Navigating the Road to Financial Success
- Friday, October 19, 2012
Editor's note: This article originally appeared on Money Saving Mom. Used with permission.
So, you have a fresh resolve to get your finances in order. There’s a temptation to want to go out and buy a stack of books or new financial software to help you get your act together when it comes to your budget.
While there’s much that can be learned from books (hey, I wouldn’t have written a book myself if I didn’t think this was the case!), a book, DVD series, or budgeting software won’t ultimately change your financial situation. Your financial situation won’t change unless you change.
So get in the driver’s seat, buckle up, and get your engines started. It’s time to steer yourself toward the financial success freeway.
1. Stop Spinning Your Wheels and Driving Around in Circles
What would happen if you took a family road trip to an unfamiliar location hundreds of miles away and you left your map or GPS at home? Very likely you’d waste hours driving around trying to figure out which way you were supposed to go and you’d probably never reach your destination unless you stopped and bought a map or kept stopping to ask for directions.
It’s the same with finances: if you don’t really know where you are going in the first place, you’re going to be hard-pressed to ever reach your desired destination.
So many people dream of getting out of debt, saving to pay cash for another vehicle, paying off their house early, or giving more generously to others. Very few people, however, get beyond the dreaming stage. Instead, they drive around and around without a map, wishing they could go somewhere, but never determining where it is they want to go nor how they are going to get there.
2. Know Your Final Destination
It has well been said: “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” Where do you want to be financially a year from now? What about five years from now? How about ten years from now?
Sit down with your spouse (if you’re married) and brainstorm answers to these questions. Then, write down the answers you come up with, even if they seem crazy and well beyond reach.
After your brainstorming session, look at your list of ideas and pick three to make your family’s financial goals. I recommend choosing one goal that you think you could fairly easily accomplish in the next six months, one goal that you think you could achieve in the next year or two, and one goal that seems quite audacious.
If you have credit card debt, car loans, medical debt, student loans, or any other consumer debt, paying these off should be your top priority Once you’ve paid off your consumer debt, paying off your mortgage or saving up for a large downpayment should be your next big goal.
Once you determine your top three goals, write them down and post them in a conspicuous location. When you write them down and hang them up somewhere for your whole family to see, it provides extra incentive to actually follow-through with the goals. No longer do you have pie-in-the-sky financial dreams, you now have very specific goals to serve as the driving force for decisions your family is making.
3. Create a Roadmap
Goals are good, but they won’t get you very far if you don’t break them down into bite-sized, measurable pieces. Start with your end date and work backwards. For instance, if you hope to have paid off the $500 balance on your credit card within six months, break the goal down into monthly chunks and then into weekly chunks.
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