Personal Finance column: Spring into a healthier, happier financial life
Unlike the Great Recession, the COVID-19 economic winter was not caused by internal financial imbalances and systemic failure but by external circumstances. It hopefully is a once-in-a-lifetime event, that has shifted fundamental structures worldwide. It has been painful season, the heartbreak felt over lost loves ones, along with financial toll on many etched into our psyches. It has also provided us with an opportunity to recalibrate, rescript and remix many areas of our lives.
What have you learned about your financial life? “The only constant in life is change” the Greek Philosopher Heraclitus quoted. Briefly look in the rearview mirror at where you have been. What has shifted, and in what scope do you want to “do your dollars differently” moving forward?
The four primary areas of your financial life are:
• How money comes to you.
• How you decide to give or share it.
• What you do to cultivate and protect it, and
• How you spend it.
James Clear in his book “Atomic Habits” discusses three necessary elements of change — Identity, outcomes and processes. For example, you may have the goal or outcome of losing weight (specifically 10 pounds); you may put a process in place (latest fad diet). Clear contends that unless you shift your identity from “I am overweight” to “I am a healthy weight,” you are less likely to accomplish your goal.
Traditional financial planning has people focusing on their financial goals and the processes or products to accomplish them. If you want to provide an advanced education for your child, save this much at this rate of return. If you want to have a sustainable cash flow in retirement, you need to have money in your bucket and get a certain rate of return. What is missing is the “identity” piece.
What does it look like to have a healthy, happy financial life that is not defined by the constructs of solely reaching goals, which many times change; or outperforming market benchmarks, which is unsustainable? When your self-worth is not defined by your net worth, you are moving in the right direction. Consider what would be different if your identity around monetary matters shifted in a slightly new direction.
Here are my financial affirmations — my financial identity when I am at my best. If I keep these in front of me, it helps to provide a framework to calibrate my outcomes (goals) and processes (habits) to stay on track with a healthy financial life.
• Bringing money into my life with integrity, competency, dignity, grace and joy.
• Giving of my financial resources with moxie and momentum
• Growing, protecting and nurturing my financial life with diligence, wisdom and care.
• Spending money within safe boundaries and joyful intention.
Write out your personal “I am” statements, or borrow mine. You can shift the trajectory of your future financial transitions. As you embrace spring, full of new life, new opportunity, new challenges, be encouraged that your financial life can bloom, too. Yes, set goals. Yes, put in place good financial habits. Start with questioning your current identity and build on or shift toward a positive financial identity. This will provide the foundation to savor hope and avoid regret in setting goals and putting the right processes or products in place.
Danielle Howard is a CFP® and CKA® with Wealth By Design LLC in Basalt. Check out her retirement podcasts and blogs at daniellehoward4u.com.
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