As I reflect on my more than 20 years working in the financial industry, I often think about what I would tell the 18-year-old me, given the chance. And what I might do differently if I knew then what I know now.
The truth is I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s been a privilege to experience so much—mistakes and all! But as Tony Robbins says, “Success leaves clues.” And two decades of working closely with clients and their money has taught me what true financial success looks like.
Even though I can’t turn back time, I can help others by sharing what I’ve learned over the years. If you want to feel good about your money and achieve financial success, here’s what you need to know.
#1: Nurture an Abundance Mindset
As Stephen Covey wrote in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, we are conditioned to have a scarcity mindset. In other words, most of us are taught to believe there’s only so much to go around, and another person’s gain is our loss. Of course, many businesses thrive off of instilling and exploiting this mentality. But this mindset is dangerous when it comes to our financial success.
A scarcity mindset can manifest itself in our personal finances in a variety of ways. For many people, it means living in fear of not being able to afford the life they want. This creates daily anxiety around their money, which prevents them from focusing on the big picture and making good long-term decisions. You can see how this easily becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The good news is you can re-condition yourself to adopt an abundance mentality. When you start to believe there’s always enough to go around, something shifts. I’ve seen it time and again with my clients. Those who choose an abundance mindset tend to have the most financial success.
It’s true that what we focus on expands. If you’re grateful for what you have, you’ll always have enough. And when you feel good about your money, you tend to make better decisions with it—decisions that compound into eventual financial freedom.
#2: Mind the Gap!
Another thing I’ve learned from observing my clients is that financial success isn’t about how much money you make. It’s about how much money you spend.
I’ve worked with people who make eye-watering amounts of money who can’t seem to get ahead. And I’ve had clients with modest incomes who were still able to build a considerable nest egg for retirement. It all comes down to one simple decision: spend less than you earn.
What I love about this aspect of your financial life is that it’s never too late to change. Like Vicki Robin says in her book, Your Money or Your Life, all it takes is a bit of self-awareness to start seeing better results.
If you’re not used to thinking this way, start by tracking your income versus your spending. Good money habits take time to build but taking an honest look at your current financial situation is a necessary first step. You need to understand where your money is coming from and where it’s going.
From there, you can look for opportunities to spend less, negotiate a better price, or eliminate spending altogether. Or you can look at the other side of the equation and find ways to earn more. Either way, as you make these improvements, you’ll start to feel good about your money. And with this momentum working in your favor, you can make better decisions in other areas of your financial life, like saving more and investing for the future.
#3: Tune Out the Noise
The last nugget of wisdom I can share is this: financially successful people don’t react to every negative headline and market correction that comes their way. In other words, they stay the course. They’re confident in their financial plans and stay focused on their long-term goals, not short-term distractions.
Market researcher Dalbar publishes an annual Quantitative Analysis of Investor Behavior (QAIB) report that those of us in the investment world love to cite. This study proves year after year that when left to their own devices, the average investor makes counterproductive decisions. Why? Because they let their emotions sit in the driver’s seat.
Humans are emotional beings. We have so many irrational biases that dictate our behavior when left unchecked. A prime example is loss aversion, a concept developed by behavioral economists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky in 1979. They found that the pain of loss is psychologically more powerful than the pleasure of gain. In other words, most people will take a larger risk to avoid a loss than to seek a gain.
Now, imagine how this tendency impacts the average investor’s investment decisions! It explains why so many people feel compelled to go to cash when the stock market falls or avoid investing in the first place. But we know from experience (and Dalbar) that these decisions lead to disappointing outcomes.
One of the benefits of working with a financial advisor is that we can help you avoid making these emotional decisions. If you want to feel good about your money, you have to learn to tune out the noise. Headlines are designed to trigger your emotions, but headlines are also largely meaningless when it comes to your long-term financial plan. Focus on your goals, and you’re likely to reach them.
You Can Feel Good About Your Money, Too
Seeing so many different attitudes and approaches to money over the last 20+ years has given me a unique viewpoint. This experience has also taught me what works—and more importantly, what doesn’t—when it comes to financial success. I strive to apply this knowledge and experience to my daily work as I help my clients achieve true financial freedom.
If you’d like to learn more about how Align Financial can help you feel good about your money, please get in touch. We’d be delighted to hear from you.