Controlling what you can with your finances


Join podcast hosts Brian Ford and Bright Dickson as they talk about finding what you can control—and what you may need to let go of—when it comes to your money.

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Bright Dickson (00:06):

Hey everybody and welcome to our podcast where we offer tips on how to build financial confidence and live a happier, more positive life. I'm your co-host Bright Dickson here with my friend and financial wellness expert, Brian Ford. Last episode, we talked about understanding what you can and can't control in your life, from relationships to emotions. And how liberating yourself from that can bring you more happiness. So today's show is sort of a part two, understanding what you can and can't control in your life. What do you think Brian, should we jump in?

Brian Ford (00:37):

Yeah, let's do it.

Bright Dickson (00:42):

Okay. So Brian, why is it important to establish, in our finances, what we can and can't control? What are factors that we can't control and what are the things we can?

Brian Ford (00:52):

Yeah, I mean, as humans, I mean, we only have so much capacity, we can only manage so many things. I mean, life is busy and when we spend energy on or worry about things that we can't control, one, we can feel overwhelmed, and two, it can sap our energy to focus on the things that we can control. But I mean, the good news is the opposite is also true. If we just let go of the things we can't control, then we've got more energy to focus on the things that we can. And if we take a step in the right direction, then that builds momentum. I remember one of my finance teachers, he said to me, he's like, "It just doesn't make sense to worry about the things you can't control because you can't control it." And then he was like, "But it also doesn't make sense to worry about the things you can control because you can control them."

Brian Ford (01:47):

And I mean, on a podcast, I'm sure that sounds cool and that was something that my teacher said that always stuck with me, but it's a little more difficult than that in real life, it actually takes practice. But we can work on it, we can be mindful of it, and we can say, "I'm just going to let go of that stuff, and I'm going to focus on the things that I do have control over." So I think the second part of your question is actually interesting, I mean, what are those things that we can't control and what are some things that we can control? I mean, let's get specific here for a minute.

Brian Ford (02:18):

I mean, some of the things that we can't control relative to our money, certainly financial emergencies, like a car breaking down, or the washing machine going caput. The economy, the stock market. This is an interesting one, Bright, I don't know how you'll respond to this, but how a loved one chooses to spend their money. I mean, we talked about that a little bit in our last podcast. I love what you said last time about control versus influence. But that's at the crux of a lot of financial challenges, at least relationship wise, you just can't control that.

Bright Dickson (02:49):

And I think it's really easy to make judgements of other people based on what they seem to be spending their money on and how you feel about that.

Brian Ford (02:58):

Mm-hmm (affirmative). We value different things. Typically we spend our money on things that we care most about in life and look, I view the world differently than you do, and that is true for lots of folks. So you're right, we need to be careful about that. And we certainly need to be careful, if you're actually in a relationship with somebody. I tell you, if you didn't hear our first podcast, Bright dropped some serious knowledge on the difference between control and influence relative to our loved ones and I think it's certainly applicable here. But that's not something we can control, so we have to be mindful of that. On the flip side, we've got complete control over the money that we make, that I make. I mean, money is an object, it's subject to our management. We can control how we manage our money, how we save our money, how we spend our money. And I think those are the things that we really need to focus in on, Bright, is what are those things that we can control with our own money?

Bright Dickson (03:52):

Mm-hmm (affirmative). And what are those things? I mean, when you think about that what are the things that we really can control and how do we shift from feeling that we can't control them to being able to say like, "Yeah, I have control over this." I feel like that's a big mindset shift.

Brian Ford (04:11):

It is. It's exactly what I was going to say, it's a mindset shift, and it takes a little bit of practice. We have to start to realize, when we're worrying about something, just simply asking ourselves the question relative to our money, do I have control over this? And if we don't, let it go. But if we do, we'll recognize that as well because that's sometimes the source of our worry is something that we can control, but we're just letting go. And so yeah, it's just a matter of a mind shift and being mindful of it and practicing it.

Bright Dickson (04:40):

Mm-hmm (affirmative). And I wonder too, maybe if I recognize that I can't control it, but I still worry about it, I still find myself spending emotional energy and spinning around something like maybe the stock market's down right now, right? That kind of thing. How do I stop worrying?

Brian Ford (05:01):

Yeah. I tell you, there's a few things. One, is you need to distance yourself sometimes from that information. That's not a bad thing. There's no reason to be looking at the market daily, and that's just not usually a healthy thing. Research shows that there's no reason, we want to take a long-term view. But most of the time it's just recognizing it and realizing, "Look, I'm going to let that go. I'm going to let that go and focus on things that I can control."

Bright Dickson (05:24):

If there's one thing in particular that I definitely shouldn't ever really worry about, what is it?

Brian Ford (05:30):

Oh, I'm going to say the economy or more specifically the stock market. I mean, we've been talking about that. It's really tough to watch the market go up and down. However, we have to realize that that's okay. In fact, that's expected. Market fluctuations are normal, don't worry about that stuff. I mean the stock market is there to invest in for retirement and that's a long ways off for most of us. For some of us it's not as far off. And in that case, we do need to be a little bit more conservative with our investments, we need to question and work with our financial planner, how much money should we have in the market? And that's another discussion. But definitely just stop worrying about the market, we have no control over it. The market will go up and down, but the good news is over the long run, history shows that it'll do just fine.

Bright Dickson (06:18):

So turn off the news when they get there, turn off the apps, just don't monitor it all the time.

Brian Ford (06:24):

Yeah. Check in every once in a while, understand where the basic trends are going. It's great to be informed, but certainly don't let it worry you.

Bright Dickson (06:33):

That's good advice? Brian, what practices and systems can we use and put in place to not only feel more in control, but really be more in control and more stable when it comes to our finances? What do you do?

Brian Ford (06:48):

I love that question. Well, let's stick on the subject that we're actually talking about, which is the stock market. I mean, there's absolutely things we can do, there are practices and systems. So, relative to the stock market, we can take a long-term view. We can realize that ups and downs are normal. That's an actual strategy, taking a long-term view with our investments. We also need to be well-diversified. Again, in this podcast, I'm not going to go into detail on that, but diversification is just a fancy way for saying spread your money around in different asset classes, so that as some go up, some might go down and so forth, but your money is not all in one thing, so you don't have to be so worried when things aren't going so well. And then another fancy kind of term I'll throw out there is dollar cost averaging.

Brian Ford (07:30):

That's an actual system we can use, that when it comes to market fluctuations, it actually works in our favor. Dollar cost averaging is just simply putting the same amount of money into an investment at set intervals. I'll give you an example. Most people dollar cost average into their 401k. So you have a certain amount of money every month, that's the set interval, going into your 401k, whether the market's doing great or whether it's not doing so great. And I'm not going to go into the details of the math behind it, it is actually pretty cool, but the simple thing about dollar cost averaging is when you're putting money into the market and the market's doing really well, you're actually buying less of possibly an overpriced stock and the inverse is true as well.

Brian Ford (08:17):

You're like, "Oh no, the market's not doing well maybe I shouldn't put money in." No, just dollar cost average. Because when you put money into the market, when it's not doing as well or what you think it might not be doing as well, you're probably buying more shares of an under-priced investment. Anyways, I love dollar cost averaging. So there's just a few relative to the stock market, but I want to mention a couple others, just these practices and systems that help us feel more in control. One of my favorites is automation. Automation is really one of the keys to finding happiness with our money. We can't expect too much of our own willpower. This is not about waking up in the morning and looking in the mirror and being like, "Today, I'm going to be an awesome saver." It's like, "Oh my gosh." No, that will last maybe, I don't know, a few months.

Brian Ford (09:06):

We want to put as much of our finances on autopilot. In fact, I'd encourage our listeners that as you read cool books or listen to other podcasts on personal finance, every good financial principle that you learn, you should ask yourself, can I automate this? And if you can, you should. Certainly automating savings, the way we invest for retirement, the way we track our expenses and even budget and pay our bills, there's lots of real cool things about automation. In fact, I'll tell you this Bright, a lot of people like to make comparisons between finances and our physical health, which I think there are some comparisons. But when it comes to automation, it breaks down. I'll tell you if I could automate, or I guess my wife would be excited about this, if I could automate eating healthy and exercising, I'd be a superstar. It's just tough. But we can automate most of the most important things when it comes to our personal finance, so I love that.

Bright Dickson (10:03):

When you say automating, Brian, I mean, I'm kind of a financial ding-dong, so talk to me like I'm in fifth grade. Do you mean like putting my bills on auto-pay or bill pay and knowing that my car payment's going to go in from my account to my lender every month with that, is that what you're talking about?

Brian Ford (10:24):

You just moved from the fifth grade to like eighth grade, right?

Bright Dickson (10:27):

Oh my gosh, thank you.

Brian Ford (10:29):

No, that's a perfect example of how we would automate a reoccurring payment. Easy. But when it really comes to saving, I'll just talk about that for a minute, there's two ways mainly to automate our savings, and if you want to get into the nitty gritty, really a lot of employers will allow you to do this. You can set up a separate account... Like if you get paid automatically, you can open up a separate savings account and you can go into your human resources department and say, "Hey, I know I get paid into this account, but I've got this other account. Can I have a certain percentage of my pay go into that automatically?" And most employers will do that. So you can do that right at your company.

Bright Dickson (11:04):


Brian Ford (11:04):

Now as your company doesn't offer that. Yeah, absolutely. We do that at Truist, by the way.

Bright Dickson (11:10):

Well, I'll have to look into that.

Brian Ford (11:10):

So we have that ability. But even if, our listeners, if the organization you work for doesn't offer that or you're self-employed, no worries, you go to your financial institution, you walk in, "Hey, I get paid on this day and this day, but the day after that, can I have a certain amount of money automatically transferred to this savings account?" They'll be like, "Yeah, anything else? "How much do you want?" Cool, done. And again, you want to automate as much as possible. So there's a couple of examples there. Now, most people are automatically investing into their 401k that just already occurs so that's a beautiful thing in and of itself, but there's a few examples for you.

Bright Dickson (11:47):

That's really interesting. I didn't know that there were so many things that I could automate. I mean, I knew about my bill pay, but I didn't realize that I could do that with my savings. I mean, I'm going to look into that.

Brian Ford (11:57):

Right on.

Bright Dickson (11:57):

Brian. So I mean, I kind of want to think about going back to basics. We have so much emotional energy around money. I mean, I know it's a huge factor in marriages, right? And any relationship with where you've sort of got a shared household or any kind of shared expense. What's the root cause of financial anxiety? Why do we feel so out of control around our finances? Why is that kind of the default setting for a lot of people?

Brian Ford (12:32):

That's a fantastic question. I do think the subject of money does scare folks. And I will say a lack of knowledge is one of the root causes for feeling out of control when it comes to our money. Sometimes we just don't know what we don't know. And I wish financial ignorance led to bliss, but it doesn't, it leads to a tough life. And so it's a matter of just diving in and taking ownership for your own finances and just learning a little bit about it. You don't have to be a full on financial nerd like me, but just dig in. I mean, the fact that our listeners are listening to this podcast right now, I'm like, "Yes, way to go, you're on the right track, keep going." Just continue to learn a little bit here and there. Ask good questions, especially those who you respect and who are doing well financially. So I would say just lack of knowledge is a big part.

Brian Ford (13:22):

But then there's also this, I mean, there's what we've been talking about, there's worrying about those things we can't control. But we talked about that, I almost want to talk about the other thing, which is once we know and we don't take control or we don't do anything about it, that can lead to financial anxiety as well. And it doesn't take a lot, it just takes taking that first step and then allowing that to create momentum. You don't need to tackle all the financial things in your life right now, just do one thing, do one thing a little bit better than you are now or taking control of it, I think can really help. I will say when it comes to relationships, money's a big deal we mentioned that earlier, and I do want to go back to that idea of automation and saving.

Brian Ford (14:06):

And I want to talk about one of the things that's made a really big difference in my relationship, which is this thing that I call a financial confidence account. Most people are like, "Well Brian, isn't that just a fancy way for saying an emergency account?" And I'm like, "Yeah, it is." But it's not just a cool way of describing it, it really is one of those things. When you have a certain amount of money and it's in a separate account only for emergencies, a tremendous amount of peace and confidence will come into your life and into those lives that you're responsible for and your loved ones. I mean, when I was writing my book, this was years ago, I was literally writing the chapter about emergency accounts. And I was in my basement, I was writing the book and no joke, that chapter I was writing, and my wife called me and she was in a total panic and it freaked me out. She was crying hysterically and that's not like my wife.

Brian Ford (14:57):

And I calmed her down and I was like, "Sweetie, what's wrong?" And she was out with some girlfriends from college that she hadn't seen for a while and she bit into some food and one of her front teeth broke off completely, the other one cracked in half. I mean it was... And then I realized, "Okay, it's not life-threatening, it's okay, sweetheart." I can see how she was very upset. She's a beautiful woman, she was embarrassed. And if we back up a few years, when she was a little girl, she got into a car accident, she actually fell out of the car, broke her front teeth out on the pavement and they did some cosmetic surgery and we thought everything was fine. Well, what we realized is that the roots were damaged more than we thought, and it had come back and it was this terrible situation.

Brian Ford (15:35):

Well, we went to the dentist obviously, and I was self-employed at the time and it was a preexisting condition and she needed a dental implant. And I don't know if any of our listeners have dealt with that before, but oh my gosh, it's expensive, it's in the thousands of dollars. And my wife was starting to worry about the money and I gently just gave her a hug. And I was like, "Sweetheart, that's why we have a confidence account. This is going to be okay, sweetie."

Brian Ford (16:03):

I mean, I love my wife more than anything. And in that moment, we didn't have to worry about the money. I could worry about my wife and her care. We could focus on the fact that this is a bummer and what she's going through and how I can best support her through kind of going through this dental implant. So this financial confidence account can really be a big boost to relationships and it's one of those things that we can control. You can make the decision to have one of these accounts. You can save first and make it automatic. And then once you have these things, man, it just feels so dang good. I love it.

Bright Dickson (16:35):

It sounds like it's your own sort of personal self created insurance policy, right? That if something goes wrong, you've got backup, right? It's not going to ruin everything you've got backup it's and you're just going to have to deal with the situation it's like isolating the problem almost.

Brian Ford (16:55):

Yep. It's exactly right. It takes the money issues out of marital issues and that's a really big deal. That's one of the biggest causes of breakups in society today.

Bright Dickson (17:06):

Yeah, that's huge. Brain, as a financial ding-dong, right? If I were to sort of say, I'm going to take control of something today, what would you recommend I sit down and do first? What would be step one, low hanging fruit? What should I do?

Brian Ford (17:23):

Well, first I would say to anyone who's listening to this, or you, just decide to take one step in the right direction. I don't know what that means for you. I just feel like if you just step back and evaluate your finances and say, "What can I control and what do I need to work on?" Just go do that thing. Now, if you are wondering what that might be and it doesn't come to you so readily, I actually would recommend what we were just talking about. It's actually pillar one in kind of my eight pillars. Pillar one is establish a financial confidence account. Just get that emergency account. And you don't need to start big, just set a goal to get 1,000 bucks in a totally separate liquid account. Liquid is just a fancy way for saying you can convert it to cash quickly, this is not something that should be invested.

Brian Ford (18:11):

And most people are not great savers, Bright. And it's okay, because every great saver that I meet, about half of them were kind of born that way. It's true, they just naturally gravitate towards saving. But the other half, they don't. But guess what, they both do the same thing. Every great saver saves first and makes it automatic. And you'd be surprised if you do that as the months roll by. You'll see that account kind of begin to pile up a bit and it will really provide quite a bit of confidence and help you really feel like, "Hey, I'm doing this. I am in control."

Bright Dickson (18:43):

Yeah. I can imagine that it's actually kind of exciting too. I mean, I know that when I have... The more money I have in my savings account, the more I kind of feel in control, but also kind of like a boss, right?

Brian Ford (18:56):


Bright Dickson (18:56):

I know that it makes me feel really good and really pumped and it only encourages me to do more of that. And I will tell you my skills lie on the spending side, I am excellent at spending. But I do need to work a little more on the saving part so that there's a little balance there. So that's awesome advice, I'm going to do that.

Brian Ford (19:20):

Yep. Like a boss. I love it.

Bright Dickson (19:22):

Like a boss.

Bright Dickson (19:29):

So Brian, before we go, I wanted to touch on one more thing that I think is really important as we close up this year, but also as we think about saving, because I think the concept is pretty similar. So what I want to talk about is gratitude. Are you game for that?

Brian Ford (19:47):

Yeah, totally.

Bright Dickson (19:48):

Awesome. So I know we've talked about gratitude before, and I know that you're as passionate about it as I am so I thought we might sort of do a little thankful reflection together.

Brian Ford (20:01):

Very cool. I dig it.

Bright Dickson (20:03):

Cool. So one thing, just sort of setting the scene, just like I'm better at spending, right, I'm also better naturally at focusing on the negative stuff and sort of what's gone wrong and that kind of thing. And that's because I have the brain of a human, right? So we all do, we all have brains of humans that focus on maybe what went wrong in the past and what goes wrong in the future, what might go wrong and anticipating that, right, that worry thing. And our brains do that more than they focus on the positive stuff, and there are big reasons behind that, it's a whole sort of area of the science of the brain.

Bright Dickson (20:43):

But the problem with our brains focusing on the stuff is that they're not always that accurate about it. We're not actually that good at predicting the future. And how that ties into gratitude is that gratitude helps us be more precise about what we can and can't control. And that in the end helps us to be more optimistic and be able to really understand what we can control. And actually when we practice gratitude, like very pertinent to 2020, gratitude can lead to better health and even better sleep. So we know that people who practice gratitude regularly get more hours of quality sleep than people who don't, which is kind of crazy. Isn't that crazy?

Brian Ford (21:28):

Yeah. Interesting.

Bright Dickson (21:30):

So Brian, what have you been grateful for this year?

Brian Ford (21:34):

Well, I'll tell you one, I love the subject, I appreciate you bringing it up. I think it's saved me mentally in 2020. I really mean that. I mentioned on our last podcast, I am a naturally optimistic person, but 2020s challenged me. But I have a spiritual leader that I really look up to and he challenged me to be more grateful and actually to practice gratitude with my family and to even spread that on social media with the #givethanks. But my family and I have been consciously doing this right now over the last 10 days, and it's made a difference in our life. It's been fantastic. But getting just to your question, as far as gratitude, I'll just mention a few things that have been on my mind the last couple of days.

Brian Ford (22:17):

I'm especially grateful for those who have gone before me who have made sacrifices to make my life better, and specifically, I'll certainly mention my parents and my grandparents. My grandpa helped with the war effort in World War II. He's passed away, but he lived a long, wonderful life. I'm just grateful for him. He was a hard working individual. He didn't have a whole lot of education. He grew up in a trailer home, he was a truck driver, but he worked hard and he encouraged my dad to go to college who was the first Ford then to go to college. And now I think about how my life is just completely different because of both my grandparents, my parents, and all the wonderful things they did to make my life better. I'm grateful for those who have gone before me. But what about you, Bright? What's been on your mind relative to gratitude. What are you grateful for?

Bright Dickson (23:05):

I mean, Brian, that was beautiful. I think I need to think more about those that have gone before, so you've probably spurred a little journal entry for me. But I've been sort of sitting here over the last couple of weeks reflecting on the year. And one of the things that I realized was that in the context of my now 37 years of life, I realized that this is the first time since I was a teenager that I haven't been on a plane every few months or more. I mean, there've been times in my life, especially the last two years, where I was flying around weekly. But since March, I've been right here in my little house and I've actually gotten more quality rest than I have in years. And I've been able to see my local environment change in slower ways, right?

Bright Dickson (23:56):

So I've been noticing the trees and I've been noticing the birds and I've been noticing the path of the sun and the sky. And while I certainly didn't want all this COVID stuff to happen, what it has provided for me is a chance to really slow down for a little while because I would not have done it on my own, right? I'm like you, I go as hard as I can pretty much all the time and I got a forced timeout and I didn't know how much I needed that. So I'm really grateful for that.

Brian Ford (24:30):

I love that. Well, it's definitely been a year of slowing down and appreciating kind of that slowing down. I appreciate that Bright, thanks for sharing that.

Bright Dickson (24:42):

Thanks for joining us for this episode. We hope you already feel a little happier about your money and in your mind, if you enjoyed our chat, consider subscribing or dropping a rating and review in your podcast channel of choice or share it with your friends and family. We're Bright and Brian and we'll see you next time.


If the struggles of 2020 left you feeling less positive or in control of your finances, there are ways to bounce back.

In this episode of Money and Mindset With Bright and Brian, podcast hosts Brian Ford and Bright Dickson offer advice on how to let go of what doesn’t serve you and feel better about the future when it comes to your money. By knowing what we can (and can’t) control with our finances, we liberate ourselves and become more resilient.

Bright and Brian talk about:

  • Factors we can and can’t control when it comes to our money (and why that’s important)
  • The root causes of financial anxiety and feeling out of control
  • Practices and systems that help us feel more in control of our finances
  • Financial habits to develop a healthier outlook and take control of our money
  • Using the practice of gratitude to become more optimistic and enjoy better health

Join happiness and financial experts Bright and Brian for a boost of positivity and to learn practical steps that can help you live a happier life.


If you enjoyed this podcast, subscribe or drop a rating or review in your podcast app of choice! Share it with your friends and family, too. 

This content does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial,or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial,or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.