Dreams and money are important. aren’t they? I believe dreams are so important that they rank as Step 2 on The Lady’s Profitable Life Roadmap; Imagine. It turns out many of my personal finance bloggers agree on the essential correlation between dreams and money.
There’s a funny joke that starts “a funny thing happened on the way to my financial freedom.” (Well, that’s a lie. There’s no joke that starts that way but there should be.) People begin their personal finance journey at different times, for different reasons, and under very different circumstances. Some roads are bumpy (I’m raising my hand), some may be paved a bit smoother. In the end, everyone’s financial journey points in the same damn direction; the direction of dreams.
To accentuate the importance of dreams, I offer a bit of my own story and invited 6 of my fellow personal finance bloggers to share their perspective on wishes, goals, and dreams. So grab your coffee and settle in. It’s an awesome read. Oh, please share the link love! Visit these awesome bloggers pages. (Click their name below to visit their site.)
I hated money and I was convinced it hated me. After hitting rock bottom, I knew something had to change; me. So I tried. I really did try. I tried feeling all powerful and all mighty. “I am the boss. I am in control.” I tried being humble and ask for help. “I give up. Can’t someone help me, please?” I tried shiny new spreadsheets and check register reconciliation and all the other things I thought it took to get my ass in gear to manage my finances. Some of it worked, but only to a degree. None of it provided that shakubuku moment I needed to learn how to take control of my money.
That moment came in passing a convenience store. The digital lotto leaderboard reported some ridiculously high figure for the jackpot. And so, like many of us with little money do, I found myself fantasizing about how I’d spend all that money. Sure, I came up with some cool shit to buy (a lake house, a boat, a classic car, etc.). I even came up with some very cool altruistic shit (a global environmental protection foundation.)
But since I’ve never been all that materialistic I ran out of shit that I wanted pretty quick. I allowed my imagination to dig into this thought exercise a bit deeper. What lake would my house be on? Who was on the boat with me? What would I be like as the CEO of a huge foundation? What type of relationship would I have with my daughter, my friends? Who’s hand was I holding as I zipped around town in my classic car? What town was I driving in? What type of music would be on the radio? In short, if I had all the money I ever needed or wanted, what would my life really be like on a daily basis? And the answer BLEW ME AWAY.
I am living my dream life right now. Well, a lot of it anyway.
Sure, I don’t have the lakeside home quite yet. But I could. I can honestly save and make that happen. Sure, my friends aren’t taking boat rides with me quite yet. But I am meeting up for a girls’ weekend away soon. If there’s a boat there, I’ll rent it. My daughter and I respect each other and make each other laugh everyday. I can’t imagine that changing with any amount of money. Sure, I don’t have a classic car quite yet. But my Prius is cool for now.
In truly picking apart my dream, I realized that it was comprised of both material and non-material things. But it was the whole “big picture” that now gave me clarity; both on how I live my life now and the goals I set for the future.
Money instantly stopped being a demon in my life. Money become a neutral non-emotional tool that can grant wishes and make dreams come true. It wasn’t ever going to fall from the sky or show up on my door but, in reality, money is already in my life. I make it. I spend it. Having money isn’t my dream. By attaching money to the big picture in strategic, concrete ways, I can expand my dream life further into the future. Now, my money has a job, just like I do. It’s job is to get me the materials things that are part of my dream life. The rest, the non-material things like friendship and parenting and hand-holding, are free.
And beauty part of it all? BOTH are entirely within my control. Shakubuku, baby.
Money is worthless. What money can purchase, however, can be priceless.
Each of us has a unique set of values – whether we’ve defined them or not – that we hold dear. I value security, exploration, and knowledge very highly. Now that I consistently spend my money in ways that support those values, I’m a happier person. For example, exploration includes adventures like mountaineering, everyday hikes that allow me to see amazing animals, and traveling to new cities and continents.
I recommend that each person (and couple) first define what they value, and then create goals to align their money those values, whatever that may mean for you. Otherwise, it can be terribly easy to spend on material goods that you may enjoy in the moment, but might not truly align with your core values (inadvertently hampering your personal satisfaction). However, without goals, your vision – values, dreams, and ideas – are also worthless. Yeah, I said it. Without a specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound (SMART) goal, it is harder to build a plan and even more difficult to make progress.
My partner and I use SMART goals all the time in our financial planning. Here is one example: In 2006, we had a lot of credit card debt. I had over $10,000, and Mr. Financier had over $2,000. (It makes my tummy hurt to type that out.) We created a goal to eliminate that $12,000 debt completely by the end of 2007, by making two $500 payments each month, diverting any “found” money to debt, and reducing spend in three areas of our budget. We paid the debt off earlier than planned, and having a clear goal with defined details helped us stay the course and remain accountable.
I recommend people focus on 1 – 3 SMART goals at any given time. Ideally, these goals have a variety of time horizons. For example – today, I have one goal focused on saving for an upcoming trip (before the end of August this year) and another goal to reach Financial Independence before the year 2027.
Good luck in defining the goals that will help you achieve a life that aligns with your values!
There’s a gun in your hand. Fifty feet in front of you there’s a target. What do you do now?
You aim for the bullseye and pull the trigger, right?
This is an example of executing a game plan. You want to hit the bullseye so you shoot until you do. Creating goals and writing them down is great but it takes a lot more than that to accomplish them. Point A and point B are the easiest parts. You know where you are and you know where you want to be. Awesome! But how do you get there? “How” being the key word.
Enter the game plan. This is the “how” and it’s a beautiful thing. Completely malleable. If the plan doesn’t work, then change it. You’re not going to know how good the plan is until you’ve started executing said plan. Let’s look at debt repayment. You know you’re in debt and your goal is to be out of debt. So you research and come up with a plan. Increase income, cut spending, increase payments on debt. Then you put it into action. Eventually you will reach point B.
I know I’m oversimplifying but the general concept can be applied to pretty much anything. And here’s something that blew my mind when I first had the realization. You should always have goals. Small and large. Hitting the target from ten feet away can be just as rewarding as hitting it from fifty feet. When you meet one goal, set another for yourself. Challenge yourself. Never rely on luck to help get you there. Ask any pro poker player.
You aren’t just the person holding the weapon. You aren’t just the trigger, the gun itself, or the deep breath before taking that first shot. You’re all of that.
You’re also the bullet.
Looking back at my teens and twenties, I now realize how much I didn’t know.
Quite frankly, I look at that time of my life as a maze of expectations, well meant but ill advice, and lack of clarity. Running through that maze without a map was tough and required a few detours, but I did it. Why? Because I ultimately envisioned what my dreams were. How? By setting goals!
Envisioning what you want your financial future to look like and setting definitive goals to turn that vision into reality will play a crucial role in shaping your future. Imagine your dreams to be the center of the maze and your goals to be the red arrows guiding you towards them. That is the kind of clarity all of us should strive for and which will keep you from having to take detours, backtrack, or, worse, never reach your goals at all.
Now, let’s be clear. The vision of your financial future is yours and yours alone. Some want to be debt free. Others want to own a home. More want to reach financial independence. All while a few strive to be wealthy. Whatever you envision your financial future to be, set your goals, set them early, and stay on track. Goals will keep you focused and free from distraction.
And even better, your progress will motivate you to keep striving for the future you deserve!
When I was a 21 year old punk I was working in a music store (North Vancouver) that was just down the road from a studio where Bryan Adams was recording. One day he came in to buy guitar strings and I was working behind the counter. I was starstruck. It seemed a good idea to ask him about one of his songs.
“Hi Bryan, I’m a big fan of yours,” I said.
“I know you’re really busy,” I continued, “but I have a question about the song If You Want You Got It. Is that song about goals – like if you really want something bad enough you’ve already got it – because somehow, some way at some time you’ll make it happen?”
Bryan hastily grabbed his strings and started toward the door. At the last minute, he turned and smiled. “Glad to see someone’s paying attention….you got it!”
I will never forget that moment, or what he said. It’s proven true in my life and in the lives of those around me. Of course there are some limitations – like I’ll never be the heavyweight champion of the world or the top seed in tennis, but when you apply goals to something like reaching financial freedom, it works. If you truly and passionately want to succeed, you already have–because you WILL make it happen. SOME. HOW.
But it won’t happen tomorrow, and it won’t be easy. There will be obstacles, frustration, blood, sweat…..and you know the rest.
So make a plan, see the vision of financial freedom for you and your loved ones, and start taking your first baby steps.
Have you ever played pin the tail on the donkey? It’s relevant, I promise. To recap: there’s a blindfold, some variation of a donkey, and some variation of a tail, which you then need to pin to the correct place on the donkey. Now, if we’re going to be delving into this metaphor (which we are), it would be prudent to point out that the tail is your finances, the donkey is your dream, and you’re, well, you. And the blindfold is a blindfold.
So, if you have 20/20 vision, is the game going to be easier with or without the blindfold? I can guarantee you that it’s going to be easier without the blindfold. That’s because without the blindfold, you can see where the tail is supposed to go and you know how you’re going to get there. Aka, you won’t accidentally pin the tail where the spleen is, or tripping over Albert’s bicycle. Except! What if you don’t know what a donkey is supposed to look like!?
In order to know where that tail goes, you need to know what your donkey looks like (or get really, really lucky). So, how do you figure out what your donkey looks like? Well, that’s between you and your donkey. But my best advice is: be honest with yourself. Be honest with what you want, why you want it, and how to get there – then you’ll know where to pin that tail, and you’ll also have the sweetest damn donkey around, that does exactly what you need it to do.
You need that vision. You need that dream. You need to know what it looks like, and how to get there. Clear sight, awareness, and knowledge make you efficient in tackling your goals, and in reaching that dream. You can either doodly-doodle blindly around the garage, or you can bee-line it straight to that donkey on the wall. Remember that ‘getting rich’ isn’t about being rich. ‘Getting rich’ is about having access to the resources that allow you to pursue a life that you find meaningful and engaging.
So get out there. Find your donkey. And then ride that donkey into the sunset.
If you are still reading, you can see that despite whether it’s a maze or a target or a donkey, your life is yours. So are your dreams and money. If you don’t start moving toward your profitable life now, when? Life is short. Too damn short to second-guess yourself.