There are real blondes sporting electric blue eyes and then there are those who get there with hair color and contacts.
There are trained athletes who devote their lives to becoming professionals and then there are “weekend warriors” who adorn themselves in all the right gear, but wind up hugging icepacks and downing Advil.
There are the financially secure and the wealthy and then there are those who surround themselves with the trappings but have neither security nor true wealth.
There’s a difference between reality and fantasy.
When it comes to faking your hair or eye color or athletic prowess, hey, if it makes you feel good, there’s no harm done. But when it comes to your money life, living in fantasy is downright dangerous.
Money Fantasy is a false set of beliefs you adopt to support your image of success. Living a Money Fantasy means buying a home you cannot afford, enshrouding yourself in expensive goods, driving high-end cars or taking expensive vacations—all in an effort to be “accepted” into a particular peer group. The image—the fantasy—is the reality you want everyone to embrace.
Living a Money Fantasy is living a false life for the benefit of spectators who really don’t care. You enter a potentially horrific cycle of misery in which no one (other than those selling you the goods) wins. As we begin the New Year, perhaps it’s time to get off your carousel of doom.
The big question after living this way for so long is: how do you stop? Here are a few ideas to find your path to financial freedom and a life of happiness.
- Fess up: like any addict, if you are spending your way to oblivion, you need to start by admitting that the problem exists.
- Envision your ideal outcome: knowing where you want to wind up is the best way to start. If you’re living in a money nightmare, think about what your life without the nightmare looks like. Envision your life without debt, stress and misery. Picture your life with ease and financial security. How will you feel?
- Unearth the facts: come to grips with your numbers. How much do you owe? How much do you spend and on what? Know your net worth and your cash flow. Understand how much of your spending goes to unnecessary expenses that keep you mired in misery.
- Work with an expert: find a qualified and experienced fee-only Certified Financial Planner who can help you navigate the changes you need to make.
- Get all stakeholders onboard: living in Money Fantasy is not typically a solo affair—it impacts the entire family. Making real steps towards living a more “real” life requires all members of the family to work together for a successful outcome.
- Create small attainable goals: if the problem could have been solved by snapping your fingers, you would have done it already. Creating success is a process of change that requires intent, time and constant attention. Your chance of creating a cycle of living in money reality can be broken down into a series of small, deliberate and meaningful steps. The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time!
- Celebrate successes: the road from misery to ultimate success can be life-long. Therefore, celebrating each step—regardless of how small—is important to build up and support your confidence that you are moving in the right direction.
- Keep the end in mind: there’s nothing easier than falling back into bad or destructive habits. Keep your goals in the front of your thinking (visual cues work great for this) and monitor each step.
Living in Money Fantasy is like building a house made of straw in a tornado zone: nothing good can happen. Just try these small steps and you’ll see that you CAN start living a full, rich and happy life built on your values. It takes time and attention, but I know you can do it.