People equate financial freedom with being rich. What exactly is “rich” anyway? Ask a dozen people how much money they’d need to feel rich, and you’ll get a dozen different answers. Give them some money, ask them again, and watch the bar for “rich” rise.
If, like me, you define financial freedom as freedom from stress, then the road must be paved with more than good intentions. Sure, saying, “2018 is the year things will be different” is a start. But making things different requires action: small steps that lead to a big sense of well-being. And that’s where doing the detail comes in. To be free means not having to worry. To not worry, you’ve got to take care of all the “what if’s.”
You must save, if you want to have money set aside for the future – tomorrow, next week, the year 2030. Time to manage your cash flow to keep yourself in the black. Time to minimize your credit costs. Time to eliminate the midnight spectre of bogeyman reminding you that you’ve bounced yet one more cheque. And if you want to protect yourself and your family, at least financially, from life’s tragedies – death and disability – you need insurance.
Financial freedom is a lot easier than most people think. To save you take $5, $10, $25 a week from your cash flow and put it somewhere that you can’t spend it. To invest, you choose a financial vehicle that will put your money to work for you. Start simply and as you learn more you can become more adventurous. To make sure your butt’s covered you speak with an knowledge insurance broker, not the guy who works for the company whose policy he’s selling.
To gain control of the monster credit, throw your credit cards behind the freezer so you can’t use them for a while. Transfer your balance to a cheaper card or a line of credit so you’ll pay less in interest. Bust your butt to slap as much money on your debt as you can so you can live debt free.
For those who see these small steps as overwhelming – you want to run and hide from past sins and futures that are less than rosy – stop measuring yourself by external standards. Anyone can be smart about money. It doesn’t take a special brain. It doesn’t require a degree of any kind. And being smart about money – once you’ve committed to doing the detail – is more about having a sense of balance than anything else.
Balance, of course, is the ability to deal with multiple priorities, giving each just as much attention as it deserves. Don’t be overwhelmed with someone else’s – anyone else’s – standards. Listen to the popular press and you may feel weighted by your inability to save enough for retirement, provide enough for your children’s education, pay off your debt fast enough, have enough insurance. How much is enough? Only you can decide.
When you set goals for yourself, make them realistic so you don’t have to berate yourself for failing. Then work steadily toward meeting those goals. Remember, they’ve got to be your goals, not the goals of others around you whom you may think know better. (I’m talking to all you people who think home ownership is a must-have because your daddy told you so!)
Today, if you haven’t begun a savings program, decide you’re going to save … (how much will that be?) a week. And if you don’t have a will, decide that by the end of the week you’ll have an appointment with an estates lawyer. And if you haven’t yet established a credit identity, decide that by the end of the month you’ll have figured out what you need to do to remedy that oversight.
For 2018, decide that you’re not going to feel bad, overwhelmed, stupid, stressed, or anything else negative about your money anymore. Instead, you’re going to do something about it – no matter how small those steps – so you can achieve your own sense of financial peace. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and repeat after me: “I am more than what my financial life says about me. I can have anything I want, if I am prepared to work hard. Today I want to ….” Go ahead, fill in the blank.