When Grayson at Debt Roundup put out a call to all bloggers asking for our best financial tip, I thought of lots of helpful and necessary things like spending less than you make, having an emergency fund, and setting up a budget. If you spend more than five minutes reading financial posts, you will see these basic steps repeated over and over. Unless you were born into royalty, you can’t have financial independence without them. If these steps are so easy to find, why doesn’t everyone practice them? I honestly can’t answer for the masses, but for my own situation, I would say that fear was the biggest thing that held me back for so long. To live the life you aspire to, you have to stop being afraid.
What Are We Afraid Of?
If you find yourself in debt, reason would say that you need to stop spending money. Sometimes it isn’t that simple. Are you afraid of what people will think? How often do we feel the need to buy something new to keep up with the expected norm? Society wants us to spend money. That’s great if you have it, but if a purchase has to go on credit to come home with you, it likely isn’t necessary. In our case, we couldn’t remember most of the things we bought on credit, but we did remember the interest and payments that lasted long after the purchases.
If your friends or family expect you to keep up a certain lifestyle, you might have to explain yourself. When we cut out our land line a few years ago, my Mom thought we were really broke and in financial straits. If I was a doctor, why shouldn’t I have a land line and a cell phone? Couldn’t I afford both? It took lots of explaining about how we were trying to cut expenses so that I could eventually stay home more with our daughter. People expect you to have things with a certain job or income level, and they may think you’re odd if you don’t. You can’t be afraid of being viewed as different.
Are you afraid of change? We get so stuck in our routines. Pauline at Reach Financial Independence summed it up perfectly in her guest post at Club Thrifty. In response to a comment about missing her family since moving to Guatemala, she responded that her friends and family are so busy going to work, commuting, watching TV, and then falling asleep to repeat the whole cycle again the next day for the next 30 years that they didn’t have time to visit when she did live close. Look beyond today. What do you want? If you want to work 40 hours a week, collect a check, and retire in your late 60’s, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. If you hate your job or the fact that you have to spend so much time away from the things and ones that you love, then make steps to do something else. Don’t quit on a whim, but start making plans. Too many people, like Joe at Retire by 40, Sam at Financial Samurai, and Andrea at So Over This, have done it. Lots of other bloggers are on their way. You certainly don’t have to be like them, but shape your own life. You only get one. Make it count.
Are you afraid to see the total picture? At the height of our $30,000 in credit card debt. I made the payments as quickly and brainlessly as possible so that I wouldn’t know how much was owed in total. I knew it was bad, but I was afraid to admit how in debt we were. It is easy to convince yourself that you’re doing OK if you can make the payments. We still contributed to retirement and paid the mortgage on time. It couldn’t be that bad, could it? It was, and it was incredibly hard to add up all those balances and see how much money was going to interest payments each month. It kept me awake at night, but a funny thing happened after we faced the fear. We got mad. If you ever want to be free, you have to get mad at the reasons that hold you back, and find ways to change. Slay the dragon, kill the elephant, go kamikaze. Whatever you want to call it, just get mad at the fear, and take steps to get rid of it.
What are you afraid of? If you are not making progress toward your ultimate goal, why not? Is fear holding you back? Before the end of the year, I challenge you to come to a conclusion on why you aren’t where you want to be. If you don’t know what you want to accomplish in the next year, five years, or ten years, you’ll never get there. You could very likely wake up old one day and wonder what happened. If the tragic school shooting in Connecticut can have any sort of positive impact, I hope it makes everyone realize that time is precious, and we shouldn’t ever let fear hold us back. My best tip for finance and for life is to stop being afraid.
Has fear stopped you from achieving a goal? How did you overcome it?
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