Imagine riding in the backseat of a car, cruising down the freeway.
Suddenly, you notice the driver is unconscious. The car is drifting off the road and heading for the ditch. From where you’re sitting, how much can you really do to save yourself?
In all honesty — not much.
Granted, you can scream and brace yourself for the crash. But the reality is, your options offer little hope 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 result will be catastrophic.
You want to know something?
This is the financial state of most people.
Many of us have taken the backseat in our financial journey and have placed money (the unconscious driver) in control, to manage itself. The problem is, you can’t reach your financial goal with this approach.
If you want to transform your financial condition and reach your target, YOU are going to have to guide it. You have to actively manage your money. You need a financial control.
Are you in control of your finances?
Signs You Might Not Be in Control of Your Finances
A recent study done by Prosper Market Place, operators of 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. And alarming 22% do not even think about their long term stability. Pretty crazy, right? You can read all of their findings here.
The point is, some of us are struggling with financial control. If you are wondering whether or not you’re in this group, 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 finances, chances are you’re not in control of your finances. But the good new is that you can take back control. If I can do it, so can you. Check out how I did it.
The Battle for Control Over My Finances
Just six years ago, I was cruising down a destructive financial journey of my own. The condition of my personal finances displayed clearly in my transactions, my credit report and my debt pile.
I was careless. I was uncommitted. I was inconsistent with my financial obligations. Notorious for exhausting and abusing the grace period, I would regularly wait until the last minute to pay my bills.
And some months, I wouldn’t even bother.
The friendly reminder from creditors would come and go with no action on my part. I would opt to pay the late fee instead. 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 my mess today.
As bad as the late fees and occasional overdraft fees were, they were not the worst part. The real tragedy was my inability to see the destructive nature of my choices. 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 On 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. Left to stare my failure in the face, I felt hopeless, defeated, and alone.
Then it clicked.
It was clear that behavior wasn’t the issue. Or how much money I was making. The problem was — I DIDN’T CARE. I was struggling to take charge because I was going about it the wrong way, addressing the wrong problem.
I needed to find my WHY.
It makes sense as I think about 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 the 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, 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 Took Control of My Finances
For a long time, I treated my finances like they belonged to someone else. This showed in my decision making, my transactions, and my credit report. But something changed inside of me at that moment.
Suddenly, I wanted more for my finances. I had a desire to fix the many mistakes I had made in the past, no matter how risky and radical I would have to be. It didn’t take long before the opportunity came 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.
I mean total responsibility.
I accepted the responsibility for my present financial challenges. I accepted the responsibility for 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 most of the time, it’s our choices and actions that shape our financial status. If you want to see the change you’ve longed for in your finances, you 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, being 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 one 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 activities 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. Take ownership and see where that takes you.
Equally important — 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?
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