Look, something is clearly not working for most of the middle class of America regarding their money. This is the time of year when you and those around you could be tempted to take a break—go out for a drink, spend a weekend at the beach, BBQ with your friends. It reminds me of the great line from Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street 2, he said, “Money never sleeps.”
Now is not the time to relax, no matter how well you did or didn’t do since the beginning of the day, week, month or year. Gordon Gekko was a fictional character, but you aren’t, you are living in the real world.
Here are 10 mistakes Gordon Gekko didn’t tell you about money to keep in mind as you finish out this month and move on to the next:
1. Not Paying Attention
People tend to confront something only when it becomes a problem. If you want financial freedom you will have to regularly invest time into looking at your finances. What you pay attention to is where you get results. Once a week, on a set day, I sit down with my wife and kids to discuss our finances for 30 minutes. This gets everyone on the same page and demonstrates the importance of having control over our finances as a family. For finances to work you must have everyone paying attention and on the same page.
2. Paying Others First
Don’t pay others first, pay yourself first. You are taught not to be self-centered, but when it comes to money, be self-centered--pay yourself and then bill collectors. This seems impossible when you first start, but it works like magic once you commit. You will see yourself actually cutting unnecessary expenses and creating more income to meet your real requirements.
3. No Future Investment Accounts
Most people don’t establish future investment accounts and then are baffled why they aren’t able to invest or start a business. Solution: Set up three investment accounts—beyond emergency funding—that you start putting money into every month for future investments. I started doing this when I was 25 years old and didn’t invest in anything until I was 30. I had a real estate investment account, but no real estate; a business account, but no business; and a stock investment account, but no stock portfolio. When it was time to do these things I had the money set aside to do so.
4. No Emergency Accounts
One of the biggest mistakes people make is not having an emergency account in place when things go a way other than you planned. As economic events of the past ten years have shown us, unexpected happens. In order to make your wealth recession-proof you should set up emergency accounts that are never touched except in urgent situations. Also, your goal should be emergency accounts of at least 12 months of your income, not the popular 3-month model—and I would prefer 30 months.
5. Hating Debt
A common misconception is thinking all debt is bad debt and hating the idea of it—not all debt is created equal. Some debt is good, contrary to what some financial ‘experts’ and politicians tell suggest—remember, the media has an agenda and financial backers to make happy. Debt that is paid off by others or debt that actually generates income is good debt; assume all other debt to be bad. Solution: get rid of all debt that cannot be funded by others or does not directly generate income.
6. Bad Budgeting
People spend most of their time budgeting money they have, rather than focusing on creating new money. I spend 90% of my time looking at ways to increase income and how to invest and grow my money and only 10% of my time on how I am spending it. A budget suggests what I am allowed to spend each month, and a financial plan is a road map to creating finances.
7. Not Prioritizing Expenditures
Hey, you can get tripped up struggling to meet expenses that aren’t necessary if you don’t have your expenses prioritized. Solution: Take the last 60 days and rate all of your spending on a scale from 1 to 5—5 being most important. Anything not rated a 3 or higher should be stopped immediately.
8. Spending Unconsciously
Look, most people don’t have a clue what their money is being spent on. A couple that complains about $4/gallon gas goes and spends $4/day to get 800 TV channels delivered to their home that they don’t even watch. Solution: Make a list of all your spending, and don’t use cash. Either put everything on a credit card or write a check so you have a complete record of each expenditure you make. If you are going to give a homeless person money, write a check so you have a record.
9. Bad Formulas
Most people base their income needs on their immediate expenses, not their future expenses, investments and financial goals. Solution: quit calculating your income based on your current spending. Use this magical income formula to get ahead: Future Savings Monthly + Emergency Funding + Current Spending = INCOME TARGET.
10. A Money Shortage Mindset
Most people struggling with money think there is a shortage of money on this planet. The reality is that money is plentiful, and even when there are shortages we print more. The very wealthy don’t think in shortages. Change your thinking to think in terms of money being abundant and plentiful—this isn’t some esoteric, new age concept, it’s reality.
While money won’t make you happy, surveys suggest that not having money can tear a family apart. Most agree that economic troubles for the American middle class are only going to increase, and most don’t believe the government can solve this problem. A man once told me, “The best way you can help people in need is to not be someone in need.” Help yourself out so you are in a position to help others.
Comment below with the biggest money mistakes you have made.