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Top 5 Money Principles to Achieve Financial Well-Being

"Financial well-being" is loaded term. It can mean many things to many people. It's almost impossible to give it a description. To some, it's chasing wealth, status, and financial abundance. To others, it's contentment, peace of mind, or becoming financially stress free. That's the beauty of financial well-being. You get to narrow its scope and define it for yourself. However, for a lot of us that process can be hard to internalize. So in this blog post we are going to share what our top five principles are for pharmacists to achieve their version of financial well-being. 

Money is a tool, not a goal.

I have young kids and a fun conversation most of us parents get to experience (oftentimes in a car) is the "why" dialog. You know, when your child continues to ask "why" after every response you give them. It starts with a simple and innocent question about a bunny and magically turns into you explaining why the Minnesota Vikings are finally going to win a Super Bowl next year. The same type of sporadic and nonsensical path gets taken when people see money as a goal. "I want to have $1,000,000 in my retirement account by the time I retire." Why? "Well, it's a good round number." Why? "Because it makes me feel good." Why? "Because it's a million dollars, duh!" So what? And around and around we go. There is no purpose behind that thinking.

Instead, money needs to be looked at as a goal. A means to an end. A tool to help you achieve whatever it is you've been working a lifetime accumulating it for. When you understand the "why" behind your money you become more focused on the outcomes it can provide and not the ownership of it itself. Now, the pinnacle of financial well-being isn't an arbitrary number on an account statement, but instead a reality filled with purpose your money helped create. And that is far more appealing and satisfying over the long-term. 

You can't manage what you don't measure.

There are many instances when I see people who believe that they are one great budget away from financial freedom. All I need to do is to write down categories of where I want to spend my money and input an aspirational number next to it and I'm set! It's the same type of thinking people wake up with on January 1st of every year. It's so aspirational in nature. I applaud the thinking, but it's pointless without execution and as humans we execute through habit not aspiration. Habits are hardwired into our brain. We can't just create budgets for ourselves and truly believe that we have the mental framework to follow-through. Some do (see discipline below), but for most it's another short lived goal like most of our resolutions in January.

So what can we do? Well to start, you need to face your spending habits head on. And the best way to do this is to unapologetically track where you're money is going. Like any good business, you need to know your numbers. And the only way to get that is to accurately track what's going on. When you have that information, you can evaluate the reality of your finances. There is no hiding behind "next month I'll hit my budget" kick the can down the road type of behavior when you force yourself to come face to face with your financial decisions. It creates accountability with yourself and overtime that accountability will produce habit change. 

Great, but what does this have to do with financial well-being? It creates a framework of real-time data you can use to make big financial decisions. You want to buy a house but are uncertain if you can afford the new mortgage? Great, you now have six to eighteen to twenty four months of spending history you can attach to that new mortgage. Can you swing it? Either way, you are inviting the reality of your financial life to have a say in those big decisions and not some fairy tail budget.

Discipline equals freedom. Motivation equals a mirage. 

Doing stuff we don't want to do is not enjoyable. I was always in amazement when I would meet people who got up every morning and worked out. Like clockwork, their alarm would ring and they would be off to the gym. Nothing seemed to get in the way of this routine. My initial reaction was always "wow, these people have to be extremely motivated to pull this off every morning!" I later came to learn that motivation had nothing to do with it. In most instances, that routine was as unpleasant for them as it is for anyone else. So what would keep them going? They understood the power of discipline. 

Far to often we rely on motivation to get stuff done. In the moment, it may seem that its just want you need. But over a long period of time you come to realize that motivation is a fickle mirage. It comes and it goes. It's as reliable as a cat (cat owners know what I'm talking about!). Motivation can be altered by something as small as having low blood sugar in a given day. We can't rely on it to help us achieve financial well-being. Discipline is what we find on the other side of that coin . It's a forcing mechanism you have created for yourself to get stuff done when you don't feel like doing it. 

The road to achieving personal financial well-being is tough. It's going to be filled with unpopular decisions and personal sacrifice. Don't use motivation to get you through. You'll never make it. Instead, build the discipline in your life that will always be there for you. It will create freedoms in your life you never new were possible. 

Ignore and Avoid Status Games

"Comparison is an act of violence against the self.” - Iyanla Vanzant. Why is it that we chase status and prestige? Why can't we find contentment and happiness with what we have? The need to impress and boast about what we have is in our DNA. It makes us feel good in the moment. It provides the positive reinforcement we crave after accomplishing something great. But it only lasts as long as it takes someone else to do it better. And in today's world, that happens very quickly. It's also a big determent to financial well-being. If you're always competing with the world for attention, status, and popularity you forget about what matters most, your happiness. Without that, you'll always be left with a feeling of wanting more.

The best thing we can do is not allow ourselves to play the game at all. Create a mind frame for yourself that values the opinions of the people you actually care about and that's it. Bigger and flashier is not always better and more valuable. When you can get yourself to a spot in life where you don't need outside affirmation to find joy in your accomplishments, you'll have found the beautiful world of funded contentment. This is where you find a focused mind that is dedicated to finding internal wellness. And without the outside distraction of all the status games going on. you can freely pursue your best version of financial well-being.

If You Don't Have Health, You Don't Have Anything

Financial well-being and physical/mental health are very much intertwined. Money can buy a lot of things, but it can't buy health. Imagine having everything you could ever want in life. You've been extremely successful and the byproduct of that success is the accumulation of extreme wealth. You have multiple homes all over the world. You have the ability to go where you want, when you want, with whomever you want. Nothing can stop you from doing anything you desire. But along with all of that, you wake up every morning with a headache. It's a pain right between your eyes that never goes away. You've tried everything. You've consulted some of the best experts in the world with no luck. So everyday you wake up and have to deal with that little throbbing in your head all day long. With certain medications, you are able to get a short reprieve from the annoyance of it being there 24/7. But every morning it comes back. At this point, you may seem to have everything you could ever want in the world, except one.  

We can't create our best financial lives without health. It doesn't matter if your an investment genius, or a business titan. Without health, all of those endeavors eventually come full circle back to wanting something you can't buy. So as you chase financial success for yourself, don't do it at the cost of your health. It's not worth it and it definitely shouldn't be a trade off your willing to make. Take care of yourself. Eat good food, exercise and invest your resources in your own wellness. It will give a you a big head start in your quest to finding financial well-being. 

Derek Delaney is a Minnesota (Minneapolis / Rochester area)  Fee-Only financial advisor serving clients across the country. PharmD Financial Planning provides professionals and families with financial planning and investment management with a focus on tax-efficient retirement planning.

As a fee-only, fiduciary, and independent financial advisor, Derek Delaney is never paid a commission of any kind, and has a legal obligation to provide unbiased and trustworthy financial advice.

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