Posted on Monday, July 4, 2011
These days, it seems that many people need some tough love when it comes to their financial health. Every day, I meet people who have become unemployed, have taken a pay cut, or are experiencing a slow period in their business. On top of that, they have credit card and student loan debt, and their taxes, food, and fuel costs are all skyrocketing. Sound familiar?
These people don't need a simple money bandage to get them through the tough times; they need financial heart surgery! If that's where you are right now with your business and personal finances, you are not alone.
So let's get specific. Following is a detailed, five-step plan I share with my coaching clients on how they can BLAZE their finances back on track. But beware: like that heart surgery metaphor, some of these steps aren't going to be fun. Some might even hurt. But that's the point: heart surgery isn't fun, but it will save your life.
B - Build Your Budget
When most people hear the word "budget," they recoil like a turtle into its shell. But once you see how budgeting can save your financial life, budgeting becomes fun. Budgeting is actually a three-stop process.
Step one: Document your monthly expenses. This listing of expenses must include EVERYTHING. So grab all your bills right down to the last Starbucks latte. The goal is to get an accurate -- not an imaginary -- look at where you are financially. What you see may not be pretty, but that's okay.
Step two: Calculate your credit card debt. Grab your credit cards and line them up on your desk. Call each company and ask them what your current APR is. Then, you're going to instantly save money by getting them to change your interest rate. Here's what you say: When they tell you your card's current interest rate, you simply say, "Excuse me? How much did you just say?" And after they repeat the absurdly high number, you respond with, "Okay, I need to know what you're going to do about that. Every day I'm getting a tidal wave of credit card offers with rates way lower than that. I've been with you for a while. So I need to know your absolute best rate offer you can give me today." Then be silent and let your credit card company fight to give you a better deal. It always shocks people when they see just how much better of an interest rate they can get.
Step three: Cut your expenses. Look at the little luxuries you give yourself each month, such as going out to lunch. While $10 for lunch may not sound like a big amount, when you multiply that by five days a week for 52 weeks, that's $2600 in one year. Yes, you have to eat, but can you trim back to eating out two or three days a week rather than five? Now look down your list of monthly essential spending -- things like gas for your car. Do the math. The money you're spending on eating out is the equivalent of over 700 gallons of gas! What if you could take half of that money and pay down the debt you owe on your credit cards? That would be like making money out of thin air. So every time you plan a trip out to lunch, visualize an essential spending item where your money would be more productive.
L - Live Below Your Means
Living below your means does not mean taking a vow of poverty. One of the most shocking things I've learned working with CEOs and those who've earned mega wealth is how modest and frugal almost all of them are -- not cheap, but frugal. In other words, when there's something worthy of making a serious investment, like building their business website, hiring an executive coach, or investing in the most talented accountant or lawyer, they go premium and spend. But when it comes to less important things, they hunt for a deal.
For example, the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, is the 23rd-richest person in the world. His net worth is estimated at over $18 billion. But, according to the New York Post, Mayor Bloomberg has been wearing the same pair of dress shoes for 10 years. A reporter asked his representative why that was, and the representative said that Bloomberg only owns two pairs of dress shoes. He said, "He could buy any shoes he wanted, but he likes these... He buys only what he needs."
If you grew up without much money, maybe those trinkets and designer handbags are status symbols that make you feel secure. Perhaps you think that those designer dress shoes are a projection of your inner worth. But the reality is that those at the top don't think like that, and neither should you if you want to join them.
A - Accelerate Savings
The great financial writer David Bach says that people often give excuses as to why they can't build up a savings account. He asks people to consider the "Latte Factor," which is the idea that if you gave up your morning latte and muffin for a year, you'd have several thousands of dollars to save or invest. Again, it's just about finding those areas where you aren't living below your means, focusing on them, and remaining disciplined about chipping away at debt or waste.
Z - Zap Negative Spending Thoughts
When you go through a money makeover, it's common to develop negative thoughts about your lack or desire to splurge and spend. People feel such pressure to "keep up with the Jones" that they run their financial lives into the ground. So here's a fast tip to zap negative spending thoughts. If you're anything like most people, every day your email inbox gets flooded with materialistic marketing offers from your favorite clothing designer, cosmetic company, home furnishings store...whatever. That daily visual bombardment of stuff can make you hunger for things you don't need. So here's what you do: Unsubscribe from ALL of those email lists... RIGHT NOW.
The more you de-clutter your visual spending landscape, the easier it will be to reprogram your money mindset. You don't need that stuff anyway, so remove the temptation. And even if you think you can overcome the temptation, you still want to create a new mental construct that's based on the fifth and final principle...
E - Enrich Others Through Giving
Marc Hrisko, wealth coach and author of the book Kangaroo Millionaire, says, "Money is a boomerang... it always comes back to you." In other words, the more you give, the more you receive. Now that's not saying you give in order to get. It simply means that giving teaches you to live from an abundance mindset, not a scarcity mindset.
Now here's the best part: giving doesn't require money. You can go to sites such as www.VolunteerMatch.org, www.Serve.gov, and www.micromentor.org to learn how you can donate one of your most precious resources: your skills, time, and/or talents. The more you do that, the better you will be at mastering your own resources.
Even the Bible (Christian doctrine) dictates that we share as part of our financial health. Tithing is a popular way to do that, whereby you share 10% of your income with a needy source. So ask yourself, what is your tithe? What can you give every day or month that is an expression of your financial confidence and willingness to care for the world around you?
When you think about giving think of this: Most of us spend our lives working ourselves to death to get things. We're taught: "Work hard if you want to live the good life." What I'm saying is different: "Work hard on who you're being in the world." Remember, what you have in your life is a reflection of who you are.
Taking control of your finances requires commitment. What are you committed to? Whether you are committed to your problems or to your dreams, to avoiding responsibility or achieving success, to taking life easy or making a difference no matter what effort it takes, you are being whatever you're committed to. Commit to BLAZE your financial future today so you can have the tomorrow of your dreams.
THE HUFFINGTON POST Lisa Haisha, Founder, Whispers From Children's Hearts Foundation