“3…2…1…Happy New Year!” The clock has struck midnight, the ball has dropped, champagne has been popped, glasses are clinking, people are cheering, and – depending on the party – complete strangers are kissing. Amidst all the hoopla, there’s always someone who wants to know what your New Years resolution is. We don’t know if this is just an American fixation, or whether it’s a global obsession, but the reality is that most of these new year’s goals are never achieved.
We’d be willing to bet that almost every one of us has experienced failure in sticking with our new resolutions. January 1st hits (as does the champagne), and we are overwhelmed with a new wave of optimism: we tell ourselves, “this year, I’m going to get in shape, read 47 books, learn a foreign language, ask for a raise and be nicer to the in-laws.” Secretly, we hope we do any part of any one of them. Don’t get us wrong, the desire to improve is great! But do you know what’s even better? Actually improving.
Now, don’t freak out; this isn’t yet another article on the 3 or 10 best New Years resolutions. Instead, the point of this article is to simply get up and go.
You read that right; just get up and go. That’s the trick. All these goals and resolutions are fine and dandy. Many of them can be significant and truly important. But most of them aren’t worth the paper on which they’re written. We often talk about the discipline, dedication, and accountability that’s needed to achieve the goals, but if you don’t start, those things don’t matter either. The most important piece of the puzzle is…STARTING! Get up go do something. Take that first step, and the rest will more easily fall into place. Stop wasting time by comparing yourself to others, or even by looking back on what you didn’t do last year. The hardest (but best) step to achieving the life you have always wanted is simply beginning!
Since this is a financial blog, we’ll focus on the financial resolutions so many people make. They really aren’t that much different than any other resolution. You want to change, to accomplish something, to gain financial freedom. However you phrase it, you want a different financial future than what you’re experiencing now. To accomplish any of that, you have to start something, and we’d like to make that easy. If you take the first step, it will be easier to take the second step; those two steps make the third easier, and the pattern continues. Discipline and dedication are great concepts, but they’re too broad to be helpful. Everyone with goals will say they are dedicated to the goal and that they want to be disciplined. But what does that mean? Can you honestly tell yourself what discipline and dedication really mean without talking about the steps you’ll take? And so we argue that the first step is the most important. Get up and go means to take the first step. Here are some very realistic first steps which will help no matter what your financial goal is.
Calculate Your Net Worth: The first step on any journey is to identify where you are now. What are the assets you own and the liabilities you owe? This is what you’re going to improve with any financial resolution. Take that first step by identifying where you are right now.
Determine What You’re Spending: If you’re going to improve your net worth, you will need to increase your assets and/or decrease your debts. But to do that, you need to have some available cash flow. Figure out what you’re spending so you know what you have to work with.
Develop An Investment Plan: It should go without saying, but you shouldn’t invest in anything until you figure out what rate of return you want to earn and what level of risk you’re willing to accept. Do not even think about buying that stock, that property or that doughnut franchise your in-law is pitching until you’ve developed an investment plan.
Track Your Portfolio: Once you’ve made any investments, you need to know what they’re doing in order to know whether to keep them, invest more in them, or jettison them for something else. In other words, measure performance and compare it against some meaningful and realistic benchmark.
The Step Before The First Step
A lot of good first steps to take, but we realize that they themselves might seem a bit daunting. We can help, and we’d be happy to chat with you about that. For many people, this is a great first step to take before taking the first financial step. Even more appealing, this first step (meeting with us) won’t cost you a dime. We’d love to schedule a time to talk about where you are, where you want to go, what you have to work with and what investments should look like to accomplish your goals. And that introductory meeting is free.
It also comes with a guarantee of 100% objective advice. We help people accomplish their financial goals by providing advice; we do not sell any stock, bond, mutual fund or insurance product. We do not accept commissions from anyone. We simply provide objective advice you can trust. If you’re ready to get up and go, by all means, do it! If you’d like some help before you take a first step (or even after you’ve taken a couple), please give us a call or drop us an email. Forget the “resolutions”; it’s a journey; commit to starting, and we’d love to help you on your way.