During this time of year, it’s very easy for our bodies to overheat. Our bodies produce a tremendous amount of internal heat and we normally cool ourselves by sweating and radiating heat through the skin. But in certain circumstances, such as extreme heat, high humidity or vigorous activity in the hot sun, this cooling system may begin to fail, allowing heat to build up to dangerous levels. If a person becomes dehydrated and can not sweat enough to cool their body, their internal temperature may rise to dangerously high levels, causing heat stroke.

Many of us have experienced a similar phenomenon in our finances. All we have to do is overspend, make a few bad investment decisions, etc. and our finances become dehydrated. It’s always easier (and frankly more fun) to get into financial trouble than it is to get out of financial trouble. Unlike the clock that we can easily manipulate, our finances take more time. The old adage is true: anything worth having requires time and effort.

We are enamored with stories of people who make it big overnight. But, those stories are few and far between. True success comes through hard work and determination. People often call me or e-mail me with a difficult financial circumstance that they want to take care of. That’s good. The problem is they want it to happen overnight. They want a pill that will fix their problem immediately. And why wouldn’t they? We have pills that help us solve all sorts of problems today. We can access instant remedies for cholesterol, weight, blood pressure, headaches and back pain. The list goes on and on.

The only problem with these pills is that they often have side effects. Have you ever noticed the disclaimers that are given after a commercial for medication finishes? A soothing voice comes over the air and says something like, "This product may cause diarrhea, nausea, bloody nose, whooping cough, hearing impairment and/or swallowing of the tongue." I think you get the picture. Even if we had a pill for our finances, the side effects would probably outweigh the benefits.

Here are some keys to re-hydrate your finances.

Think long term

So often we are looking for a quick fix. I can’t blame those who are looking for an easy answer. Everything else in life is marketed to us as a quick-fix: Abs of steel in 6 minutes per day, 10 minute oil changes and one-hour photo shops. Even the problems of all our favorite sitcom characters are resolved in one hour or less!

We need to remember that it's rarely that easy -- but that's okay! We can still make an effective long-term plan and keep things in perspective.

Set goals

"But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first getting estimates and then checking to see if there is enough money to pay the bills?" Luke 14:28.

It’s been said before that if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. As a guy, I struggle with asking for directions. Therefore I love maps and Global Positioning Systems (GPS). They allow me to find where I’m going without the embarrassment of asking for directions. The word "maps" is a word that we can use as an acrostic to help us set goals.

M – Measurable. Your goals have to be measurable. Blaine Harris, in his book The Four Laws of Debt Free Prosperity writes that "only that which can be measured can be managed." We’re in the thick of the NBA playoffs, and we watch for one reason: to see who wins. It wouldn’t be much fun if they just ran up and down the court without keeping score.

A – Achievable. Your goals have to be achievable. Your goals should stretch you, but they need to be realistic. For example, setting a goal to play in the NBA would not be an achievable goal for me. I’m 5’10"; I have a bum knee; I’m not very fast; I don’t jump very well; and frankly I’m just not that good. However, I could set a goal to play in the over-30 men’s league. That would be realistic. The perfect goal should be easy enough that it’s attainable but hard enough that you have to rely on God to accomplish it

P – Personal. Your goals should be personal. Your goals must be your own. You can’t live someone else’s dream, and they can’t live yours. You also shouldn’t project your goals and desires onto somebody else.

S – Specific. Your goals must be specific. In order for your goals to be specific, they must have an estimated completion date, and they must be written in the affirmative. For example, let’s say your goal is to get on a budget. You would write, "I will set up a budget by June 1, 2005." Unwritten goals are just wishes, and goals without a deadline are merely a philosophical statement. How many times have you heard yourself say, "One of these days, I’m going to …." We do it all the time.

Give generously

Nothing frees us like giving. Solomon wrote, "One man gives freely yet gains even more; another withholds unduly but comes to poverty" (Proverbs 11:24 NIV). This is counterintuitive to what the world says, but since when were the things of this world right? This is not our home. You can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead. Jesus said it best: "Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where they can be eaten by moths and get rusty, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where they will never become moth-eaten or rusty and where they will be safe from thieves" (Matthew 6:19).

Make a commitment today to implement these three principles before the dog days of summer are over.


Steve Scalici, CFP® is the Vice President of Treasure Coast Financial, a financial planning firm in Stuart, FL. He is co-host of God's Money which can be heard weekdays at www.oneplace.com. He can also be reached at his website www.tcfin.com.