The alarm rings again as it does every work day: get to work. In the moments subsequent to waking, I nosedive into the rabbit hole of social media as a good millennial post-slumber zombie should. Within a few scrolls, four separate finance articles from credible sources inject themselves into my news feed. They were all ‘best-practices’ to financial planning; each with a procedure to follow, the best x amount of ways to save, invest, accumulate wealth, and become rich.
A noticeable feat of the four articles: they were all different. The procedures, the ‘best’ steps, the solidified and absolute must-do’s to be as rich as your financial heroes all differed from each other. Which one should I choose? Articles pertaining to the proper procedure to obtain savings and wealth do not suffer from lack of publishing and it is difficult to choose or stay updated on what is the “best” approach to personal finance.
I dare not impose my financial strategy; because that is just what it is: My financial strategy. Rather, I will share various commonalities amongst the plethora of articles pertaining to personal finance which could be utilized in constructing a personal finance strategy. My answer to the existential “which financial strategy should I follow?” question is, “any”. It is YOUR financial strategy, so create the one you like best – within reason.
As you grow and mature, climb and descend through the ranks of education and career, your financial strategy will begin to form – and probably has already – formed to an extent. This will be different for everybody. A College Press Release service, UWire, published an article in February 2017 revealing the answers to college students’ money saving tips. Two of the answers were:
“I save 20% of my wages every month, and it’s only used for school” – Mariah Chonis, 19 – Pre Nursing
“I always prefer to buy textbooks online, it can help me save at least $100” – Alex Airola, 19 – Mathematics & Music Major
Aside from the evident difference between the two tips, these are both tips which can be carried beyond the educational sphere and throughout their lives. I thought of financial strategies I utilized during my undergrad and began to strain through them based on further applicability. Don’t buy textbooks you know you won’t read – evolved to, don’t buy gadgets you don’t need. Bring snacks and a lunch from home to school; “school” is now replaced with “work” – and while my colleagues are spending $25 a week on lunch – this is money I save.
The 2017 edition of Essential Personal Finance proposes three “steps” to acquiring personal wealth (figure below). I propose these “steps” not as sequentially dependent, but as pillars which interact to provide stability to a financial strategy.
Contributing to the Essential Personal Finance model, the three pillars can be regarded as:
- Desire: Want to save. It is integral to have a desire which will serve as an internal drive to commit to a financial strategy and improving personal finance.
- Plan: Have a plan. This correlates to the previous section of the article, make a plan that works for you. Learn about personal finance, even if your knowledge of finance is limited to non-existent, understand the terminology. There are plenty of great resources to learn from (peruse the other Breaking the Trend articles). Research the infinite amounts of articles claiming to have the best financial strategies and pull from them to create your best financial strategy. Make it yours. Constructing a plan you’re comfortable with will provide the most value going forward.
- Act: Put your plan into action and hold yourself accountable – track your progress. There are plenty of free online templates you can modify to fit your plan and mobile apps to help track your expenses. Professor Terry Orlick from the University of Ottawa invented the word, “docide”. Deciding indicates two options; doing and not doing. DOCIDING is making the choice to only accomplish, removing the alternative from the equation to further eliminate a decision.
Do not fear modification – similar to the common myth that it is mandatory to finish a book you dislike, it’s not. If the plan isn’t working, take a step back. Substitute what isn’t working with alternative methods to build a stronger plan. If you create a strategy that works for you, share it – show others the desire to create a personalized strategy and execute it will facilitate the task of taking personal finance seriously.