Imagine riding in the backseat of a car, cruising down the freeway.
Suddenly, you notice theÂ driver is unconscious. The car is drifting off the road and heading for the ditch. From whereÂ you’re sitting, how much can you really do to save your life?
In all honesty– not much.
Granted, you can screamÂ andÂ brace yourself for the crash. But the reality is, yourÂ options offer little hopeÂ for getting out alive.
If you’re lucky (and that’s a big IF), you might come out with minor cuts and bruises, but most likely, the end resultÂ will be catastrophic.
You want to know a secret?
This is the financial state of most people.
Many of us have taken the backseat in our financial journeyÂ and have placed money (the unconscious driver) in control, to manage itself. Can you really getÂ to yourÂ desired destination with this approach?
I don’t believe so. This might be why financial experts preach CONTROL.
With that being said, if you wantÂ to transform your financial condition and reach your target, YOU are going to have to guide it. You’ll have to start managing your money.
Are you in control of your finances?Â
Signs You Might Not Be in Control of Your Finances
A recent study done by Prosper Market Place, operators ofÂ a leading online marketplace that connects borrowers and investors, shows that 60% of Americans do not have the needed financial freedom to enjoy life.
Only 29% feel confident about being in control of their finances. But the mostÂ alarming finding, to me, isÂ that, “a full 22% do not even think about their long term stability.”
I’m still tryingÂ toÂ figure that one out. You can read all of their findings here.
The point is….
Some of us are struggling to take control of our finances. If you are wondering whether or not you’re in this group, justÂ take a look at your transactions.
Still can’t decide, or need more convincing?Â Here are a few definite signs that you might not be in control of your money:
- You have a habit of buying things even when you don’t have the money.
- You’re opening more credit lines to have enough to spend.
- You regularly come short in paying your bills and you have to push back the due date.
- You’re using credit cards to pay other credit cards.
The list goes on.
If you’re exhibiting any of these in your spending, chances are you’re not inÂ control of your finances.Â But here is the good news…
You can take back control. If I can do it, so can you.Â Check out how I did it.
The Battle for Control Over My Finances
Just six years ago, I was cruising down a destructive financial journeyÂ of my own. The condition of my personalÂ finances displayed clearly in myÂ transactions.
I was careless. I was uncommitted. I was inconsistent with my financial obligations. Notorious for exhaustingÂ and abusing the grace period, I would regularly wait untilÂ the last minute to pay my bills.
And some months, I wouldn’t even bother.
The friendly reminder from creditors wouldÂ come and go with no action on my part. I would opt to pay the late feeÂ instead.Â Somehow, I convinced myself it was easier that way. (Foolish, huh? Tell me about it.)
Looking back, I thank God I wasn’t on that journey for too long. If I would have kept doing that for another year or two, I would still be trying to clean up myÂ mess today.
As bad as the late fees and occasional overdraft fees were, theyÂ were notÂ the worst part.Â The real tragedy was my inability to see the destructive nature of my choices.Â In fact, I thought I was slick. I thought I was playing the system. Ha!
But the truth is — I was a slave to my careless habits.
The Real Reason I Couldn’t Put a Leash OnÂ My Spending
It might seem obvious looking from the outside in, but my problems weren’t only the juvenile habits that displayed in my choices or the frequent delinquencies from not paying my outstanding debt.
My issue was more than the negative behavioral signs. And if any change was going to take place, it would have had to happen on the inside as well. I tried addressing the behavior thing, but that didn’t work. I needed internal transformation, not just external.
I tried budgeting and I occasionally saved, but it felt like someone was making me. I had no ambition, motivation, or even a plan. My efforts fell flat.
The end result… I was inconsistent, discouraged, and stressed.Â Left to stare myÂ failure in the face, I felt hopeless,Â defeated, and alone.
Then one day, it clicked.
It was clear thatÂ behavior wasn’t the issue. Or howÂ much money I was making. The problem was –Â I DIDN’T CARE. IÂ was struggling to take charge because IÂ was going about it the wrong way, addressing the wrong problem.
I needed to find my WHY.
It makes sense as I think aboutÂ the nature of caring. In general, caring:
- Creates an environment of nurturing.
- Promotes growth and development.
- Helps restore things (or people, for that matter) to theÂ original condition — health and wholeness.
My finances were missing that. And I did very little to give it.
Soon after realizing this, I began to desire something more for my finances. I began to see my finances through caring eyes. I began to have vision for my future — and hope. I began to see the incentive in fighting for a healthy financial condition.
During this season in my life, one of my “why”s came in the form a beautiful woman I now call my wife. I realized my decisions were not going to only affect me forever. I wanted a wife and a family and needed to think of others– not just myself. I needed to consider the dreams we have together. Did I want my financial decisions to hold us back or did I want to lead in this area and facilitate us in attaining our goals?
Clearly,Â there is joy in caring for something and someone other than myself– the freedom, the peace of mind, and not being hunted by my masters (lenders) made it all worthwhile.
I knew what I had to do.
How I TookÂ Control of My Finances
For a long time, I treatedÂ my finances like they belonged to someone else. This showed in my decision making, my transactions, and my credit history.Â But something changed inside of me at that moment.
Suddenly, I wanted more for my finances.
I had a desireÂ to fix the many mistakes I had made in the past, no matter how risky andÂ radical I would have to be. It didn’t take long and theÂ opportunity had come for me to put that desire to the test.
I aced it.
I did something I should have done a long time ago. Something a fourth grader does when it comes to their homework.
I took RESPONSIBILITY for my finances.Â I mean total responsibility.
I accepted the responsibility for my present financial challenges. I accepted the responsibility forÂ the future of my finances. And I took full responsibility for my past financial mistakes — debt and all.
Within two years of making this one choice, I was completely debt-free. Today, I have full control of my finances and I’m successfully managing my money.
But here is the best part… You can too!
How You Can Take Charge of Your Finances, Too
There are many factors that shape our financial condition. Some are totally out of our control.
But I believe most of the time, our condition is shaped by our choices and actions. If you want to see the change you’ve longed for in your finances, you might have to come to terms with this and make changes.
Once I took responsibility for my finances, it started to reflect in my decision making and my commitment (paying my bills on time, beingÂ more aware of where my money is going– what’s coming in and going out,etc).
The more I implemented these simple habits, the more control I began to have over my financial activities and ultimately, I became debt-free. But it all started with me taking responsibility.
So, if your situation seems identical to mine, it’s time to take an honest look at yourself and your situation. It’s time to start asking some tough questions.
Questions are great ways to tackle challenges. The right question will accelerate the process in figuring out your solution.
Here are some great questions to ponder:
Are you okay with your financial condition? If not, what practical steps are you taking to change it or show that you’re pursuing change?
How much are you contributing to the problem? Is that the best you can do?
When an outsider gets a hold of your checkbook (let’s hope that doesn’t happen), can they draw the conclusion that your financial activitiesÂ express care and ownership on your part?
Finally, is it time to get outside help because doing it by yourself is not working?
Start responding sincerely to these questions and have the intention to address them practically.Â Start with taking ownership and see where that takes you.
Equally important — whatever you do, don’t give up.
What is your WHY? How much role does ownership play in taking your finances to the next level? And, can you reach your financial goal without first taking control of your finances?Â
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