For a few years now, I have challenged myself to build a life worth being proud of. Sure, I made some foolish decisions, like any young adult. But fortunately for me I learned a lot from them and counsel of a handful of trusted friends and family. As a result, I have turned my life onto an entirely different (and significantly better) trajectory. That’s not to say I don’t have struggles or worries, I have some very significant ones, especially surrounding my health at the moment. But that is just another motivator for me, especially as it relates to achieving financial independence. None of us are perfect, that’s what makes us uniquely human. But it’s not our flaws or mistakes that hold us back, it’s not being willing to fix them and create a better future.
Today’s post is going to be a bit different than the typical content I’ll produce, but part of it is something very near and dear to my heart that is experiencing some difficulty at the moment. This post is going to be centered around family and finances. Before some of you check-out, it has long been a belief of mine that there is no singular aspect of life that if controlled properly will result in what we’ll loosely call success. Rather a combination of things that we can control, things we can’t control, as well as general luck. With this in mind, social health is an aspect of life that not too many bloggers or writers in general seem to care about too much. Maybe it doesn’t sell as well, but I am here to say, it matters!
As for my social health, it is most definitely a work in progress. Something that needs improvement and significant time dedicated to resolve issues as well as to instigate some necessary forward motion. Specifically in my situation is a concern that the relationships within my family are not as strong as they could or should be. This is clearly something that I need to work on as well as fine-tuning other aspects of life. My suggestion and challenge to you all is that as you set and work on resolutions or just any set of goals is that you include your social health into the equation of things needing checks and balances to be happy and “successful”. I know this is something that is on my list of short and long term goals.
Now shifting gears, I came across a few news articles this week regarding finances that didn’t necessarily shock me but definitely got my attention. The one I’ll mention was titled “Americans owe more, save less, and are poorer than in decades”. This article, though brief, detailed how an even larger proportion of Americans have more debt than money now. So bad in fact that the last time it was this bad was over 55 years ago. In fact, they even claim that 30.4% of American families have zero or negative non-home wealth. Now, there are many variables playing into this unfortunate news, many of which appear to be out of our control. Or at least so difficult to control that the option seems nearly removed. Now, for most of us, this would be the point where we examine what we can control since those could lead to tangible results in a timeline where we can realize any benefit. Also, this is what I’ll focus on as these variables are the ones included in personal finances.
- First and foremost (even you, high schooler working part-time in a stressful minimum wage job) save as much as possible for retirement/your future. The sooner you start the longer that money has to grow. Ultimately meaning that time is on your side and you can be the one coming out with potentially hundreds of thousands more when you are retiring.
- Stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. They probably aren’t as happy as you think they look. They are probably maxing out credit cards, or perhaps socially or emotionally unavailable to each other most of the time. Maybe they are also unhealthy or ill. The short of it is, that life is more than just having the newest toys. Take care of yourself then those closest to you.
- Spend only after you set aside from your income a reasonable amount for savings. Don’t do just the bare minimum. Think of this as investing in your future. The more you contribute, the more likely you will be able to do more of the things you love when the time comes.
- Stop telling yourself that spending money makes you happy. Sure, buying essential items like food and shelter, could very well produce happiness. But what about that Nintendo Switch, those expensive car upgrades, or (insert any other non-essential item here)? It may bring a few smiles, but at what cost?
With these four rules, I have been able to turn my financial health onto a monumentally healthier trajectory. I didn’t save in high school and I do strongly regret that. I wasn’t mentally prepared for that though, so I don’t dwell on it. I loosely tried to keep up with the Joneses when I bought by current vehicle 8 years ago. I foolishly used a large gift as part of the payment as well. If instead I had used that gift for repairing the old car I still could have had a significant sum to invest. Two very regrettable moves on my part. I thought the newer vehicle would produce a better outcome and enable me to be happier. Well, I can’t say that has been the case every time I get in it. I regret selling the old car for many reasons. Then not only did I spend a couple years not appropriately saving for my future (retirement) but I told myself that spending could help me be happier. I broke all four of these rules. Well, kinda….technically these weren’t my rules until I realized how much of an idiot I had been. I set these four rules for myself nearly six years ago. Unfortunately it took some time to undo the previous damages I had created but now I am on a much healthier path. One where my wife and future family should be able to set aside most (if not all) financial worries and instead focus on being a healthy and happy family together. One where not only can I provide for them, but I too should be well cared for and able to do the things that make me happy. Ultimately that is where this all leads anyways, right?! Being able to provide for yourself and those closest to you so you have the freedom to focus on them and not just your finances.
So, please learn from my mistakes. Take these four rules that helped me turn my financial life into a much better picture and apply them to your own life. Once you do, keep me posted on your progress. Even if you don’t apply these rules, I’d love to hear any thoughts or questions about them.