I like reading the latest financial tips as much as the next person, but sometimes it’s redundant. I know how to budget, save, and spend responsibly. I don’t need a daily article telling me to do all those things, I can write a book on that. (Oh wait, I did.) Anyways, instead of dwelling on the next money crisis or offering another seven-point list on how to side-hustle, let’s celebrate some financial success.
Yes, things are tough when you’re young because, like most, you may have started with zero, or negative zero, if you had student loans. After some time goes by, the small actions count. Little by little, the emergency fund gets funded, the necessities are bought, then the pleasures can follow. One day, going to work may not feel so bad and your life won’t depend on your next paycheck. It’s when you realize that you have money left over from your last paycheck. You get a few raises and promotions and there’s finally more money than month with a small checking account buildup. The money gods have smiled on you and you can start moving on to bigger and better. This is what’s known as financial satisfaction.
Throughout my career, I’ve worked hard to move up but always lived below my means. Investing too conservatively or not holding long enough have been my worst mistakes. Deliberate steps were taken to make constant financial improvements. Here’s my personal version of financial happiness.
I HAVE NO DEBT
I have no mortgage or credit card debt. Can you hear that? That’s the fiscal angels singing to me every morning. Paying off my mortgage was a life-altering experience. There’s nothing more demoralizing than getting up in the morning and having your debt hang over you like a dark cloud. It’s incredibly freeing to pay things off in full and not live in hidden shackles.
I still work the debt game. By delaying immediate gratification, I buy additional time to pay off merchandise. For example, my new credit card cycle starts after the thirteen of each month. If today is the tenth, I can wait three days to make the purchase. That gives me about eight weeks to pay the bill, interest-free.
It should go without saying that I only buy what I need and my credit card balance is always less than thirty percent of my total credit limit, even with large purchases.
If you have debt, or can’t pay your credit card bills in full each month, there’s no limit on the books and articles you can read to help you pay it down. Pinterest even has pins dedicated to it, but I’ll save you some time. How to pay off debt? Here it comes – stop spending and get determined about paying it off.
I HAVE A SPENDING PLAN
I have an active spending plan. It’s a living document that is continually updated for needs and wants.
Let’s face it, life happens and things break. Broken gadgets are at the top of the list but replacements are discretionary. For example, broken or dull kitchen utensils get replaced quickly, but the radio with the double-cassette player still works, so I can run that for a while longer. I choose which expenses make the cut for the month, the other items remain on the list with the wants alternated between the needs.
I can’t help being a planner. At this time – August – I can wait until Black Friday to get the best price because, thanks to previous planning, nothing’s urgent. Christmas spending is now on the radar and I intend to have several hundred dollars saved up.
I’M OK WITH LARGE TICKET PURCHASES
I feel at ease doing a large job in my home. I have been wanting to install a hardwood floor in my bedroom. The carpeting is thirteen years old, and we keep it going with semi-annual steam cleanings but the buckling is bothering me. I am ready to splurge and have picked out the wood. Again, funded in advance.
I’m currently measuring the longevity of my major appliances and think I should start looking. Why wait until they break down? I’d rather avoid the inconvenience.
I’M ON THE FAST TRACK TO RETIREMENT
Judging by the conversations with my husband, we’re on a white water raft to retirement. We talk about how much we’re saving, not arguing over frivolous purchases.
I’m looking ahead to 59 ½, which is not that far off. Even if I don’t retire at that date, I will have a wealth of resources. I have just reviewed my retirement options and, after seeing the monthly amounts at different retirement dates, I almost feel like I want to work a few more years than I planned. I’ll work because I want to, not because I have to.
Right now, I have lots of autonomy with my current job and weekends are not required. I go to my exercise classes, make all my appointments, and take vacations when I want. It’s a tough decision to give that up when it’s so easy. To ride out a few more years when I get to do everything I want isn’t such a bad arrangement.
If your self-talk involves how much you’re funding an IRA, your 401(k), or a SEP, you’re doing good. That’s all part of paying yourself first.
I HAVE LOW MONEY STRESS
I am mindful of money but I don’t stress over it. I know I’ll have what I need and I’m managing my investments independently, thank you. My internal narrative runs a constant loop of money messages that help me build onto what I have and work towards increased wealth.
This is not to be confused with playing ostrich and pretending that nothing’s wrong. If you have no emergency fund, you should have stress. You should be stressed enough to make the right moves and focus on getting some money together. I don’t recommend pacing throughout the night with worry. That’s bad stress. Good stress involves knowing that you have to take proactive measures, bad stress is a waste of energy.
Low money stress helps you avoid the hives at the thought of something breaking down, like your car, or a major appliance. If you have a cushion to fall on to cover these (likely) expenses, pat yourself on the back.
Low money stress also means that you have a disaster plan. If you’re not anticipating emergencies, you’re not living in the real world. Even lower stress means that you’re expecting difficulties and corresponding expenses before they hit.
I HAVE A REALISTIC FUTURE
I’m not lying to myself about what I might have. I can envision what I want and know that it’s within reach. I plan to sell my home and live in a gated community on a golf course. That’s absolutely doable because I have a house to sell with equity.
It’s always great to dream, but when your future life is built only on a state of mind, you’re kidding yourself. You also shouldn’t be expecting a family member to leave you everything. The inheritance plan is great if it’s realistic. But if that’s your only retirement plan, you’re fooling yourself.
CELEBRATE ALL ACCOMPLISHMENTS
You may have some or all of these checked off. Make sure to celebrate the small efforts. Focus on what you have done and why it worked. Then, do it again.