The 30 Day Challenge – Five Steps to Overcome Financial Complacency

Have you done any goal setting for this year? How about action plans? Do you find yourself, as many do, simply in a place of complacency? I get it, this can be difficult stuff to work through.


I want to offer you some time-tested advice from someone who truly wants you to climb out from under whatever financial, emotional or spiritual rock you’ve been hiding under and move on.


The politics of our day and the general condition of the world give us plenty of reasons for concern. Concern can also be translated into stress and worry, which has all sorts of ugly effects on our health, relationships and money decisions.


Through the decades of your life there have always been periods of turmoil – and yet somehow you’ve survived. Furthermore, not to deflate you, there will continue to be turmoil of some kind till the day you die. If you believe as I do, our job is to keep moving forward, keep hope and optimism alive and trust in something (Someone) bigger than ourselves. Hopefully we do this with the specific intent of making this world a better place when we leave it as compared to when we found it.


So when you finally come to the place in your life where the pain of staying where you are is greater than the pain of changing, I offer a simple roadmap for effecting some positive change – right now!


Since my bailiwick is financial planning and wealth management, perhaps the context of these points can relate to getting out of debt, saving more money, getting serious about retirement, or just a simple annual financial ‘tune-up’. However, the principles work just the same for losing weight, getting in shape, or improving relationships in your life.


I offer these as five steps to a better you:


  1. Discover where/who you are. Know your current status and your strengths and weaknesses to addressing it. Prescription without diagnosis is malpractice…in any area of life. How will you know the right direction to where you want to go if you don’t know from where you’re starting? For financial planning, itemize and analyze how much you earn, spend, owe, and own. Write it down, total it up and track it.
  2. Set Specific Goals. If you don’t know where you’re going, chances are you’re already there. Goals are simply defining where you want to go. They must be written down and they must be measurable for progress. So, what is your “promise land”? What does success look like for you? Be specific! Answer the questions of who, what, when, where, why, how and how much. For example, ‘Eliminate debt by…’, ‘save $5000 this year’, ‘retire in 24 months’.
  3. Get a Plan. Your plan, as with goals, should be written and is made up of the steps you will take to get to your goals. Each goal may have multiple steps. Outline the steps and revisit the plan regularly. A goal without a plan is nothing more than a wish. Wishes seldom come true without action.
  4. Commitment is so much easier when you document where you are, where you want to be and the steps you’ll take to get there but you also need to share your commitment with others. This is accountability. The more we tell people what we are intending to do, the more likely we are to carry through with our plans. Your friend, financial planner, pastor, fitness coach, etc.
  5. Regular Review. Writing your plan down and revisiting it regularly helps you keep track of the little steps you’ve taken to move forward and any changes that may need to be made along the way. We all get discouraged. We all know change is hard. But, seeing the little changes encourages us to keep moving forward. Very few things worth accomplishing are easy and every little win or loss should motivate us to the next step of accomplishment because we know at the end waits a worthy goal. Don’t give up!


30 Day Launch

Of all five of the steps to improving your year financially, step ONE is the most important. It sets everything in motion and launches you into a discovery mode that will produce huge rewards.


By the way, you’ll notice the absence of the ‘B’-word in my steps. What, no ‘budget’? Nope. I’m relying on what I think I’ve come to understand about the human mind. You see, most readers of this article will find it interesting, but have no real intent on making a life-changing metamorphosis. They are the ones who want more information and want to make another budget that never gets followed.


However, for those who really want to retire, or really want to get out from under the burden of debt – they’ll just begin. For them, the pain of staying where they are is much greater than the pain of changing their habits and they will do anything necessary to make that change. If that is you, congratulations – you’re ‘there’!


When you change your habits, you’ll change your life. If your habit is doing another budget but never acting on it, you won’t change.


Experts tell us that change can occur in 30 days. Over the years, I’ve read about and seen many really uninspiring methods of helping folks get a handle on things like their spending. Hands down, the most impactful and life-changing technique I’ve ever used is this: write down every single cent that you spend for the next thirty days.


Buy a small pocket notebook for each of you (if married) or download one of a number of phone apps that allow you to keep this info. After seven days you’ll be amazed at where your money goes. In two weeks you’ll have already shamed yourself into beginning a change in spending ‘habits’. At the end of thirty days, come together (in a truce) and see where your money is going. I doubt anyone will have to say any more to you. You’ll see that which is holding you back.


Why should a hopeful retiree, young or old, go through this drill? Because the single biggest determinant of whether you’ll be able to retire AND stay retired comes down to this number. I have clients with millions whose funds aren’t going to last them as long as others with tens of thousands into retirement.


Your lifestyle priorities, as evidenced by your spending ‘habits’, are the greatest single factor in the longevity of your retirement assets. I suggest that you spend the next thirty days and discover what this number is for you. It is truly mission critical.


Once you’ve identified where your spending is going, it’ll be much easier to make priority decisions about how to allocate the resources that you have. So moving to Step Two becomes possible – you have something quantitative with which to set the goal.


Feel free to correspond if I can be of assistance on your thirty day journey. I’d like to hear and help your success story and provide clear direction for your retirement.

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