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by Hannah Jennings-Voykovich

In Search of Life’s Riches, with Stress Management Therapist Momma Jan

“Momma Jan” is a Simple customer who’s been with us since 2012, but it’s not just her early adopter status that makes her interesting. Jan is also a therapist who helps people learn the link between the brain, body, and wallet. We meet up to talk relaxation, joy, and the practice of happiness.
MommaJanHeadshot

Jan A—or “Momma Jan”, as she’s known to the folks at Simple—is everything a person could ask for in a Momma. She’s kind, warm, and welcoming, and treats everyone she meets like they’re family, right from the outset. As a longstanding customer at Simple and mother to Cameron, our Director of Integration, most employees have met her on at least one occasion (and probably received a hug or two).

But what many of the hugged masses don’t know about Jan is that she’s more than just a friendly face. Jan has worked as a therapist and social worker for more than 25 years, specializing in psychophysiology (how the mind and body interact), psychoneuroimmunology (the effect the mind has on health and disease), and stress management.

Jan says, “Your body is like a bank where you make withdrawals and deposits. Good, happy thoughts make deposits and stressful thoughts make withdrawals. Psychophysiology teaches us that what you think causes brain chemistry, which translates to physical reactions in your body. If you think happy thoughts, you’re going to have a happy chemistry, and good deposits to your immune system. That’s where psychoneuroimmunology comes in. You learn how to make good deposits in your immune system with your thoughts, versus withdrawals.”

(Grand) Momma Jan, with grandson Caden

To test a person’s ability to make mental deposits and withdrawals, psychophysiology therapists use “biofeedback testing”, which involves using instruments to measure breathing, heart function, muscle activity and skin temperature. During periods of stress, these bodily functions change; the effects of which are charted by biofeedback instruments and reported back to the therapist. In a biofeedback session, people are taught relaxation exercises related to breathing, muscle relaxation and mindfulness; similar to meditation.

Jan also teaches the difference between stress and anxiety, because, as she says, stress can have a positive effect on how we live our lives.

“Stress is not a negative at all. You have to have a little bit of the stress chemistry in your body in order to perform. Meanwhile, anxiety is a force on your body, your brain, and your relationships. People feel like they’re in there somewhere, but the anxiety is covering up everything they can be.”

Jan with son Cameron, Director of Integration at Simple

Money and relationships

Many couples come to Jan looking for help with their relationships, and of all the worries that they have, there’s one universal struggle: money. But Jan she sees past the surface and into the deeper problems that money troubles cover up.

“The underlying issues are about trust and communication,” says Jan. “Money is a big issue because of how people talk about it, how they were raised, and the decisions that they come to because of it.”

Instead of starting with money, Jan helps her clients with communication. To begin, she gives them guidelines on how to speak with one another: use open body language, be an active listener, and take breaks if things get too tense. Once better communication and trust has been established, Jan starts to work through financial troubles.

“I recommend that both people have separate individual bank accounts for their own personal expenses and savings goals,” says Jan. “This way, you’re autonomous with some decisions; you’re in charge of your own spending. I just this week saw a couple who have, in the last eight months, paid down over $32,000 of debt. Their relationship blossomed in all sorts of ways because they stopped being mad at the other one due to financial reasons.”

While not wanting her clients to come back could be seen as bad for business, Jan says she hopes to not see couples too often after plans are in motion.

“If I’m doing my job correctly, I’m not going to see you very often, because we’re going to build up your skills, then get you out there into the world to start using them. I want people to come back to check in, however. I do tune-ups!”

“Simpling” at 69

Tech startups tend to entice younger audiences, but thanks to her Simple employee son Cameron, Jan opened an account in July 2012, the same month Simple launched to customers. Since then, she’s signed on as a beta tester, and has tested the limits of what the system can handle.

“At first, they had to make allowances for me, because when I figured out how easy it was to deposit checks, I deposited more than any other customer,” laughs Jan.

Like any good therapist, Jan has tips for Simple customers and curious folks alike. Here are just a few.

Use Reports

Simple customers love using Goals, but Jan is more of a Reports kind of gal. “I track how I spend my money using Simple,” says Jan. “Most of what I spend money on is groceries, because I’m such a cook, so I always am looking for how much money have I spent on groceries this month. It’s one of those features that I really use a lot.”

Get started now

“For people starting out after college, budgeting is very important,” says Jan. “Simple provides a great way to be educated about what your own financial situation is, and what you can do with it. Whether your goal is to start your own business, or to retire and travel, I think Simple has a lot to offer.”

But it’s never too late

Jan says, “What it has to offer for the elderly, for the senior citizens, is big, too. I used to have a teller who would help me deposit checks and manage my money, now I don’t have to go to a bank. Whoever designed Simple really put some time and effort into making it easy to use, even if you’ve never done mobile banking before. I was up and running in two shakes.”

Get into debt? Forget it

Jan says that getting into unsurmountable debt is easier to do than you think, and to always stay on top of your lines of credit.

“I give people the same advice that my dad gave me. If you’re going to buy a house, make sure that you have a monthly mortgage that you can pay for. And get a credit card so you can build your credit score, but pay it off every month.”

She also says, “Debt feels like depression; debt feels like hopelessness. So make sure you to budget, and stay with it.”

Looking forward

With a smile on her face, Jan talks about how excited she is to turn 70, and how she is seeking to maintain the lifestyle she’s carved out for herself.

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Jan says, “I work, I travel, and try to find the right balance where I also keep active and see my family. What I look forward to in my years is learning some new things to add to my repertoire, and continuing to work on maintaining balance.”

Part of his balance involves continuing on with her therapy practice, which Jan loves enough to keep doing well into her 70s.

“I love what I do, and designed what works for me. As long as I can walk to work, remember the appointment, and find the file, I’m good to go. I teach people how to relax, so I’m relaxed all day, then I get to go home and be me.”

Disclaimer: Hey! Welcome to our disclaimer. Here’s what you need to know to safely consume this blog post: Any outbound links in this post will take you away from Simple.com, to external sites in the wilds of the internet; neither Simple nor our partner banks, The Bancorp Bank and BBVA Compass, endorse any linked-to websites; and we didn’t pay/barter with/bribe anyone to appear in this post. And as much as we wish we could control the cost of things, any prices in this article are just estimates. Actual prices are up to retailers, manufacturers, and other people who’ve been granted magical powers over digits and dollar signs.