’t escape our childhoods. Some of that money fog is coming from childhood, and we dive into that.

We also talk about the money stories we inherit from our families, trauma, and even those so-called perfect families. If you were raised in a family that talked perfectly about money, they can all leave a mark when it comes to how we manage our money and how we can start to overcome our money stories and build a better relationship with our funds and finances.

Brave Women At Work | Mikelann Valterra | Money Fog

We also chat about Mikelann’s personal story around money and what drove her to do the work that she does with predominantly women but all people. We chat about money traps such as overspending, underearning, and even over-earning or golden handcuffs. You probably have heard about it. We round out our conversation with the concept of receptive surrender. I was captivated by this, and I’m sure you will be too.

Here is more about Mikelann. Mikelann Valterra is an author, speaker, and master money coach who helps women around the world rise above the money fog, transform their relationship with money, and design their ideal life. Mikelann Valterra, MA AFC, has been a thought leader in financial psychology. She has written, spoken, and been interviewed extensively on powerful and practical ways to reduce money anxiety and teaches effective methods for earning, saving, reducing debt, and managing money. Her new book Rise Above the Money Fog is available online and wherever books are sold.

Before we get started, if you’re enjoying the show, please make sure to leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. I would like to share another review, “Jen talks about all the things we need to hear, presentation skills, negotiation, how to stand out without annoying others, and checking in with your executive presence. A must-listen for every woman in corporate.”

Thank you for those encouraging words. As I have been saying, if this show has touched you in some way personally or professionally, it’s motivated and inspired you, and you’ve shared it with a friend, people at work, or whoever, I want to get this show in the hands of more women because we need it. We need this inspiration and education at this moment in time. If you can share the show via your reviews and shares on social, I would appreciate it. Thank you again.

I have 1 to 2 spots left for individual coaching. More specifically, I help my coaching clients claim their confidence and accelerate their leadership. Let’s get you promoted. Let’s get you in the right spot in your career where you’re happy and satisfied. I want you to speak up. If you would like to grow in one of these areas, visit my website at BraveWomenAtWork.com and schedule a 30-minute discovery call.

On that call, we’re going to chit-chat. We’re going to talk about your situation, see what the blocks are, and have an honest conversation if this is the right fit for you. My promise is I’m not going to recommend something that’s not the right fit for you because it’s not the right thing to do, first of all, and it’s a waste of time for you and me. Go to BraveWomenAtWork.com to learn more about coaching and if it is right for you. Let’s welcome Mikelann back to the show.


Mikelann, welcome back to the show. How are you?

I am so good. Hello from Seattle. I’m so happy to be back.

I am so excited to have you back. Why don’t you share a little bit about yourself? Our first episode was in late 2022. Time is flying. Tell us about you and what you do.

I am a money coach. Some people call me a financial therapist. Some people call me a financial coach. I work with women on money. You and I are going to be talking about rising above the money fog. It used to be that when people wanted to get a handle on money, they would either see a financial planner for investments or a credit counselor for debt but the truth is most of us are thinking about both those issues, building net worth and trying to stay out of debt. Neither of those fields is particularly into the emotional side of money.

Why do we do what we do? It comes to money. How do we feel great about our money? Money coaches such as myself look at our overall relationship to money, both practical, “How do we stay out of the money fog and feel great about where we’re spending our money,” but also what’s our money story? What might be holding us back from feeling good about our financial life?

Why don’t we talk a little bit about what the money fog is? You and I have talked about this in the past, and I love the term. What is money fog? Where does that all come from?

I define the money fog as when people are feeling stress or anxiety caused by being financially vague. We will get into talking about the book I wrote. I talked a lot about the money fog. For fun, I say that FOG stands for when we’re in Fear, Overwhelm, or Guilt around our money. What’s interesting is there are lots of quizzes that I can give people, and you and I can talk about common questions. For example, do you know where you spend your money? Do you know how much money you need to live each year and each month? Do you know what things cost in your life?

The Money Fog is when we are in fear, overwhelmed, or guilty about our money. Share on X

Those are all signs of being in a money fog if you don’t know how much money you spend. That’s the obvious big question but what I always like to bring up is when you don’t feel in control of your money, when you don’t feel good, or when you feel stress and anxiety around money, that’s also generally a sign of being in a money fog. It’s half-practical and half-emotional, and it has a big impact on us.

I was thinking in my head, and this is joking, “Everybody.”

It’s degrees because we’re all in a different level of fog. Sometimes different things happen in life that deepen the fog or we come out of the fog. It’s not this black-and-white thing that sometimes people make it sound. When you’re going through, for example, a stressful event, you might go more into the money fog. We’re talking after Christmas and a lot of people go into a money fog during the holidays.

Part of it is stress. Part of it is, “I don’t want to be thinking about what I’m spending. I want to enjoy the holidays.” There are lots of things that happen that cause us to drift into the money fog and then we are like, “I’m no longer feeling great about how I’m handling or thinking about money. I want to start pulling out of the fog.” It’s not black and white, and it affects everybody to some degree.

Brave Women At Work | Mikelann Valterra | Money Fog
Rise Above the Money Fog: The Key to Confidence, Clarity, and Control Over Your Life

With the way you’re defining it, I’m like, “I’m in there.” Let’s talk about rising above it. I told you before but formally, congrats on your book. The book is called Rise Above the Money Fog: The Key to Confidence, Clarity, and Control Over Your Life. Where did this book come about?

Part of it is being a money coach for many years. It’s not my first book but I love it. I had someone say to me this in the not-so-distant past. This is a weird-sounding question but they said, “What’s your superpower when it comes to what you do for a living?” I was like, “My superpower is helping women get out of the money fog, not being foggy about money.” The number one thing I hear is people call me and say, “I’m tired of not feeling in control of my money.” They said, “That is what your next book should be about, rising above the money fog.” You’ve seen it and read it. It’s 100 pages. It’s this laser look at what is the fog told through the stories of four different women and what happens to them as they go in and out of the fog.

I know so many women will be like, “I want to read X number of books.” Put this on your list. I did read it. It’s a quick read. Don’t be thinking, “It’s 100 pages. What’s the power?” There’s so much power in this book. I saw it online. It’s 140 pages. It’s tight but there’s a lot in here. Put it on your list.

The feedback has been overwhelmingly amazingly wonderful. Part of it is it is about one subject because money is a big topic. You and I know there are so many directions we can go when it comes to money but it’s to be able to have a book about this subject of what it means when we’re vague about our money and what are the impacts in our life that a lot of people don’t realize because being in a money fog causes a lot of things that people don’t know until they read this book.

For example, it causes some people to overspend. That sounds a little bit obvious coming out at Christmas but because some people don’t know how much money they need in their life, they underspend. They don’t take care of themselves enough. They batten the hatches because they’re in a fog. Some people undersell themselves. They under-earn because they don’t know how much money they need to make. Other people have the opposite reaction to being in a money fog. They over-earn.

We can get into talking about the whole golden handcuffs. There are all these impacts that happen to us, some of which get very psychological, that are caused when we’re vague about our money. Nobody is talking about this. It’s the elephant in the living room. Everyone talks about credit card debt or different things like that but these are big impacts in our lives. I wrote the book based on the stories of four women, and they’re all very different, how they are impacted, and what happens as they rise above the money fog. People love a story that they can find themselves in. Most people will find 1 of the 4 characters that they identify with.

I know I did. I’m sure everybody as well. We’re going into the fog. One of the things that I wanted to touch on is the emotional component, which so many people don’t talk about. It’s critical that you’re bringing this up. You say that it stems from childhood. I’m going to tell everybody that I’m not here to blame our parents or trying to scapegoat here but I want to hear from you. Why does this stuff around money, the emotional piece, and the practical piece stem from when we were kids?

There it is because that is the big question I get, “Where does the money fog come from?” It comes from childhood. Why is that? There are a couple of big reasons. Part of it is money is about core survival. We have to have money to survive. When we are young children, we don’t know all of the ins and outs of the sophisticated topic of money but I guarantee we all picked up growing up as little girls that money is important. We see our parents connecting money to buying food. We see that somehow money is needed to buy our toys and clothes.

We hear these adults talking about this weird thing called bills that seems to bring up a lot of emotion for the most important people in our lives, our mom and dad. There are a lot of super big early connections to money that are amorphous, meaning we know it’s super important. It’s literal survival. These things are connected to the things that are most important in our lives but at the very same time, you’ve got this incredibly important substance called money not talked about, and we hear it referenced.

It’s almost like this crazy-making thing because the vast majority of people grow up in families where there is a message, “You shouldn’t talk about money.” Sometimes it’s overt where you can remember being told, “Don’t talk about money.” A lot of kids at some point ask their parents at the dinner table, “How much money do you make?” At some point in life, it comes up. Different families handle it differently but it’s very rare that it’s handled well.

I share in the book that one of the characters asks her dad, “How much money do you make,” at the dinner table. There’s this pregnant pause. Mom steps in and says, “We do not ask people that. That is not polite.” All she knows is she’s done something wrong. She’s not sure what she did wrong but there’s this connection, “I did a bad thing. I asked about money,” whether it is overt or we pick up that you shouldn’t talk about money because it’s not talked about, and because we have this early connection, it breeds this sense as adults that we shouldn’t talk about money. We don’t know how to talk about money.

We’re not here to scapegoat our poor parents who generally are doing the best that they can but part of the role of parenting is to model healthy behavior and teach us someday how to adult. We all know that’s not a shocker of a statement but at the same time, we also know that as adults, it’s important to be able to talk and think cleanly and clearly about money.

Part of the role of parenting is to model healthy behavior and to teach us someday how to be an adult. Share on X

Most of us are not raised with being taught about money and talked to about money. We don’t grow up witnessing calm, healthy, and rational conversations between our parents about money. Some families will say they had a healthy relationship with money. They believed it wasn’t for children’s ears, that it should be handled behind closed doors, and that it was an adult conversation.

They don’t always necessarily mean, “I’m not going to teach you about money,” but many families do have a belief that it is an adult subject and it shouldn’t be discussed in front of children. There are so many different versions of it but it’s very rare that I meet people that from a young age, money was this very easy and clean topic that they could always ask mom and dad about.

I’m thinking of my childhood. That’s why your book is so important. Let’s stop it right here. We all can do something about it for our kids and their kids, and their kids hopefully break the chain because we’re not here to blame our parents. They were doing the best they could because their parents didn’t talk to them about money or maybe there were other messages. I’m thinking of messages I heard as a child, “Money doesn’t grow on trees.”

I had to be grateful all the time. Being grateful is important but around money, it almost makes you feel like you have to be contracted or stingy, or you have to save and not be a spender because you have to be careful about money. There are so many messages that we’re taught whether our parents know it or not. That’s why your book is important because we can start having healthier conversations with our kids about money.

I was thinking as you were talking. There are a lot of messages like, “Working hard is a virtue. You have to work hard.” I had a client who grew up hearing, “If you want the fancy stuff, you better work hard and make a lot of money.” She didn’t know exactly what a lot of money meant. When you have all the different versions of, “Working hard is a virtue,” part of the dilemma is here we are adult women, “If I don’t work hard, does that mean I’m lazy?” Is there a way to work that is of ease and a peaceful relationship to work?

You work with so many amazing women on their relationship with work, career, and all these important subjects. A lot of this is connected to our early messages around money, earning, work, spending, and time. For me, working hard is a virtue, “I need to work hard. If I’m not working hard, I feel guilty. I better stay with that little rat-on-the-treadmill type of thing,” but it wasn’t connected to making great money or not. You need to work hard or you’re somehow lazy.

We should have a part 2 or 3. Every six months, come on back. We will keep talking. If you didn’t hear it the first time, come back again.

Let us explore everybody’s childhoods because it’s such a simple topic.

Let’s dive a little deeper. In the book, you talk about childhood trauma, addiction, and high-conflict families. Not everyone has been raised in those types of environments, thank goodness, but there are so many of us out there who have had these issues. How do these situations color those adult money issues?

I talk in the book about three different types of families. They all have this core sense, “We don’t talk about money,” but the high-conflict family, the one you’re talking about, is the family that has the most conflict, meaning they’re still not openly talking about money or teaching you about money. Even worse, generally speaking, in these families, there’s a lot of fighting. They tend to be very verbal families or not but there is the sense of walking on eggshells when you’re a child. You don’t want to say or do anything that will provoke your parents. It’s not all about money but you and I are drilling in on the money topic.

One of the dilemmas is that people in these high-conflict families tend to have a pretty intense connection to, “Money equals pain and conflict. Money makes Mom cry and Dad yell.” This is also why money goes so deep into childhood issues. Part of the dilemma is we witness a lot of this stuff around money when we’re very young before we have a lot of filters and ways to analyze or make sense of the world. What happens is as children, we witness whatever it is.

People in these high-conflict families tend to have a pretty intense connection to money, equating to pain and conflict. Share on X

The classic example is when we simply hear our parents fighting about money. Maybe they’re fighting about how there isn’t enough or one parent disagrees with how the other parent spent something. There are a million ways that we could have heard our parents fight or have a conflict around money. Someone lost a bill, overpaid, or whatever it is. We simplify things. The question is, “What meaning do you as a small child take away from whatever it is you witnessed?” A lot of times, what we take away is a very simple version, “Money causes people to fight. Money hurts relationships. Money makes Mom cry.”

As adults, we wonder why we have a hard time talking about money with our beloveds. A lot of times, it goes back to when we were very young. The moment money comes up, we get a pit in our stomach because it connects back to these very early things we witnessed. Not all families are those super high-conflict families but the more conflict you grew up in, the more likely it is that you’ve got a fraught emotional relationship to money.

I’m thinking about an example. If my mom reads this, I want her to know that I love her. We had our issues around money and it can be used as a numbing agent too. I wouldn’t say I was in a high-conflict family but my dad was terminally ill with cancer so my mom used money as anesthesia. She would overshop, overbuy, and do our TJ Maxx, Marshalls, fast fashion, Old Navy, and all the things. It’s fine but that high conflict can be a myriad of different things. People can use money in different ways and that’s how it showed up in my household.

You probably had a similar household in some ways to mine in that a lot of families are what I call not the high-conflict family, which is generally speaking, an unhappy family but many people are in what I call the periodically tense average family. The vast majority of families are average. That’s why we call them average. The average family has periodic tension. It can be from someone with a big illness in your family. It could be from a family that goes through a divorce.

There are a lot of tensions that happen in normal real life. It’s not that money is always difficult but then things happen. Illness and divorce are two big ones. Maybe you’ve got a sibling who has a mental illness or a disability that puts a lot of pressure or stress on the family. These periodic tensions can bring up a lot of the same things, “We don’t talk about money.” You witness money being used to placate, show love, numb out, or distract.

I wanted to share my story because when I think of a high-conflict family, I think of addiction, drugs, alcohol, and abuse. People might say, “That’s not me.” In my family, it was a different scenario. Money was still an issue. Let’s go to the other end of the spectrum on the so-called perfect or the ideal family. What’s the trap around that as an adult if you were raised in the ideal family?

I named that family style in the book the supposedly ideal family. I have had many clients over the years who say to me, “I don’t get it. I have a lovely family. Nobody is perfect. No one generally claims a perfect family but I’ve got a loving family. There was plenty of money. We had a perfectly nice life. We didn’t have any of these big tensions that can happen to some of their friends. Why am I uninterested in money? Why am I frustrated with money? Fill in the blank. Why am I resistant to looking at money?” It’s oftentimes what happens.

It’s interesting because, in those families, you still have the same thread of money not being talked about and taught. They may not have heard fighting but generally speaking, in a lot of these families, money was simply handled behind closed doors. Here’s the other catch where it gets interesting. You may have been raised in a family with this lovely lifestyle and no notion of what your parents did to achieve or create that lifestyle because you didn’t see your parents talking about money. You never saw them talking about the budget, “Maybe we need to wait on that big trip this year. Let’s wait and see if we can afford to go on that trip next year.”

Chances are your parents did have those conversations but they didn’t have them in front of you. The dilemma is you may have been raised in this lovely family with this great lifestyle with no idea how they created this lifestyle. We naturally assume that we will have the lifestyle that we were raised with. We grow up and we’re like, “I’m assuming it will all be fine. I have no idea how to do it.” There’s this extra mystery where we feel like, “What is wrong with me? I don’t understand why money isn’t working out. It worked out fine for my parents.”

Brave Women At Work | Mikelann Valterra | Money Fog
You may have been raised in this lovely family with this great lifestyle, and you naturally assume that we will have the lifestyle we were raised with. So, we grow up and have no idea how to do it because we don’t know how they created that lifestyle.

A lot of times, there’s this unconscious message that says, “Money is always handled for me.” I’m not saying this is conscious, “There’s always enough money. Money magically always works out.” Sometimes it does. It magically works out enough of the time that you believe it will until it doesn’t, and then you blame yourself. Women are notorious for blaming themselves. When you look at it, the truth is there’s a big gap in what we are not taught.

That’s another reason. I’m sorry to keep plugging the book but we have to read this book.

Plug the book. People, buy the book.

I always said that I was not an educator but through this show, I am becoming an educator. I’m not an educator by trade but this should be required learning. It should be required for men, women, boys, and girls. It’s so sad that we have to spin back around. Better late than never but wouldn’t it be great if we were taught this as kids?

If I had $1 for everyone that wished that and said, I agree with you. I was thinking. One thing I would add about that supposedly ideal family is women raised in those families often are bored when it comes to money talk. The only reason I’m bringing that up is it helps you sometimes to say that if you feel uninterested and bored when it comes to money matters, it could be that you were raised in that type of family where so much of the money stuff was hidden for you but everything was done for you to a degree.

We get frustrated with ourselves and go, “Why am I so disengaged? Why can I not pull it together, look at it, and work on some of the money stuff?” As adults, at some point, we realize we do need to engage and then we’re overwhelmed. We’re not sure. Are we into the money fog? What does that mean? Why are we in it? How are we impacted and all that good stuff?

That was a good addition there. You touched on it but I wanted to see if there’s anything else that you wanted to share about your money and family story around money. I’m curious if your foundational story is why you’re doing what you’re doing.

The answer is yes. My family is very much that periodically tense average family. They didn’t talk a lot about money. In some ways, it was lovely and perfectly fine. On the one hand, we weren’t raised with a lot of money. We were a military family. Some of your audiences will identify with this. I’m a little girl. All I knew was at the beginning of the month, there was a very large chunk of cheese that would magically materialize in the refrigerator on this plate that my mom put it on. She would use it to make everything you could make from cheese throughout the month. The chunk of cheese would get smaller and then it would magically turn into a big full-sized chunk at the beginning of the next month. That was the version of not necessarily food stamps but government help with cheese and military family.

There were a lot of messages in my family, “Work hard.” A lot of families say that wealthy people are greedy or feel superior. It wasn’t quite as overt in my family. It was always like, “The thems and the theys. Wouldn’t it be nice to be like the Andersons or whatever it is?” I knew there was some difference between us and them. When I was in college, my parents went through a very difficult divorce. Right as I was about to transfer to a private university, all of the money disappeared suddenly. It was yanked away in the midst of this horrendous divorce.

I was not able to go to where I had already enrolled. I came back and finished at a public university. It’s my long sad story. We all have these different versions of it but it had such an impact on my life trajectory. I remember calling home at one point and saying, “Dad, I’m ready to buy my airfare.” I had already enrolled at this private university. I was already in. I was at the last minute to get his credit card to get the airplane ticket to fly and enroll. My dad said, “You can’t go. Your mom and I are getting a divorce. There’s no money. I have to go.” That was it.

I got goosebumps. You’re not saying this for me to say sorry but I want to tell you how sorry I am for you.

We all have these dramas in our lives. You’ve got the double shock. I was shocked that my parents were getting divorced. There’s shock about the impact on me that I’m not flying across the country next month and enrolling in this university. I picked up the pieces as we all do but I entered very deeply into the money fog. It made true all the stories, “We don’t have money. That’s for other people and all of that stuff.” I entered into the fog and didn’t think about money.

I worked hard because that was our family message, “Work hard,” but there wasn’t a big connection to what that meant other than, “I need to work hard if I’m a good person.” I didn’t look at the money. I didn’t think about the money. I ended up with all the classic stuff, debt, not enough savings, and all of this stuff because thinking about and looking at money was so painful. It had caused such a huge rift in my, at the time, young life.

If you fast forward five years later, I started hearing someone talking about money from a deep and almost spiritual perspective. It woke me up. I met this amazing woman named Karen McCall who went on to found a spending plan software called MoneyGrit. This woman is amazing. She started talking about deprivation issues and self-care issues around money. I would even use the term the spirituality of money. I went back and said, “I’m going to give money a second look. I’m going to see if there’s a way to use money to build a life that I want and stop ignoring it.”

See if there's a way to use money to build a life you want and stop ignoring it. Share on X

Talk about being a brave woman. You could have easily gone the other direction but you decided to go into the pain and figure out, “How can I use this as a path to healing rather than a path to run away from?”

It’s so true. Fast forward, this is what I’ve been helping people do. I love it because there are so many practical things you can do to help people get out of the money fog. We always have to honor how emotional the subject is. If money was not emotional, we would all not have any issues at all with it. We would be like, “2 plus 2 is 4,” spend less than we make and then we’re done but it’s more complicated than that because of how emotional it is.

We’re going to mention the book one more time at the end here but in addition to the book, is there any other tangible step that you would say if someone is like, “I’m in my fog. What do I do next?” We’re going to talk about buying the book but is there anything else where you’re like, “This is the first step you should take to get out of that fog?”

Here’s a super practical one because many coaches love practical stuff. I can talk about emotions and what we do. One of the big things I find happens is many people have too many accounts. They have too many checking accounts, credit cards, and savings accounts. It’s this account proliferation that I see and it comes about for many reasons. Sometimes we have accounts left over from a relationship or a different chapter in our life.

One of the best ways to start getting out of the money fog is to practice elegant financial simplicity and start pruning your accounts. I’m a big believer that you need 1 primary checking account, 2 credit cards, and 2 savings accounts, and we can drill in even deeper but that’s very different than 5 credit cards, 3 checking accounts, and all of that. Some people will simplify it even more than what I said, and that’s great. I don’t want to shock people’s systems too much. You don’t even need that many accounts.

One of the best ways to start getting out of the Money Fog is to practice elegant financial simplicity and prune your accounts. Share on X

The more accounts you have, the more places you have to look, the more places you’re monitoring, and the more places that you’re transferring money back and forth. It’s hard to see how much you’re spending and what you need to earn when you’re spending through 3 to 5 different credit cards, multiple checking accounts, and multiple savings accounts. You’re scattered. Elegant financial simplicity says, “Reign it in. Have one primary checking account. How about you use one primary credit card?” Imagine the power of one. It allows you to focus and see because some people use multiple accounts to keep themselves distracted and keep themselves in the money fog.

If they were using one credit card, they don’t want to see a bigger balance. They only want to see the multiple cards with smaller balances. There’s a lot of psychology probably to having different accounts. Some people can be more advanced. If you’re at the advanced end of the spectrum, and you’re like, “I’ve got purpose savings accounts,” and you’re out of the fog, then great but I love that if you’re in the fog, keep it as simple as possible.

People who say they have a lot of peace around money and also higher net worth are correlated to simplified account structures. Wealthy people are not walking around with ten credit cards. It’s not correlated to financial happiness. That’s a lot to track. They have better things to do with their time than monitor ten different credit cards. I’m being a little bit extreme. You can have a perfect credit score with 10 cards if you manage all 10 cards perfectly but that is a major pain in the butt.

It’s good to know. Thank you for clarifying that. I want to be sensitive to your time but I need to touch on this quickly. You mentioned a concept in the book that struck me, which is receptive surrender. That word makes me crazy. I’m like, “I hate to surrender.” The ones that hit me are overwork, over-earning, which I have done in my life, and burnout. Can you touch on that? There are a lot of women in my community who are like, “I need to know about this.”

Many things can happen when you’re in a money fog but one of them is if you don’t know how much money you need, you don’t know what you’re spending. You don’t know how much money you need to earn. Some people react by over-earning, meaning they will say, “Let’s make as much money as possible.” They will overwork because it’s vague. “More is better in case. Nobody stops. Working hard is a virtue on and on.”

The golden handcuffs refer to how some people feel like they can’t leave their job because they’re locked into needing to make that much money, either related to the benefits or it’s all connected. “I am living okay now. If I earn less money, maybe I won’t be okay. My expenses seem to be covered now because things seem to be in control. Therefore, if I make any less money, things are not going to go well.” It’s this drive to work.

Barbara Stanny is one of my favorite authors and a friend and colleague of mine. One of her books is called Sacred Success. It’s one of my favorite books. She talked about this notion of receptive surrender. When we are at the edge of burnout, we’re stressed, we’re working hard, we’re on that treadmill, and we know something is not going well, we need to take time out and listen to ourselves. We need to listen to our bodies, minds, and spirits. We need to give ourselves a time break to ask some deep questions, “Are we following our life purpose?”

If you don’t enter into a space of receptive surrender, something will happen and you will be forced to take a break. Many people experience this. They don’t willingly surrender to giving themselves time, they get sick, and then they have to take time. How many women do you coach who have shot their adrenal glands? They are so stressed and overworked that they’re thinking, “It takes years of therapy to deal with this level of anxiety and depression that we’re in.” Receptive surrender is, “Can we listen to our hearts and souls when we are at the edge of overwork and give ourselves a break?”

The money fog makes it hard for us to stop and pay attention. We’re so afraid of working less because we don’t know how much money we need. When you step out of the money fog and start to learn how much money you truly spend and how much you need to earn, it allows you to go, “I can take a break. I’m not driven by this pack of wolves.” That’s how some people feel. When they’re in a fog, they don’t know how much is enough. Therefore, they keep going. Receptive surrender is, “Can we surrender ourselves to our spirit and psyche, and give ourselves some time to listen to what would be good for us?”

You gave me some homework. You talked right to my heart right there, which often happens with my guests. Thank you for that. I’m sure it hit someone else hard between the eyes as well. Everybody, take receptive surrender away. You’ve answered this question before. Maybe you want to give us one way. It has been a while. What is one way that women can be braver at work?

It’s stepping up, asking for what you need, and protecting your time boundaries because women have a hard time saying no when employers and coworkers ask them to do something. It’s this knee-jerk reaction that says, “I’ll pick up the cupcakes for Joe’s party tomorrow.” Protecting our time is a biggie for women. The obvious one for a money coach is to know how much money your position should be paying. I’m not saying you’re underpaid but find out, do the research, go online, type in the salary survey, and then project manager or whatever it is you do for a living. Look at the surveys and get clear. Are you paid what you need to be paid? Depending upon what you find, what’s your game plan going forward once you find out if you’re paid appropriately?

Those are awesome ones. The book one more time is Rise Above the Money Fog: The Key to Confidence, Clarity, and Control Over Your Life. Go and get it. How can women connect with you and find the book online?

Thank you for that. The best way to grab the book is to go to RiseAboveTheMoneyFog.com. You can read all about the book. If people want to connect with me, I would encourage them to go to Seattle Money Coach. I work with clients all over the United States. I offer everybody a free discovery call if they want to pop on the phone with me. We will look at what is the number one thing that’s keeping you from feeling in control of your money. I love having these conversations with women. They can grab their discovery call at SeattleMoneyCoach.com.

Mikelann, it is always such a joy to have you on. Thank you for reaching out when this book was coming out. It has been fun having you. I wish you all the best in 2024.

Thank you so much.


That’s a wrap-up of my discussion with Mikelann. I hope you found our conversation both valuable and inspiring. Here are some questions to ponder or journal about until next time. Think back. What is the money story from your childhood? Mikelann and I are not going to look. We don’t need to know the details but write them down. What were the stories you heard in your home, good, bad, or as we discussed on the show, not at all? Some families don’t talk about money at all.

Write all those down because they will be able to be used in reflection later. How did these stories shape how you feel about money? Think about the throughlines when you were a kid and maybe how you handled money in college and your young career. What has been that throughline story about your original money story? How has it shown up across your life? If you’re being honest with yourself, are you in a money fog? I’m not going to judge. I have been in a money fog. Mikelann has said she’s been in a money fog. I’m sure we all have had times when we’re in that fog.

If you’re in a fog, how does it show up? After hearing my conversation with Mikelann, what is one small step you can take to get out of that money fog? Remember, small steps each and every day are going to make a difference in your relationship with your money. As a reminder, please rate, review, and subscribe on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. The show is also available on Google Podcasts or any other platform you enjoy. Until next time, show up, get out of the money fog, and be brave.

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About Mikelann Valterra

Brave Women At Work | Mikelann Valterra | Money Fog
Mikelann Valterra is an author, speaker, and master money coach who helps women around the world rise above the money fog, transform their relationship with money, and design their ideal life.
For twenty-five years, Mikelann Valterra, MA, AFC has been a thought leader in financial psychology. She has written, spoken, and been interviewed extensively on powerful, practical ways to reduce money anxiety and teaches effective methods for earning, saving, reducing debt, and managing money. Her new book, Rise Above the Money Fog is now available online.

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