The Art of Doing Something with Your Money

“When walking, walk. When eating, eat.” ~Zen proverb

In my workshops to help improve your personal finances, I have always preached that the best idea in the world is the implemented idea.  It is better to have done something and failed than to have done nothing.  We’ve all heard the saying “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

Is financial education the problem?

Many people and organizations have argued that we have a real problem when it comes to financial education and financial literacy.  Although financial education is my business, I’m not convinced that lack of education is the problem.  There is no shortage of information on how to become richer, how to have less debt, how to prepare for retirement, how to invest better or hoe to improve your personal finances.  Information is abundant.  As much as knowledge is important remember that you can have lots of knowledge stored in your head but if you do nothing with that information then what good is it to have the information.

Doing creates results

Reading is good.  Researching is good.  Discussing is good but doing is great because it is what creates results.  Here’s a list of things you can do to improve your personal finances:

  1. Figure out your net worth.  This is so simple and yet not enough people know their net worth.  All you have to do is take a piece of paper and on one side write down everything you own and on the other side write down everything you owe.  How can you get ahead financially if you have no idea how much you are worth.  Start with the basics and refine it later.  To learn more details about your net worth, here’s an article with a downloadable spreadsheet to how I track my own net worth – Calculate your net worth
  1. Track your expenses.  Knowing how much you spend is a key determinant of financial success.  Too many people are living paycheque to paycheque or even worse spending beyond their means.  How would you know if you have a spending problem or not if you had no idea how much you were spending? Here’s another article I wrote sharing some different ways to track your spending – Know your spending
  1. Take control of your investments.  Nobody cares about your money more than you care.  Start doing by simply taking stock of your investments and determine why you own what you do. Here’s an article on how to review your RRSP portfolio if you have not done so in a long time.  If you are working with a financial advisor give him/her a call and book an appointment for a review.  Walk into that meeting with a list of questions because you care about your money.
  1. Get a will done.

    Not only should you get your will done but you should also get a power of attorney and a personal directive done as well. In my 20 years in the financial industry I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen people without these key documents and the result is problems, costs, delays and conflicts.

  1. Get the right bank account.  A bank account is something we use everyday and in today’s world, not all bank accounts are created equal.  My suggestion is to look into high interest bank account options because they are the types of accounts that work in your favour because they pay interest and charge no monthly service fees.  I am very passionate about getting the right bank account so here’s a few articles on getting the right bank account:
  1. Start an automatic savings plan.  For many saving money does not come naturally.  Saving money is one of the four key disciplines to financial success.  Putting away money for the future is so much harder when you don’t automate it. Doing is simply a matter of going to your financial advisor or institution and asking them to start a regular withdrawal from your bank account into a Tax Free Savings account  (TFSA) or Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP).  If your employer has an option to take it off your paycheque, that’s even better.  If your employer is willing to match your contributions that’s the best.  If you need help saving money, here are my principles of saving money.

This list is far from complete. There are so many things you can be doing.  I think this list forms some of the basic skills needed for tour financial health.  If you have done these things then keep doing something else.  There’s always room for improvement.  Doing something is better than nothing.  It’s never to late to start doing something.  I think Nike said it best “Just do it!”

What kinds of things are you doing to improve your personal finances?  What things are you planning to do?

Written by Jim Yih

Jim Yih is a Fee Only Advisor, Best Selling Author, and Financial Speaker on wealth, retirement and personal finance. Currently, Jim specializes in putting Financial Education programs into the workplace. For more information you can follow him on Twitter @JimYih or visit his other websites Retire Happy Blog, Group Benefits Online and Advisor Think Box.

9 Responses to The Art of Doing Something with Your Money

  1. Great point about figuring out your net worth. Many people have substantial net worth and don’t even know it. A lot of people have net worth that is sitting idle or barely keeping up with inflation. This could be home equity or funds sitting in a savings account. Becoming aware of your idle net worth should inspire you to do something with your money.

  2. I do budgets, automatic savings, etc etc. Yet until 2 years ago I had never done a net worth statement. When I did I found it to be a very powerful motivator and key piece of information for me.

    I have two sections to my net worth: “stuff I control” (basically my cash and shorter term savings) and “stuff I don’t control”, basically my RRSP’s and longer term items. Yes, I control the allocation of stocks and bonds, but I am an index investor and only review it periodically.

    I also EXCLUDE the value of my house but include my mortgage. Any valuation of my house is an estimate anyways, and may not correlate to what I could sell it for. I do include my house value after I calculate my net worth, and I use my annual market value assessment from the city. But I focus on my net worth that I control … am I saving cash each month (yes); am I investing it (yes); and occasionally is my allocation consistent with my goals (getting there).

    When periods like this summer come around and my investments go south, I don’t panic and keep saving money and investing it. It works for me.

  3. Calculating Net Worth is probably the most motivating thing I have done with my personal finances. I like to check it every so often and plot them to see my growth!

  4. I do all of the above. I constantly review my expenses to wring out extra savings. I monitor my investments and track them as well to make sure they are on track for retirement.

  5. Calculating net worth seems to be one of the most popular subjects in financial blogs lately! Maybe it’s because it’s that important to include it first in your list! Great list by the way!

  6. The absolute most important thing I have done to improve my finances is I have changed my mindset…but not in the way you would think. I have always been extremely frugal, but I was still spending more than I needed to without realizing it at first.

    I followed the norms in society without realizing WHY I was working so hard and spending my money. When I thought I was doing well saving $1,000, I realized I could save $1,500 per month simply by changing the way I think. I am making changes such as owning my own water heater instead of paying high rental rates. I switched to VOIP (Net Talk) and saved $428 per year.

    The key for me was being focussed on retiring as early as possible, and only then did my mindset start focussing on ways to reduce my expenses even more to meet that goal. Every purchase I make I ask is there a better way to satisfy the need, and will it help me to my goal of retiring early.

  7. One thing – is to really want to do something with your money. A far reaching goal, towards your financial independence.

    Believe you me, if there would be reason to save the money you WANT, it will make it easier to realise.

  8. One of the best things I DID was create my emergency fund before going gung ho into paying off my debts. I continue to invest a little bit, save a little bit, and spend a little less! I learned how to do this from reading – blogs and books mostly. I’m glad to find this one to add to my reading list!
    It takes very little time to set up a “payday” routine as I call it. It takes even less to do it. All my bills end up being paid on time, my savings accounts are fed, and I still have money for groceries every week!

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