How to keep you and your money from separating

You’ve watched other people navigate their life effortlessly. They seem to live to the fullest, enjoy a comfortable lifestyle, and give no indication that their life is anything but perfect.

But when you look in the mirror, all you see is the horror of living on the edge. Bill collectors call, the mail is filled with notices and overdue bills, yet you maintain the appearance of success.  It’s a terrible existence, filled with stress, worry, blame, and shame.

Unfortunately, this scenario is all too prevalent. The root cause might stem from childhood, where you obtained, learned, and acquired beliefs about money.  Some lucky people learned to save first and delay gratification; they learned that “money doesn’t grow on trees” and about “saving for a rainy day.”

Financial advisers say there’s one key mistake to avoid when heading into retirement. It involves your Social Security.

Sadly, not all children receive healthy money beliefs. Many grow up where money is the cause of arguments, or is used to impress others. Some are told that God will provide and not to worry about money.

Such broken beliefs may lead to a lifetime of poor decisions and money misery. Conversely, if parents are smart savers, chances are their kids will be too. We follow the trail from childhood to adulthood with the lessons learned mostly intact.

Toxic money beliefs can perpetuate a cycle of misery, rooted in the past and never questioned until some outside influence introduces another version of what is normal. Yet even then, developing a strong, supportive, and rational mind about money will take time. Here are some helpful steps:

1. Know your money beliefs: What messages or experiences did you learn from your parents about money? What did you hear? What did you witness? What did it mean to you?

2. Know your financial situation: What money is coming in, what’s going out, and where is it all going? In other words, you need to know your money in detail. How much of what you spend is discretionary and how much is fixed? How much debt do you carry and at what terms?  What are your assets and what is your debt situation? This project might take days to bring together, but it is vital that you do so.

3. Know your true values: This can be a tough question, so try filling in the blank:In order for me to feel satisfied, X must happen. This blank may be, for example, living debt-free, helping pay your child’s college tuition, providing a nest egg for retirement, or accumulating sufficient assets to live out your life comfortably.  Once you understand the “musts,” or your values, quantify it into dollars. In other words, how much do you need to achieve these must-haves?

Now comes the moment of truth when you take your values and overlay it with your current financial situation. Are you on the right path?  If you’re heading for disaster, you have two choices: change course or go over the cliff. Pretty simple, right?

Not exactly. Change can be difficult, and it’s challenging at the least. But the price to not change is much more disastrous. With help from people you can rely on for support, start to make changes to your spending patterns. The simplest moves to make are in discretionary spending areas, although emotionally these shifts might feel quite difficult.

By keeping your values clearly in front of your thinking, your new money behavior will lead to healthier habits. Just take one step at a time — small successes lead to larger successes and achievements as you gain control of your money life.

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