Minding your own business is one key to unlocking your financial success. Your ability to stay focused and to stay on task will determine where you ultimately end up.
Humans love shiny objects. We love novelty and distraction. We carry around little weapons of mass destructions disguised as smart phones. They offer constant distraction and hits of dopamine. Feeling down? Mindlessly scroll social. Bored? Check out what so and so said about so and so.
New and different opportunities are constantly coming to our attention. There’s that new show to binge, fantasy football lineups to tweak, big opportunities with a cryptocurrency, a new podcast episode, and on, and on, and on. And don’t get me started on politics. Or the environment. Or nuclear war.
You get it. It’s never ending.
And the vast majority of it is none of your business.
You know what is your business? It’s doing what you need to be doing to get what you want. You know who needs to know that? You. You need to know that.
Once you know what your business is, you’ve got to stick to it and eliminate distraction. My goal is to give you everything you need to make that happen.
As a financial advisor, I’ve been helping people mind their own business and pursue their financial goals for over 20 years. I’m honored to be named to Investopedia’s list of the top 100 financial advisors many years running.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Knowing your business
- Serving too many masters
- Focusing on time horizon
- Getting what you need
Let’s get started.
Knowing your business
In order to mind your business, you’ve got to know what it is. The table stakes in this are your goals and values. Once you’re clear on those, you can work to create habits for getting what you want.
Goals = What you want
Values = Who you are
Habits = What you do
Do you have goals? How often do you think about them?
The evidence is in on the value of goal setting. You should do it. There’s that famous survey from Harvard Business School:
Prior to graduation, it was determined that:
- 84% of the entire class had set no goals at all
- 13% of the class had set written goals but had no concrete plans
- 3% of the class had both written goals and concrete plans
10 years later, the 13% that had set written goals but had not created plans, were making twice as much money as the 84% of the class that had set no goals at all.
The 3% of the class that had both written goals and a plan, were making ten times as much as the rest of the 97% of the class.
But it’s important to set goals the proper way.
Simply setting a goal doesn’t guarantee its completion. Quite the opposite. Research suggests 80% of people give up on their New Year’s resolutions by February.
So if you want your goals to stick, you need to defined process. In service of helping you do that, you can access our Goals course for free.
Your values equate to who you are. When you’ve got clear goals and defined values, you’re positioned to make good financial decisions. In service of helping you define yours, you can access our Values course for free as well.
I’ll get into how to develop beneficial habits later on.
Serving too many masters
A servant cannot serve two masters. You and I cannot successfully do everything; even if we wanted to. To get where you want to go, and to achieve your goals, you’ve got to be laser focused. You’ve gotta mind your own business.
Too many people live by pressure instead of priority. These people are constantly running around like their hair is on fire. Don’t let someone else’s problem become your priority.
At the beginning, I talked about all the different things that pull on our attention. For you to be successful, the main thing is keeping the main thing the main thing. You’ve done the work of setting goals and making priorities, now you’ve got to stick to them.
Focusing on time horizon
When we spread ourselves too thin, we can never make serious progress towards our goals. For this reason, it’s better to devote your resources to fewer goals than to many. A helpful tool in this endeavor is time horizon.
You can break up time horizon into short, mid, and long-term. Short-term is zero to three years, mid-term is four to 10, and long-term is 11+.
Common priorities for short-term are saving a fully funded emergency fund, annual vacations, and getting out of debt.
Mid-term priorities include saving the down payment for a home, tuition expenses, and investing.
Long-term priorities are retirement and legacy considerations.
While you’re the only one who can determine how many things you can effectively focus on, I don’t recommend over three in each area.
Getting what you need
In order to get what you want, you need to have what you need. It’s important to have confidence that what you’re doing will yield the results you’re looking for. While there are no guarantees, we want to position ourselves for success.
When working on personal goals, there are three models for getting what you need.
- DIY Model. Information and raw data is everywhere. I’ve certainly combed through it all to learn new skills. You can listen to podcasts, watch YouTube videos and read blogs on literally every topic, and personal finance is no different.
- Invest Model. Tapping into the knowledge and teachings of others can enhance the learning process. I’ve paid for and benefitted from many courses from college to online learning. There are a lot of courses for improving your finances.
- Partner Model. Wisdom is more valuable today than ever. Getting the support and expertise as coaching, advising or a mastermind can get you where you want to go a lot faster. Working with a financial advisor, a financial coach, or joining a mastermind can help you get where you want to go a lot faster.
Obviously, the more you can interact with an expert, the better. But if you have the time and attention, you can piece everything together on your own.
Structure and discipline
I think self-discipline is an incredible thing and I value mine. It helps me to do things even when I don’t feel like doing them. Like getting out of bed in the morning to exercise and managing our household budget.
I also don’t think it’s a genetic thing; I think you can cultivate and strengthen self-discipline.
As you’re cultivating your self-discipline, putting a structure in place will help you get everything that needs to get done. That’s where your SOP comes in.
Your SOP (Standard operating procedure)
A standard operating procedure is a set of step-by-step instructions compiled by an organization to help their people get what needs to get done, completed.
If it’s for an organization, why would an individual have one?
If you have a simple, straightforward and uncomplicated life, you probably don’t need one. Odds are, you have a complex life with a lot of moving parts. The more you can systematize and put structure around the things that need to get done, the better.
For personal finance, I’ve already talked about how complex it can be. Keeping on top of everything that needs to happen on a monthly basis is important.
- Checklists. One day, perhaps many of the things you need to be successful will be second nature. Until that day, make a checklist for everything that needs doing. For example, going through your cash flow and budget on a monthly basis is essential as you’re getting started.
- Calendar. What gets scheduled, gets done. If you don’t put all of your important activities into your calendar, they’ll get bumped by some other “emergency.” For example, schedule a day each month to go through your finances and to review your investments.
- Automate. The more we can take our hands off the wheel, the better. For example, set up automatic bill pay and automatic contributions to your saving and investment accounts.
- Delegate. Get a financial advisor, coach, or join a mastermind. If there’s an area you lack in, find someone or something that can support you in your change.
I don’t want this to appear I’m doing a commercial for outsourcing, I’m not. You can do this yourself. Again, be honest with yourself about whether you want to spend the time and attention it will take to get where you want to go.
If you find you need additional help, then look at outsourcing.
Get clear on what you want, and what you need to do. Put blinders on and get to work. The more focused you can be, the better your odds of getting what you want. Start minding your own business.
If you’re ready to take control of your financial life, check out our DIY Financial Plan course.
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