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8 Guiding Lessons Learned on Our Financial Journey

Financial Journey (featured column)
by Karen Kuebler

In this article I have tried to capture some of the most important lessons that we learned throughout the years we were working towards financial independence. This list is not meant to be all-inclusive, but these following eight strategies were ones that have served us well over the years and I wanted to capture and share them.

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1. Discuss financial planning openly with your spouse. 

My husband and I came from very different backgrounds, and we had conflicting views about spending and saving when we first got together. Fortunately, our relationship is one of very open communication and we were able to work together toward common goals and a shared vision of the future.

This won’t always happen naturally in a relationship. Make a point to share your thoughts, experiences, and backgrounds. Develop a common vision for your shared future, and establish goals that will help you get where you want to be.

2. Avoid debt like the plague.

*Especially* for disposable purchases such as gasoline, food, dining, recreation, etc. Only use credit cards if you are disciplined enough to pay them in full at the end of each month. Pay cash for purchases.

We learned this after maxing out our credit cards several times, and having to refinance a loan at the credit union four or five times to pay down the credit cards. I use an envelope system that my Mom taught me to use when I was young. Hey, use whatever works! I track every expenditure on the outside of the envelope and enter them in Quicken later.

3. Take advantage of tools and technology available.

To help you plan and track your finances, goals, and steps you need to take to achieve your goals. Computers weren’t available when I was newly married. I wasn’t aware if Day Planners existed, but their availability has grown significantly.

Now my planner is attached to my right arm wherever I go. It keeps me focused on my goals and the tasks that need to be done to achieve them. Quicken helps me to know, at any point in time, exactly where we are spending money and how we are doing with respect to our financial goals and planning.

4. Experience living simply and frugally, and have some fun with it. 

Instead of getting pleasure from possessions, learn to feel the satisfaction and contentment from saving money by living resourcefully. There is an inner peace that comes from knowing you can survive if out of work for a time that no amount of possessions will provide.

There are tons of resources available to gather ideas for simple living. We survived by cutting our expenses to the bare bones and coming up with creative ideas for making money. For a period of a few months, my husband and I were assemblers by night! We both were employed in good jobs at this time, but we found an opportunity to earn extra money.

My husband’s company paid outside vendors for cable assemblies for the computers they built. We offered to make the cables for a lower price and the owner of the company accepted our offer! We set up an assembly line way to do these quickly and efficiently and made them at night while we caught up on the day’s events or watched a movie. We rewarded ourselves by taking 10% of the profits for ourselves, and put the rest in savings.

5. Don’t let your ego get in the way of your success. 

Both my husband and I have been in positions where we took a step back in title, status, and money when accepting new jobs. That doesn’t mean this is always the best thing to do. But if you can see that the new opportunity will open doors for you in the future, don’t turn away because of pride. Sometimes you have to take one or two steps backwards in order to make several leaps forward.

6. Always ask for what you want. 

Don’t let fear hold you back from asking for something. What is the worst that can happen? If the answer is "no" then you are in the same place you started. We have received unbelievable benefits and opportunities by simply asking. Be sure to speak to a person who has the authority to say "yes" and learn to be assertive, but remain very pleasant.

Acquiring and practicing this skill will benefit you in ways too numerous to list. Not only can you reap financial rewards, you can open doors and create new opportunities in virtually every aspect of your life.

7. Treat others with respect and dignity. 

Give freely to others and offer help whenever you can. I believe in a universal law of *reciprocity.* The good you give out into the universe will come back to you. You will be on the receiving end of wonderful opportunities if you give without expecting anything in return.

8. Choose to Act rather than React to life events. 

We are all going to be faced with challenges and adversity in this life. As someone once said, the only way to avoid stress is the "D" word (death)! When these events hit, allow yourself a little time to experience the emotions they create, whether it is anger, resentment, fear, or whatever. But, don’t let yourself stay down for too long or become a Victim.

Choose to take control and make plans to move forward with your life. I don’t believe things happen by accident in this life. I think it is up to us to figure out what we are supposed to learn from these events.

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Copyright © 2004 Karen Kuebler. All rights reserved.
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