Financial concerns consistently rank among the most stressful elements of a person’s life, and the effects of that stress can be intensely disruptive to one’s overall sense of balance and wellbeing.
While there is a growing trend focusing on a holistic approach to physical, emotional, spiritual, environmental and intellectual wellness, financial wellness is often left out of the equation. If you find that the way you manage your money is based on one set of values and priorities and the rest of your life is based on another, it may be time to consider this crucial connection.
But how do you begin? Here are five key steps you can take to align your personal and financial life–and in the process, achieve a more peaceful and centered existence.
1. Declutter and Organize
To begin to understand your financial life, the first, all-important step is to clear the decks–remove any unnecessary documents, and create space for what is to come. Done correctly, this will be quite a time consuming effort, but worth it! After such a major purge, most people describe a sense of feeling lighter and less stressed.
Ideally, you should commandeer a spare room for several days, one that you can walk away from when needed. Review and sort all of your financial records from every drawer or cabinet you have. Documents should be segregated into either shred or filing piles. Please refer to www.irs.gov for recordkeeping guidelines so that you can feel comfortable destroying outdated records. Organize and file remaining items by category in a comprehensive recordkeeping system.
2. Ignite Your Personal Vision
The next step is to get to the heart of what’s most important to you and identify your true purpose. This self-discovery is a crucial step that should not be rushed or skipped. The objective is to redirect the focus of your financial life through the lens of what brings you joy, what you hope to accomplish and contribute professionally and personally, the lifestyle you wish to create and the legacy you hope to leave behind.
Begin the visionary process by being open to discovering your true purpose and curious as to what that means for you. Allocate time to brainstorming on your personal strengths, desires and what brings peace or satisfaction. Explore vision exercises, which can be found searching online or at the bookstore. Consider a series of meetings with an inspiring mentor or a life coach. Others may embrace alternative therapeutic approaches from a spiritual adviser or energy therapist.
3. Choose Financial Advice Wisely and Find the Right Partner
After you’ve identified your financial resources and personal vision, you may find it challenging to translate those key variables into a decisive financial plan of action. If knowing exactly where to start seems insurmountable, professional advice from the right partner may help.
Because the stakes are particularly high, you will want to be meticulous when choosing an adviser. Beyond experience and credentials, you will want an adviser with whom you connect on a personal level–one who can relate to your values and worldview.
The good news is that the financial advice landscape is much different than it used to be. There are now financial life planners, who combine the vision component above with customary financial planning. Or you can choose a traditional financial planner or adviser, and ask them to incorporate your vision.
4. Implement a Manageable Action Plan
Far too often, the best-laid plans fall flat when it comes to the execution. Your adviser should provide a detailed action plan that identifies everything you need to accomplish to achieve your ideal financial life. To ensure the greatest chance of follow through, each long-term goal should be broken down into manageable short-term objectives that can be completed in three to six months. Smaller successes along the way will bring you a sense of accomplishment and foster commitment to your plan.
5. Commit to Regular Financial Wellness Checkups
The final step in the process requires an ongoing commitment to reconnect with your financial life adviser at least twice a year. While time consuming, it is imperative.
Most people find time for the things they consider important–whether it be exercise, a weekly manicure or other leisure activities. And many would not consider missing an annual physical or even a hair appointment, but they often don’t lend that same sense of priority to their financial life plan. Holistic financial planners would make the case that taking the time to ensure that your financial affairs are in perfect order can leave you feeling just as energized and centered as a day at the spa.
Regular follow-up carries the reward of seeing the progress you are making on your way to achieving the life you desire. It is also an opportunity to address any life changes that should be reflected in your plan, and to identify opportunities created by external factors such as the economy or financial markets.
It is absolutely possible to create harmony between your personal life and your financial life. If you can be open to greater possibilities and are willing to realign your focus based on a discovery of what’s important to you, the highest level of fulfillment can be well within your grasp.