In today’s busy world, you might often feel like you’re drowning in responsibilities to your family, coworkers, clients, and even your neighbors. There’s always someone or something saying you ought to be doing something.
It’s a huge weight on your shoulders, and money is no exception. If your income is higher than your parents, you likely feel extra pressure to be financially responsible. Many people let the stress take over and give up trying to live the life they want.
You have to put in the effort to live the life you want
It takes work to attain the life you want. But because it’s uncommon to openly talk about money, you can act responsibly and no one will call you out. Well, no one except your future selves, and they’re not here to say anything right now!
Part of my job as a Financial Planner is to speak to my clients on behalf of their future selves. I do this by showing them where they are headed with their current actions. That works quite well. If they don’t like their future, they change course pretty quickly.
One way you can take responsibility with minimal effort and emotional pain is to give each dollar a job.
Money doesn’t grow on trees, so make it work for you
I know you’ve heard this phrase a lot growing up, but that’s because it’s very true.
Consider all that you have and where it came from. Likely, you worked hard to pay for almost everything you have in life—from your car to your health insurance. Money is a scarce commodity, and the only way to get more is to give something up. So, it’s very important that you treat it with the respect it deserves in your financial life.
This does not mean you should spend every waking hour making sure your finances are in tip-top shape. But what you should do is optimize how your dollars contribute to your life. You do this by giving every dollar a job.
What are your dollars doing when you’re not spending them?
First, your dollars are doing something even if they don’t have jobs. If you have too much money sitting in your savings account or too little uninvested, your dollars can cause fear and worry. If you splurge on a shopping spree, your dollars can entertain you. And if you’re considering investing in a relative’s start-up business, your dollars can tantalize you with possibilities.
No matter what, your dollars are doing something, so why not make them do what you want?
Become the boss of your cash
Starting today, assign a job for every dollar you have.
Here are some examples:
- Your home equity dollars provide a place to live and the safety that your home value won’t fall below your mortgage (assuming you have enough of them)
- Your emergency fund sits like the fireman in the station, ready to help you through life’s next big challenge
- Your living expenses, which are funded by your paychecks, ensure your current lifestyle is maintained throughout the year
- Your savings cover any big purchases over the next five years that cannot be funded by your regular pay
- Your investment portfolio takes care of expenses that are five or more years in the future, which won’t be covered by future income
- Your “play money” investment account is for entertainment purposes, but only if you know you won’t get rich (or go broke) buying and selling individual stocks.
This sounds easy, but you have to follow through
There are a few barriers in the way of carrying through:
- Breaking your habits can be difficult. You’ve never done this before, and though you see the value, maybe you’ll do it next year…or next-next year when you really “need” to. The problem with this view is when the time comes, it might be too late. Also, the sooner you assign jobs to your money, the sooner it will actually begin working for you instead of against you.
- Not thinking ahead. This is a trap we can all fall into, but it doesn’t have to be. With a little effort (start with just 5 minutes a day), we can start to paint what we want our future to look like. Only then can we begin the effort to get there.
- Combining jobs in accounts. Imagine if you had all your money in one account and had to divide the jobs in your head. Major headache! Instead, be sure every job has its own account and every account has just one job.
Once your dollars work for you, your stress will reduce
You won’t believe how much less stress you’ll have when your money works for you. You’ll know exactly what you have and why.
You’ll also get maximum work from every dollar you earn during your lifetime. And even if that dollar just sits in your bank account, giving you peace of mind and the ability to think about something other than money—isn’t that also a great value?