We all want a bright future.
How often do you find yourself thinking like this? “One day, I’ll have that. Someday, my family and I will do that.”
I know I used to have a lot of passing thoughts like that. I’d see something on the internet I thought was cool and think about how I’d also have or experience it in the future.
But it was more hope than planning. And hope is not a strategy.
If you want a bright future full of the things you want, you have to know what it is you truly want.
Once you know, you’ve got to prioritize those things. If you don’t, you’re giving priority to others things by default.
In order to have the life you want, you need to get clear on what you want. From there, you’ll need to put action behind them.
Once I started living more intentionally, I started living the life I truly wanted. My goal is to help you to do the same.
Money isn’t the root of all evil, nor will it buy you happiness. But it’s essential you be a good steward of yours in order to get the things you want. Over the course of my 20+ years as a financial advisor, I’ve helped countless people determine how they want their lives to look, and put their money to work to make it happen. I’m honored to be named to Investopedia’s list of the top 100 financial advisors many years running.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Your goals
- Your values
- Your priorities
- Being a good steward of your money
Let’s get started.
I’ve known the importance of setting goals for a really long time. But it took me until I was 35 to actually sit down and write out my personal and family goals.
Sure, I had ideas on what I wanted (or thought I wanted), but I never went through the exercise of writing them down. Now that I’ve been in the habit of consistently thinking about and reviewing my goals, it’s had a profoundly positive effect.
What’s your experience with goal setting been?
Our (humans) ability to envision the future we want, and to work towards accomplishing them is a superpower. Once you recognize you have that power, you realize how important it is to channel it towards what you really want.
When I look back to those “passing” thoughts and desires I had when I was in my late teens and early 20s, I achieved most of the things I thought I wanted. While that’s great, I regret not being more thoughtful about it. Today, I know I have the ability to bring to life what I focus my energy and attention on. Because of that, I take goal setting seriously. And you should too.
In service of helping you get what you want, you can access our Goals course for free. Some years ago, I recognized it’s not enough to simply tell someone to have goals. You also need to provide a framework for doing it properly.
The next step is to get more clarity on your values. Like goals, I certainly had values, but wasn’t in the habit of thinking about or reviewing them very often.
Our values act as the lenses through which we see the world, and as guidelines for how we allocate our most precious resources. If you value experiences over material things, you’re going to make different decisions with your money than someone who values the opposite. This is true of every aspect of life.
Every day, we make over 35,000 decisions a day, and values help us make many of them consciously and unconsciously.
Like goal setting, if I were to simply encourage you to think about your values, you’d probably have a difficult time. Because of that, we’ve developed a Values course which you can also access for free.
When you prioritize, you’re deciding to place one thing’s importance over another. This is something we must do, because we have finite resources. The more we can match the use of our time, attention, and money with our values, the better.
The golden rule of personal finance is, “Pay yourself first.” Failure to do this often results in living paycheck-to-paycheck, and an inability to get ahead financially. For you and your family’s priorities, I think it’s essential you “Put yourselves first.” It’s the same idea, applied to other aspects of your life.
We’ve all looked at the time and wondered, “Where did the day go?” There are so many demands on us, and so many competing priorities. If we don’t decide about which gets our time, attention, and money, somebody else (or something else) will.
Once you’ve got clarity on your goals and values, it’s time to do the same with your priorities.
Think about them in terms of time horizon; short, mid and long-term.
This is today to three years from now. Here are some common priorities:
- A better relationship with partner, so a weekly date night is scheduled
- A stronger body, so weekly exercise is scheduled as well as meal prep
- An annual vacation is scheduled and planned for far in advance
- Your debt-free plan is decide on and put into place
This is three to 10 years from now. Here are some common priorities:
- A bigger home, so saving for the down payment begins
- You want to start business, so you’re working towards doing it
- Kids will go off to college, so saving for tuition begins
- You’d like to learn a second language, so weekly learning begins
This is 10+ years from now. Here are some common priorities:
- You’d like to step away from full-time work, so retirement planning begins
- You want to travel internationally twice a year, so planning begins
- You want to provide kids with seed money for a business, so planning begins
Getting what you want begins with setting the intention. Be as clear as possible with your priorities, and actively work to not let other things get in your way.
Being a good steward of your money
You know your goals, values, and priorities. Now it’s time to put your money to work, making them happen.
Back to paying yourself first. Here’s how you do it:
- If saving up a six-month emergency fund is a priority, open a savings account and set up automatic transfers from your checking account at the beginning of each month
- If saving for retirement is a priority, enroll in your company’s 401(k), or open an IRA, and begin making automatic contributions
- If having a weekly date night is a priority, you need to add that into your budget
- If saving for education is a priority, open a 529 plan and begin making automatic contributions
It’s wise to automate as much of your financial life as you can.
When you pay yourself first, you place your priorities above all others; which is where they should be.
You can have a bright future. You’re someone who is capable of enjoying whatever life you want. But it requires setting the intention and executing your plan.
If you’re ready to take control of your financial life, check out our DIY Financial Plan course.
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