Mindfulness is all about going through life with purpose and paying attention to the present moment. It has a place throughout every aspect of our lives, and can make a real difference in our finances as well. In the same way we’d check in on our physical and mental health using mindfulness tools, these few questions can tee up clarity in our financial space.
1. Which financial decision am I most proud of?
Start money mindfulness by putting yourself in a positive frame of mind. Think back to the last financial decision you made that put you one step closer to a goal—maybe it was skipping an impulse purchase or kicking up your retirement account contributions. Whatever that was, get in touch with how it felt to know that you were putting yourself on the right track. Know that you are capable and empowered to create that feeling in your life through all of your financial decisions, big and small. Some research has even shown that positive thinking influences our ability to make better choices.
2. What is one change I could make today that would improve my finances?
Financial stability means something different to each of us, but can often feel like an unattainable, far-off goal. If you’re due for some real financial housekeeping, start with organization. Book a few hours on a Saturday morning to get into the details of your personal wealth. Countless apps are available to help you get a quick, clear picture of your situation. Investing a few hours in setting up a system that works for you is essential to money mindfulness.
Already squared away on the organizational front? One of the best ways to bring financial success to the present moment is to just make one small step today. Forgo your daily latte and kick that $5 into savings, listen to a podcast on building personal wealth, take 10 minutes and read through your renter’s insurance policy—small actions like this are actually what make you present in all aspects of your financial health.
3. How effectively am I meeting my long-term goals?
Along the same line, long-term goals are only met by doing tiny things each day. For example, most of us won’t see a surprise windfall of cash that magically turns into the down payment on a house; it will take us years of disciplined, mindful savings to reach that goal. And while the idea of retirement can seem far off, remember that the time value of money means that there’s no better moment than today to start investing in your future.
Data shows that us millennials aren’t investing as aggressively as we could, so you might also consider chatting with an investment professional for long-term planning. They can help ensure you’re appropriately aligning your investment allocation with your life stage and risk tolerance.
4. When is my next “money milestone”?
Big life events are often coupled with financial changes (like buying a home, having a baby, or getting married). Each one of these big moments should be coupled with thoughtful financial planning. Bonus points if you start thinking about the money milestones you might not be able to anticipate, like losing a job or incurring an unforeseen medical expense. How would you handle those and what changes could you make today to be more prepared? Emergency savings are key here.
5. Why am I making this purchase?
Thoughtful spending is one of the best ways to achieve financial mindfulness. Shopping from our phone in bed after a rough week (guilty!) is double trouble, because we’re making emotional purchases and it sometimes doesn’t feel like “real” money. Take a few minutes to remove stored credit cards from your favorite shopping apps (painful, I know). Even the act of reaching for your plastic when you make a purchase gives you a bit more time to really evaluate your “why.”
6. Who should be part of my personal finance team?
Financial success really does take a team. That doesn’t mean you need to run out and hire a slew of professionals to keep you on track (though leveraging experience from investment advisors, a good accountant, and retirement planner can be invaluable). Instead, think about resources in your immediate circle. Schedule regular financial check-ins with your partner over date night, or turn book club with your girlfriends into a finance forum and use the meet up to share tips and money goals.
7. What aspect of my finances do I avoid?
We all have that one aspect of our finances that makes us cringe a little. Whether you avoid reading your monthly credit card statement or don’t have a full understanding of your investment portfolio, these behaviors can tell us a lot about where some financial housekeeping is in order.
What we resist, persists. Think about the underlying issue that drives your avoidance. Are you not sure what to do first? Do you just lack the time for planning? Whatever it is, make a commitment to yourself this year to tackle your uncomfortable financial spaces.
Now: How did I change and form lasting financial habits?
Setting new patterns in our financial behavior starts with understanding how we got here. Where did your early financial influences come from? Maybe your mom was a rockstar with saving or you watched a close family friend struggle with overspending.
Whether these influences were positive or negative, they can bring to the forefront things we do really well and where we have room to grow. When in doubt, go back to the basics. Freshen up your budget, be sure you understand how to save for retirement, and get any unnecessary debt under control.