The game of reaching your full financial potential is 70% behavior. Successful people practice good habits, every day, for their entire life. They’re willing to do what others are not. Successful people also live intentionally with their money – meaning they use their money to live life on their terms and conditions.
That’s really what the secret “formula” boils down to. How you behave, and the choices that you make every day. Those choices are what determine your success.
You see, how to find financial success isn’t some huge secret or algorithm that takes expert-level knowledge to crack. If you were to ask a wealthy person how they got there, you would probably be shocked at how simple their answers are. You’d probably leave the conversation thinking, “Heck, even I can do that.”
And you absolutely can. That’s because much of what successful people do when it comes to money is simply abide by common sense principles – many of which I’m about to share with you here.
Here are 15 common sense money principles that will change your life:
1. Spend less than you make. The is probably the most important common sense principle you can apply to your financial life. If you are constantly overspending and maxing out your lifestyle, you’ll never reach your full financial potential.
2. If you can’t pay for it in cash, you can’t afford it. This mantra is the best way to avoid drowning yourself in credit card debt. Waiting to make large purchases until you have the money will always pay off more than spending money you don’t have.
3.Forget about the Jones’s. Living up to society’s definition of “rich” can be costly. Wealthy people know what their definition of financial success is – and that’s the only one that matters. They would gladly defy societal standards, rather than living a deceptively poor lifestyle just to keep up appearances in the eyes of their peers.
4. Protect yourself. Stuff happens. And when it does, your financial foundation can quickly crumble if the proper defenses aren’t in place. You should seek to protect every aspect of your life’s work – from material assets like your home to your most important asset, you.
5. Pay your credit bills in full every month. If you want the second fool-proof way to avoid going into credit card debt, don’t charge more on them than you can afford to pay off every month.
6. Money doesn’t buy happiness. Having money doesn’t mean anything. It’s how you use your money that creates your emotional response. There’s plenty of research to prove you derive the highest degree of happiness when you spend your money on experiences, not things.
7. Slow and steady wins the race. No one becomes financially successful overnight. It’s a long road of practicing good habits and staying disciplined. If you keep searching for the instant button, or speculating and gambling with your money, you’ll never reach your full financial potential.
8. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Investing is one of the most unnatural things you’ll do in your life. But you have to be okay with that – you have to be okay with the fact that markets rise and fall. Staying disciplined according to your Investment Policy Statement is the best way to find investing success.
9. Time is your most valuable resource. Stop thinking that you have time to catch up. Not only does your money need time to grow, but it needs time to bounce back from drawdowns. The longer your money is invested, the better your chances of financial success. Investing early and investing smart are crucial.
10. Out of sight, out of mind. If you’re like me, it’s easy to find a home for the money you see sitting in your checking account. One of the best ways to curb unnecessary spending and boost savings is to set up automatic deposits from every paycheck to go straight to your savings or investments.
11. Costs matter – a lot. Costs from taxes, expense ratios, and advisor fees add up. They directly impact your bottom line. Over the long-term, they can eat a large portion of your wealth. Be sure you know how much your investments are costing you, practice tax management, and work with an advisor who is transparent on the fees you pay directly to them.
12. Money is like a kid. It’s incapable of managing itself – think of how your kids would’ve turned out had you let them make their own decisions, without any guidance or discipline from you. Money is the same way. You have to apply structure and discipline to how its managed, and you have to tend to it on a regular basis.
13. Your most important values must align with your financial actions. If your financial actions aren’t furthering your most important values, you’re probably not going to accomplish the goals you set for yourself. Values should play the same role in your financial life as they play in your daily life – they should guide your financial actions and priorities.
14. Be debt free. Or at least bad-debt (i.e. credit card, other high interest debt) free. Carrying substantial amounts of high-interest debt directly affects your ability to save and invest for your future. It makes everything else in your financial life have to work that much harder to pick up the slack.
15. Live the life you want. Wealthy people know their “why” behind money – you need to know yours too. Why do you work, why do you invest, why do you do any of it? Your answers will be specific to you, but it ultimately comes down to being able to live the life you want. That’s the real goal – to have your money work for you, so that you can reach your full financial potential. But you have to start with “why.” Otherwise, you don’t have anything to fight for. You can’t live intentionally with your money, because there’s nothing guiding your behavior.