When you’re going on a trip, there’s a lot to prepare for.
The first step is deciding what you want to do, and where you want to go.
You need to make sure your vehicle is capable of getting you to your destination and that it’s ready to make the trip.
From there, you’ll figure out the best way to get there and get directions. You’ll check the route and get an idea of where you’ll be able to refuel and stop if needed.
Finally, you’ll pack your bags and get ready to go.
Your road to riches is no different.
It’s necessary to determine how you want your financial future to look. You’ll set a course for getting there, and make sure you’re doing what needs to get done along the way.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Focusing your attention
- Checking your progress
- Embracing diversification
- Becoming the CEO of your financial life
Let’s get started.
Focusing your attention
We all have finite resources. We’ve got a limited amount of time and attention, a certain amount of energy, and unless you’re independently wealthy, a set amount of money to spend, save and invest. Because of this, we need to be good stewards of those resources.
I’d like to go through each of these in hopes of helping you to think more deeply about them.
You and I have the same amount of time in a day. When we choose to give our time to one thing, we’re also choosing to not focus on other things. I’m fond of telling my kids, “You have time to do anything you want, but not enough time to waste.” This is also true for you and I.
If we’re choosing what we give our attention to, someone else will be happy to make those decisions. Entertainment companies have spent billions of dollars to figure out how to keep us on their platforms for as long as possible. They’ve even created multiple universes to keep us engaged.
As I get older, the more aware I am of my energy levels. More is better, so paying attention to my physical and mental health is imperative.
How we spend, save and invest our money says a lot about our priorities. Why do you spend money the way you do? Have you ever thought about that? What’s influencing your behaviors? I’ve certainly been guilty of “keeping up with the Jones’” and it’s a perfectly human thing to do. Becoming aware of our motivations and triggers is an important step in being good stewards of our money.
The finite nature of our resources demands we live with as much intention as possible. That means we need to get clear on our priorities and what’s of greatest importance to us.
While I intellectually knew how important it was to think about and write down goals, it took until I was 35 to actually do it. Today, I can tell you the profound impact the simple act of writing down my goals has had on my life.
Checking your progress
What gets measured, gets done.
Once you get your financial priorities set, you need to have a way to monitor whether or not you’re on track to reach them. There are two fundamental areas to pay close attention to, cash flow and budgeting.
While a very simple concept, if you’re not looking it at, it’s easy to make mistakes.
Tracking your cash flow is as easy as looking at the money you have coming in, and the money you have going out. You should do this on a monthly basis as you’re getting started, and can eventually shift to checking quarterly.
Today, there are so many companies trying to set you up on a recurring payment plan that it’s easy to collect small monthly charges. The problem is, small amounts add up to big amounts over time.
Go through the last 12 months of your cash flow and look for charges that may no longer be serving you. Odds are, you’ll find expenses you can cut out. If you’re not sure it you’ll miss something, you can always add it back in later.
A budget is simply a plan for your money.
It will help you to know if you’re on track to reach your goals, and can also answer the question, “Can I afford to do or buy that?” Without a budget, you really have no idea if you’re doing the “right” things with your money on a monthly basis.
Like cash flow, as you’re getting started it’s wise to review your budget on a monthly basis. As you become more comfortable with it, you can shift to quarterly reviews.
We’ve all heard the phrase, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” and that’s certainly true for your finances. In fact, I think diversification is the Silver Rule of personal finance (Pay yourself first being the Golden Rule).
Three thoughts on diversification:
- Index funds: Low-cost index funds can save you money and get you consistent returns over the long-term. They are great places to invest for mid and long-term goals. You can buy them inside taxable brokerage accounts, as well as your qualified retirement accounts such as 401(k)s and IRAs.
- Asset classes: The most common asset classes are cash, equities (stocks), fixed income (bonds), real estate, and alternatives (commodities, cryptocurrencies). Working to spread your investing over the different classes is smart diversification.
- Permission: While I’m never going to tell anyone they can’t invest in individual stocks or Bitcoin, I do advise you do it only after you’re on the path to funding your other saving and investing priorities. For example, if you’re goal is to retire at 65 with $1,000,000 saved, and you’re on track to reach that goal, by all means invest in whatever you want. I refer to that as writing yourself a permission slip.
Becoming the CEO of your financial life
I want you to be financially successful and I know you’re capable of doing it.
That being said, you need to be the person who is most interested and invested in your financial success. The “buck” needs to stop with you, and no one else.
Even if you choose to work with a financial professional to help you reach your goals, you need to be the CEO of your financial life.
That means understanding your financial plan and monitoring it on a consistent basis (at least quarterly). It means trusting that the companies and or people you’re working with are doing their jobs, but verifying it by auditing their work periodically.
Your road to riches may not be a straight path, and you’re probably going to encounter some bumps along the way. Making the commitment of becoming the CEO is key to positioning yourself for success.
Closing and resources
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