Sitting on my computer is a Post-It Note that was supposed to be motivational. When I started my journey to become more fiscally responsible, I set these goals:
- Mar. ‘10: Pay off first credit card
- Apr. ‘11: Fully fund our emergency fund
- Feb. ‘12: Pay off all credit cards
- Aug. '12: Pay off my student loans
- Aug. '13: Pay off my husband's students loans
- Aug. '16: Pay off mortgage on home
- Dec. '17: Pay off mortgage on addition
I love planning — too much. In my plans, I am so focused on the goal that I do not have to worry about real life intruding. By this time, I had planned that I was going to fully fund my emergency fund and be fully be out of credit card debt. Yet here I am, realizing that I'm years behind where I was hoping to be. I still have one credit card left to pay off and don't have a fully-funded emergency fund. While unexpected expenses are some of the problem, it does not account for all of the setbacks.
It is time for me to begin this journey anew and to be more accountable. But how? One of the tools that have been missing for me is a community to which I can be accountable. Prior articles on Get Rich Slowly have discussed the similarities between getting more healthy and fit physically and becoming more fit financially. Diet programs that have a high documented success rate include programs like Weight Watchers, where there is a weekly weigh-in and sense of community. Why?
People Are Social
In Weight Watchers, its members are joining with other people to fulfill a similar quest. Setting up a support group is one of the golden rules of dieting, whether you are part of an organized group or not. We need a support group. In fact, Susan Cain discussed the power of community briefly in the TED talk regarding the power of introverts.
When we're in a group of people, we will instinctively mirror or mimic their opinions without even realizing what we are doing. Humankind is wired to attempt to fit in with our group, our tribe. How we react to sporting events is confirmation of this effect—we buy our team's shirt or dress in team colors and gather together with others to enjoy the experience together. The sense of community is part of the fun.
In terms of goal-oriented activities, spending time working on a goal with others on a similar mission is so much more enjoyable and fun than trying at it alone. I have the ability to share my progress and setbacks with others. Working with others causes us to spend more mental energy on the task at hand and helps us plan better because we see the obstacles that others face and help plan our own strategies when we face similar obstacles.
Having a community check-in with regard to our goals causes us to be more dedicated in reviewing whether we are on track to meet our goals. If I'm trying to meet a goal on my own, I can always postpone when I review my progress. If I'm working on a goal by myself and know I haven't been diligent, I can avoid thinking about my lack of progress altogether. But if I'm a part of a group and we have a check-in, I have made a commitment that I don't want to break.
Being part of a group also helps to keep your commitment when progress is slow or when setbacks occur. And when doesn't life throw that interesting curveball here and there?
Shortly after I decided that I really needed to focus on my financial discipline, pay off credit cards, and put more into savings, I felt life was laughing at me. I had one catastrophe after another. First our air conditioner broke. In replacing it, it became clear that all of the ductwork in the attic was too badly torn and needed to be replaced. Around the same time, the tires on both of our vehicles needed to be replaced. Shortly after that, my car's timing belt broke, which would have been an inexpensive fix on a different car, but with mine, I wasn't so lucky.
All of this happened within six months of each other. For a while, I wondered if my bad luck would stop if I just gave up on my goals. At other times, the lack of progress was my own doing. At Christmas, we found an amazing deal on a new television, and decided to take the plunge and replace our twenty-year old television.
Finally, a community like Get Rich Slowly is a wonderful brain-storming session.
While we're similar in certain aspects, we're also different, with different values and priorities. In the context of getting rich slowly, we may not be aiming to get to our specific goal in a race-like intensity, but may be working towards a goal with moderation. For me, that is definitively the case.
I have two young children, but if I eliminated everything now other than getting more fit fiscally, I fear I would miss out on certain experiences like family vacations when they are still young enough that they enjoy such experiences. On the other hand, hearing from a person who has a different point of view can be very helpful in making me question my assumptions and beliefs.
Sharing experiences and ideas that worked for one is helpful to the group because we need to try on different approaches and see what works for our situation and goals. I think of the ideas we share like a clothing department—could you imagine if they had only one style in one size? I want to read ideas of all sizes, colors, and varieties so we can try them on see what looks best on me.
To this end, each month I plan to publicly announce one financial goal to which I will strive to meet. I invite you to take this journey with me. Together, let's commit to getting more fiscally fit. Post the financial goal you're seeking, either anonymously or not. At the end of the month, let's check back and see if we made it and brainstorm how to do better if we miss that goal. Or are our goals not realistic?
In deciding your goal for the month, this prior Get Rich Slowly article may help. It discusses how to make a SMART goal, which stands for a goal that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.
My financial goal for this month will be to put $750 toward my credit card bill. What's yours?