Retirement: it’s the American dream.

This is why we plan our escape from the rat-racing, corporate ladder-climbing, 9-to-5-ing of our jobs. We want to see the endless meetings, difficult clients, and the tyranny of the urgent fade in the rearview mirrors. We want the freedom to enjoy our weekends without the ‘ding’ of another office email.

We want to know that the life we dream of is just beyond our final workday. For many of us, we want to retire from something, but what are you retiring toward?

What’s on the other side of your retirement party?

Between your early 20s to early 60s, you probably spend between eight to 12 hours a day working. Once you retire, where do you want to spend your now-free time? More importantly, how do you know you’ll be financially successful to the point where you can enjoy your newfound freedom?

Maybe you want to spend more time with your family and close friends. Maybe you want to finally take that trip, wining and dining your way through the Tuscany hillsides. Maybe you have a passion for making a difference in your community.

Those dreams of lifestyle freedom also require financial means. How do some of the most vibrant, influential, and fulfilled people in your life and community get to do what ‘they’ do? By leaning into what we call the 5 Lifestyle Habits of Financially Successful People. These five lifestyle-defining, paradigm-shifting habits are simple, timeless principles designed to give you the confidence and momentum you need to support the lifestyle you desire.

Retiring toward traveling the world, spending time with your loved ones, and making a difference starts with these five habits. This is what transforms the ambitious among us into the financially successful…

Secret 1: Financially successful people set goals.

You probably already set goals in at least one area of your life: work. Either you set the goals (well done, go-getter!) or the goals are set for you by your manager. Whether you’re an avid goal setter or more of a free spirit, there’s no denying the impact goal-setting has on finances. The most financially savvy people set goals for different areas of their life, including their money.

Simply setting a goal though isn’t a guarantee of financial success. Of course, you probably expected that we can’t share any guarantee, so what type of goals seems to work the best for reaching financial success? S.M.A.R.T. goals.

S.M.A.R.T. goals are defined as:

  • Specific: Instead of saying “I’d like to retire by 65,” you want to figure out exactly how much money you’ll need in retirement and then set an annual savings goal to reach that desired amount.
  • Measurable: What’s measured is what may be improved. How do you know your results are on track to meet your goals unless you have the metrics to analyze your progress? A measured goal is more fulfilling when you can see the results of your hard work.
  • Attainable: What’s a realistic expectation you can set for accumulating wealth over the next five, 10, or 15+ years? You want your financial goals to stretch your potential but still be attainable.
  • Results-Based: One of Stephen Covey’s iconic 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is to “begin with the end in mind.” (Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, 2018) In the same way, choose a goal with a specific outcome in mind so when you reach your result, it matches your end goal.
  • Time-sensitive: All goals need to have an expiration date because a goal with a deadline is simply a dream. Setting a realistic deadline for your goals adds accountability that you will deliver on your goal in a timely manner.

For many investors, setting goals for this month, this season, and this year is a great place to start. Writing down your goals can give you clarity and a common reference point as you work to reach that goal. Once you begin reaching your goals, you’ll be excited to set the next level of your goals.

Secret 2: Financially successful people budget and track their expenses.

How much money do you spend each month? Do you have a budget or a current reliable, written plan for tracking and managing your expenses? If you do have a written budget, how confident are you in the effectiveness of your budget?

A recent Gallup study found approximately 32% of Americans maintain a household budget. (Debt.com, July 2018) MarketWatch also reported that approximately half of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. (MarketWatch, April 2017) No household budget with little room for financial mishaps, it’s no wonder why so many Americans are failing to reach their financial goals.

Financially successful people have a written budget that they track and adhere to on a consistent basis. We know what it’s like to have a budget you don’t respect. It takes discipline to stick to your budget, just like starting a new exercise regimen. The first day or two may be exciting, but it takes guts to get back in the gym, or in this case into your budget system, and honestly track your progress.

No matter your current income level, having a written budget you respect can be one of your best investments. A written budget can be incredibly insightful for knowing if your spending patterns match what you want your lifestyle to be in retirement.

Creating a written budget starts by looking at your wants versus needs. The more detailed you can be, the more accurate your budget. What does each trip to the grocery store cost? What’s a reasonable amount to spend on your entertainment? How much do you need to allocate to keep your wardrobe fresh but not extravagant?

Once you assign a budget for your each of your needs, then you’re ready to add in what you want and desire. Your favorite bottle of vintage scotch probably doesn’t classify as a need, so figure out what you need first before adding in what you want. Many investors who create a written budget often find they can live on much less than they earn.

Here are some of the tools we love for budgeting and tracking your expenses:

Secret 3: Financially successful people work with experts.

You’re likely an expert in at least one area, which is why you have the job you do. Whether you’re a tradesperson, a business leader, sales manager, account personnel, or an entrepreneur, people look to you as an expert in your field. You know what’s necessary to get the job done and thrill your boss or clients.

People who retire with the greatest accumulation of wealth typically rely on experts to help them make the best possible choices with their money. Leveraging the expertise of others can sometimes come with a serving of humble pie: we often don’t know what we don’t know. When new clients connect with our team at Full Circle Financial, we often ask a variety of questions to get to know them. What’s the big picture they need to see? What are the numbers they’re concerned about? What’s keeping them up at night?

Retirement isn’t about hitting a magical number; it’s about knowing how to use what you have the best way possible to fulfill your dreams. A financial expert who you can trust can help you establish a personalized financial plan, and then, they can help you stick to your plan.

This includes finding investments that are in your best interest. We call that being a true fiduciary: your financial advisor must have your best interests in mind with any investment or product they recommend to you. That’s been our approach with Full Circle Financial of Colorado from Day One, and we are unapologetically obsessed with giving you the best options we can to fuel your financial growth. It’s because we believe the right expert in any field needs to be invested in, believe in, and share your dream.

Being your fiduciary means we try to  ‘put ourselves in your shoes’: if this were our account, what are the best options to consider? We talk through tough questions with our clients, such as:

  • How much risk do you want to assume (we call that “risk tolerance”)?
  • Which investment types do you want to consider?
  • What does your financial plan tell us about your goals with this type of investment?
  • What happens if you or your spouse become disabled or die?
  • What would not meeting your goals feel like to you? And, how would success feel?

Lastly, an expert can help keep you accountable. This is why accountability partners are so widely used in the weight loss industry. You have a much higher chance of success if you share your vision with someone else and create a relationship where you report back on your progress.

Financially successful people partner with people who want to see them win.

Secret 4: Financially successful people have a healthy community of trustworthy loved ones and friends.

Harvard’s Grant & Glueck study tracked the physical and emotional well-being of 268 male graduates from Harvard, as well as 456 poor men growing up in Boston from 1939 to 2014. (Harvard Second Generation Study, 2017) Multiple generations of researchers analyzed brain scans, blood samples, self-reported surveys and interactions of these men to compile their findings.

According to Robert Waldinger, Harvard professor of psychology and director of the center behind the study, the conclusions are simple. Close relationships can make or break a person’s well-being. “The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period,” Waldinger says in his 2015 TEDx Talk. (TED, 2015)

This simple, yet profound truth is often missing for our everyday interactions. Who are the people you know, like, and trust who are adding a positive impact on your everyday life? These are the voices speaking into your life when you’re establishing a budget, preparing for a major purchase, changing jobs, moving to a new home, planning for college, or preparing for retirement or any other significant event

Financially successful people have someone they can turn to for feedback, pushback, or affirmation. Playing the ‘lone wolf’ is a dangerous approach to your finances. The people who know you the best also know your values and habits. Remember, people leave patterns, including yourself. Getting trustworthy insight from those closest to you can be a great investment for your financial future.

Secret 5: Financially successful people take the first step, and then, the next step.

We all face the trials of daily life: cars break, roofs leak, kids eat mass quantities of groceries, and markets move. Financially successful people take the first step regardless of any chaos that may be surrounding them, and then, they take the next step. Financial success doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a continual journey that involves adjusting and course-correcting throughout your life, based on your circumstances.

You’re not the same person you were in college nor as a new parent or the ‘greenhorn’ at your first company. We change over the years, which is why your financial planning needs to accommodate and adjust for the season of life you’re in as well as the seasons ahead of you. As you mature, so should your financial plan. The investment types are often different. The financial goals may also change. Making $150,000 in your 40s or 50s opens up far more doors of investment opportunity than the $50,000 you made in your 20s or early 30s.

Planning for retirement is not about the final big number you need to have in the bank to live off of. Wealth will never give you true happiness or peace. What will feed your fulfillment is creating the life you dream of by taking great steps along the way. We want to give you confidence, inspiration, and help you find the willingness to stand firm in your values and goals.

As a team who is intimately involved in people’s financial lives, we find it so rewarding when our clients reach their financial goals. It means they can pay for their child to attend that prestigious college, make their final house payment, buy a new car on their terms, travel to where they’ve always wanted to go, or simply give us that all-knowing look that we’ve worked together to create an incredible financial future they can enjoy.

Our experience has shown us over and over again there are many who can show you the roadmap, but they are few who are ready to jump in the car with you.

It is possible for you to be financially successful, whatever that looks like to you. Our team at Full Circle Financial of Colorado would love to learn more about your goals and vision. Maybe you received some investment advice that you’re not sure about. Maybe you have some goals that you’re not sure how to reach.

What’s Your Next Step?

If you want a financial advisor who’s been where you are and who will fight for your financial future, we would love to connect with you. Our Full Circle Financial team is ready to have a ‘zero-fear, no strings attached’ phone call with you to see if we may be a good fit.

You may not be ready to talk yet, and that’s okay. If you like this article and want to learn more, just send us a message to start a conversation. No calls necessary, just a message or two so you can get to know us a bit more before taking that first step.

You have a choice for who you let speak into your finances. Whenever you’re ready, we want to be the right choice for you.

Advisory services offered through Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a Registered Investment Adviser. Cambridge and Full Circle Financial of Colorado, Inc. are not affiliated.

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Full Circle Financial of Colorado