“Whatever you pay attention to will grow more important in your life.” It’s a Deepak Chopra quote that is apropos this time of year. It applies to everything from houseplants (which I definitely do not give the attention they need!), to relationships, to money. As you look back on 2018, what did you pay attention to? What grew more important in your life—and what took a back seat? Is that balance where you want it to be as you move into the year ahead?
I was chatting with a friend recently and, as I sometimes do, I said something that was a bit self-deprecating. I was mad at myself for not doing something “right”—at least in my own mind. My friend just smiled at me and said, “Don’t worry about it. You could have done it better if you’d chosen to. You just weren’t paying attention.” Her wisdom struck me to the core! How right she was. Had I been focused, I certainly would not have messed up! It was an insightful lesson for life and for things both large and small. It got me thinking…
What aspects of my life do I truly want to pay attention to? Am I focused on them the way I should be so that they will, as Deepak Chopra says, grow more important in my life?
I made my list. I wrote down the relationships I want to foster in the coming year, the physical goals I want to accomplish (my blog post Grandparenting…and striving to age in happiness and health offers insight into that line item!), the business goals I want to achieve, and yes, my financial goals too. I already feel empowered and charged up for 2019, and I have a pretty good picture of what I will be celebrating on New Year's Eve 2020.
If you’re inspired to make your list (and, oh, I hope you are!), be sure your financial goals make the cut—and be mindful of choosing the things that matter most.
I grew up with depression-era parents. As a result, my father was hyper-focused on what was happening with his investments. Every morning, his first task of the day was to open the paper, review the stock chart, and write down yesterday’s closing prices of his holdings so he could track what was up and what was down. Based on that information, he decided what to buy and what to sell, and he was always on edge about what might happen tomorrow.
In today’s world, checking the ‘stock market’ is easier and faster—and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Just this Monday, on December 24, stock indexes tumbled into bear market territory. As I write today, the day after markets closed for the Christmas holiday, it looks like we’re in a slight rebound. It can feel almost irresistible to pay attention to the daily ups and downs, especially when the market is dropping. But does that movement have any real impact on your financial security? If you have a solid financial and investment plan in place, it shouldn’t. Your investment plan is built to sustain ‘normal’ market cycles, including the impending bear market. Unlike my father whose only ‘plan’ was his self-constructed portfolio, if your plan includes a diversified mix of asset types and classes based on your goals, your time horizon, and your financial foundation (which I trust it does!), there’s no need to pay attention to temporary shifts in the market. (I have one client who tells me that when the market is down, she doesn’t even open her quarterly statements. Smart woman!)
Instead, try paying attention to the things that really can impact your financial security. If you’re in debt, create a plan to wipe it out by this time next year and create financial freedom. (Read my blog post Declare your financial freedom to learn how.) If you’ve been a bit Scrooge-like in the past, explore ways to embrace your generosity. If your spending feels out of control, examine what is really enough for you and change your habits to fit your needs. If you lack financial confidence, take the reins by creating a comprehensive financial plan and a solid, manageable budget (as always, we’re here to help!). If you have a singular goal, adopt a laser focus and tackle it—now.
A few years ago, I did just that. While mathematically, the return in the market beats paying down a low-interest mortgage, I knew that I would feel more secure at an (ahem) certain age if I didn’t have a house payment. So I laser-focused my attention on paying off my mortgage, and a few months ago I finally paid off my home, free and clear. At long last, I am really a homeowner, and it feels just as good I as I imagined it would! (As a reward, I treated myself to a business class ticket on my flight to visit my family for the holidays.)
Of course, everyone’s values and goals are different. It’s all about focusing on what will make you happier and more confident in the future. By paying close attention to that, whatever it may be, you can build a better, stronger path toward your goals—and have something truly meaningful to celebrate next New Year’s Eve. Cheers to that, and cheers to a happy, healthy, and financially confident 2019!