"Financial Planning & Wellness in the Hudson Valley" - Chronogram February 2018

Hudson Valley Money Experts Offer Tips for Financial Health

by Wendy Kagan

The last thing you might expect a financial mentor to do is begin a meeting with meditation. Money doesn't exactly feel like Zen territory. Or does it? My recent introductory session with financial wellness coach Joanne Leffeld starts with eyes closed, sitting tall in my chair, hands light on my lap. "Take a couple of deep, cleansing breaths and make sure both feet are grounded on the earth," she says. "If there's any tension, release it now." The peaceful entrée seems antithetical to what is to come: a journey with money and finances, which can make any heart beat faster and more anxiously. 

Yet it's the perfect place to begin. Leffeld, a self-titled "moola doula" who helps people give birth to a better relationship with money, is a former certified financial planner and erstwhile yoga teacher, and she draws from both backgrounds to help people create a new comfort level with finances. It is a terrain that often frightens people: Money almost always ranks as the top stressor for Americans in opinion polls—the number one thing that strains marriages and keeps people up at night. "Money is one of those subjects that gets people so agitated, so overwhelmed, so full of shame, fear—you name it," says Leffeld, who is based in Rhinebeck and also offers sessions across the river at Woodstock Healing Arts. "It has such negative associations, yet it's only an energy. It's like the monster under the bed, but when you shine a flashlight on it you realize it's just a tiny bug..."

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The Take Care Fair - June 25, 2017

Today I exhibited and presented at the Take Care Fair in Hudson, NY.  It was a spectacularly beautiful summer day right by the Hudson Riverfront.  I was very impressed by both the caliber of exhibitors as well as the interesting people who were in attendance.  

It is amazing how hungry people are for meaning in their lives. The vast array of dedicated practitioners and holistic products was very comprehensive.  There were over twenty practitioners offering complementary sessions ranging from energy work to massage. 

So many people responded to my explanation of what a Moolah Doula is with "Oh my goodness, that is SO needed right now!"  In the afternoon when I gave my talk, I had a full house!  I feel very fortunate to have found my true purpose in helping people get grounded and clear in their relationship with money.  Too much suffering occurs when we ignore our sabotaging beliefs and behaviors around money.  It was wonderful to connect with so many people eager to make changes in their lives.  

I am looking forward to sharing my work through events and workshops similar to the Take Care Fair today in Hudson.



Moola Doula Sessions in New Paltz

After offering a couple of workshops at the Wellness Embodied Center in New Paltz, I have decided to offer office hours there.  Each time I get together with people from this community in the beautiful and safe haven Doree has created, I am humbled by participants' willingness to be open and conscientious about healing their relationship with money.  The sessions are deep and profound.  

As a result, I have decided to offer weekly hours with the hope that more members of the community will come to learn and be empowered in their relationship with money.  Now is the time to get clear and take control of budgeting, saving and investing.  Hope to see you there!

Money Talk: Teaching Teens Financial Responsibility

Most of us send our teenagers off to college without any lessons on saving or investing. And though the subject is critical to their success as adults, a discussion about whether to have a credit card, open a retirement account and when to begin a systematic investment plan often lead to yawns and eye-rolling. I am passionate about shifting this pattern and have worked very hard to create engaging, experiential workshops for teens old enough to receive working papers.

Interested in reading more?  Click the link below....

Getting to the Heart of Money Matters


I know very few people who have an active, thriving relationship with their inner child. It’s as if the child we were, becomes replaced by the adult we become, without leaving a trace.  But, is it possible that we are mistaken? At what point in our transition from childhood to adult do we transform from rebellious or timid teenager and turn into responsible, grounded grown ups? 

I think for most of us, it isn’t so clear-cut. It’s interesting how as our children grow, we become aware of our own unresolved issues mirrored in their behaviors.  That’s what makes raising kids into teenagers such a challenge.  Perhaps many of us are still grappling with beliefs we never fully resolved at that age and we stand by feeling helpless as we watch our children go through the same trials and tribulations.

So why are we so disconnected from our inner child? When people are asked to describe in detail their closest childhood friends, they smile and without hesitation, launch into colorful descriptions of fond memories sharing lively stories of when they were kids together.  Yet, when it comes to identifying a connection with one’s own inner child, people are perplexed by this, finding the idea of her existence very challenging. The reason I mention this, is that often there can be a critical and painful disconnect between our “selves” and the child within. And it is this same child who may be wreaking havoc on your adult life!

How does this relate to our personal relationship with money?  During childhood, we learn lessons about money from all types of experiences some healthy, others confusing or even detrimental. For example, the child who is given gifts as a substitute for quality time with a parent may, as an adult, spend money without limits as a means of comforting oneself against pain and disappointment, with little concern for the financial devastation it may cause.  I had a client who thought nothing of spending $2000 on a handbag and then proceeded to burst into tears when the credit card bill arrived! This is a poignant example of one’s inner child wreaking havoc on her adult’s life.  Another example is that many people are concerned about credit card debt yet when they take a closer look at where their money is flowing out, they realize they may be spending some of their hard earned wages on things they don’t truly value. Upon closer inspection of their monthly statement, there are often charges that provide the inner child immediate relief or gratification but end up costing the adult much more in terms of increased financial stress when the bill comes in.  How are these buying decisions being influenced by our inner child?

Confusing messages about money are internalized at a young age.  It’s much easier to suppress uncomfortable feelings or distort their meaning to make ourselves feel better.  We use strategies to compensate for feelings of inadequacy or implement coping mechanisms to deal with harsh judgments from parents, relatives and even the annoying kid who lived down the block! When we unconsciously absorb warped beliefs and behaviors around money, we carry these forward creating patterns that continue throughout our adult lives.

On the opposite end of the spectrum from being fiscally irresponsible by overspending, is a person who earns a considerable income yet denies herself simple pleasures out of an irrational fear there won’t be enough.  When we trace their beliefs back to childhood, they often uncover shame around growing up with not enough to eat or dressing in hand me down clothes.  Others share memories of having their allowance or part time job money turned over to parents without any say in how it was spent. These individuals internalize a sense of powerlessness and deprivation only to recreate this pattern through punishing spending habits as adults.  Denying oneself a new car when the old one is falling apart, making excuses not to join friends for dinner to forego treating yourself to a night out or passing on a gym membership may be signs of deprivation that need recalibrating.

All of these personal discoveries are “gold” in that they lead straight to one’s inner child who though hidden, is still alive inside each of us dictating the actions we take.  Often times these choices do not accurately reflect a person’s current financial situation. The real challenge is to uncover these patterns as the first step towards changing one’s paradigm around money.

Decisions relating to money can be very fraught with intense emotion, making it difficult to act rationally.  Once the connection between inner child and adult is established, a healthy compromise can be struck between the two, thereby permitting both “childlike” needs and “adult” reasoning to create a balance. Ignoring one’s inner child can come at a huge cost. It is important to have someone you trust help work out these feelings so you can move ahead with your life in a healthier relationship with your money.




Are You a Restrictor or Permitter?

Identifying Your Personal Characteristics of

Spending and Saving


Isn’t it strange how women are much more comfortable talking about sex than money?  Gather a group of women together and start asking questions about sex; and before you know it, the room fills with laughter as voices rise to a crescendo.  Then turn to the subject of money and the same women suddenly go silent, eyes gazing down, fascinated with their fingernails or shoelaces.  This happens repeatedly in workshops I lead. Why is that? What is it about the subject of money that makes us crawl into a shell feeling inadequate and intimidated? 

Let’s face it- money is a loaded subject for most women.  In order to get clear on how you’ve arrived where you are in relationship with money, you must first identify underlying attitudes and beliefs directing your actions and decisions.

Wait!  Don’t stop reading yet! There will be no judgement here!  You will not be criticized, talked down to nor reprimanded in this article. In order to effect change, it’s essential to first identify the how’s and why’s behind your choices including any avoidance techniques you’ve perfected as a quasi-coping mechanism.  Identifying spending and saving styles allows a Solo Mom to understand how you act with your money, why you spend either too much or too little on yourself and what your inner voice keeps telling you to do.  Understanding your idiosyncratic tendencies and unique behavioral patterns is the first step towards improving your financial picture. Instead of criticizing yourself, give yourself a pat on the back for continuing to read on without clicking to another page. Always remember that our thoughts create our beliefs, which create our actions which in turn, create our reality.

Now let’s focus on the two types of relationships people have with money, the first being either as “Restrictors” or “Permitters”.  Restrictors believe in scarcity and are of the opinion they don’t deserve to spend money on themselves. They operate from a place of deprivation and derive pleasure in seeing how little they can exist on.  Conversely, permitters numb themselves with overspending and have no sense of limits based on what they realistically can afford.  Permitters often ignore credit card statements, refusing to accept responsibility for their actions. This can lead to escalating stress and hardship.

Right away, you may draw the conclusion that restrictors are “more together” than permitters and that is not true.  Being stingy with yourself may cause you to miss out on opportunities for career enhancement, improved self-esteem and enhanced wellbeing. Treating yourself to a health club membership, massage or a new pair of shoes can make a huge difference in your outlook. Restrictors often convince themselves they are happy, confusing righteousness with contentment, which can lead to resentment and bitterness. Permitters are motivated by indulgence that, taken too far, can cause chaos in one’s life. Allowing one’s inner child to wreak havoc on your adult life makes for an impossible situation.

Even if you don’t completely identify with either description, you will see tendencies of one or the other in yourself.  The important point is to recognize these attitudes and notice how they effect decision making with regards to money.  Now that you are aware of these two character traits, listen carefully to the inner voice counseling you each time you pay the bills or purchases are made.  Tune in particularly when it comes to spending money on yourself. 

Another characteristic used to evaluate personal relationships with money is whether you are a “doer” or “dawdler”.  Doers make lists of things to do, accomplish them one by one and get satisfaction in crossing them off once completed. Doer’s create budgets, projections and monitor spending. Doers get things done! Dawdlers often make the same kinds of lists with the best intentions yet don’t follow through.  They get overwhelmed and discouraged by the enormity of the tasks. There are legitimate reasons for being cautious when making important financial decisions but if you continue to procrastinate, this will be a serious inhibitor on the path to financial success. 

It can be daunting to acknowledge and accept that the choices you make have brought you to this exact moment in your life, but take pride in knowing that you are also the  one capable of changing it, too!  Don’t surrender to despair!   It is within everyone’s reach to identify sabotaging behaviors, stop making excuses and begin transforming attitudes and behaviors around money.

Resist the urge to judge yourself. Permit yourself to envision the kind of freedom you deserve without the worry or concern that comes from not being truthful with yourself.  The saying “knowledge is power” definitely applies to your finances.  The more you understand why you make the choices you do, the easier it will be to modify them thereby creating a healthy and flourishing financial future.