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Over the past year, I have received a few DMs from readers asking about my path to financial self-sufficiency.
As someone keen on being self-reliant emotionally, physically, mentally, and financially, I’ve been mulling about writing a series of articles on my journey to financial awareness. As a woman, I cannot stress how important being financially secure has been to finding more mental peace and a sense of freedom.
I hope to write more about my financial journey and also include stories from folks of different demographics and their journeys.
This week, I want to talk about the first five mindful financial wellness tips that helped me on my financial journey toward attaining stability. I will wrap up the concepts with my next article this month.
These tips are very much my own and I came up with them based on my life’s experiences dealing with money:
1. Spend money that needs to be spent.
Even though my post is about concepts to think about when saving money, I cannot stress how important this first one is. I came to this realization after a lot of trials and errors, hits and misses, and a truckload of angst and heartache. The issue is not that I didn’t spend money—I did. But I suffered so much mental agony when I did. And that angered me and made me take that anger out on other things and people.
The thing is, there are those expenses that look and feel like they’re luxuries. And maybe they are to others. But if it’s essential to you, spend it.
And this is true in every age bracket. Always understand what needs to be spent, and don’t feel guilty spending it.
When I lived stateside, it appeared as if owning and driving cars was the be-all and end-all of life there, but I never had a car because I never needed one. I either stayed close to my place of work or took public transport to get to stores and work. I also grew up with public transport during my childhood and young adult years so not owning a vehicle worked for me.
But that may not be true for you. And that’s okay.
I see many money managers who recommend that people get rid of their cars because it saves a ton of money. And it does. But maybe your life requires you to have a car. In many parts of the U.S., including many suburbs, public transport is limited (if there is any at all). And what there is is often slow or unreliable. If you have to wait two hours at a bus stop to get to work, that’s not going to work.
Even though having a car means you have a ton of additional expenses, it might be necessary for you. So understand that, make your peace with that, and move on. Since having a car is a necessity for you, spend what needs to be spent and don’t worry about how your friend is making do without a car. Quit worrying about whether you’re making a mistake by having a car when your friend doesn’t. Their life is not yours and vice versa.
I have friends who claim they’ll never buy a house because it’s easier or cheaper for them to get amazing rentals where they live. Not to mention that owning a house comes with additional costs, like paying maintenance every month (if you own an apartment or a condo) or annual property taxes.
That’s great if it works for them. But it doesn’t for me.
I would much rather spend what needs to be spent if it means I own my own space. That’s more important for my mental peace, so I spend what needs to be spent, for me.
2. Even if you don’t do anything just yet, start thinking about your money goals for the future.
Even if you haven’t started saving money yet, whether you’re in your 20s, 30, 40s, or 50s, start thinking about the future. Being part of the good times as they’re happening is exhilarating but if there’s anything COVID has taught us, it’s that the bad times are just around the corner and can strike at any moment.
It’s the ultimate cliché but also my go-to mantra: “Always hope for the best but be prepared for the worst.”
This is a bit of an exaggeration but I live as if I’ll probably lose my job tomorrow. I don’t take anything for granted, especially in these extremely troubling times in this world.
Some of the things you should think about are: having six months buffer salary saved in the bank if you lose your job, setting up a 401K or Roth IRA, planning for retirement, buying a condo or house, looking into life insurance, investing in long-term medical insurance.
Again, even if you don’t do anything just yet (especially if you’re in your 20s and having fun…hey, we get it!), start thinking about all these things.
3. Don’t stop setting new financial expectations just because you couldn’t fulfill your previous ones.
Every age in your life will come with expectations, from people around you and from yourself.
As much as I don’t want to live my life based on the expectations of others, I find that sometimes those expectations really motivate me to do better, at least financially. But it only works because I’m able to compartmentalize them. I don’t take them too seriously and don’t take it too much to heart if things don’t go as I plan. But knowing my family has expectations of me or seeing how well some of my peers are doing pushes me to make sure I meet these expectations, for myself and others around me.
As much as these expectations can put a lot of pressure on us, if we take them as a challenge and as a motivator instead of allowing ourselves to get bogged down, things can actually work out for us.
4. Be safe so you don’t have to be sorry.
This is a personal concept, and you don’t have to agree with it at all.
Every financial adviser who has wanted me as a client, within 30 minutes of having a conversation with me, usually run for the door like a bat out of hell.
And that’s because I’m just not a risk taker.
For every argument about the necessity of taking risks with finances—interests go down, you’ll pay tax on the interest on your fixed deposit, you cannot sell property if you urgently need cash, inflation kills…I have heard it all—I counter with my own “no-risk, all-glory” counterpoints.
I don’t invest in the stock market. I invest in boring fixed deposits and property. And that’s because I know I’m not a risk taker. I’m not going to get carried away by people when they say we should take a risk. It may be good for them but not for me.
I’d much rather be safe than sorry.
I’d much rather invest in a protected and capital-assured fixed deposit with far less interest than in the stock market, which I know nothing about. If I can buy a smaller house and pay it off quickly, I’ll go with that. If getting a condo is better than a house, as in, it’s cheaper, I’d get a condo.
For me, it’s better to be debt-free with a condo than be mortgage-broke but with a backyard.
5. Understand that it’s not the actual salary you make that counts—it’s how much you save.
I have friends whose yearly salary is four times more than mine. But they save less than half (in total numbers) of what I’m able to. Because with more money comes more expenses. You buy a bigger home, have a bigger mortgage, drive a better car, send your kids to private school, and so on.
Trust me when I say that none of my rich friends want to change places with me. They like what the money they make allows them to do, the life it lets them lead. And maybe if I made their kind of money I would feel the same way.
But I don’t and I never will. And that’s okay.
I also like knowing that in terms of actual cash-in-the-bank, I have more than most of them (although not all of them). Because I make far less money than them, I’m much more circumspect about my money than they are and therefore squirrel away every bit I can.
And since I’m single and have no dependents and travel is my only vice—I’m able to put that money away.
I’ll leave you here with these five concepts to mull over. Come back for part two, where I’ll go over the next five mindful financial wellness tips that have helped me find peace, both mentally and financially.