You’re driving on a desolate highway with nothing but desert all around you, when you suddenly realize that the fuel gauge in your car is on E. We’ve probably all been down this road before, literally, and for the next several minutes the only thought in your mind is, “please don’t run out of gas…please don’t run out of gas!” This is no different than financial wellness.
In the first situation–whether you make it to the next service station or you end up on the side of the road carrying a gas can–how you got there was based on every decision you made the previous hour, day or even week. Similarly, the determining factors in your financial wellness are based on all the decisions you’ve made up to that point. As small or inconspicuous as some may seem, they all play a role in where you ultimately end up.
Financial Wellness à la Life Experience
There are enough books and seminars out there that pave the way for you to be financially well, and I am by no means and expert, so I will let the Dave Ramsey’s of the world share their wisdom with you. What I can offer you is my life experience as I have taken the same road as most of you. Go to school. Graduate. Get a job. The difference is I did those things so long ago, and knowing what I know now, there are definitely some things I would do differently.
Financial wellness doesn’t necessarily mean you’re financially independent. Most of us still have to wake up every morning and go to a job in order to sustain an income so that we may be able to pay our bills and feed our family, and possibly have enough funds leftover so we can take a nice vacation every couple of years. At least that was the plan. As Mike Tyson used to say, “Every boxer has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
So as the price of an In-N-Out Double Double is nearing $4.00, how do we not end up on the side of the road if what we made this month, is the same as what we made last September? It’s all about decisions. As I said earlier, if I could do it all again, there are a few things I would do differently.
3 Things I’ve Learned
First and foremost, I would have started saving money much sooner. That would include a savings account and a 401K account and even an IRA. Then I wouldn’t touch those funds at all. Lock them up and throw away the key. Forget they even exist because the worst thing you can do for those accounts is to subtract instead of add.
Another thing I would have done differently is I would have bought a house much sooner. It’s painful when I do the math but it’s very eye opening how much money I wasted in apartment living. I leased apartments for about nine years before getting into a house and that comes out to about $130,000 in rent money that I will never get back. In the home I bought five years ago, the appraised value today is over $115,000 more than the original purchase price. That’s in just five years. Unless the market crashes, the value will only increase.
Finally, something else I would have done differently, was to have a separate account strictly for all the bills and then a slush account, for all the fun stuff you want to do. The key is to have enough money in the first account to pay all your expenses before putting anything in the fun account. If the math doesn’t add up, then no fun for you this month.
It’s time to make decisions. Will you be the guy walking along with the gas can? Or will you take the steps you need to make sure you avoid running on empty in the first place? The choice is yours. Choose wisely.
Financial Wellness Month
Want more tips and tricks to be financially well? All month we’re focusing on the theme of Financial Wellness, and will be posting even more articles and insights on our social media channels throughout the month. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to make sure you never miss a beat!
Ralph Caponong is the Director of Client Fulfillment at Southland Data Processing. During his nearly two decades of serving SDP’s clients, Ralph has managed the customer service and distribution departments, as well as a dedicated team of client advocates. His experience and interactions with clients have been monumental in creating a deep sense of empathy and putting our clients’ needs as first priority. When he’s not at SDP, Ralph spends his time with his wife Tiffany at their paint studio My Yellow Effect in Upland. Next time you get him on the phone, say hello!
Disclaimer: Southland Data Processing, Inc. (“SDP”) is not a financial advisor. The above article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon in reaching a conclusion in determining individual financial decisions. Applicability of the principles discussed above may differ substantially in individual situations. Please consult with your financial planner prior to making major financial decisions. SDP is not responsible for any inadvertent losses that may occur due to application of the above information.