Want to Go from Surviving to Thriving
with Your Finances? Do These things:
Are any of these familiar to you?
“If I can just make it to payday on Friday . . . ”
“If I lose my job, I’m sunk!”
“I was fine until my divorce (or illness), and then the rug was pulled out from under me…”
I doubt anyone goes through life without at least a few financial scars. These days, it is all too easy to slip over the precipice and go from a position of financial security to one of financial distress. While there is no quick fix, here are some things that have proven to be helpful in my own life and in the lives of many folks I have known.
Spend less than you earn. This, you might say, is the “one thing” that is required for financial success on every level. If you practice nothing else in your financial life, do this – always keep your outflows less than your inflows. Everything else is an extension of this one premise. Surely you have heard of “pay yourself first.” Same concept – prioritize saving some of your income for later instead of spending every last penny you have as soon as it hits your pocket. You can stop reading right here, implement this one thing, and you will have significantly improved your financial life.
Build the right habits. While you are spending less than you earn, figure out the best places to put that money you are saving. If you are the type of person that might waver in your discipline of saving, automate it. Have a set amount deducted from your paycheck or checking account on a regular basis and routed to a savings account that is harder for you to access. Soon you will stop noticing its absence, and you can then up the ante on your savings.
Practice gratitude and
contentment. To me, this is the “second thing.” Spending less than you earn is the cardinal rule for successful money management, but even I will admit that it can be tedious and inspire bitterness. The cure for that, I’ve found, is to spend some time really reflecting on the blessings you have. Be grateful. Furthermore, cultivate the attitude of contentment. Instead of lusting after a better/faster/more awesome whatchamajigger, be content with the one you have. The more you catch yourself in the throes of envy, the more you can practice talking yourself down with contentment. Eventually you will rewire your brain.
Pay attention. Don’t spend mindlessly. Focus on what you are doing, and keep track. While militant tracking of your expenses is super-duper helpful, it is not for everyone. I just want you to THINK before you spend money. Find the way to track your expenses that feels challenging but is not a chore. You want the tracking to be a learning experience, not a torture session. Relatedly, think about where you are spending your money. Do you want to support local merchants? Do you want your purchases to reflect your values? Pay attention.
Get out of debt. As soon as possible, get all your debt paid off, except for your mortgage. Now, this doesn’t mean you should not focus on paying off the mortgage also. Rather, once all other debt is retired, you can focus more evenly between investing and paying off the mortgage.
Give more. Give your time and your money to worthy causes. I believe there is an energy flow that comes back to you in positive ways when you give. It is key to give without expectation of this return, however. I also think that you can overdo this step. Make your giving meaningful, but make it relative and reasonable to where you are in your life currently. If time is more plentiful than money at this stage, make your impact through your presence.
Set goals and write them down. For me, this is like a secret weapon. I have always set goals, and I think the magic is in writing them down. Daydreaming about where you want to be with your financial life is all well and good, but daydreaming won’t get you there. Write those dreams down, however, and watch the magic unfold. Again, here it is important to be realistic about your goals, even if you decide to set “stretch” goals. I’m all for audacious goal setting, as a rule, but I recommend a healthy balance of realistic, achievable goals to accompany those wild ones. Write them out with lots of detail, and don’t fret if your initially selected time horizon doesn’t pan out. Sometimes it is hard to gauge how long it will take to reach a goal. The more you do it, however, the better you will become at setting meaningful, exciting goals… and achieving them.
Whether you do only the first idea listed here, or all of them, commit yourself to a new attitude about your money and move from merely surviving to thriving.
Dawn Starks is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner and financial advisor at Starks Financial Group. Starks Financial Group is not a registered broker/dealer, nor is it affiliated with Raymond James Financial Services. Securities offered through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment Advisory services offered through Raymond James Financial Services Advisors, Inc. This article expresses the opinions of Dawn Starks and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Raymond James does not provide legal services. Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER ™, and CFP® in the U.S.