Is debt free living a priority for you?
So much of life is about priorities and making decisions. We can choose to enjoy ourselves today and eat what tastes good, or we can skip the fries and shake and enjoy a healthy body.
We can go to bed early and get a good night’s sleep, or we can binge our new favorite show until midnight.
If we can sacrifice some of today’s happiness, we can create a better future for ourselves. If we maximize today’s happiness, we mortgage our future. None of this is complicated.
But, it’s really hard.
Does it need to be? I don’t think so. So how do you do it?
In service of helping you live debt free, I want to talk about some fundamental financial truths you can apply in your life. These are truths that I’ve come to embrace both personally and as a financial advisor for 20+ years. But like most people, it took me a while to figure out, and I’m by no means perfect. And perfection isn’t required, and the best time to get started is today.
With the right perspective and priorities, debt free living and financial success is available to you.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What’s true about money?
- What it takes to do hard things
- It gets easier
- What’s required for debt free living?
Let’s get started.
What’s true about money?
There’s a lot about money that’s always been true. Fundamentally, money is neither good nor bad. It’s been used to fund modern medicine which has saved countless lives, and it’s been used to create bombs which have taken countless lives. Money isn’t the root of all evil, nor does it bring happiness to everyone who possesses it. Here are five truths about money I’d like to reinforce:
It’s better to have it than to not
As someone who has experienced both, I can anecdotally tell you this is true. From my experience as a financial advisor, I can also tell you it’s better to have money than to not.
Money doesn’t buy happiness
When you don’t have any and you hear this, the natural reaction is to say something along the lines of, “I’d sure like to find that out for myself.” I think we all intellectually understand this to be true, and a quick search of the financial success of lottery winners will also back this up. Money alone will not buy happiness.
It does give you more options
I want freedom and flexibility; money gives me that. When we don’t have money, or worse yet we’re in debt, we don’t have as many choices. We’re forced to trade time for money and that often results in us doing work that isn’t meaningful.
Debt is a burden
Debt weighs on us, particularly credit card debt. The Bible wisely tells us “The borrower is slave to the lender.” As a parent, one of my primary goals is to help my children avoid debt at all costs. When we go into debt, we limit our options.
It’s not easy to be good at money
As I mentioned earlier, money isn’t complicated, but it’s very hard to be good at. There’s a lot of reasons for that, like human nature, and the fact that personal finance is a really big field. But we can do hard things.
What it takes to do hard things
Making good choices is hard. Prioritizing your future-self is hard. But you can do hard things.
When I start beating myself up because it’s taking me longer to do something than I’d like, I remind myself I used to wear a diaper. Learning and getting better is hard. We need to lean into it.
Getting good at money will be hard at first. Have you ever lifted weights? In order to build muscle and strength, you need to push beyond your comfort level. When you do this, it hurts while you’re doing it, and the pain persists for a couple of days after.
When you make the decision to start getting good with money, know that you’re going to deal with discomfort and it won’t be an easy path. That way, you set yourself up for success.
It gets easier
It will get easier. The more we do things, the better we get, and eventually, we form habits. As this happens, many of the things that seemed impossible before become second nature and we do them automatically.
After a couple of months at the gym, you get a feel for the different types of exercises and you have a comfort level. The same will be true for every aspect of your finances. Once you’ve been monitoring your cash flow and budget for a couple of months, it will become second nature. After you’ve been investing for a little while, you’ll become an investor and you’ll have a deeper understanding of how everything “works.”
What’s required for debt free living?
First principles are ideas that cannot be deduced any further; they are what is true. I shared a handful of financial truths earlier. Now I want to share 9 financial first principles and how you can apply them in your life. Successfully implementing these principles in your life will help you live a debt free lifestyle.
- A sacrifice is required. Make no mistake about it, if you’re in debt, you’re going to need to make changes in order to get out. It may require you to cut back on your lifestyle, or for you to figure out how to earn more money. Either way, you’re going to need to make a change.
- What gets measured gets managed. You need to start paying attention to your finances on a monthly basis. That means tracking your cash flow, reviewing your budget, checking your investments, and consistently revisiting your financial goals.
- Security, then prosperity. I want everyone to get rich (if that’s what you desire), but there’s very little chance of that happening if you’re not financially secure. You reach financial security when you save up an emergency fund of six month’s worth of expenses. This won’t be easy to do, but you’ll have peace of mind, and you’ll be in position to pursue prosperity.
- Spend less than you make. It doesn’t get any more basic than this. Can you do this for a month? What about two months? How about three? That’s what it will take. Doing it one month at a time
- Money has time value. The best time to start investing money was 20 years ago. The next best time is today. The longer we wait to begin saving and investing, the harder it becomes to reach our goals and objectives.
- Pay yourself first. This is the golden rule of personal finance. You do this by setting up automatic contributions to your accounts. Enroll in your 401(k) or set up an IRA. Set up transfers to your savings account or taxable brokerage account. When you’re getting started, don’t worry about how much, just get started; even 1% is better than 0.
- Become the CEO of your financial life. There will never be anyone more concerned about your financial success than you are. Start acting like it.
- Accept personal responsibility. Ownership of your financial situation is yours and yours alone. Sure, it sucks when the stock market goes down. But there’s no future in finger pointing blaming others for your financial situation. Own yours.
- If you can’t pay cash, you can’t afford it. You might not like this one, but it’s true. We’ve become way to reliant on credit. Once you’re debt free, I’m not saying you have to actually use cash to buy everything. I am saying you need to have the cash.
We all have choices to make
You can continue along the path you’re on, or you can choose to make different choices than you’ve been making. My path has not been a straight one, so I don’t want you to expect yours to be. The main thing is getting on the path and knowing it will not be an easy one.
The result will be financial peace of mind and an increased level of certainty.
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