Financial priorities are the best way to move your financial life forward. But what holds you back from achieving these priorities are your everyday financial weaknesses. Plain and simple: Poor spending decisions and habits, combined with a lack of financial discipline, are the daily roadblocks which keep you from realizing your financial priorities. Whether you want to buy a house, send your kid to college, or pay off debt, you will continue to struggle unless you take action on your personal financial weaknesses. No amount of desire will help you attain your financial goal if you don’t take action.
Thankfully, there’s a way to turn financial weakness into a tool to move you closer to your financial priority. Yep, you read that correctly. Curbing your financial weakness, while simultaneously making progress on your financial priority, is something you absolutely can do.
Financial priorities are funny thing. We all have them. He wants to pay for his kids’ college education. She wants to buy a house. They want to get out of credit card debt. We all have something that is the ultimate financial goal for us. But because it’s the number one priority, it’s often the most lofty, and hardest to attain. Your priority likely requires thousands of dollars and/or years of time to complete. For this reason you let it slide on a day-to-day basis. New school clothes for the kids preempt their future education needs, a family vacation this year seems more important than contributing to the down-payment fund. Each year you run in place, never really getting close to your goal. Then, all of a sudden, your son graduates from high school and there is no college fund. Or your lease ends and you realize you haven’t met your down-payment goal and will have to sign yet another lease.
What percentage of your monthly income goes toward your financial goal? Go ahead, do the math. The extremely low percentage might surprise you. If you say your number one financial priority is your kids’ education, yet you contribute less than 1 percent of your income to their college fund a month—it’s time for a reality check.
And on the flip side, while a financial priority is often long-term and hard to grasp, financial weaknesses never leave your side. They are the ever-present devil on your shoulder encouraging you to make bad choices with your money. Financial weaknesses are the habits which hold us back from achieving so much in our lives. Though some are in denial about their financial weaknesses, most of us can name ours immediately. He dines out too much. She spoils her dog. They go on multiple trips a year they can barely afford. When you get to the end of a month where, yet again, you don’t have enough left to contribute to your financial priority, you act surprised. But why should you be? Nothing has changed.
It all comes down to motivation. Why would you stop buying clothes when it makes you happy? Why stop dining out so much when you’ve managed to make it work this long? And here’s the thing, your financial weakness may actually not be all that damaging. Maybe your dining-out habit causes you to go $50 over budget each month. Okay, that’s not the end of the world. The real issue isn’t that you go over budget $50 a month, it’s that this money isn’t going to your actual number one priority. You say you want to buy a house, but that $70 shirt you just bought says otherwise. You say you want to send your kids to college, but that annual $5,000 vacation doesn’t reflect this.
Independently, your financial weakness will continue to be a weakness and your number one priority will continue to be neglected, unless you match them up. How you match them up is to set specific, 30-day goals. This month I will spend $150 less on dining out. This month I will spend $75 less on clothing. Then you must commit this savings to your number one financial priority.
Every time you say “no” to your financial weakness you are saying “yes” to your top financial priority. It’s an excellent system that, in essence, kills two birds with one stone. You will curb your financial weakness and finally begin to make progress on your financial priority. Don’t let another month go by where you neglect what you really want to do with your money. Make a plan, and stick to it. Your financial priority, no matter how lofty, is attainable with a little bit of discipline.
Peter Dunn, aka Pete the Planner, is an award-winning financial mind who has authored five books, hosts the popular Pete the Planner radio show and travels around the country offering financial education. His signature wit will have you laughing as you learn. For more from Peter, visit www.petetheplanner.com.