Making Good Choices During Difficult Times


Clint Murphy Shannon Lee Simmons


Shannon Lee Simmons, Clint Murphy


Clint Murphy  00:00

Good morning, Shannon. Welcome to the podcast. By way of introduction, I want to start with a section of your book, where you say my previous two books, were financial planning advice with a side of coaching. This one is different. It’s a life coaching book with a side of financial planning, 90% life coaching and 10% spreadsheet. Given that, can you tell our readers a bit about yourself, your past two books, and what we’ll be diving into today?


Shannon Lee Simmons  00:30

Yeah, so I mean, I’m a certified financial planner, by trade. And I’ve been doing that for over 15 years now, in the advice only capacity. And I think that’s really where the coaching comes in. Because when I’m doing financial advice over the years, I’m doing it without selling any products. And I think that that’s important. And it’s what leads to the importance of the life coaching piece and what I do. So when I’m giving financial advice, I’m not really being like, in the back of my mind, like sell this product, get this money into the RSP do this thing, get that so I’m paid. What I’m doing is looking at a person’s holistic life and being like, let’s life plan. And money is the tool that we’ll use to make sure you can get there. And so it really puts the money piece secondary to the life planning part. Okay, so with the first two books, it was a, you know, I’m a financial, I’m a CFP. So the natural thing is to write books about money, with heavy duty emotional stuff underneath, so people really understand that that’s what’s really driving our financial decisions. And then this last book, No Regret Decisions, is a book that I don’t think I could have written even 10 years ago, like, it’s really  what I started noticing and watching people’s lives unfold over 15 years. And people who look back at decisions that they made with regret, and how that plays out in their life in a way that’s not positive and not growth oriented at all, versus those who may be made decisions at the time, that didn’t work out. But they don’t look back and say that was my fault, that was on me, I’m I make bad decisions. And I’ve been able to see the trajectory of both of those types of people again and again and again, everyone thinks that their story is so personal. But when you’re sitting on my side of it, I see it over and over and over and you see this grow. And so this book is a love letter to two people who have big decisions to make, and to people who have maybe made big decisions that didn’t work out the way that they wanted to.


Clint Murphy  02:20

And so when we talk about those decisions, and we talk about, let’s call it crisis decisions, you lay out in the book what we call the decision crisis playbook. But before we dive into that, can you share for the listeners what is a decision crisis before we dive into it,


Shannon Lee Simmons  02:43

Yeah, totally, it’s a term I made up because so because I do financial planning, I get looped into these really intense conversations with people, right. And so, you know, we want to do fertility. Can we afford to. this is a massive question I’m working out with people. My partner is separating from me, what’s going on? What’s going on? What do I do? This person is now my, I’m a caregiver for my parent, or I’ve like all of these, you know, massive decision crisis. And so what a decision crisis is, is when the stakes financially are high, which is why I’m on the front line there. The emotional stakes are high, like, we’re not talking about whether or not we’re going to order a pizza on Friday, we’re talking about stakes, where the decision that you make, your life will look different the day after you make it. So for example, if you want to quit your job on Tuesday, your life is different on Wednesday, indefinitely. So it’s a major emotional stake. And the thing that kind of brings it all into crisis mode for people is that it’s uncertain, there’s no control over how it’s really going to go. And a lot of times you’re making decisions with very little pieces of information, a lot of it’s like projecting out and almost like guesswork about how things are going to play out. And so because of the money piece of that, I am, I’m with people the whole way through these massive, massive shifts and transitions in their life. And so I coined the term decision crisis, because it doesn’t necessarily mean a personal crisis, often they are paired. But I would even argue that someone buying their first time home is a decision crisis. That doesn’t mean that they’re in personal crisis. But they have so many options. The stakes are high, the emotional stakes are high, they don’t want to look back with regret. And they’re freaking out. That is a decision crisis at its base level. And then there’s people with these massive shifts and transitions happening in their life, which is, I would say, is a decision crisis at its core. And then they may also be in personal crisis at the same time.


Clint Murphy  04:45

And so when someone’s in that and what does the playbook look like? What are the steps that at a high level that they need to be thinking about that we’re going to try to work through with them?


Shannon Lee Simmons  04:57

Yeah, so I think one of the reasons that was motivated to pitch this book in the first place was actually I pitched this book in 2018, sort of before the pandemic, which was odd timing, for it to all work out the way that it did. But the reason I did is because when I started noticing the difference between people who made big decisions, that didn’t work out, because of course, if we make a decision that’s big, and everything works out, we think I was so smart, great. But if we make big decisions in those moments of life, we quit our job, we retire, we go back, we go back to school and start a business that doesn’t work out, we go down the fertility training, it doesn’t work out the way that we hope to, we end up getting separation from a partner, it’s like, if and how it works out for you isn’t what you thought, that’s the person I’m speaking to about, because that’s what everyone’s afraid of, everyone’s afraid of becoming that person. So I was looking at the people who have made big decisions when the emotional and financial stakes are high. And it didn’t play out. It just straight up didn’t play out the way they wanted to. And those people who look back and say, I don’t like my current life, and it’s my fault, because I don’t make your decisions. when life throws me a lemon. Or when there’s big stakes, I am not capable of doing that I don’t trust myself, are on a trajectory that is anxiety inducing almost every day. And I started to notice this again and again. And it’s because if you don’t trust that when life throws you a wrench, which it inevitably will, for all of us, life is so random and unfair sometimes, then, and if you think that that’s your fault all the time, and you have that deep seated like 3am regret, then you live in kind of constant fear that bad things are gonna happen to you. Because you’re not really sure that you’re equipped to handle it. Whereas somebody who’s like Did, did my thing didn’t work out same scenario. But they look back and they say, You know what, I don’t like my current situation. But it was still a good decision. It just had a bad outcome, that person, right. So I made a good decision and I had a bad outcome is different than I made a bad choice and I regret that and I wish I could go back in time. It’s like a very different mindset so I started to notice the people that are like, they made peace with it in a way and move forward and are not looking forward into the future with anxiety. And so that was the impetus to write the book in the first place. And what I started noticing about the playbook was that I was giving the same advice. Originally, this started off in the divorce book, because I have a lot of clients who are separating and divorcing and, and it’s the classic example of high stakes, no information, big decisions have to be made, like classic. And then I started realizing that the workbook that I was doing with my clients who were going through separation is like I can apply this, I have been applying this agnostically across all decision crises. I just didn’t really square realize it until I started putting into book form like, Oh, I do this for this client type of client. I do this with these people. And the first part of that playbook is to make sure that you are not making panic based decisions. It is the number one reason I find people there’s lots of reasons people have regret on the other side if things don’t work out. But the number one is that they made a panic based decision. Also, some people refer to this as like a reactionary decision, right? Like, something happened, and they’re like, boom, and then the consequences happen. And they’re like, I shouldn’t have done that I was just angry, or I was reacting, or I was afraid. And so when we make decisions in panic mode, or reactionary mode, where we’re not like really stopping to see force from the trees for a second, it leads to more regret than those who make decisions without it. And so it’s part one of the decision crisis playbook is to take mindful steps to ensure that when you’re actually committing to whatever decision you’re gonna make, you’re not doing it from a reactionary place of fear, anxiety, or anger, because those tend to lead to that was a bad decision and it’s my fault versus that was a bad decision. And it was, or that was a good decision with a bad outcome.


Clint Murphy  09:05

And so the first thing we want to do is get out of panic mode. And so let’s chat through a few of the ways we can do that. And then we’ll leave some of them in the book that that people can go back and you’ll go and find. So one of the notes that I enjoyed was the best way to keep moving forward during a decision crisis is to try to reduce not only the number of decisions you need to make in your daily life, but also the intensity of the changes around you, which are constant reminders that life is different. You need to make your life feel normal again. Well 60% normal. Yeah, what is 60% normal, what’s magical about getting us to that spot? And then how do we use there’s a list routine exercise that we can use to help us get to sit 60% normal, what does that look like?


Shannon Lee Simmons  10:02

Yeah, so this is something again, I do with the clients, when it’s a real massive transition, when they quit their job and they’re panicking, they’re leaving their partner and they’ve moved out of the house and they’re panicking. life looks like someone just got diagnosed with a critical illness. They’re panicking. And life looks so different than like maybe last week.


So I think we can all even on a on another level. Now post pandemic, you don’t remember the day that they’re like, this is it and there’s a lockdown in schools closed, and everything is closed tomorrow. And the next day, all of us our daily life look different than a week before. So when we’re in that situation, then what happens is our bandwidth for decision making is used up on daily stuff. Because in your previous version of normal, a lot of stuff is automatic, right? Just like brushing your teeth, you’d like get in the shower, you like make the coffee, like go downstairs sometimes have you ever woken up at work, and you’re like, Whoa, I don’t even really remember getting there, which could be unsafe. But that feeling of it’s so automatic, because it’s your it’s a series of habits that you have, or rituals, if you will, which I think are habits with meaning that move you through the day. And they don’t really take up a lot of decision bandwidth. Well, when the rug gets pulled out from underneath you, if you lose your job, or you just or you moved out of your home. Well now even making your coffee in the morning feels different than it did last week. Even do I get up tomorrow? I don’t have a deadline objects. I don’t have to go anywhere. Do I even get up? What time? Do I set my alarm clock for? Like that’s a new decision, that’s a decision you didn’t have to make before? Now you do. And so that or if you now you become a caregiver, like well, how many times am I gonna go to the hospital to see my loved one and like, should I go today should go tomorrow, like, these are all new decisions that your brain has to be like, ooh, and like noodle on.


And so what happens in that first initial part of being like, getting the rug pulled out from underneath you with high stakes is that we are so overwhelmed all the time, that we need to try to find a way to reduce that sense of overwhelm. And that overwhelm comes from having too many small micro decisions to make at a time when your brainis so tired. So what I really noticed with people is, and think about yourselves in the pandemic, if your life is not, you know, you didn’t, if you didn’t just have the rug pulled out from underneath you and you’re listening to this. Imagine even that pandemic part of you at the next day. So it’s like, okay, what parts of our former normal or habits that we did every single day? Can we like reach through the sands of time and bring with us into the future mindfully to sort of reduce the amount of unknowns in our day to day life right now. So what’s really cool about this opportunity, and what I’ve done with people, it’s like, go back and make a list of the habits you did in they can be minute,


I think that’s what I think people think about like, they think they have to have big things. And like I’m talking minutiae, like, what do you do Monday through Friday before work? What did you do after work? Did you go for a walk? Did you walk the dog? Did you make a coffee? Did you read the paper? Like what did you do that brought you joy and comfort, that almost felt automatic. And so you’re really looking through those from a Monday to Friday point of view, and then say, Okay, well, I used to do this to do this. And I used to listen to a podcast on the way to school on the way to work. And now I don’t have a job cool, put a podcast on from 830 to 930 every morning and go for a walk like it’s very similar to what you used to do before. It creates that sort of sense of routine and structure that’s familiar. And it reduces stress and anxiety and it makes you feel normal. And, and also on the weekends and this kind of thing.


And the reason I say 60% normal is because  if your life has just been turned upside down, it’s impossible to feel normal again. But the mindful the point of that exercise is that the mindful act of acknowledging that your brain is decision overwhelmed, like it’s an information overload, and to actively and mindfully and strategically implement routine and structure into your new normal. That is comforting, that is familiar, that feels like yourself for five minutes of a new world that you maybe don’t like, is really soothing and self soothing, is the point of the whole panic mode, or getting out of panic mode. You’re not going to just like well, I’m out of panic mode down great. It’s so what you’re really looking for is moments, right? Enough small moments in the day of this new world that you’re in that feel calm, because you can see over the grief or over the anxiety or over the stress for like a moment to see the trees instead of just like or the forest instead of just you know, staring directly at the tree. So that’s what I mean by 60% normal.


And how much did you see for your clients during COVID? That’s simply from the lifestyle changes that it brought about that this one was dramatically shifted, as another person who’s in Canada. I’m in Vancouver. I mean, we, we were locked down pretty tight relative to a lot of other countries or cities. And so that 60% normal. I mean, it was gone overnight. For so many people. What did that look like for your clients? Yeah, it was chaos, right. And the thing about, I was able to switch remote, which now sounds so funny and easy, but at the time, that’s a huge deal, right? Like a huge deal for us to be giving this vulnerable, intimate space online like, whoa, okay. We’re known for, like holding emotional space for people and like, having a fun TV and like all this stuff. And I’m like, well, that that whole experience is getting robbed, blah, blah. But we were able to do it really quickly. So I had hundreds of meetings over those first two months of the 2020 lockdown, because it was also tax season. Plus we did these emergency COVID planning stuff, because so many of my clients were emailing in the room, Sir, didn’t even know what CERB was yet. What is CERB and I was like, it was a chaotic time. And I feel like that advice. So again, when you write a book, you put a structure behind it. But what I was doing, which is the same thing I’ve been doing with my divorce plans and my critical illness plans for years, it’s like I implemented it as well during that is like, you’re freaking out. Like, think about what routines are you going to do right now so that your brain doesn’t have to make so many decisions. That is the goal. So it’s the same thing I was just saying in a different way. And so I found that people were really like, like, keeping the routine, keeping the routine, keeping the routine was something that helped people reduce anxiety, because otherwise people just floating, right, we didn’t, no idea. And here’s the thing that you can see how the habits you create. And that’s the whole point of panic mode, the decisions you make, or the impact the habits of your day to day life, right, the things that you do every single day, those become your my favorite term next normal, which is who you’re going to be on the other side of this decision crisis, when this all plays out. Your next normal is going to be your day to day life. And how that looks is unknown right now. But I do know that the decisions we make impact the habits we build, which impact who we are on the other side of this. And I think a really good example of that is, again, speaking from the Canadian point of view only because that’s what I experienced. And I have two little kids. So my friends and family, I also saw this in my community. That first lockdown was chaos, right? Kids didn’t know what the heck remote work was. Kids are screaming at the door, parents are freaking out. Clients are freaking out. Well come our fourth lockdown we all had we knew exactly. It was normal. By that point? Exactly what to do. I knew exactly the habits I would pull on. My kids are like, Oh, mom’s on a call, we go here, oh, this happens now because we had all by that point, develop ritualistic habits for a lockdown to become normalized. And so I think that’s the proof in the pudding that even when things are chaotic, the things you start to do while you’re in a space of chaos become the habits and rituals that will dictate the next normal for your life. And that’s why not making those decisions from a place of scarcity and anxiety and fear are so critical when your life gets turned upside down.


Clint Murphy  18:41

Yeah, and in from a new normalization for some of our kids. They grew up through the pandemic, three years of formative life, and some of them knew nothing else. Right. So, so now the crisis isn’t COVID, it’s well how do I come out of this?


Shannon Lee Simmons  19:04

Totally, how do I make that normal again? And you know, what habits did I create for myself during COVID that are helpful and soothing that can bring forward so in some what I’ve heard from some clients in that space, sometimes are like, Oh my God, thank God, but some are like, wow, the boundaries that were set for me that I didn’t have to like socially set or aggressively set with work with my in laws that stressed me out and all this stuff. There were some boundaries that came out of that, that were actually like self soothing, that were helpful for people and like 100% right now and say, Hey, that was a weird time. But these these few bad habits that I built here, were good for me. I’m going to mindfully take those forward into my next normal with me on the ride, right and then the other ones you can cast aside that we’re, you know, crisis based or survival based.


Clint Murphy  19:57

Yeah. 100% I love that as an examiner point cause I’ve found through COVID, that just the volume of time that was given back to you, and how you could say, well, I’m going to use it for this, this and this, because I’m not allowed to, I’m not allowed to go to these activities. I’m not allowed to go visit friends, I’m not allowed to go visit my family. So when COVID unwinds, well, there’s some elements of that I want to keep, I don’t want to give all of that back, it’s been nice to have.


Shannon Lee Simmons  20:26

Yeah, that time was your normal for years. And so I would say that you need to make your, your now and your next normal and the other side of that crisis, and you just need to be mindfully stretching through time and bringing those habits forward.


Clint Murphy  20:39

And the other part that I really wanted to emphasize for people when they’re in this crisis mode or panic mode portion, and we talked about, you mentioned floating, and so we’ll use the analogy of boats is we want to find people who are in a similar boat to us, and build relationships with them when we’re going through this. Or why do we want to surround ourselves with people who are in the same position and have the same understanding and you call this a circle of self care or circle of care? Why don’t we want to find people who are in a similar situation? And how’s that going to help us if they’re in the same boat as us?


Shannon Lee Simmons  21:21

Yeah, I think that there’s something about feeling understood when you’re facing a decision crisis that is so helpful. And again, the classic example I’ll give, which I then realized it applies over everything. And it does is, you know, years ago, when I started working with people who were going through separation, the comment that I would hear, and I just give this as an example is like, you know, I text my group chat, and all my friends are married, and I’m going through this thing, and none of them get it. And I just want to talk about it over and over and over and over. And I want to analyze this text from my ex, to the point where everyone’s exhausted by me. And then I want to talk about the date that I’m going on. And it’s just like, it doesn’t feel you don’t feel as part of that community because your current situation is so different than your normal core community. So that doesn’t mean that your core community isn’t supportive. And it doesn’t mean that you have to give up your core community. But while you’re going through this moment in your life, if you don’t have people that are like feeling you and in it with you and get it, you’re going to feel like an outsider, which can compounds anxiety compounds, panic compounds, all of those things we’re trying to avoid. So a lot of times, I’d be like, find some divorce friends. Like, single moms club, like whatever it is. So that kind of thing. You know, 5-10 years ago, I was saying that, and then I started saying, Okay, well, if they’re, you’re becoming a caregiver, like your friends, who your family who doesn’t understand, is not going to understand the nuance of the grief, the pain and the frustration that you’re feeling. And you’re gonna feel guilty for having frustration and like, you need to talk to somebody who gets that, and it’s gonna give you like fair space with no judgment to vent beyond the therapist, therapist is amazing. And that is a paid for relationship that is so important for mental health. But I’m talking about feeling like when that call is over, who you’re gonna go hang out with and group chat with, because we’re not group chatting with our therapist, probably not. And so that’s the circle of care I’m talking about. And this stretches across all boundaries to like, I even say to my clients, who are they got priced out of the market, which in Toronto is insane. I think it’s insane of Vancouver to it’s insane across the world. So there’s lots of people to rent. And there’s nothing wrong with renting. And I work with so many clients who are renting to and building that into their retirement plans. And you know what, I’m always like, you need more friends who are renting because here’s what’s going to add to your deep seated anxiety is when you hear your community being like, the house has gone up by $100,000. And you’re like, why am I missing out? Did I make a huge mistake renting? Am I screwed in retirement, and all they’re doing is just sharing a normal part of what’s happening in their life. But that is a that’s a thing that’s like not aligned. So unless you’re really comfortable being like, I don’t care, if that’s an upsetting moment for you, which for a lot of people it can be then like, you know, when you’re frustrated about how expensive life is right now to like, find people who are in your same economic box, and you can, you can feel safer and more secure, because you’re not alone. And so I really think that when you’re going through something like this, depending on what it is, and especially if it’s a rug pulled out from the situation, you probably don’t have anyone that’s in the same boxes you because it just happened, right? And so you got to mindfully and on purpose, find a circle of care for yourself during this point. And sometimes I find people find that circle of care for while they’re going through it and then and then when they’re through the decision crisis on the other end that that circle of care kind of disbanded and that’s okay. It was like they needed each other at that time in that moment, and then you know, it moves on or like lifelong friends, it depends on the situation.


Clint Murphy  24:59

And for a lot of these decision crises that we have, there are even support groups that we can find that are built around that crisis. And maybe you’re in it while you’re going through it, and then you’re out on the other side. You know, you might pick up one or two friends that stay. Yep. But not the whole group. So so that’s a beautiful way to look at it. And so when we get out of that panic mode, the next step is the messy middle. And you take our listeners through the messy middle at a high level, and we’ll dive through some of the ways we can deal with it. Yeah. So


Shannon Lee Simmons  25:40

Once you have those, like, all the stuff that we’ve talked about in the panic mode, and you know how to like see over it for a minute, the messy middle is when you’re over it, you’re so done. And you have to start, you have to make a decision. So panic mode is about the feelings you have around it, all the coaching yourself, the acknowledgement that you might be in it, and the doing whatever you can to not make a decision while you’re there. And the messy middle is when, well, now I have to play my hands. So I’ve been dealt my cards. And now I got to do something about it. And I find the messy middle is the most terrifying part because there’s something about crisis, that it almost feels like the adrenaline through it, like you know, when someone passes away, and it’s the funeral, and it’s the this and it’s the death, and it’s the death and it’s like, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. And it’s like, it’s like a roller coaster. And then like four months later, it’s just, that’s when the grief hits often with people it’s like, because it’s, it’s like, now we have to actually do the estate with to do the things. So it’s like, the messy middle is when the crisis part or the panic part is, is subsided. And now you have to play your hand. So but that doesn’t mean that you’re not afraid. And that doesn’t mean the stakes have gone away. It just means that the crisis part of it is you know how to deal with that piece. And so I think that it’s the hardest part of the whole decision crisis playbook to be honest.


Clint Murphy  26:59

And when we look at the first step, it’s pretty grounding, which we really need when we’re going through really hard decisions like this. And that’s the idea of aligning on and finding our deciding values. Yeah, what does that look like? And how can our listener go through an exercise to say, well, what are the values that I have that I’m going to base my path forward on?


Shannon Lee Simmons  27:31

Yeah, I mean, besides from buy the book I’m just kidding, that was cheeky. So I think what that first part is, and this is also coming from a place of reflection, over my, like, 15 years on the front line of financial planning with people, life planning really is what I like to call it is sort of the people who make decisions, not in panic mode, often, even if things don’t work out, are able to look back and say, Good decision. bad outcome. That’s the second piece of that. And the people who are able to look back and see it that way, instead of blaming themselves if things didn’t work out, are the people who made decisions that aligned with their core values, we all have heard the term called core values, it’s those things that are important to you like, at your core level, sorry to repeat the word so much, but like, I guess in your, in your soul, for lack of a better word, it’s like it’s like, it’s like who you are as a person. And we all have lots. So you know, we all have like five to 10 that are really important to us. And they shift and change in priority. As we shift and change in our life, it doesn’t mean that they’re not a part of us anymore, but maybe they take a backseat while we’re doing a certain part of our life. And we’re because this one’s more important now. And so it’s not like it’s set in stone, nobody signing in blood like it’s like, it’s like, these are the things that are sort of important to me overall. And they we prioritize them depending on what life is. So when I walk a client through that I actually keep like a list of core values, because sometimes they’re just offering up ideas for people to look at and be like that, is it. I didn’t have a word for it. But like that, is it and like oh, authenticity, like that’s it? Oh, fairness. Yeah. Fun. Yes. Family? Yes. Like they see it, and they highlight them. And I’m like, Cool. That’s your five big ones. And then you know, I’ll say something like, you know, in your previous normal, or whatever it was your previous life before this situation, you know, which ones would you think would have been like, topped up like top 123 people really struggle with this prioritizing your values is really hard. But I think it’s a mindful exercise. And again, it doesn’t mean it’s forever. It’s just for right now. What is the priority of that? Or what was it and now looking forward, okay, now prioritize them for this decision. Because I’ll give you an example that and I use this one in the book too, is like, if someone is, is buying a home, and I’ll use that actually, I don’t use this example. I will use a classic pandemic example because it’s very broad. Everyone can understand it know someone who’s gone through this probably or they’ve gone through it themselves. pandemic, buying a house person was like cramped in their space, they were like, I’ve always wanted to buy a house. And I’m going to do it right now, because interest rates are cheap, and I’m terrified. So that person buys a place, you know, they move out of a city or something like that they buy a place in rural, wherever. And it’s affordable at the time, because interest rates are so low, they take a variable mortgage on and life is good during lock downs, okay? Then life because it kind of returns to normal, their boss is like, Hey, you’re gonna come back into the office, they’re like, sweet, now I have a two hour commute. I have no friends in this community yet, because I moved there during COVID. My family’s not here, I missed the amenities of my old life. And this house is so much maintenance, I didn’t think of or expect to, oh, my God, I’m miserable. And so and now variable, interest rates have gone up. And now I even feel like the financial when of this situation is punishing for me. So this person is miserable. And they feel like they have deep regret. And that person made a scared based decision, right? I’m terrified. It’s COVID, I need more than a balcony. And I’m out. So terrified of decision. And I would also argue, to only look at the things that were important to them at, at their core level. So when things normalize out of the crisis, it doesn’t align with who they are, right? Like, they’re not really a person who wants to, like maintain a home and that homeownership is like, so important to them at a core level. They’re not they’re a person that needs that wants, community and bustle and hustle and all that stuff. And it’s just not aligning. And so there’s deep regret, versus the person during the pandemic lived in the same place. Same balcony, same frustration is like, you know, what, now’s the time, interest rates are cheap. The pandemic is bananas, let’s move to rural wherever they do the exact same move, same amount of money, they take on the variable mortgage, everything life normalizes, but this person looks back and says, ha, I still no regrets. I wouldn’t do it any other way. Because they moved during the pandemic, which could seem like a panic based decision, but they got all the information. And yes, they took a variable mortgage, but that’s what the realtor and the broker and their parents were saying. So like, Sure, it didn’t work out the way that they wished. But like, they really made a good decision. And it was like every expert that they could have possibly talked to said to do that, plus, they had two years of cheaper interest rates. So like, hard now, not a bad decision. I’m okay with that. And they took the time to make sure that they were moving because they love rural life, their families out there. So there’s a community already built in, they weren’t really vibing with the city, it felt like it was violet, like they’re, you know, sensitive. And it was like noisy, and like they didn’t love the amenities. They didn’t even use the amenities. It was like, not really who they were. So this new life really aligns with their values and who they are. So even though they can’t barely make their mortgage payments right now, because interest rates are so high, yeah, you don’t regret it. And that is the difference. So so not in panic, and aligning with who you are, so that when this all subsides, you like your day to day life, and the only way that you’re going to like your daily life down the road is if the decisions you make are prioritized on your core values. That’s it, there’s no other way to do it.


Clint Murphy  33:24

And when you’re going through this with clients, do you find that they can often mix up I’m in this situation, and this is the outcome I want, versus the values that are that are tied to it? And what I mean is, are they actually focusing on a goal, not a value? And how do you bring them back and say, well, we’ll let’s break this down into like, what are the goals we’re trying to achieve, but then let’s get under those goals. What are the values that are driving them?


Shannon Lee Simmons  33:57

Yeah. And I think that’s the coaching part, right, is to really make sure that when they go through and highlight those values, that we’re assigning them to a goal and why that’s important. But I will say this, too. I think there’s no guarantees in life, right? None at all. But I think that the very act of thinking about prioritizing your values before you make a decision before you play your hand, that alone is like future protection for yourself. Because you’re going to be even if things don’t work out, you’re going to be able to look back and say, well, I met with Shannon, or I met with whoever. And I really thought about it. And at the time, I really believed that this was who this was important to me. And that this was my deciding value and at the time that felt like the right choice. So now in the future, I’m looking back going well, wasn’t really a thing wasn’t really a thing. But I the protection that you give yourself your future self your 3am future self. If I tried my best, right, I tried my best not to make a terrible decision when the stakes are so high. And so you can let yourself off the hook. And so what I’m saying with that is that nobody’s perfect, we’re going to screw up. Yeah. And so you’re really just future proofing yourself and giving your future self some grace, because everybody makes mistakes. And sometimes we make big ones. Sometimes we make little ones. And I think the most important thing is to be able to do whatever you can to look back and say, That was a good decision with a bad outcome, or I wouldn’t have done that any other way, even though things didn’t really work out. And I think the actual just the mindful act of doing these things, while you’re in a decision crisis is sort of like an insurance policy for the future.


Clint Murphy  35:46

And the other thing we want people to think about is, what are your different options? Let’s let’s not all pin this on well, this has to be the route. Okay, well, let’s, let’s explore the options. And being a math guy, as you are, I like the idea of saying, Here are various options, here are some probabilistic outcomes to those options. Why is it important that we get them to think in options and thinking probabilities when they’re going through these scenarios, yeah, map


Shannon Lee Simmons  36:17

that out in the book to about assigning some predictability where you can. And I think I even used the term like the illusion of control, because that’s all it really is. But I think when we are making such big decisions in our life, we’d like to think that what we’re doing is going to impact the outcome that we are, you know, a metaphor, or an analogy that I would use is like, let’s say there’s a hurricane coming. Are you satisfied? Just being like, well, there’s water in the basement and some food? And that’s that or are you like, checking the weather, doing this with the sand and like trying to get out of the try not to even have the storm happen to you like, those are two different, those are two different options, right? Those are two different ways to deal with a, bad weather sort of forecast. And so being true to yourself. And so if you’re someone who believes in some sort of predictability, then you’re gonna be the person who wants to like, check the weather, check the check the temperature, like, make sure you have a bike that an electronic scooter that you can like, ride out of the city with and like all the stuff in your pack, and you’re ready, right? Like that’s a different person than just hunkering down in the basement. And so I feel like, when we have different options, and we map them out, I’d call it a decision tree or like a bonsai, really, because you’re really reducing the options. There is an element also of reducing decision tree overwhelm, because it really could go anyway, right? It could, these things could work at certain ways. So what we’re really doing is we’re only focusing on the options that are within some degree of control, right? So we have some degree of control over what’s happening here. So if we use our hurricane example, which is not in the book, I’m just kind of rolling with that right now. Cool. Are you a prepper? Are you a basement, hunkered down person, and then you can do a bunch of actions that feel like you’re doing something to prepare for what’s coming for you, or what you’re afraid is coming for you. And so when I talked about that, if we assigned predictability for the short term and the long run, and what you’ll find is that the long run never has predictability. But there are some options in your life that can provide some short term predictability, well, if I do this, and if I meet with a mediator, I know or a lawyer, I know I’ll probably have a better shot at getting a fair deal. That’s a that is a solid action with a predictable outcome in the short run that can change the course of how this thing’s going to play out for you. So I really think that kind of examining all those options and assigning some short term probability and only chasing down or debating or thinking about the options where you have an element of control, it makes you feel like you’re less overwhelmed, it makes you feel like you have a say, and it’s not all just so random. At which, like if someone who’s a Buddhist would be like it is, but like, it makes you feel like the illusion of control, which can make us feel confident in those moments where we have to play our hand, right? Like, if you’re playing a poker game. And you’re like, I gotta play my hand you you want to think about short term predictability, okay, well, if I know that these aces are high, so I’ll make a bet based on that, because that’s a real thing that I can like, probably, that’s good probability that I got these and no one else does. Like that’s short term probability, even though you have no idea how the whole game is gonna play out. And that’s the same thing you got to do with your life.


Clint Murphy  39:27

And do you pre build into your decision tree matrix, here’s the point where if I’m going down this route, I may need to pivot to this other route depending on what happens in you bring up the concept of guard rails along the way, whether it’s time or money. Well, how does that tie into my decision tree if I’m laying it out in Microsoft Excel,which I’m probably going to be doing.


Shannon Lee Simmons  39:55

I love it. I love it. Are you a Virgo or an engineer? An accountant oh, there you go. So what I would say about so they’re called pivot points and guardrails. And they’re not the same thing, but they deal with the same issue. So the only constraints that we have in our life, the reason that these stakes are scary, is that we have to make these decisions within a certain amount of time. You don’t want to run out of time, and that they’re going to impact our money, right? So if you won the lottery, I wonder if any of these decisions would be that scary. And if you know, drink from the fountain of youth, I wonder if these would be scary to pause time for a second, I wonder if a lot of the decisions you’re making right now would be as scary as they are. And that’s because we have time and money constraints. And so a pivot point is like a point in your plan where you are pivoting your options. So you’re your plan A, if you will, your ideal plan of action that you think is going to align with your values with the most amount of predictability and get you where you want to go. Okay, that’s planning. And you’ve done all your work, you’ve used all the good information, you’ve done the homework, here we go Plan A, and you play your hands, do it make the decision. And it doesn’t like work out. But it’s not over. So I think there’s lots of scenarios in our life where we can keep trying for something. So the example I use in the book is, is fertility treatment. The example I’ll use on this is buying a first time home because it’s like, again, a lot of people even if they are homeowners or not kids can relate to it. So let’s say that you they sit down with me this couple they’re super stoked they want to buy a house and like help with everything that’s going on. You got like $700,000 limit that that means you can afford listed they have kids, you can afford extracurriculars for the kiddos, you can go on a family vacation once a year, and if the roof falls in like you’re good, cool. Plan A is to buy a house for $700,000 that plan a it fits with our values, if not a panic, a decision very well thought out cool. They start looking for houses and put a couple of bids in and they lose. And so the realtor’s like you might want to up it to 800. Now, is that game over? Or is it a pivot point? So I said 700, they were stoked. Okay, so what happens at 800? Well, we come back on the call. All right, 800, no family vacation, hey, you can afford this, the bank will give you a mortgage, you can make the payments, but you’re gonna have to give up the family vacation, the kids can still go to their extracurricular. And if the roof leaks, well, your home maintenance fund is going to be drastically reduced. A little bit hopefully for 800,000 You buy has no falling part. Okay. So like go, like go out into the world. They’re like, cool. We recognize that family vacations really hard. Maybe we’ll Airbnb our place, get creative with it, yada yada yada. We’re good for 800,000 Cool, they have not stopped playing. They have pivoted their plans, right, the travel fund is now gone. They shifted direction we’re going for 800 we recognize that we have to give something up, but we’re not ready to call it quits. We’re still gonna go for our sort of idea of our core value plan. Cool. 800,000 they get bid out, realtors like hey, why don’t you try 900,000 they come to me they’re like, can we do 900,000? And I’m like, okay, no extracurricular for the kids. No emergency fund, no travel account, super house poor. If interest rates rise, you’re done. But the bank will give you a loan. So now I would say that person isn’t a personal guardrail, because they could technically buy the house like, logistically they will get a mortgage. But do they want that to be is that a guardrail? Do they want to keep going? They want to be house poor. So the idea of a guardrail can be imposed by someone else or you choose it for yourself. So they’re like, no, okay, sounds shitty. I don’t want that. I want to be able to do these things. Let’s just we’ll rent unless we can buy somebody for 800. We’re willing to do that pivot, but we’re not willing to be house poor? Absolutely not. That’s a personal guardrail for yourself. And an external guardrail in this example, would be realtor says go for a million in the bank like, nope, won’t even give you the loan. Even if you wanted to, you can’t. And I’d say that’s like a classic example of a pivot point versus a guardrail. So there’s one point where it’s like, it didn’t work out. But you can still keep going. As long as you shift some other things and give some things up in your life. A guardrail is like no, and you decide that or someone else decides that for you.


Clint Murphy  44:28

It’s a great example. Because when you’re in that bidding war, if you will, and I’ve only been in I think, one that I can really recall. And the numbers got bigger, really fast in every time they called us back. There was a level of wanting to win the battle. It’s like you felt invested like it’s ours. That’s our house. And after going to your point, you go up, whether it’s 50,000 or 100,000? And you’ve done that three times, and they call back kind of look at each other and say, Well, wait a second. If we’d gone and looked at this lot, and it wasn’t 600 to begin with, it was 900. Right out of the gate, would we even have looked at it? Exactly. You know, like that ability. So being able to call you and talk to you versus if you’re on your own, you don’t have that outside voice saying, Well, wait a second, this isn’t a $600,000 home anymore. Yeah. Now it’s a $900,000 home, would you even look at it? Or should you go in that neighborhood and look at all the 800,000 homes that you didn’t even think about? Because they were out of your original price range?


Shannon Lee Simmons  45:45

Totally. And I think what you just touched on there, too, is in the bidding war situation, though, I want to win the battle. That’s a panic based decision. Right. That’s why those leads. Yes, exactly. There’s a reactionary decision. And I think that’s why it leads to a lot of regret for people when they do that they feel like they’ve been had, especially now, once you have time to reflect, and that really impacts people emotionally. And like their feeling of financial confidence going forward. If they won in a bidding war. It’s almost like an art auction. And you’re like, I’ll never win this. And then you do and you’re like, Oh, my God, happy with the art, but like, can’t believe I just swiped my credit card for that, like that kind of like moment is really detrimental to financial confidence, like as a whole. And so I think the act of going through ahead of time and placing pivot points and guardrails before you house hunt, or before you make your decisions for critical illness. This is a big one I do for people when they become a caregiver because there comes a line in the sand between go no go for them, but are not imposing on them. It’s like how far will you light yourself on financial fire? And to keep this person warm? That is a question I asked people. And I am a deep, empathetic feeler. So I’m not asking them not because I think they should do nothing. I’m asking them this atrocious questions, because at some point, there comes a line and I have to find it. So like, I wouldn’t sell the house. Okay, that’s a line in the sand for you. Or I would sell the house. And I would use every dollar until was there that’s a line for you to everyone’s different, right? So it’s like, how far are you willing to go in service of this? Until you’re like, I can’t anymore. This is this is all done for me. And time is sometimes that there’s a time limit. And sometimes it’s most times it’s money. Again, why I get pulled into these conversations that most time is money. And my job is to just showcase the pivot points versus the guardrails, right? Boom, boom, boom, boom, this is what happens if this is what happens if this. So if people have taken the time to think about this before they head down the path, when you hit a pivot point, or a guardrail, it’s not a scary element. Price, is what throws us into panic mode and makes us make ridiculous decisions all of us, me too, element of surprise, not fun. And so if you’re like, going into the house hunting, being like, I know, we could go as high as 800. I know what we give up. For 800. I’m hoping for 600 or 700. And I know that we will be house poor at 900. Before you even start shopping, then when the bidding war comes, you’ve already pre thought that Oh, out and you’re like we have to say no. Whereas if you haven’t done that pre work, it’s a really emotional roller coaster. And same with like caregiving, same with fertility, all these things where it’s like money over time, you need to set those out over time, so that when they happen, you’re not shocked by them. And that will make you feel in control.


Clint Murphy  48:39

There’s an element of stoicism where the stoics would pre meditate on these bad things happening. So that when the bad things did happen, they would have the plan, it wouldn’t be the oh, I’m caught by surprise. I never saw this coming. I’ve premeditated on the death of my wife, my kids, the destruction of my house or or being back in their day, kicked out of the community. And in so there was a lot of premeditation to say, Well, let’s think about that, almost to your point, like let’s build the plan. So when the crisis comes, we know what we’re going to do. We’ve got our guardrails are not caught by surprise, because that’s the surprise that just leaves us stuck and making the poor decisions.


Shannon Lee Simmons  49:31

Totally. And I think it’s a I mean, I’ve always done this, and I didn’t realize it was helpful. I’ve done this with myself since I was I remember doing it as a teenager, like working out my worst case scenario, like what is it? What would I do if? And were like, where is that? And I remember like having these thoughts, thinking that everyone was just always like panicking, like thinking about the worst case scenario, working backwards from there and He said the worst case scenario is going to happen. I really hope it doesn’t. But it gave me a sense of calm. So that if the storm comes, I know what the plan is, I know what I’m going to do. So I’m not just running around the living room freaking out. Because that creates more anxiety for me, is not knowing what I would do if and so I think that when these decisions happen, there are elements of it. And that’s why I think everyone, this is, again, this feels self serving, but I feel like everyone should know this playbook. Because when life happens to you, sometimes your timeline is a week, or five days. And so if you already know the playbook, then you’re like, cool, okay, I need to make sure this, I need to map this out, I need to do this. If you’ve already had some free thought in your life in general about these things, then when something happens, it’s gonna be like a habit or second nature for you to like, think about all these things rather than wade through them during that time when you’re least calm, and you’re most overwhelmed.


Clint Murphy  50:58

And when we do wade through the moon, we do get to the other side, you already talked a bit about alluded to this earlier. But now we’re on the other side. We’re in our new normal next, next, next normal, what are some of the things that people should be thinking about? conceptualizing for that next normal?


Shannon Lee Simmons  51:18

Yeah, I think I think I’m really speaking to people here who it didn’t work out for, right? Like, because, again, if you did all this work, and then you get there, and it’s like, it worked out. Great. You got the $700,000 house, perfect. Good for you. So I would say the next normal is all about making peace with things that didn’t work out. So are you able to look back, you’re, you know, you didn’t have this, this, these these resources before you were in this place? You did some stuff, you made decisions, you tried your best. And now you’re in a situation where you’re like, you regret it, and you are blaming yourself. And so what can you do about it? So so much of it is about accepting, like almost like some self care, like grace for yourself. And I take people through an exercise where it’s like, even if you didn’t follow the playbook, because you didn’t know it existed or whatever. I’m sure there was still a reason you made the decision that you did. So even if it was panic base case, you’re in the bidding war. And you’re like, I want to win this, I’m invested in this. i How can this be happening? And we’re never gonna get a house like, Oh, my God, just do it. Just do it. Just do it. We’ll figure it out. Okay, like, let’s say that that person, I can still find a way to help that person make peace with the decision that they made. Okay, the market is insane. We all know this. So you’re coming into battleground, you’re coming in as your warrior self. Like you’re not just like casually buying a house, like in this climate, okay, to, you’ve been taught, you’re tired, you’ve been at this for a year, like you want it to be over? That’s really understandable. Do you know what I mean? And number three, like your around community, displaces new your pals and your family get it, you’re upholding your value of community at that point, sure, at the expense of maybe financial security, which is also a value of yours that maybe you deprioritize at that time. So we’ll go back and we’ll look at the core values. And often not often, every time, you will see a value in there that they base their decision on. And maybe at the time, like what we were chatting about before, it was the value of the goal and not necessarily of the person. And that was a confused moment. Because they were maybe in panic mode and reacting. But when you allow people the grace that like, Hey, you still did it, it was just confusing. Like today, like it’s okay, like, this is the value of our community, and house and home. And like that’s important to you, and you were like, just like laser focused on it. And now we have a decision that happened and an outcome you don’t like. And that doesn’t mean that you are forever now a person who makes terrible financial choices. This is not, that’s not this. And so again, on the other side of things, what I’ll do is reach right back to the beginning, because if you have a next normal that you don’t like, you’re going to be right back in panic mode again. So right back in it. So what I’ll often do is like, it’s almost like a reprise of part one. It’s like, reach back through the Sands of Time, bring forward the habits that you like. And so it’s like, it’s like, how can you? How can you create every day habitual normal for yourself in this next place that you’re in? That you’re not 100%? happy about? And then we’ll start another decision tree. I’m trying to try to find our way through this, right, like this is a new crisis. There’s a new decision crisis for us to deal with. But how can we quell and start again, that’s like the main focus of it or just accept it and find peace with it. That’s also something that some people can and it’s a new, a whole new decision tree for us to navigate. And some people once they find that peace and that that grace with the fact that it was A good decision with a bad outcome. Sometimes that’s all it takes is just that understanding of why you made that choice. So that when you’re at the Thanksgiving table, and some jerk relative calls you out, you got your go to Line like I did, and here’s why I did that screw up. So I feel like that’s a really important piece.


Clint Murphy  55:21

I love that. Shannon Do you have time for four rapid fire questions that we throw it all? Okay. So the first one is what’s a book that materially changed your life?


Shannon Lee Simmons  55:31

Oh, okay. So in. I mean, I’m a fiction person. So I would almost I feel like I need to answer that in like a nonfiction way. Actually, this is necessarily not necessarily my nonfiction like, changed my world in a material way. It was actually Wintering by Katherine Mae. And I mean, I’ve had I’m sure, there’s always been books that don’t really like rock my socks in the in the nonfiction world. But that is the most recent one. I’ve read it three times every single January. And I think it’s I read it for the first time at a dark place in my life, which I talked about in the book even during like peak COVID, lockdown, dark, dark, dark, winter of 2020 to 2021. And someone was like you should read this book. And I did. And what gave me similarly was like, small little routines or habits that I could do to make winter a place that that was welcoming, emotionally and physically in this dark place. Like finding that light in the darkness. And so that book for me every January now I like read read read read read, because it really helps to shift my perspective on winter or in she she refers to wintering as in periods of your life that are winter, not just the season. And so anytime that there’s these dark times when people are happening in my life, or if I’m going through something, I remember, like, this is a season of my life, this is normal. And this is a time that like spring will come and there are things that you can do to reflect and rest during winter. That’s important and so sometimes these dark seasons in people’s lives happen for a reason and they have to happen so that you can have spring and I just think her book was so great and I read it during the pandemic and just like wept uncontrollably.


Clint Murphy  57:12

And what are you reading right now?


Shannon Lee Simmons  57:14

Ah, I’m reading a book right now called Hag, which sounds so terrible, but it’s like all folklore stories that are becoming modernized feminists like anyways, it’s really good. I’ve just started about


Clint Murphy  57:27

I love it. And what’s one thing Shannon has spent less than $1,000 on that you look back and say, Oh, we should have bought that sooner.


Shannon Lee Simmons  57:35

Whoa, recently against pulling on on recent stuff. Well, there’s two. One is at home coffee, like a like an espresso machine, I used to have a bad coffee habit. And not bad. I take that throw that out. I hate I hate people say that because sometimes that’s like the most important part of someone’s day.


Clint Murphy  57:56

What I mean I love me my coffee.


Shannon Lee Simmons  57:59

It was the most emotional return on investment for me buying it at a store every day. And this has been a game changer for me and during the pandemic also filled me with like joy so that in my life and afterwards, I bought my kid last summer one of those like little floaty kids kayaks, they’re not very expensive in the grand scheme. And I was like, now we go kayaking together and I can’t believe I haven’t been doing that for years. It was so it’s so wonderful. So and it was just it’s a good thing. And then the second one is recent very recent. I bought my little one a little one of those like kids kayaks, they’re like not a big they’re not an expensive piece of equipment. It’s just like a little jump. Now him and I go kayaking together and it’s just this piece of parenting that I just take so much joy from that I didn’t realize Yeah, I thought he was so young even be able to and then they have these little plastic floaty kayaky things. And I was like, oh, yeah, that’s another one.


Clint Murphy  58:51

I love that. And the last one is what is one habit behavior change mindset shift you’ve made in your life that had an oversized positive impact doesn’t have to be recent, but the one that really jumps out at you that people might want to think about,


Shannon Lee Simmons  59:09

For me, I know exactly what it is. remind myself of it all the time. And this job has given me this gift actually. So the joke that I was making before now the joke the real thing is that I always was like, Well, what if this happens, what if this happens? And what would I do? It’s a very common Capricorns very, like plan based, you know, logical way to approach life. And that works for me on a lot of levels but over my 15 plus years, life planning with people and working out their finances, you really see that like, honestly things work out or they don’t and people life is a roller coaster, there are up times and downtimes and they will turn around and they will be okay. And it’s a lot of it is about kind of having like hope for the future and that hope for the future. is what keeps you going in those downtimes. So that you’ve come up the other side. And I really feel like a more que sera sera attitude versus my, like logical planning, what would I do like a mixture of those two has been what’s really been helpful, you know, in my life with my kids with, yes, planning our life. And instead of being like, expect the worst, it’s like, don’t be don’t be like unrealistic about stuff. You want to be the grasshopper who’s saying all summer, but you definitely don’t want to be the ant. I have seen people live their whole life, spend nothing, and then passed away before they got to spend any of it because they were so scared of, you know, the future. And I’ve seen people, you know, you just live your life, I think, I think honestly, this job has shown me time and time again that they’re you’re up sometimes you’re down sometimes, and you gotta live your life. And not to take it just curiously I like truly take it seriously, but at the same time, like enjoy the people around you and like enjoy the time that you are here. That is a huge lesson that I’ve learned over my years here.


Clint Murphy  1:01:06

That’s beautiful. And next Tuesday, the episode that comes out on the podcast is a conversation with Bill Perkins, author of Die with Zero. So it’s, it’s the exact conversation that you got to and it’s it’s making sure we’re somewhere in between the two. And so we went far and wide in the book, is there anything that we didn’t cover that you want to make sure the listener gets,


Shannon Lee Simmons  1:01:32

I think I really believe there’s my favorite book I’ve ever written. I love all my books, they’re all my children. But this one, there’s a lot of personal me in this book too, which was like a therapy for myself during COVID at like with a six month old and a toddler. And so I think the importance of this book, is if you’re in a situation where you’re about to make decisions, or you’ve been thrust into some sort of decision crisis, this is a really helpful guide. But also if you’re not like to our conversation earlier, even if you’re not in a situation right now, where you need to make big decisions in life is in transit for you and transition. Having knowing that this kind of thing exists and the reading through it beforehand. If you get the rug pulled out from underneath you in the future, you’ll feel prepared for it, you will feel prepared for what life might throw it your way. So I think it really is a helpful guide across all different kinds of kinds of decisions because like, you know, life has high emotional states and financial stakes and nobody has a crystal ball.


Clint Murphy  1:02:30

And where can our listeners find you most?


Shannon Lee Simmons  1:02:33

You can find me on the internet, but I’m the kind of the Mecca is That’s like, where we do our financial planning business. The books are there, our online courses are there. And of course, we’re on social media. So that’s the best place to go. And you can find all the things we do there.


Clint Murphy  1:02:48

Beautiful. Thank you, Shannon, appreciate having you on the podcast. Thanks so much for having me. Cheers.



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