The Current Debate
The question of finances and the level of attention people should pay (or not pay) to their finances is one that divides opinions. Some believe money is what makes the world go round. Others want to strike a note of caution by emphasizing the fact that the best things of life are not monetary.
In this case (and in many cases like this), the wise course of action is somewhere in the middle. Yes, the best things in life are not monetary, but a lack of proper attention to our finances can limit our ability to enjoy those “best things of life.”Yes, the best things in life are not monetary, but a lack of proper attention to our finances can limit our ability to enjoy those 'best things of life.' Click To Tweet
Truly enjoying the best things of life
One of the emotions that often attend a lack of attention to one’s finances is anxiety. When a lack of attention to your finances leads to rounds of anxiety, it makes it difficult for you to focus on anything. When it is time for your hobbies, you lose focus and attention. Perhaps there is a huge debt that needs to be paid, or a poor credit report is preventing access to finances you need urgently. When such anxieties strike, the “best things of life” might be more difficult to enjoy.
Alternatively, take the emotion of fear. Lack of proper financial planning may increase the uncertainties of the future, and the fear of tomorrow might take away the pleasures of today. The fear of losing your job, the fear of retiring, the fear of disability or unexpected disease conditions are the common ones. Fear can take away the ability to enjoy the “best things of life.”
Lack of proper financial planning can make it challenging to deal with those fears when they happen. While other non-monetary emotional issues accompany job loss, retirement, disability, or diseases; apathy towards financial planning will only worsen the problem (vice versa).While other non-monetary emotional issues accompany job loss, retirement, disability, or diseases; apathy towards financial planning will only worsen the problem (vice versa) Click To Tweet
Constant financial troubles can make you irritable and angry. The people with whom you are to enjoy the best things of life become unwilling victims of your negative emotion.
The path to Self-Actualization
Furthermore, a sense of fulfillment is one of those best things in life. Abraham Maslow called it self-actualization. Whatever route you choose to get to that self-fulfillment, a shoddy financial life cannot take you there. Do you want to lead out a humanitarian effort that would transform your community? Do you want to rise to the top of the corporate ladder? Do you want to establish businesses that meet urgent needs in your community? Do you want to impact the lives of young people in society? Whatever it is that constitutes self-fulfillment for you; it will be harder to get there with an unplanned financial life. As Winston Churchill puts it, “He who fails to plan is planning to fail.”Whatever it is that constitutes self-fulfillment for you; it will be harder to get there with an unplanned financial life. Click To Tweet
So while it is true that money can’t buy happiness and that the best things in life are not monetary. It is imperative to understand that a lack of proper financial planning can inhibit our enjoyment of those best things in life. Proper financial planning is essential to self-actualization.Proper financial planning is essential to self-actualization. Click To Tweet
Setting the right context
You will not get the necessary impetus or motivation to spend more time thinking about your finances unless you put it in the proper context. You need to start seeing your finances as a part of your whole existence. It is not just one aspect of life detached from the others; it is integral to the others.
A goal-oriented life
The first place to begin is to start thinking or rethinking your life goals. The “American Dream” is not enough. There must be specific goals you want to achieve in life. What do you want to do with your life? How do you want to be remembered? What do you want your legacy to be? You don’t have to “change the world” or have your statue in a public place. You don’t have to be the President of the United States or the next celebrity. But whoever you are and whatever are your strengths and capacities; you need to set crucial goals that are important to you in life. If you aim for nothing, you will hit it every timeIf you aim for nothing, you will hit it every time Click To Tweet
Let those “ultimate” goals inform your short term, medium-term, and long term goals. Let them give perspective to your life in the short run and the long run. The ultimate goal(s) that is (are) not translated into SMART short term, medium-term, and long term goals will only be that- goals. The path from dreaming to achieving is to learn to break down the big destination into the smaller (and not so small) steps.
Evaluating the Gap
Next is to assess the gap that exists between where you are and where you want to be. The unexamined life, Socrates said, “is not worth living.”
How close or how far are you to that ultimate goal? In what ways will your short, medium, and long term goals help achieve the ultimate goals? What is the road you need to take from here to there?
What kind of person do you need to become to get to that destination? What things should you incorporate or excise to get there? How should the dynamics of your life change?
Finances as part of the evaluation
It is now in this context that you begin to have a proper view of your finances. To get you from here to there require attitudinal changes, changes in perspective, maybe changes in a relationship, jobs, and locations. But one part of the equation is a change in personal finances. This part of the equation is not lesser or greater than the others. It is such a comprehensive view of life that ultimately leads us to our ultimate goals via the short, medium, and long term plans.
The same attention we give to other areas of life that impact the achievement of our life goals must be given to our personal finance. If you try to read a set number of self-improvement books to improve your personality, relationships, and attitudes, you need to set similar goals for personal finance books.
If we begin to see our personal finance with these new eyes, we will have a clearer vision. It will no longer be about some boring number crunching or documents filing but an integral part of becoming who we want to be.
Thinking about money this way also helps to free us from materialism and idolatry of money. Money is no longer the ultimate thing but a tool to help us get to the ultimate goal. There is so much freedom that comes from that change in perspective. On the other hand, there is no more apathy towards money because now we can see how it is related to our ultimate goals.