1. They focus on long term financial goals
- That starts with having a plan; a plan developed jointly by both spouses. If the plan is developed by only one spouse, how likely is it that the other spouse feels invested in that plan?
- The plan must have clearly outlined goals, and steps to reach those goals to give meaning to the actions you are taking. Most people don’t like “saving just to save”. They are more committed to the plan when they understand the “why”.
- Most couples have finite resources; therefore, tradeoffs need to be managed together. Are both spouses on board with working longer to fully fund college for their children? Is it more important to travel now or would you prefer to travel more when you’re retired?
2. They focus on the things they can control
- Spend less than you make. Set a savings budget; it’s much easier to follow than a spending budget. If you know how much you need to save and you hit that goal, the rest is open for spending. It’s important to periodically check in on spending to ensure your savings rate is still in line. But don’t worry about tracking every Starbucks coffee.
- Make sure your goals are YOUR goals. Don’t strive for something because you think you’re “supposed to” or because someone else told you it’s important.
- You can’t control the stock market, but you can control how you react to market swings. Patience is the key to smart investing.
3. They don’t let emotions get in the way of good decisions
- Money is an emotional topic, and couples aren’t always on the same page. We all grew up with different experiences that formed our attitudes towards money. It’s important to understand how those experiences influence our decisions and be mindful of those biases when discussing family finances.
- Consult the plan when making big decisions. Don’t make a big financial decision before knowing how it will affect your long-term financial goals. You just spent a week at the beach and loved it… don’t go putting an offer on a house just hoping it will work out. Will you have to sacrifice something else to buy the second home? Is that a sacrifice both spouses are willing to make?
- Don’t try to time the market! When the market drops, investors want to do something, anything, to make themselves feel better. Just sitting there feels terrible, but remember, if you sell out of the market, you’ve just replaced the worry of the market falling further with the worry of when to get back in. The stock market fluctuates. It’s why investors earn a premium for accepting the risk but don’t confuse volatility and risk.
4. They ask for help
- Don’t assume you know everything, there’s just too much information out there. Educate yourself but don’t waste time over-researching and second-guessing yourself. Identify the issue, find a knowledgeable guide, make a decision, and move on. Don’t let worry live rent-free in your mind.
5. They use their resources to enjoy life NOW and in the future
- The goal isn’t to die with the most money but to use your resources to live your best life now without putting your family’s financial future in peril along the way.