By Megan Pacheco, Crosswalk.com
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” -Albert Einstein
Regardless of what challenges we face in life, whether it’s weight, relationships or finances, in order to solve them we first need to get to the “bottom” of the issue – the real source of the problem.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we know that we will never lose those extra pounds with two feet on the treadmill and two hands in a supersized bag of M&M’s. Something has to give, and it’s up to us to decide what gives.
Financial challenges are crippling our society. Young college grads are up to their eyeballs in student loan debt. Marriages are drowning in credit card debt and seniors are fearful about retirement, since they have very little saved for the “winter” season of life.
By now, you may be thinking that the financial struggles we see all around us are beyond rescue, but what if I told you that there is great hope in turning this around? What if that hope lies in you?
Since it’s up to us to decide what will give, here are three simple ways to start breaking our destructive financial habits and acquire financial disciplines that can make or break our financial turnaround:
Own your financial weaknesses
Our financial challenges will not go away unless we own the responsibility for our individual financial situation. No matter how we slice it, it’s not the mortgage brokers who are forcing us to buy homes we can’t afford. It’s not the credit card companies that make us charge all kinds of “wants” now so we can pay for them later. Sooner or later, if we really want our finances to get healthy, we need to recognize and own our financial weaknesses.
If you’re ready for a financial turnaround but don’t know where to start, how about these few steps to get you going:
- Taka a look at 60-90 days of all your spending. Once you do this, a picture of your financial priorities will emerge. Use this information to start making necessary adjustments.
- Find an accountability partner, someone who will be able to ask you the tough questions and someone who will have your financial best interest in mind.
- Set small achievable goals. Don’t try to tackle everything at once. Determine the most urgent problem that needs to be solved, and make a plan to tackle it head on. Small, frequent wins will help you stay encouraged and see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Debt cannot be solved with more debt. You’ll have to reject the impulse of charging your wants or even needs. If you’re ready to live on the income you have, without counting on credit cards to subsidize items your current revenue will not support, here are few simple steps to get started:
- Make all of your cards, with exception of just one left for emergencies, inaccessible to you. Cut them up, freeze them, melt them in your oven, etc.
- Ask someone to help you create a doable debt repayment plan. Tackle either smallest balances first for quick wins or your highest interest balances – up to you. If you’re a visual person, hang your debt reduction schedule on a fridge and mark off every payment you make.
- Set up few rewards for yourself as you tackle your debt so you can celebrate certain milestones.
- Make debt elimination fun. Find a friend or a family member who would join you in the debt roll-down challenge. It’s always easier to have someone who is helping you, cheering you along, and provide a bit of competition.
The short-term, I-want-it-now, “The future will take care of itself” approaches have been failing us right and left, yet we continue in this downward spiral of living for the moment. Most of us will one day face retirement, the winter season of life, so let’s put plans in place that will give us the needed financial margin.
I’m not talking about becoming a paranoid hoarder who survives on ramen noodles and water only to stash 90% of the earnings for the future. I’m talking about simple, doable ways to include long-term planning into our day-to-day financial lives, so let’s go after it:
- Become mortgage free. This is a great way to reduce the amount of financial support you’ll need when retired. Calculate what it would take for you to start pre-paying your mortgage today in order to own your house out right by your retirement age. Make those extra principal payments with every regular mortgage payment. Even if you can pre-pay only a fraction of that amount, do it!
- Create a plan to increase your savings year over year. You should get to the point where a minimum of 10% of your gross pay is set aside for long-term saving purposes. Oh, and don’t forget to take advantage of your employers 401K match!
- Look into long-term care insurance. You may not need it now, but one day you may need to purchase one in order to protect yourself against enormous long-term care costs. If you know what your premium would be, you could create room in your budget today to start setting funds aside for that monthly premium.
Life is unpredictable and we can’t prepare ourselves for every possible financial scenario. But what we can do is take control of our financial habits. After all, we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them…so let’s change the thinking!
Megan Pacheco is one of the new additions to the Finicity (provider of Mvelopes and Money4Life Coaching) team. She comes with over 13 years of experience in the Biblical Finances area. Her content has been published by Money Matters, Do Well and Lifeway's More than Living. She is a mom of two young boys, and lives with her husband David in the Atlanta area.
Publication date: October 23, 2013