The following guest post is from Neal Frankle, of Wealth Pilgrim. After reading the post, head over to Neal’s site and check out his free subscription options.
“I’d do anything to improve my financial situation except give up …..(you fill in the blanks).
Is this a sentence you’ve heard yourself say before?
Several years ago, a woman I met who told me she was in a desperate financial situation and needed help. She was right.
Her income was less than $3000 a month and she was spending over $4500 a month. It doesn’t take a genius to project out the inevitable result of that equation.
When we looked at her expenses, it turned out that she was spending over $1100 a month leasing and flying small airplanes. She just loved flying and told me she would not give it up.
This was a woman with almost no assets and very little income. In fact, her only major asset was her home and she was creating the real possibility of losing that home very quickly.
She had a reservation. She was willing to ask for help and take action on everything else other than the one thing that would have the most significant benefit. Flying was her stash and it was going to send her to the poor house.
I bring it up because I think we all have our own reservations or sacred cows. I agree that being clear on our priorities is great and really helps clarify who we really are. But our reservations can sometimes really hurt us.
In a way, it’s similar to what people struggling with addiction confront. They have their stash they don’t tell people about. They would rather die than give it up, and in some tragic circumstances… they do.
Recovering addicts on the other hand, know they can’t have a stash – it’s too dangerous. They also know they can’t have any sacred cows whatsoever. They realize that they have to remain sober no matter what. Their sobriety comes first every time. No question about it.
So what can you learn from this? I think we all have to ask ourselves if we have some reservation about our financial lives. Are you willing to do whatever it takes to improve your financial situation or do you have a secret that you’re not willing to share? Are there one or two things that you aren’t willing to give up despite the cost?
Here’s a 3 step method that will help you get your priorities straight:
1. Find out if there is a problem or not. If you can afford your expensive hobbies, go for it. But if not, it’s time to take action. You probably already know if your spending is out of line with your income. (One subtle hint of this might be when you notice that the only people who call you are bill collectors).
2. Write down what is going to happen if you don’t fix the problem. Using the example of Linda, she was running a deficit of $1500 a month. We projected out what that would mean for her in 4 years. In her case, it meant she’d lose her home.
3. Decide if you are willing to pay that price. In Linda’s case, if she lost her home, she’d be forced to live with her son and she wasn’t willing to do that. When she clearly saw the cost of her decisions, she became motivated to take action.
My experience tells me that we have an endless list of wants. It’s human nature. The need to satisfy our wants is made greater by constant encouragement from television and other media outlets. Nothing wrong with having wants. But just because we have wants doesn’t mean we can afford them.
By going through this process on a step-by-step basis, you’ll be able to identify those wants that you really can’t afford and have a process by which you’ll be able to wean yourself from them.
Have you had to go “cold turkey” on your stash? What was it like? Do you know somebody else who really should?