Expert Interview with Luna Jaffe on the Intersection of Art and Money for Mint

Luna Jaffe, CEO of Lunaria Financial Ltd., admits readily that when she was young, she never would've envisioned becoming a certified financial planner. She started her career as an artist and entrepreneur.

Her professional path eventually took her down the road of financial services, and she was surprised to find she actually liked the work. What's more, she realized there was an intersection between the art she's so passionate about and money.

"Money, like art or music or dance, takes practice," she says. "The very best writers write every day...they write sh***y first drafts. Musicians play scales and play the same song over and over and over again until it's in their bones."

Somehow, people have come to believe that we're either good with money or we're not, but this isn't true, she says. Most people never ever practice managing money, but then expect to handle it well.

"Money is a tool; it's the paintbrush - you still have to pick it up and use it well; you still have to apply skill and color," Luna adds.

Luna checked in with us recently to share more about the work she does and offer her thoughts on how we understand our relationship with money better through art. Read on:

Tell us about your professional background...

I am what I affectionately call an "accidental" financial planner. I had no idea the career paths I'd taken would lead to financial services - in fact, I would have bet great sums of money that this would never happen. Didn't like or understand money. At all!

At the age of 23, I started my first company, LunaSilks, creating wearable art for retail and wholesale distribution. I was self taught both as an artist and an entrepreneur. I loved my work and traveled the world, even set up a studio in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. In my early 30s, dropkicked into action after my father's sudden death, I enrolled in and completed a master's degree in depth psychology and opened a private practice focusing on expressive art therapy. I then pursued a corporate management and training position for a Fortune 100 company, which gave me valuable insight into the lives of corporate employees.

I was laid off after 9/11 and explored my options - go back to being an artist, try to find a way to fit within corporate culture, go into business? While in this exploration, I was recruited into financial services and surprised myself by not only liking it but by exceeding all expectations. I spent the first seven years of my career at Edward Jones, where I managed over $48M, then, in the summer of 2010 I left to start my own boutique firm, Lunaria Financial. I am a Certified Financial Planner and hold the Series 7 and 63 securities licenses, as well as health and life insurance licenses.

Can you tell us about your book Wild Money? What is the Wild Money Tribe? What are the benefits of membership?

Wild Money™ is a creative journey to transforming your relationship with money. I wanted to write and design a book that was beautiful, approachable, easy to use and understand. I wrote it for all those people that shy away from the topic of money, assuming they were born without the money gene, and are therefore incapable of learning the necessary skills. Using creative process allows us to access our own inner financial landscape - the result of how we were raised, taught (or not), culturally/religiously influenced. Once you discover what your relationship with money looks like, you can begin the process of shifting it so that it is more sustainable and aligned with your values. I teach the practical side of money within a creative, emotionally intelligent framework. Ultimately, my aim is to change the world through changing the way we relate to money.

The Wild Money™ Tribe is the community I've created of people who are actively engaged in the Wild Money™ journey - members share their experiences, their successes, their mess-ups, and through this they begin to create positive, sustainable change in their lives.

You have an eclectic array of interests and areas of expertise...how did you find a path for combining your spiritual and creative pursuits with personal finance?

I've come to believe that we all have a "div of work," as Pam Slim calls it. My path as an artist, therapist, professional dancer, trainer, spiritual seeker, and world traveler has not only informed my current financial planning practice, but it's also what gives me the unique vantage point through which I see the world of money. I trusted myself when it became time to write a book...not because I knew what I was going to write, but because I knew that if I listened, I would discover what I had to say. I approached it the same way I face a blank canvas - one mark, one word at a time. I marvel at the ways my past has informed and influenced the way I handle money, the way I teach, the way I work deeply with my clients. It's who I am. I just had to learn to get out of the way.

How does your financial planning advice differ from other advisors out there?

I view my clients as whole, complex human beings with unique values, dreams, experiences, and relationships. I help them to discover who they are in relationship to money using creative tools alongside traditional financial planning; therefore, my advice can appear unconventional at times.

I focus on cash flow management because without it, most clients feel unsuccessful and they lack confidence. I do a lot of teaching about financial terms, how to get organized, what to read and what to toss, how to prioritize. My intention is to help clients grow their competence while building their wealth. I specialize in sustainable investing and help clients align their values with their money.

What do you think are our most common misconceptions about money? How would you coach us to look at these differently?

Money is a mirror. It's neutral, yet it reflects how we feel about it.
Many people would like to believe they are not in a relationship with money, yet it's impossible not to be. Our world revolves around money. At the core, the way we treat money shows us whether or not we have self-respect and honor, the ability to take responsibility and to become conscious.

I have been known to suggest that a client paint an image every day (without a brush) that expresses their relationship with money. I'm helping them develop a connection, source their feelings, and build empathy for the complexity that lives within them. My desire is to create a series of little successes that grow into deep permanent change so that money becomes a source of well-being and gratitude rather than hostility and angst.

What has been the most eye-opening or transforming lesson you've learned about money in your life?

There is always more work to do. As my business has become more successful, I've hit up against my own negative inner dialogue. Just a few months ago, while in the stressful process of selling my home and looking for a new, more suitable space, I found myself grumpy and frustrated at the way decisions I'd made were impacting my cash flow.

One morning while meditating, I suddenly thought... Doh! I created the tools that can help me through this; I just have to use them! So I began to work my way through my third Wild Money™ journal. I drew my first image and was stunned to see what I'd drawn (shown below). I was holding a thick rope and money was at the other end; behind me was a tree supporting me. On the rope were the words "fear, doubt, dread, worry." When I finished and looked at my picture, I realized the image I drew of money was not even holding the rope, and in fact, had its arms outstretched to me! I was in a tug of war with myself!

I then gave myself the same assignment I give clients, which is to redraw the image and change one thing, and I decided to drop the rope and the feelings I attached to it. In the new image (seen below), I'm sitting at the base of the tree, relaxed, and money is surfing towards me... Soooo much better!

What's your strategy for helping clients manage their money better? What are your go-to best practices for coaching?

My strategy is to focus on little, actionable steps while also helping my clients explore and define their big picture. I use beautiful, colorfully designed one-page documents that give clients a snapshot of where they are and where they are headed - I want them to feel more "on top of" their financial world and do so by making it visible and interesting.

What are some of your favorite money management tools?

I've tried most of the tools available and find that most are either too complex or overwhelming, which results in clients feeling inadequate rather than empowered.

Luckily, there is a tool I use called First Step Cash Management (it's only available through financial professionals), which is simple, straightforward, and very practical. Instead of trying to track all of your expenses every month, you put things into three buckets: Static (regular bills and minimum debt payments), Control (variable monthly expenses like gas and groceries), and Dynamic (future expenses - car repair, savings, retirement, travel).

How do you think creating a money management strategy can improve a person's life and outlook beyond improving their finances?

The key to building financial wellbeing is to know where your money is going and to make conscious choices. This isn't so difficult if you make plenty of money, but for the majority of us, every dollar we bring into the household matters. Knowing that you are putting money aside monthly for the future, and that you have plenty for regular bills, means that you have a clear awareness of what you can spend on the discretionary expenses in your life. This is very freeing once it's in place, and results in feeling more secure and prepared for the unpredictable side of life.

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