When we are planning for our finances, we must decide how we will measure our success. One measure is achieving Financial Freedom – but what does financial freedom really mean?
The term “financial freedom: is thrown around both by traditional financial planners and investment advisors, as well as every infomercial get-rich-quick scheme. Typically, most of the schemes are using the term to mean being so rich you never have to work again. But really financial freedom means being released from uncertainty and being able to confidentially know that you will be able to meet your life goals – that your finances (or lack thereof) are no longer holding you back from achievement.
This may mean that you have enough passive income (through pension, investments, business ownership, or real estate rental income) to finance your basic expenses. Or, it may mean that you simply know how to use your income, and investments, to create a life where financial issues are no longer holding you back from your goals.
But what I think is not important — What does financial freedom mean to you? If you lived in a world where you KNEW that you were going to be able to reach your goals, and you KNEW exactly what to do to reach your goals, how would that feel? What words come to mind when you think of financial freedom?
Action #1: Brainstorm some words that mean financial freedom to you. When I say brainstorm, I mean no filter, no editing, no judgment – just jot down some words, emotions, verbs, adjectives, feelings – that mean being free from financial issues, according to you.
So, what’s the point? Why are you here, trying to learn about your money?
The answer is your Financial Vision. Your Vision is your objective, or ultimate reason, of why you want to master your finances.
Imagine — you have a Financial Action Plan sitting in front of you on your desk, table, or lap. This Plan spells out the exact steps you need to achieve your goals. You now know exactly what you want to do, and feel confident that you will be able to complete these tasks.
How does that feel? What does it mean to you? And not just what’s in your head – how do you feel in your body – are your shoulders relaxed? Your achy, stressed-out stomach relieved? Do you sit up straight, chin high?
Imagine – you have achieved your major life goal, that goal that you are worried about right now. Maybe it’s paying off debt, buying a house, starting a business, sending kids to college, or retiring from your job. Whatever it is – you’re there. All the tasks are completed, you’ve done what you needed to do, and you have achieved your most important goal.
Where are you? What are you doing? How do you celebrate?
This Vision of Success is your motivation. When you are thinking about procrastinating, spending your savings, taking a lump sum to buy a new car you don’t really need, chickening out on taking a risk – you refer to this Vision to remember why you are here. Why you are learning, sacrificing, taking risks, making change – so you can reach this Vision of Success that you have envisioned.
Action #2: Create your Vision of Success. Write a few sentences, jot down an email to yourself, sketch a drawing, make a collage. Now post your creation on your bulletin board, log it into your blackberry, stick it in your wallet, save it as your desktop wallpaper – wherever you will see it every day as you make your financial decisions – this is your motivation to make every decision in a way that agrees with your goals.
Are you a perfectionist? Do you feel that your tasks are always unfinished? There is always one more thing, you have never really done that much, you always have more to truly reach your goal.
If so, you are probably not acknowledging your accomplishments – and this lack of finality, of celebration of a job well done, may be holding you back from success.
We all have done something on our finances. You’ve paid off a credit card, bought a house, opened up a 401(k), raised your retirement contributions, saved money each month, met with an advisor, opened up a life insurance policy. So you say, no, not me, I haven’t done anything yet? You subscribed to this eZine, and are actually reading it! A major accomplishment!
So, did you celebrate? Did you take the time to rejoice in a job well done?
Designing and implementing your new financial plan is a long process, which may take you months to complete. To maintain your positive attitude, you need to acknowledge each step along the way – regardless of how far you are from your ultimate goals.
Action #3: Make a list of everything good you have done about your finances – the tiny to the huge. Celebrate Each and Every One of Them. Buy a package of gold stars to paste in front of each item, eat a m’n'm for each task, spend five minutes getting a message per each completed event, drink a martini for each accomplishment
What’s holding you back from taking the next step on your finances?
Simply, you are.
Perhaps you have some technical issues that need to be addressed – finding the right person at the pension administrator to give you the projections, figuring out how to fill out the forms, allocate those accounts, find time to schedule the appointment. But you can deal with all of those issues, with minimal, if any help. Why haven’t you done it?
The Real Reason is likely some issue you have about money, finances, or success. We are all walking around with personal issues from our past experiences, in childhood, our teenage years, our prior relationships, or from our friends and community. Rules such as – people like us can never be rich, money is the root of all evil, corporations are evil, women are not good with money, I don’t know anything about money, I’m just going to get into debt again, what’s the point?
Until we figure out what these issues are, you will continue to subconsciously hold yourself back from taking the next Action Step you know you need to take.
So how do you discover those rules? One way is to keep track of your Roadblocks. Where do you get stuck? When do you stop Taking Action on your finances? Do you see a pattern? When did you start doing this behavior? Do you know anyone else who does this?
Action #4: Start a log of your roadblocks. Brainstorm a list of action items you currently know you need to take on your money, but have not yet done so. List your excuses. See a pattern? Do you see a Real Reason emerging? If not yet, don’t be discouraged, it may take some time tracking your roadblocks for your Reason to emerge.