What if I told you that you could make one decision, right now, today, that could give you financial freedom for the rest of the year? Sound too good to be true? Well, I’m not promising you that this one decision will magically make money appear in your savings account, or ensure that your small business will be profitable, or pick out your 401k options for you — but it will make all those things a whole lot easier.
I call this one decision I’m asking you to make your financial chief initiative, and I like to think of it as a compass for all the many financial decisions you have to make — from big decisions like whether or not to buy a house all the way down to the small, seemingly insignificant decisions you make every day, like whether or not to stop for a latte on your way to work.
What is your financial chief initiative?
Your chief initiative is simply a values or goals statement that can help guide your financial decisions for the next 12 months or so. Think of it as big picture thinking for your budget. When it comes to things like budgeting and personal finance, we all know what we’re “supposed” to do (like saving for retirement, having a rainy day fund, etc.) but I like to focus more on why you’re doing it.
A while back, I worked with a couple who seemed to have very different goals when it came to their finances, and it was causing friction. I asked them both: What’s your number one life value? What’s most important to you? In other words, their chief initiative. Surprisingly, they both had the same answer: family. Suddenly, once contentious decisions became easy to make. The husband realized that starting a business wasn’t a good choice for his family at that time, and that he should take a position he’d been offered that would let him work from home and pick up their kids from school.
In the context of their chief initiative, it was much easier for them to make big decisions like whether they should take on big financial risks at that time. It provided the clarity they needed to be able to come to a consensus.
How to define your chief initiative
What’s amazing about this process is that you can define your chief initiative in a matter of minutes, and then use that decision to guide your entire year. I suggest doing this about once a year to check in with yourself. Your chief initiative may always be the same, or it may change as you and your circumstances do. There’s no one right answer here, either. Even if you and your partner have wildly different chief initiatives, just knowing what they are can help you find common ground.
You may already have a chief initiative in mind, or you may not. Your chief initiative can be any value or goal that drives you every day. For some it might be values like family, security, spontaneity, or a more tangible goal like paying down debt, buying a home, or retiring early. If you don’t already know what your chief initiative is, use the following questions to help you uncover it and narrow it down:
- What’s causing you stress in your life? It’s likely that you’re feeling stressed by something because it’s going against a core value.
- What is most important to you in your life? I’m talking about the thing that you would do or want or believe no matter what. If money were no object and no obstacle, what would you focus on?
- How do you want to feel? Maybe you want to feel free, responsible, honest, spiritual, or abundant. That feeling can guide your decisions.
Once you have your chief initiative defined, use it as a litmus test for any financial decision you’re faced with. Ask yourself: “Does this support my chief initiative or not?”. It can turn challenging financial quandaries into simple yes or no questions and help you cut through the emotional clutter to find your financial true north.
Written by Mindy Crary, personal finance expert and author of Personal Finance That Doesn’t Suck, helps both you AND your money succeed. From growing your wealth to the actual person behind it, Mindy bridges the gap between the energetic, spiritual and practical financial services industry with a creative twist. Check out Mindy’s excellent (and FREE) lesson on Money Chakra.