Recently, a prospective client walked into my office concerned about his portfolio and was seeking investment advice. The interesting fact was the investment question was not the right question. Investments were not the issue, and this is not uncommon.
While investments are the easy target for financial blame or success for that matter, investments are usually not the catalyst to wealth. Real wealth is created by managing financial elements that can be controlled, and the stock market certainly cannot be controlled. It’s more important to ask questions that will assist in wealth creation.
What questions should you be asking yourself?
1. Are you spending less than you earn?
This is the starting point for all looking to create wealth. If expenditures exceed income, financial success will not be attainable. Actually, it’s quite simple: most financial problems can be solved in one or two ways….earn more or spend less. Living within your means is the first step to financial freedom.
2. How much are you savings?
Spending less then you earn may not be enough. A good target is to save at least 10% of earnings. This financial tenet is the foundational footing in which all financial growth is built upon.
3. How much are you paying in taxes?
Taxes are the single largest recurring expense that most of us will have from now until the day we die…..and maybe even after death as well. While taxes are a requirement, maximizing tax savings strategies are the responsibility of the taxpayer, and most taxpayers simply fail to utilize available strategies. Whether the cause is laziness or a lack of tax knowledge, the end result of anemic tax management can cost thousands of dollars.
4. Do you have consumer debt?
Not all debt is bad, but consumer debt (credit card, car loans, revolving debt from furniture stores…etc) is detrimental to financial success. Most often, debt is incurred because of spending issues….spending more than you earn. Elimination of consumer debt is paramount for financial stability.
While poor investment returns may get the blame for the lack of financial growth, the usual suspects to poor financial growth can be attributed more often to one of the four areas above and not investment returns. Investments are an integral piece of the financial planning pie, but investments are not the holy grail to financial bliss.
Control the areas centered around the four questions above and then worry about investments. Spend less than you earn, save at least 10% of your earnings, reduce taxes, and eliminate consumer debt, and financial progress is just around the corner.
Can you honestly and successfully answer these four questions? Are you worried about investments when investments aren’t the true thorn in your side?