Three Strategies For Less Financial Stress

Money is not a problem until I believe it will solve my problems.

Money is a FUNNY thing. I’ve noticed, for example, that…

* Every time you lend money to a friend, you damage his memory.

* The harder it is to read the menu in a restaurant, the higher the prices on it. And

* Inflation lets you live in a better neighborhood without going through the bother of moving.

But I’ve also noticed that money is a STRANGE thing. For example…

* Why does a slight tax increase cost you two hundred dollars and a substantial tax cut save you thirty cents? And

* Why does the same operation that adds ten years to your life take ten years off your savings?

In all seriousness, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale said, “With the possible exception of health problems, financial difficulties weigh more heavily on people’s minds than anything else.” And the financial aspect of life is the third of the eight dimensions in an overall balanced approach to life.

By way of review, in the last few weeks I’ve written about the first two dimensions, the PHYSICAL and the RECREATIONAL. I gave you a total of six strategies in those areas to make sure those parts of your life are going well.

Today I’ve got three more strategies for you, all in the FINANCIAL dimension of life. The more you abide by these strategies, the less stress you’ll have.

=> 1. Define your financial goals; have a plan for achieving them, and stick to it.

Unfortunately, most people don’t have any particular financial goals or plans. They just “hope things will work out.” Well they won’t — without a plan. Some of the latest estimates indicate that well over 90% of the American people will not have enough money to live on when they retire — unless the government helps them out.

And personally, I’m a bit leery of depending on the government to help me out — financially speaking. As someone said, the incredible thing about the federal debt is that we actually got into this terrible shape by buying from the lowest bidder.

You’ve got to have your own plan for achieving your financial goals. Business philosopher Jim Rohn said it quite well. He said, “You must be good at one of two things: saving in the spring or begging in the fall.”

And once you have a financial plan, stick to it. Be clear about what you will and will not do when it comes to money. Don’t let your emotions push you towards foolish financial decisions. Know your limits, and stick by your guns.

=> 2. Live beneath your means.

There are few things more stressful than debt, bills, or the worry of how to make ends meet. And yet you and I are constantly bombarded with advertisements that entice us to want more and spend more. The marketers actually want us to have an obsession with possessions — whether or not we can afford it.

And then what happens? You end up being a third-class individual. As columnist Earl Wilson once said, “There are three classes of people: The Haves, The Have-Nots, and Have-Not-Paid-For-What-They-Haves.”

Now some people get defensive when I speak about living beneath their means. They tell me about the high cost of living. But they’ve got it wrong. As my father says, “It’s never the high cost of living. It’s always the cost of living high that causes the stress.”

You’ve got to learn to live without a few things. And that’s not bad. As philosopher Bertrand Russell noted, “To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.” You see… there are two ways to be rich — make more or desire less.

=> 3. Use the 10-10-80 approach.

There is considerable evidence that the happiest people, even the wealthiest people, are savers and givers. At a minimum, they save 10% of their income, and they give 10% of their income to worthy causes. And they discipline themselves to live on the remaining 80%. The book, “The Richest Man in Babylon,” documents all this.

The 10% saving part is easy to understand. That’s self-explanatory.

And I do mean saving… not hoarding. The miserly are always miserable. As a cartoon in the “Wall Street Journal” illustrated, an angel is counting all the money he has taken with him to heaven. Another angel watches, then observes, “It’s wonderful that you were able to take it with you. Now what do you plan to do with it?”

The 10% giving part is the stumbling block for lots of people. They just can’t get it through their heads that they can be better off by giving away 10%.

And yet people from all walks of life have found that to be the case. Publisher DeWitt Wallace said, “The dead carry with them to the grave only that which they have given away.” The Reverend Peter Marshall noted, “The true measure of life is not in its duration but its donation.” Even the Bible says, “Give it and it shall be given unto you.”

When you give away 10%, you put an extra measure of purpose in your life. You put your focus on the positive outcomes you want to achieve… as you take your mind off a self-absorbed “me-me-me.”

Henry Ford knew that. One day, as he was talking to a man named Dudley, Ford asked, “What’s your ambition in life?”

“That’s easy,” Dudley said. “It’s to make a million bucks and make it fast. Then I am going to get myself a nice home, a nice car, and retire.”

Ford was a whimsical man. A few days later, he called Dudley into his office and handed him a gift. Dudley opened the package and found a pair of eye glasses, but two silver dollars replaced the lenses. Ford said, “Put the glasses on and tell me what you see.”

Dudley did as he was told and responded, “I don’t see anything.”

Ford said, “Of course you don’t, because the dollars are in your way. But, if you put the lenses back so that you can see all the human need and all that you can do to meet that need, and if you give of yourself and forget the dollars, then the dollars will take care of themselves.” He was right.

There are few things that cause more stress than financial problems. And there are few things that give more peace than money handled well. Give these 3 strategies a try. You’ll notice an almost immediate reduction in stress as you move towards a more balanced life.

Action:  Which of the three strategies are you best at? Which of the three strategies needs the most improvement? What are you going to do about it?