Don’t Like Where You are Financially? Change Your Behavior
When people decide that they need to eat healthier or lose weight, they know that they have to change their behavior. That’s easier said than done for most, which is why programs like Nutrisystem and Weight Watchers are so popular; because they provide a system for automatically controlling portions and nutrition. More importantly, they provide an easy way to establish weekly goals, track activities and keep score for accountability. Within a few short months, eating behaviors can be transformed and new habits formed that can lead to a healthier lifestyle.
Studies clearly show that our behaviors produce the results we see in our lives. If you don’t like the results, then change the behaviors. Yet, this simple concept seems to elude most people who struggle each day to make the right choices and improve their lives.
Consider for a moment the great quote from renowned life coach, Wayne Dyer, “Our lives are the sum total of the choices we have made.” Think about it. The average adult makes more than 4,000 micro-decisions each day – many unconscious and, perhaps, inconsequential, but in the aggregate, along with all of the bigger decisions we make, they can shape our lives in very profound ways. So, the question you have to ask is “what kind of life are my daily choices creating and, if I don’t like what I see, what can I do to change the results?”
So how does this apply to personal finances and building wealth?
Think of all choices as you would interest compounding over time – each one building on the consequences of all previous decisions. The decision to upgrade to a Lexus from the Toyota Solara; the sudden urge to splurge on the latest flat screen TV; choosing to vacation in the Swiss Alps instead of Lake Tahoe; or simply stopping each day to buy a latte, may all seem innocuous and affordable; however, in the aggregate, and over a long period of time, they can seriously impact your ability to accumulate wealth or impede your spend-down plan in retirement. By reconsidering your choices, you could be saving $1000 every month that could continue to compound at 8 percent, which, over a 25 year period, could add a million dollars to your retirement account.*
If you were to track your daily financial choices what would you see?
- Do you spend without a budget?
- Do you go to the grocery store without a shopping list?
- Do you rationalize big or impulse purchases?
- Do you constantly monitor your investment accounts, or do you stay focused on your long-term objectives?
- Do you adhere to a clearly defined savings plan?
In personal finances, as in life in general, the difference between success and failure is usually in the choices we make each and every day – not some monumental decision that goes bad. Many of the high profile, millionaire athletes who find themselves bankrupt get there, not by making some huge investment mistake (although that is known to happen); rather they arrive there gradually by making bad choices on a daily basis.
Monitor and Measure for Best Results
Everyone likes to keep score. For most of us, when we keep score, we try to focus on improving the score. If we incorporate this natural human tendency into a plan to change our behaviors we could see vast improvements in all aspects of our lives, including our health, our relationships and in our personal finances. All it requires is:
- Recognize the behavior that needs to be changed
- Establish realistic goals (the smaller the better – think baby steps) for the results you want to achieve
- Monitor and track your activities (keep a journal; you can also download Smart Phone apps that will help you track spending.
- Reward yourself for achieving desired results
- Get a financial coach –it’s the most effective way to ensure accountability.
Blaine Bowers, MBA, CFP®
*This illustration assumes the hypothetical investment earns an 8% average annual return rate, compounded every four weeks. The return is show for illustrative purposes only and is not intended to predict the return of any particular investment, which will fluctuate with market conditions. Your actual results may differ. Regular investing does not ensure a profit or protect against loss in a declining market.