Few relationships grow and thrive by being ignored, and your relationship with your finances is no exception.
Think about it. Remember the time when you fell in love with all those colorful plants at the garden center? It was easy to write the check and bring them home, but then you lost interest. Stopped weeding. Slacked off on watering. Left them to their own devices. It wasn’t long before they withered and died, right?
On a more serious level, think about your relationship with your life partner. When life or work intrudes on the amount of attention you’re able to give one another, you begin to feel the divide. It takes energy and intention to rebuild your connection. Finding the time and focus to do that can be elusive, but knowing that this investment will strengthen your bond and return you to each other makes it well worth it.
Now think about the relationship you have with your money. Earning it, creating a budget, and sticking to it can be a difficult process, but that sort of loyalty and commitment creates the type of relationship with your money that you can parlay into a solid, abundant financial future.
Some people seem to have a natural knack for building sound relationships. Others have a need at some point in their lives to get a “second opinion” to work through and resolve difficult spots in romantic relationships. Throughout the many years I’ve worked with individuals seeking financial advice, I’ve learned that the same is true with your money.
Just like you would turn to an experienced therapist to help you maneuver through difficult moments in your relationships, a financial coach can offer independent, nonjudgmental, third-party support when money matters become confusing or divisive.
I suggest that people start by looking at their finances a little differently than perhaps they’ve been doing. I ask them to consider their money as a lifelong partner that you need to pay close attention to and be intentional in your decisions surrounding in order to create the future you want.
Sitting down one on one with your partner can yield a ton of information you may have overlooked during the fast pace of everyday life. Many people find that setting aside just 45 minutes each week to examine their finances results in a remarkable amount of “news you can use” when making plans for the future. What you talk about and focus on depends on what time of the month, year, or season it is, but here are a few different ideas for how to steer these financial conversations into profitable decisions:
- Approaching the next month: Look at your bank statements and credit card bills for the month you are concluding. Identify where the majority of your spending was and determine if there are any areas where you can cut back in the month coming up.
- Beginning of the month: Look at the month ahead and create your budget. Are there gift-giving occasions looming? Will entertaining plans drive your food budget up? What about travel plans? Try to take everything into account.
- Throughout the month: Look at your credit card bills as they arrive. Pay off large balances to avoid interest charges and keep your debt-to-credit ratio low.
- Once a month: Pull and review your credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com. Even if you don’t intend to apply for new credit anytime soon, keep up to date on where your credit stands. There are even credit monitoring services that some people find a good value.
To sum it up, looking at your finances regularly helps strengthen your relationship with your money in the same way that taking time to focus on your partner keeps your relationship on track. Being proactive and working toward financial milestones is very similar to how you and your partner work toward your relationship goals—it just takes commitment, time, energy, and intention—and both are well worth the investment!