Money in itself is neither good nor bad. If it is managed with wisdom and care, it can bring much good into our lives. This year we want to help you get financially organised by bringing clarity, simplicity and order to your finances. Through this column, we will help you feel secure for the future, no matter what life throws at you. Don’t miss the useful tips we shall be giving you each month starting now.
Make 2015 about reorganising the details of your financial life. Shelve those dramas of past years, when each month grips you with money panic – “Do I have enough money in the account to pay bills?” “Have I overstepped my budget?” “Will the landlord throw me out?” If you have gone through life without knowing how much you are really worth or what is going in your financial life, this is the year to change all that.
But where do you start? By understanding your past experiences with money and how they affect you now and taking remedial action where necessary. One thing you should bear in mind at all times is that money is nothing more than a tool. Just like a hammer, it can help you build your home but if you drop it on your toe you will experience pain. The power lies not in the hammer but with you and the decisions you make about how to use it.
In the same way, money can help you keep a roof over your head, educate your children, buy property, take holidays and have health insurance for your family. A lack of financial plan, or an obsession with it, can turn an otherwise good life into one of constant struggle and sweat. But adjusting your priorities will help you do just fine with the money you have, as you build a strong financial cover for you and your family.
The other thing you should bear in mind is that the winds of economic change affect each of us in unique ways. You could lose your job or your home, or be faced with an illness in the family that depletes all your savings. There is an old saying that goes: It isn’t what happens to you in life that matters. It is how you handle it. If your financial world is spinning out of control, you might make the unconscious decision to ignore the situation and yourself. Suddenly you are not eating well and are not getting enough sleep and don’t have the energy to take necessary action. Stress may tempt you to live solely in your head where worry festers. This is what you certainly need to change this year as you become more in control of your financial life.
Examining your past…
Let’s get to the nitty-gritty of helping you get organised. First you need to examine your relationship with money. You cannot set financial goals before you examine the past for clues to your current economic situation and also move beyond the past to a successful financial future.
Understanding the reality of your past relationship with money can help you move on and create something better. Knowledge is really power; especially where money is concerned. But also remember change is never easy and you will need an equal measure of commitment and courage to weather the storm that change inevitably creates, as you move from the past to the present and future.
The exercise below will help you get to the point we want you to be as you begin the year with an objective of taking control of your finances. Write out the answers down as they will become helpful as we move on into the year.
How are your finances right now?
• What are your three biggest challenges in terms of finances?
• What are your top three goals for the year?
• What are your top three financial strengths?
Your past is important as it will help you see the future with clarity…
• How did you learn about money? Was it through formal lessons with one of your parents or from their offhand comments? Or did a family member, friend or teacher act as your mentor?
• Was this training adequate? Do you think it serves you to this day, and if so, how?
• If you now regard these lessons woefully inadequate, when did you first wake up to this reality?
• Was your home life stable in terms of money? Did both your parents make money? Do you remember a feeling of financial insecurity?
• Can you remember your parents having money or arguments about it? Did they have similar values when it came to finances? Who do you take after in terms of how you relate to money?
• What would you say are your major issues with money today? Did the same problems crop up while you were growing up?
• Did you get an allowance or pocket money? Were you required to do chores to earn this money or did it come with no strings attached? Was the amount adequate?
• Were your friends in basically the same economic boat as you were? Or do you remember feeling privileged or living is a state of lack in comparison?
• Do you feel that anyone has ever used money to control you? Who? In what way?
• How did your childhood experiences make you feel about money? Were you eager to earn your own? Did you resent money?
• Finally, who taught you to save on a regular basis?
And now to moving forward…
The above questions are about understanding how you were first taught about money. Many of you reading this piece are decades past your childhood. You now need to focus on a few more questions to understand the evolving nature of your relationship with money. These additional questions bring you forward in time and allow you to see how you have managed on your own and where you may need to make adjustments .
• When you first left home to live on your own, did you know how to manage your money? Were your bills paid on time?
• If you are married or living with someone, who is in charge of the finances? Does this arrangement suit you? If you have relinquished financial management to your partner or spouse, would you be able to take control if it became necessary?
• Are you a dreamer who trusts the future will take care of itself, or are you a planner who manages every detail of your financial life?
• What’s your biggest financial regret?
No doubt after this exercise you have more insight into the reality that brought you to your current financial situation. We all come from our past with things we are grateful for and things that make us shake our head in wonder. Whatever the situation, there is no blame to be laid at the feet of anyone – especially yourself. It is now time to move on as you are no longer driven by elements from the past: unconscious forces, wounds, or inadequate instruction. You now have to take financial control into your own hands. Making and managing money is incredibly empowering and you will discover this in the coming months.