When it comes to finance, we live in a world of information overload. One opinion here, another there. You can find about 15 ways to go about doing any one thing. But when it comes to building and sustaining your wealth, it’s important to remember that simple is better.
In fact, that’s how successful people reach the pinnacle – they practice simple daily disciplines obsessively. Jim Rohn said it best, “Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day.”
For my purposes, and yours, I would amend this to say, “Reaching your full financial potential is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day.” That’s how you end up living the life you want.
No Expertise Needed
The simple disciplines we’ll discuss here are just that – simple. They’re not hard to master. No expert knowledge is needed. Perhaps that’s because the best simple disciplines really come down to common sense.
They’re the things that you know you need to do, that you know are good for you. But, they’re the things that are the hardest to do. If it was easy, everyone would be successful. I think that’s an important distinction – finding success is simple, but not easy. You have to be willing to do what others are not.
12 Simple Rules for Building and Sustaining Your Wealth
Reaching your full financial potential is simple, not easy. But, I know that if you practice the simple disciplines we discuss here, it will get easier.
I can say that because I’ve seen it happen first-hand. I’ve been instrumental in instilling these simple disciplines in my clients’ daily lives, in their financial philosophy, and have watched them succeed over and over again. You can too – but it starts with changing something you do daily.
It starts with these 12 simple rules for building and sustaining your wealth:
1. Define your “why” for money. Why do you invest, work, any of it? What is it that money enables you to do? How does your money further and support your most important values? Successful people know the answers to these questions, and you need to know them too. Otherwise, you have nothing to fight for. You can’t live intentionally with your money without this.
2. Conduct your ultimate wants analysis. One of the biggest problems with traditional financial planning is that it relies on a needs analysis, on a scarcity mindset. It limits your financial potential before you even start your journey. But, thinking about what you truly want from life forces you to think with an abundance mindset. That’s how you break through the glass ceiling between what is and what could be.
3. Live within your means. If you’re constantly maxing out your lifestyle, you will never reach your full financial potential. I promise. Living reasonably instead of lavishly can save you from living a deceptively poor lifestyle. Of course, it’s alright to indulge – after all, you’re striving for the life you WANT to live. But, that doesn’t mean undoing all your hard work.
4. Pay yourself first. If you can’t master the simple discipline of saving, everything else in your financial life will have to work harder to pick up the slack. Most of America is experiencing this, since they’re saving virtually nothing. You should be saving 15% – 20% of your income annually, maintaining 3-6 months of liquid expenses. It’s also smart to have 6-12 months of near-liquid cash reserves.
LIFEHACK –Automatic deductions are one of the easiest ways to make sure you pay yourself first, every time.
5. Avoid high-interest, bad debt. Americans currently owe $1 trillion in credit card debt, with balances averaging $9,600. Carrying substantial amounts of high-interest debt like this directly affects your ability to save and invest for your future. And, unless your investments are earning the 15%+ interest you’re probably paying on that debt, investing is an act in futility for you at this point.
Related: Should You Invest or Pay Down Debt?
6. Create your Investment Policy Statement. This document puts your investment strategies, and your most important values and goals on paper. When the market moves, this is the document that keeps you disciplined – it reminds you why you’re invested a certain way. It reminds you of your “why” for money. If an investment doesn’t align with this criterion, then you shouldn’t invest in it.
7. Protection first. Think of everything you’ve built. Think of everything you’ll build in the future. Now, think if it were to all come crashing down. Ugly, isn’t it? That’s why success isn’t dependent on how much money you have. It’s dependent on how well you protect your life’s work from what can destroy it. If you don’t do this, nothing you’re working toward matters.
8. Assemble your power team. You need to assemble a team of your most trusted advisors to help guide you toward financial independence. They should all know one another, and meet regularly on your behalf. Discussions should be had before changes are made in one area of your financial life, to evaluate the impact on your complete financial position. Ideally, you would have one advisor acting as your personal CFO, coordinating this team and your complete financial life.
9. There’s a difference between risk and volatility. Risk simply means the probability that your investment will lose money. The higher risk, the higher that chance. It has no direct effect on your returns. Volatility is the amount of fluctuation a portfolio can experience. The higher the volatility, the more erratic your compound returns can be. Volatility has a direct effect on your returns – it’s what erodes your wealth. Therefore, your first priority should be to mitigate volatility.
10. Time IN the market is what matters. Stock picking, market timing, overconfidence, and more can all wreak havoc on your wealth. You’ll rarely get in or out at just the right time, or consistently pick the winning stock. If you don’t believe me, then maybe you’ll listen to a critical piece of advice from Warren Buffett, “Market forecasters will fill your ear, but never your wallet.”
11. Little changes can yield big results. You don’t necessarily need to make drastic changes to reach your full financial potential. Say you make $100,000 a year and are saving 10% of your salary into a portfolio that earns 7% return annually. Do this for 35 years, and you’ll end up with $1,479,134. But what if you increased your savings rate by just 1%? You’d end up with $1,627,048. That’s $146,914 more just by saving another measly percent.
12. Think like the wealthy when it comes to estate planning. The wealthy have three main goals when it comes to estate planning, 1) Maintain satisfactory streams of income, 2) Protect my wealth from creditors, 3) Avoid the wealth transfer tax forever. Trusts are a great way to accomplish this. And no, trusts and estate plans are not just for the ultra-wealthy. Everyone should have a basic estate plan that, at a minimum, includes a will and durable power of attorney.
Why Does It Matter to You?
Remember, reaching your full financial potential is simple, but not easy. However, if you follow the rules (simple disciplines) discussed here, you’ll find that living the life you want to live can start to go from dream, to an action plan for reality.