I’m starting a new series of posts today. I’m calling it the “ABCs of Personal Finance.” The word for the letter A is Action, because succeeding with money in your home requires action. Your financial situation isn’t going to get any better while you sit idly by and ignore it. So, it’s time to get moving and make some changes. Ready?
- INCOME – GET TO WORK. Everything worth doing is going to be hard and take a lot of effort. If you want a career that gives you a sense of purpose and pays you well, you’re going to have to take action.
- Truth: Any job that you can get with a 10 minute interview in a booth at a fast food restaurant is unlikely to pay a lot, and will never be a great career. If you want a bigger paycheck, you have to make yourself more appealing to better employers, and that takes work.
- First Step: Start Reading. Read books written by the best in the business you want to be in. Read classic business books. Read books about how to get a better job.
- BUDGET – MAKE A PLAN. Having any income is great, but paychecks have a nasty tendency of looking bigger than they actually are, and spending more than we make has become a national crisis. Planning is an essential part of winning. Even if this month’s budget fails, you learn and fix what failed next month. If you’re not budgeting, you’ve robbed yourself of that opportunity to improve. Take action and give every dollar you make a purpose.
- First Step: Write out your necessities. Know the difference between “need to pay” and “nice to have.”
- GROW – SET GOALS. Once the income is coming in and the bills are all covered, it’s tempting to breathe easy and relax. That might work, if all you ever want to do is just cover the bills. If you have bigger dreams, if you ever want something more than what you have right now, you have to make conscious decisions about how to get there and set some goals. You have to take action.
- First Step: Answer this question: What would you do if someone handed you a million dollars?
- FIGHT – DON’T GIVE UP. Remember, everything worth doing will be hard and take a lot of effort. It’s going to be tough, but as long as you’re breathing, there is always hope.
- That job may be all you can get right now, but it’s not forever.
- That budget may be so tight it scares you, but it’s a start.
- That goal may seem so out of reach, but you’re still growing.
What do you think? What parts of your finances could use a little less conversation and a little more action? Did I cover it all or miss something important? And what should be my word for X? Let me know in the comments below!
One of the issues when you’re known for being the “money guy” is that your friends will inevitably fall into one of two groups. The first will mum up entirely, and trying to talk to them about it will increase tension in the room. The other group will not shut up about it. They’ll tell you about their income, what they’ve been buying, how they financed it, what they’re planning to invest in and do you think all of that is a good idea? In either case, I try to listen to what they’re saying (even when they’re not talking).
One family friend of ours has been struggling financially for a while. He and his spouse have ever growing debt, and occasional income problems. They’re not able to meet any of their financial goals. And while all of that is terrible, there’s a bigger problem that they’re not talking about.
The good thing is that he’s not in denial anymore. He recognizes that he has to start changing things to get out of the mess that they’re in. He’s been writing a budget for his family. They’ve sold some stuff. I can see the start of a plan forming in his mind. He could use some guidance and there are a bunch of hard decisions ahead, but there’s hope, right?
Yes and no.
When he shows his budget to his wife, she always agrees to it. I’ve never been in the room when it happens, but my gut is telling me that her agreement sounds something like, “That’s great, honey. Whatever you say.” And that’s not really an agreement. It’s more of an acquiescence. And she tries to go along with his budget, but then a need or an “emergency” comes up and she has to go buy something to cover it, or commit financially to something that’s outside of what’s on paper, and all of his work is blown.
The cycle continues to repeat, and their problems continue to slowly grow.
Now, understand, what I described makes her look really bad, but that’s not the case. She’s just trying to do the best she can to serve her family, the same as he is. She’s plugging holes and meeting needs, just like he’s trying to do. Don’t judge her harshly, because this isn’t all her fault.
This problem belongs to both of them. It’s that core problem I mentioned earlier. They’re not in unison.
His plan is his plan. The budget he creates is trying to solve the problem he’s seeing. Which is great, but his wife isn’t really bought in, despite what she says, because that budget doesn’t address any of the problems she’s seeing. It’s not her budget, and it’s not her plan – it’s her husband’s. And when one of the needs she sees comes up, his plan drops to the wayside, and she meets the need.
They need unity.
His plan needs to change and become their plan. His budget needs to become their budget. When that happens they’ll be in actual agreement, it will build trust, and they’ll come to find they can depend on each other. It’s amazing how much less of a struggle life is when you’re working together.