Let’s face it. Most of us are stressed over the economy. According to the Yankelovich Dollars & Consumer Sense 2009 Grocery Syndicate study conducted in May, there are still harsh economic realities facing most consumers: 50% have either high or severe economic anxiety, and 76% feel things are still going poorly or very poorly in the country today.
So, how are you feeling? If you are feeling anxious like me, at least we are not suffering alone. Let’s look at some statistics: 1) 90% of the nearly 128 million workers in the US have difficulty managing their money and are not consistently saving for retirement; 2) Up to 50% of workers admit to spending 21 hours per month on personal money matters while on the job; 3) Two–thirds say they have trouble paying their bills on time and worry about money; 4) Employees regard financial stress as their number one concern, five times greater than personal health (Source: National Institute of Personal Finance Employee Education).
Consider the effect of financial stress on employee productivity on your business. The cost is estimated at a minimum of $2,000 per employee/year. Financial stress is caused by a lack of freedom. Debt and possessions control your stress. Personally, I am getting close to retirement age; I thought, I will just retire. But I can’t. I must work. I have no choice. I am not free. I am not wealthy.
I have a friend that’s a multi-millionaire. I consider him wealthy. But he is just as stressed over the economy. He has four Mercedes and five houses. He is 70 years old and still works. My dad still works and he’s 86. My dad works because he wants and chooses to. My multi-millionaire friend works because he has to. I wonder, is he really wealthy?
According to Dr. Thomas J. Stanley, “Wealth is not the same as income. If you make a good income each year and spend it all, you are not getting wealthier. You are just living high. Wealth is what you accumulate, not what you spend.”
When we are suffering in difficult times, we all look for hope, a light at the end of the tunnel that keeps us going. Recently, I saw some of that light when reading a book given to me by Ken and Marcie Redding from The Financial Wells Group. The book: The 4 Laws of Financial Prosperity, was written by Blaine Harris and Charles Coonradt. By following the principles of the book you can become wealthy and free; free of stress and anxiety from not being in control of your financial wellness.
The first law is Tracking. We track everything in our businesses through financial software or a bookkeeping system to make us aware of what’s going on and our current reality. The first step to making a change is awareness. Are we tracking what we do personally as well? I know better what’s going on in my business financially than I do in my home financially. Where is the money you are taking home going? We can’t manage it if we can’t measure it. Tracking allows us to identify where our money is going and redirect it to a better purpose.
The second law is Targeting. Targeting means getting focused. We can’t control our time if you don’t know what we want. Likewise, we can’t control our finances if we don’t know what we want. Targeting is defining and setting financial goals. Identify your six most important financial goals: for example, get out of debt; pay off your credit cards; pay off your home; retire with financial security; establish an emergency fund; and buy a boat.
You get the picture. Decide what you want. Write your goals down; visualize them and feel what it would be like to accomplish them. Look at and repeat them every day.
The third law is Trimming. Trimming is living on less than you earn and using that surplus to get out of debt and invest in assets that appreciate. I think this recession will turn many of us into savers, instead of spenders. Most Americans spend more than they make. All that does is allow us to live higher for a while, until we have to pay the pied piper. Eventually, that will cause more stress.
The essence of this law is paying yourself first and then living on what’s left. Use what you pay yourself to reduce debt, save or buy appreciating assets. Most people following this law hardly notice a difference in their lifestyle. It forces us to live on what’s left. It creates discipline. Try this: Pay yourself 5 to 15% less and use that to help you reach your financial goals.
The fourth law is Training. We need to train ourselves not to squander all our new money on depreciating assets and paying interest. We live in a world of money; managing it can be complicated. We have a lot to learn about investing, reducing taxes, etc. Everyone needs to become students of the game, as we all require training.
One thing I have learned, both in business and personally: It’s never too late to learn and change. I have also learned that most financial stress is self-inflicted. How about yours?