Change Your Habits, Change Your Life

“Bad habits are easier to abandon today than tomorrow.”

Yiddish Proverb

Habits start out like cobwebs but end up as strong as steel cables.  In his classic book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective PeopleStephen Covey describes the good habits that keep us on track in our life endeavors.  In working with many successful investors, we’ve seen that developing good habits is a must.  Not all habits are good, however, and bad habits can sabotage your financial future.  If you change these habits, you can change your life.

Habit #1 – Dependence on Others

We all entertain the fantasy of financial rescue at some point in our lives, but we can’t let those fantasies become a barrier to real accomplishment.

Work to become money-smart by learning about finances and taking a realistic look at your money situation. Map your financial future and set goals for yourself. If you have a life partner, become full partners and share the fulfillment of learning to reach your goals together.

Habit #2 – Putting Things Off

Some people feel so overwhelmed by their finances that they become immobilized, but taking action is vital to your future financial health.

You don’t have to make major changes in your life to get on track.  In reality, major changes are the result of a series of small steps.  Take one small step each day, and your confidence in your ability to handle your finances will grow.

Habit #3 – Allowing Your Fears to Take Over

Fear is part of our instinct for survival, but some people are so afraid of making investment mistakes, they run in the opposite direction when the stock market makes one of its periodic dips.

The greatest risk for most investors is not meeting their goals. The best way to overcome that risk is to consider the time horizon for investing.  If you need money for a new home next year, the stock market is a risky place to invest.     But if you need money in twenty years for retirement, stocks are the most appropriate.  Time will overcome the ups and downs of the market, and the rewards will outweigh the risks.

Habit #4 – Having No Goals or Direction

You won’t get anywhere without careful planning. Without a plan, how can you expect to make dreams come true?

Make a list of your important goals.  The foundation of your life plan will probably be your family, your health, your spiritual life, and your security.  Use as many concrete and specific terms as you can to describe them and when you intend to reach them.

Habit #5 – Not Investing in Your Career

Putting your career on hold indefinitely to raise a family is a worthy pursuit, but it can come back to haunt you.  An interruption in your work history is likely to reduce your earning potential and cost you seniority.

It’s always a good idea to keep up your career skills.  Keep up your professional certifications and stay in contact with previous bosses and colleagues.  Taking classes will also help you stay in touch and keep current.

Habit #6 – Not Being Ready When Your Marriage Ends

All marriages end, either in death or divorce.  Most women will be on their own financially for one third of their adult lives, and often the quality of their lives will   depend on their financial skills.

Because you never know what will happen in life, everyone should schedule a contingency day, when you and your partner discuss your finances frankly and openly.  The most caring activity in which you and your spouse can engage is to share your financial condition and your knowledge with each other.

Habit #7 – Not Getting Good Professional Advice

With so much free information out there, you may be reluctant to pay for financial advice or money management.  It’s not the lack of information but the abundance of it that makes it easy to get confused and fail to take any action.

Most people simply do not have the expertise, time and knowledge required to manage a complex investment portfolio.  Schedule a time to sit down with a financial professional to talk about your situation.  Just as you keep your car tuned to prevent a blow up later, so using an expert to do a periodic financial tune-up makes sense for most people.

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