Are you stuck in a frustrating financial situation?
Do your personal finances seem like an insurmountable obstacle that is always holding you back from living your life? In this excerpt from his book, David Rankin provides a road map on your journey to financial wellbeing.
When I was a boy, my father had a book about microchips. The front cover featured silicon chip superimposed on a fingernail. At the time, he told me that these tiny electronic circuits (which are now on course to become invisible to the human eye) were set to change the world. Occasionally, I think back to his prophetic words. When a satellite-powered app shows me the way to a new destination. When I track down a long-lost friend on social media within seconds. When I tune in to breaking news from half way around the planet on my smart phone. Microchip technology has transformed our existence, created new life choices and empowered us in ways we could not have foreseen and so it is with our money. When we actively gain control of it and harness its enormous potential, the transformative and empowering effect on our lives is beyond anything we could have imagined. Finances that start to obey our wishes are nothing short of a revelation; one which inspires ever more ambitions that would have been unthinkable before our money makeover.
It was only when I moved on from a career in banking to become a financial coach that I began to witness this turn-around in my customers’ lives. A change that comes about when they are given the skills they need to take complete charge of their money and to channel its power. After which, they never look back. In nearly every case, and utterly regardless of rich or poor, there is an aha-moment. An eye-opening realisation that not only does this path of total financial control actually exist, but that it is fulfilling and enriching beyond anything they have ever experienced. Hence my decision to write a book in which I have broken down this roadmap to financial success into 12 simple steps. My way of making this ‘road less travelled’ accessible to all who wish to venture there.
Choosing the Destination: Setting Goals
Life is a journey. It is an idea most of us subscribe to in theory, but few of us live out in practice. When we set off on a holiday, we know where we are going and where the next destination is—be it the airport or the hotel—because the trip is planned in advance and executed according to that plan. It happens because it’s planned. Yet, for many of us, this proactive journey does not really happen. Rather, we end up drifting on the ocean of life. We find ourselves in unexpected places which, more often than not, we do not really like, but we end up staying there anyway. Obviously, any journey requires some degree of flexibility, but a journey without a plan is a permanent magical mystery tour, with the novelty being very short lived. Our finances are the engine of this journey. If we neglect them, they break down, splutter along or never fire on all cylinders, thereby constraining the breadth and quality of our life experience. The optimisation and ongoing maintenance of our financial engine, will then reward us by taking us on an amazing journey of life that we had never thought possible.
If your finances are taking you nowhere and your life is stuck in a rut, this is your second chance; your opportunity to press reset. Just as a travel story is not about the engine that enables the trip, so this information is not primarily about money. If money plays the lead part in your own life story, and if all of your spare energy is spent in maintaining it, this information will help you bring about the change of roles that you require. By systemising our finances, we transform the relationship we have with them. We go from being at the mercy of our money to becoming the master of our money. We transition from order taker to order giver. Money, that we used to perceive as a tyrant, now becomes our liberator.
On the basis that a journey has many destinations—each one propelling us to the next—we start small, but we are encouraged to dream big. Today is the day we begin our financial journey afresh. Anything is possible if we set out with a plan, a map of our life journey, and stick to the route we have chosen. It is astonishing where weeks, months and years of purposeful progress will to- nowhere existence every time.
What better inspiration for our new journey than an expedition into space.
In the summer of 1977, NASA launched Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral in Florida on what, because of US Federal spending cuts at the time, was originally billed as a relatively modest two-planet mission featuring spacecraft that were designed to last five years. Rather than rely on just the finite supply of nuclear power on board these twin probes, NASA decided to use the gravity of the moons and planets on the spacecraft’s journey as a ‘gravitational slingshot’ to propel and redirect them around our solar system. As a result, this dual mission, which is still underway, is now expected to last well into the 2020s, with Voyager 1 having already entered interstellar space and Voyager 2 heading for the same destination. All of this from an expedition that should, in theory, have ended back in the 1980s.
Just as those apparently expendable probes, built on a budget, have rewritten the history of modern space exploration, we too are free to reach for the stars and have the courage to dream. The real inspiration of Voyagers 1 and 2 is thepower they have received during and from their journey. Their expedition made them, and is still making them, more than anything they ever were at the start. Each planet and moon they have visited has given them more energy and renewed direction. In the same way, every destination on our financial journey will give us a sense of reward, momentum and energy that we had never previously thought possible—one that will, in turn, point us to our next goal.
Before any worthwhile journey, comes a plan—our chance to pick our destinations; the goals we will achieve on the way. These are more than just stopping-off points—they are milestones, each one providing us with a source of reward and inspiration that will lead us to even greater achievements. And while our journey has to start in the present, it does not need to be defined by the present. Although we need to accept where we are now, we are encouraged to indulge our passions and to envisage the future that we will be creating. So what would we like our first, and subsequent, destinations to be? What places are we going to actively visit on our financial journey? Now is the time to decide. Now is the time to take the first of our 12 steps on the roadmap to financial success.
Paying our bills on time for the next three months?
Paying off our credit card, which has started to take on a life of its own?
Buying a home?
Investing in, and starting, our own business?
Having enough money to travel the world and experience different languages and cultures?
Being able to afford to spend more time with our children before their 936 weeks of childhood are snatched away from us?
Maybe it is none of these, maybe one, and maybe several—one goal at a time, with each goal opening the door to the next. Picking our destinations is at once exciting and intimidating. Breaking away from our familiar, predictable existence and choosing the exit road straight out of our comfort zone is never something that comes naturally.
But we can take strength from the knowledge that the directions given point to a tried, tested and proven path.
When we open our mind to a journey, we tend to undertake a mental leap straight to the final destination, but the staging posts that lead up to this point are just as important. Nowhere is this disconnect in our society, between starting point and journey’s end, more evident than in the world of personal finance. We are encouraged to plan for our retirement and make provision for our death, irrespective of our ability to manage our everyday life in the form of our day-to-day finances. It is the equivalent of trying to handle a powerful motorcycle, without ever having learned to ride a bike.
In the same way that a person’s first step is a rite of passage that defines the end of babyhood, the first achievement on our financial journey is what I term unspectacularly spectacular’. Just like the foundations of a tall building, which can be months in the making. At a superficial level, nothing seems to be happening when, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. A basis is being put in place that, although unassuming, will support the massive structure that is to follow. Similarly, those seemingly unremarkable three months of punctual repayments have the power to set the scene for a new financial future; an odyssey that is a departure from all we have ever known. Let the journey begin!
Tips to Control your Finances
1. Work out how much you need for your living expenses (groceries, petrol, coffees, take-away food and meals out) each week.
2.Withdraw this amount from the ATM on the same day every week and use this cash to make all of your living expenses purchases.
3.Park the plastic – both credit and debit cards, so that you don’t lose track of what you’re spending. With this set amount to live off, you’ll think harder about how much of your cash you spend and what you spend it on.
4.Treat your financial journey as you would treat any other trip or journey.
5.Start by choosing your destination. This very act is a key step in the process of taking control. Your money then starts to assume its rightful place in your life – becoming the financial engine that will power your life’s progress.
With this new found momentum, you are able to decide on the path you will take. A path that is chosen consciously, as opposed to happening by default. A path that empowers as it progresses. A path that, once embarked upon, you will never turn back from
David Rankin is an award-winning bank manager and small business specialist.
Author of the personal budgeting service and book, Sort My Money www.sortmymoney.com.au