J.D. is on vacation in Alaska. This is a guest post from Dustin Riechmann. Dustin created Engaged Marriage to help others achieve the extraordinary in marriage and in life. Together, his family paid off $54,500 in debt to simplify their lives and achieve financial freedom in their household.
Financial freedom is clearly a desirable goal, and we read about the associated benefits every day here at Get Rich Slowly. It seems like everyone should be paying off their debts, growing their savings accounts and investing to build wealth. So, what's the problem?
Surely, there are many reasons why folks fail to create a plan and (especially) follow it: laziness, lack of knowledge, apathy and disorganization to name a few. However, there's one major reason that may not immediately come to mind.
The Fear of Harming Our Family
I think the fear of harming others with your plan can be a major cause of inertia, particularly for those with families. Focusing your energies on your finances and fighting your way out of debt can be tough enough when you're single. However, when you add a spouse and, especially, children into the mix, the anxiety level can skyrocket.
The path to financial freedom isn't easy. It requires deep sacrifice in lifestyle, cuts in spending, extra hours or even additional jobs, and a keen focus on money matters. Our current situation may not be all that we want, but it's familiar, and it keeps our family happy enough. Plus, it's “normal” and looks a lot like the lifestyle of most of our friends.
When we consider the changes necessary to get ahead and make real progress in our financial plan, it seems like our family could legitimately be harmed in the process. The kids may not get to participate in all of the activities they enjoy, your spouse may have to forgo any wardrobe upgrades for a while, and all of the additional work needed to generate extra income could be a real strain on your marriage.
It can be scary to really examine your financial situation and then face up to the family sacrifice required to make a major change.
Change Your Perspective
While these concerns are legitimate, and there are sure to be times of stress along the way, operating out of fear will never get you the results you desire. Instead, a change in perspective is required to see that, in fact, your family is actually going to be harmed by inaction and there is a great opportunity to grow your relationship through action!
The journey to financial freedom can be an incredible way to bring your family closer at a time when financial stress could instead create friction. It provides the opportunity to forge a lasting bond and set the course for the lifestyle you desire. And your family stands to benefit for generations to come when you create a lasting legacy of financial responsibility and success.
Six Core Actions for the Journey
If you're ready to lead your family toward financial prosperity, I encourage you to take these six actions to maximize both your chances for success and the positive impact enjoyed by your spouse and children:
- Get your priorities straight. Following an intense plan to get out of debt and start saving requires incredible focus and a commitment to put your finances above most other things in life for a while. However, it's important that you don't allow your financial goals to become the top priority. Aside from your faith, you must keep your marriage first, then children, and then your finances. A strong marriage is a source of strength that will fuel your journey as long as you continue to respect it and maintain a healthy perspective.
- Be unified. Make sure from the start that your family knows that everyone is in this together. Be clear and precise about your common goals, and express faith in one another. Your spouse and older children should understand the importance of teamwork and (especially) accountability to the family. There are few things as powerful as a fired-up family that is committed to each other and a plan they believe in.
- Demonstrate leadership. If you're heading up the charge to make meaningful changes in your financial life, it's critical that you lead by example. You must “walk the walk” by working hard and being sacrificial of your own wants. Not only will your actions build trust in you, but they'll also build trust in the process and the plan that you must follow to meet your goals. When times get tough, remember the commitment you made to your family and be a real leader.
- Reach goals and celebrate together. If you have a lot of debt to pay off or a very tight budget to follow to make progress, the journey can be long and trying. While you always want to keep the end game in mind, it's vital that you establish “mini-goals” along the way. It's much easier to maintain your momentum when you have small wins along the way to fuel your resolve and build confidence in your plan. When you reach a goal, take the time to celebrate your achievements and have fun together as a family. You've earned it.
- Commit to lasting change. When you finally reach your ultimate goals, it's certainly time to commemorate your accomplishments and do something special to celebrate. However, all of your efforts will be for nothing if you allow your old habits and attitudes to seep back in over time. As J.D. teaches us all on a daily basis, building wealth is a long-term process that requires living on less than you make and making wise decisions over the long haul. Commit to your new lifestyle, and you can enjoy your lives together on the “richer” side of “for richer or poorer” for years to come.
- Change your family tree. By involving your children, or living by example for your future children, you have the power to truly change the financial destiny of your family for generations to come. You can end the cycle of debt-dependence and lay the groundwork for financial freedom for your children's children. You can build a legacy.
The path to financial freedom is full of challenges that require real commitment and strong leadership. It's certainly not easy, but it's worth it. Even better, it's an awesome opportunity to bring your family together, and to build a lasting bond with those that you love.