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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 August 20, 2019

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

Finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. And that’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

In this article, we will explore ways on how to set financial goals and then actually meet them with ease.

5 Steps to Set Financial Goals

Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task but if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps:

1. Be Clear About the Objectives

Any goal (let alone financial) without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream. And this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it is for. It could be anything like kid’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car etc.

Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives, however small they may be, that you foresee in the future and put a value to it.

2. Keep Them Realistic

It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going out of the line will definitely hurt your chances of achieving them.

It’s important that you keep your goals realistic in nature for it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

3. Account for Inflation

Ronald Reagan once said – “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman”. And this quote sums up the best what inflation could do your financial goals.

Therefore account for inflation whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far away in the future.

For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years hence, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is mere 3%. So always account for inflation.

4. Short Term vs Long Term

Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach towards achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It is important to bifurcate goals in short term and long term.

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal, which is due in next 3 years should be termed as short term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short term vs long term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

More on this later when we talk about how to achieve financial goals.

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5. To Each to His Own

The journey of setting financial goals is an individualistic affair i.e. your goals are your own goals and are determined by your want to achieve them. A lot of times we get on the bandwagon of goal setting only to realize later on that it was not meant for us.

It is important that your goals are actually your goals and not inspired by someone else. Take a hard look at this step at all the goals you’ve set for after this step, you will be on the way to achieve them.

By now, you would be ready with your financial goals, now it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

11 Ways to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a 2 step process –

  • Ensuring healthy savings
  • Making smart investments

You will need to save enough; and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals. So let’s get down to ensuring healthy savings.

Ensuring Healthy Savings

Self realization is the best form of realisation and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

1. Track Expenses

The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your monthly expenses. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you would be surprised to see how small expenses add up to a sizeable amount.

Also categorize those expenses into different bucket so that you know which bucket is eating the most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pump up your savings rate.

2. Pay Yourself First

Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classical mistake which almost everyone of us do. We pay ourselves last!

Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and then manage all the expenses from the rest.

The best way to actually implement is to put the savings on automatic mode i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (for example – mutual funds, retirement corpus etc) every month.

Taking the automatic route will make us lose control of our money and hence will compel us to manage in what’s left with us thereby increasing the savings rate.

3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick with It

Budgeting is the best to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be made.

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Nowadays, several money management apps and wallets can help you do this automatically. It’s easy and who knows, you may just end up doing what people fail to do.

At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

4. Rise Again Even If You Fall

Let’s be realistic. It’s not like the world will come to an end if you made one mistake. This isn’t called leniency but discipline.

If you fail to meet your budget for a month, don’t give up the entire effort just like that. Instead, start again.

Remember that flexible plans are the most realistic plans. So go forward and try to follow your financial goals as planned but if for some reason, the plan gets out of hand for you, do not give up on it just yet. This has a lot to do with your psychology rather than any material commitment.

All you have to do is to stay on the road and vow to stay on it, no matter how much you fall down.

5. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

Make Savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counter intuitive to many but there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Usually weekends are expensive. Make it a habit and you would in turn be saving a great deal.

If you are travelling buff, try to travel during off season. Your outlay will be much less.

If you go out for shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

So the key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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6. Talk About It

Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission. And it would be rather easy to lose the grip over your discipline.

Therefore in order to stay the course, it is advisable that you keep yourself surrounded with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

7. Maintain a Journal

For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

So if you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

Use this journal to write down all essential points such as your short term, mid term and long term goals, your current sources of income, your regular expenses which you are aware of and any committed expenses which are of recurring nature.

When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energised to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot more easier for you to follow you and track your progress.

At this point, you should be ready with your financial goals and would be doing brilliantly with savings; now it’s time to talk about the big daddy – Investments.

Making Smart Investments

Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However savings when invested wisely can do wonders and we are at that stage where we will talk about making smart investments.

8. Consult a Financial Advisor

Investments doesn’t come naturally to most of us therefore rather than dabbling with it ourselves, it is wise to consult a financial advisor.

Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

9. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about them.

Just like “no one is born a criminal”, no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference.

Do you remember we talked about bifurcating financial goals in short term and long term?

It is here where that classification will help.

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So as a general rule, for all your short term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less as compared to equity instruments.

10. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

Einstein once remarked about compounding,

Compound Interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.

So make friends with this wonder kid. And sooner you become friends with it, quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

Start investing early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

11. Measure, Measure, Measure

All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments; taking stock of how our investments are doing.

If there is one single step where everything (so far) can go wrong, it is at this step – Measuring the Progress.

If we don’t measure the progress timely, then we would be shooting in the dark. We wouldn’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not; whether financial advisor is doing a decent job; whether we are moving closer to our target or not.

Do measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

The Bottom Line

This completes the list of tips for you to set financial goals and actually achieve them with not so great difficulty.

As you can see, all it requires is discipline. But guess that’s the most difficult part!

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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