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9 Powerful Questions That Will Change Your Financial Life

9 Powerful Questions That Will Change Your Financial Life

You’ve probably heard it said that to get to the “right” information, you have to ask the correct question. Makes sense, but when it comes to money, what exactly are the questions?

No matter what the current state of your relationship with the green stuff, there are nine questions that will empower you to be a more secure, confident, self-aware master of your financial fate. Revisit them often to re-tool and update your goals and keep your outlook grounded:

1. What is the role of money in my life?

Money is a tool. For many people, however, there is so much emotion tied up in having money, or the lack thereof, that all aspects of financial life are laden with emotion and fraught with tension. It is extremely difficult to make calm, rational, clear decisions when emotionally saturated, and wealth management is no different.

Before you tackle any other questions, first ask yourself – what role does money play in my life? How much time do you spend thinking about it? Worrying about it? Dreaming about it? When you have thoughts about money, are they tense, frustrated, disappointed thoughts; how do you feel? Do you dread making that monthly budget?

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Write it all down in a notebook or on a scrap of paper, and notice how your physical body reacts to your thoughts about money by tensing or relaxing. Commit to noticing how you feel, and working toward being as relaxed and neutral as possible each and every time you think about money.

2. What did my role models teach me about money?

You’ve learned attitudes about everything from politics to personal hygiene from those who raised you, and your attitude about money has also been heavily shaped by those who cared for you during formative years. While you can, and likely will, develop your own approach as you mature, your immediate response to stressful or new situations will be drenched in “what my parents thought.”

Take some time to identify their attitudes so you know on what foundation yours are built – how important was or is money to them? Did they talk about money openly and easily, or is it something secretive? Did they offer an attitude of abundance and gratitude for what they had, or were they constantly seeking more?

3. To what degree does money control my happiness?

Money may not be able to buy happiness outright, but it sure can buy a lot of things that contribute to happiness and well-being. There is always more than can be had, however, and in our modern technologically connected world, it is easy to become acutely aware of what we lack.

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Do you wake up with a smile, independent of your financial status? Do you have faith in your ability to work your way out of, and be delivered from, financial troubles? Can you appreciate a gift that is of low monetary value? Are you comfortable giving gifts of low monetary value, if that is what you have to give? Can you enjoy a date arranged on a budget, or a shoe-string vacation, or does everything have to be “five star” for you to have fun? If you lost your job, would you still be able to define yourself?

If your answers lead you to conclude that money is a vital part of your happiness and sense of self, commit some time to figuring out who and what you are, without the dollar signs. You can appreciate and enjoy money and all that you can experience with it without having your financial status become a core part of your identity.

4. How do I react to financial stress, disappointment, or fear?

No matter how much money you have, or don’t have, there will be events that cause you to experience financial stress. There will also be disappointing times when you take a gamble that doesn’t pan out, or when you fear for your ability to provide for a child’s education or an aging parent’s medical needs.

During these times, does your stress take over your life? Do you lash out; do you sabotage what you already have? Or, do you take a deep breath and develop a plan to acquire more resources, get back on track, or whatever action is required? If you are in need of new ways to cope, try turning off the television and avoiding advertisements, all of which compete to rearrange your priorities. Consider your answers to the previous point – what and who are you without money?

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5. Do I know what I want?

Once your basic needs of food, shelter, water, and so on are met, what are you earning money for? Be specific about both your current needs – do you want to own a car? Do you dream of being able to provide for a family when it’s time to have one?  Do you reasonably anticipate needs such as children or parental care?  Do you want to share your home with pets?  Are there places on the globe you want to trot around?  Would you enjoy daily life more with more leisure time or if you had more funds for a favorite hobby?

There is no point in earning money simply to earn it – you can’t take it with you when you kick the bucket. So why, exactly, are you earning it?

6. If not, what am I doing to determine what I desire?

You may not have ever paused to think about why you care about money and what you are saving for, and that is entirely understandable. If you don’t know what you want, acknowledge that fact and dedicate time and energy to figuring it out, at what point will you be able to sigh, relax, and say “I have more than enough?”  What does life look and feel like at that point?  Write it down if you need to, or create a vision board.

7. If so, do I expend resources in a way that is aligned with what I desire?

If you are able to clearly and specifically articulate what you desire and believe will transpire when you reach a certain financial point, to what degree are your resources of time and energy aligned with that financial goal? If you are working toward an ambition, are you spending the money you have today in a way that will help you reach that goal?

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If, for example, you want to own your own business, do you know what your financial launch point is? Are you spending time educating and preparing yourself to leave the conventional work force? Or are you watching a lot of television, spending money on expensive nights out, and daydreaming more than taking action?

8. Do I know how to budget, plan, strategize, and get to what I desire?

Once you have identified what, exactly, you want, be honest with yourself about how much you do or do not know about how to get there. There are many ways to budget, invest, save, spend, and handle money as there are stars in the sky, and there is always something to be learned about financial management.  Do you know what it will take to reach your financial goal?  If not, what are you doing to better inform and prepare yourself? Are you seeking out mentors, studying online, spending time conducting research in the library, scouting out online forums, attending classes?  There is a way to get to your desired end point, you just have to figure it out.

9. How much, and in what ways, do I give?

Finally, what good are you doing in this world? If you are able to contribute financially to a cause or to help others, are you doing so in a way that reflects your values, morals, and personal areas of interest? If you are not able to contribute financially to a cause, are you sharing your time or wisdom? It’s not all about money, and it’s not all about you; your satisfaction with the human experience will increase exponentially when you give to others.

Craving more?  Check out these 12 Things You Can Do Now To Improve Your Financial Life.

Featured photo credit: Dollars via flickr.com

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Last Updated on June 6, 2019

The Average Retirement Savings and How to Save Wisely

The Average Retirement Savings and How to Save Wisely

Are you on track for retirement?

If not, don’t worry, I’m not sure either. I save each month and hope for the best.

Fortunately, I’m at an age where most people don’t save so I’m ahead of the curve.

But, what if you aren’t in your 20s? What if you’re near retirement and are looking to gauge where you stand?

If so, keep reading. Here’s how to prepare for retirement and save wisely during the process.

What Does the Average American Have Saved for Retirement?

Saving for retirement is tricky.

Tell someone straight out of college to save $10k a year for retirement and it’ll be next to impossible.

Make the same request to someone decades older and they’d be more likely to be able to save this amount. But, a 20-year old college student can be “financially ahead” of someone saving more than them. Why?

Age matters in your financial journey. The younger you are, the more time you have to save and put compound interest to work. As you get older and have more saving power, you’d have less time to put compound interest to work.

Here are the average savings Americans hold by age bracket:

20’s – $16,000

During this stage, most people are paying loans and moving up the corporate ladder. Your best bet during this stage is to focus on eliminating debt and increasing your income. Don’t focus only on getting a high-paying job neither.

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Instead, focus on learning via Podcasts, reading books, and taking specialized courses. Doing this will make you more valuable and give you more career options.

30’s – $45,000

At this stage, you’ve hopefully escaped your entry-level salary and work at a career you enjoy. Your earning power has increased but you now have more obligations. For example, marriage, kids, and a mortgage.

Set a plan to pay off all your debt and focus on eliminating unnecessary expenses. Leverage financial tools like Personal Capital to ensure you’re on track for retirement.

40’s – $63,000

This is the stage where you’re at the prime of your career. Top financial institutions recommend you have at least 2 to 4 times your salary saved up. If you’re falling behind, start maxing out your 401K and Roth IRA accounts.

50’s – $115,000

During your fifties, you’re close to retirement but still, have time to save. You may be helping your kids pay college tuition and other expenses. Since you’re at the peak of your earning power, max out all your retirement accounts.

60’s – $172,000

By this point, you should have about eight times your salary saved up. If not, you’ll depend primarily on social security benefits averaging $1400 per month. Max out all your retirement options as much as possible before retiring.

Ways to Save Money on a Tight Budget

The sad reality is that most Americans aren’t saving enough for retirement.

Even high-earning power isn’t enough to secure one’s financial future. You need to have the discipline to save for retirement while time is in your favor. Don’t wait for you to have a high salary to save, start with having a small budget.

First, get a clear picture of where you stand. Write down a list of “needs” and “wants.” For example, Netflix and Amazon Prime are “wants” and a “cell-phone” is a need.

Use tools like Personal Capital to analyze your spending patterns. Personal Capital allows you to add all your financial data in one place–making it a powerful option to gauge where you stand.

Once you know all your expenses, organize them from highest to lowest expense. When you can’t cut more expenses, call your service providers to negotiate a lower price. If you’re not good at negotiating, use services like Trimm to lower your monthly expenses.

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How to Save Money Each Month

By this point, you know the average amount of money you should have saved for retirement based on your age.

But, breaking this down into monthly goals can be challenging. Here are some rule of thumbs to follow:

Aim to contribute 10%–15% of your salary each paycheck. Review your progress each week.

Why so often? The reality is that life gets in our way and you will have many financial setbacks. Your goal isn’t to be perfect but to get back on track instead.

Reviewing your finances weekly lets you know where you stand with your retirement. This doesn’t have to be a long process either. All it takes is login in Personal Capital to view your net worth and check how much you have saved for retirement.

Turn saving into a game and aim to save more each month. It will get challenging but you’ll get creative and find more ways to save.

Top Money Saving Challenge Tips

To prepare for your financial future and not be another statistic you need to be different.

How?

By adopting new habits that’ll help you become a saving machine. Here are some ways you can save more:

Automatically Contribute Towards Retirement

If you’re working for a company, you can automatically contribute towards your 401k. If you’re not currently contributing more than 10%, make this your goal. Contribute 1% more today and automatically increase this amount a year from now.

Odds are that you’re not going to be negatively affected by contributing 1% more. Many times we spend our money on things we don’t need. Contributing more towards retirement is a great way to secure your financial future.

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Use the Right Tools to Know Where You Stand

Once you’re contributing more towards your retirement accounts, gauge your progress. Make use of finance tracking apps to help you view the big picture of your retirement.

When I’d first signed up for the app Personal Capital, I didn’t know I had a negative net worth. Despite saving thousands of dollars, my debt brought my net worth to the negative. Knowing this motivated me to save more and spend less.

Now, I have a positive net worth. But, it was because I was able to view the big picture using the app. Find out what your net worth is using a finance tracking app and you may surprise yourself.

Bring in Experts to View Your Blind Spots

If you have too little or too much money saved, you should consider hiring financial experts.

Why?

You may need someone to hold you accountable to help you reach your financial goals. Or, you may need help managing your money as effective as possible.

Regardless of the reason, getting help may help improve your financial situation.

Before you hire an expert, find out which areas you need help the most. For example, if you’re constantly overspending, find a debt counselor. If you’re struggling with choosing the best investment options, hire a financial advisor.

Speed up Your Retirement Contribution

After learning how to manage your money well, the next best thing is to earn a higher income.

You’re capped at how much you can save but not much you can earn. Even if your employer isn’t giving you a promotion, you can still take charge of your financial future. How?

By starting a side-business.

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This will be something you’d work on after you’ve finished your day job. Once you start earning income from your side-business, you’ll be financially better off.

The best part is the more work you put into your side-business,[1] the more potential it has to earn more money.

So start a side-business in an area you’re familiar with. For example, if you enjoy writing, do freelance writing for small e-commerce businesses.

Once you’re earning a higher income, you can contribute more towards your retirement. Don’t wait for the right opportunity to secure your financial future, create one.

Reach Financial Freedom with Confidence

What if you were able to retire tomorrow with no problem, all because you’d have enough money saved up and little to no debt left to pay off? How would you feel?

My guess is that you’d feel happy and relieved.

Most Americans are falling behind their retirement goals for many reasons. They’re not prepared, they carry bad money-habits and are thinking short-term.

For you to retire successfully, you need to work backward and adopt better habits. Contribute more towards your 401K and focus on growing your income.

If you do, you’ll save money and pay debt faster.

Don’t beat yourself up if you’re behind your retirement goals. Take the first step today towards a brighter financial future. Isn’t retirement worth the hard work and sacrifice to be at peace?

Featured photo credit: Huy Phan via unsplash.com

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