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To become more successful with our money, we can copy what financially successful people are doing! We should see the most crucial money habits and traits that they have. Once we know that, we can imitate them and improve our finances.
I am going to talk about the essential habits of successful people. I am not only talking about rich people here. But I am talking about people that are smart with money, and that can reach their goals. These could be people that can retire early. Or that can be people that accumulate ten million dollars.
There are many ways to be successful with money. And we can learn from all kinds of people.
So, let’s see the eight most critical good habits you can learn to improve your finances!
They set goals
Very successful people always set goals for themselves. Sometimes, they set challenging goals, and they work hard to reach them. I think this is one of the essential good habits you can try to emulate.
Setting smart goals can help you a lot to be financially successful. You can set small goals to get started. But once you start achieving these small goals, it is essential to ramp up and set yourself some more critical goals.
You need to decide what you want your finances to become. You need to choose your primary goal for your money. For some people, this would be going out of debt. Or it could be becoming financially independent or buying a house.
These are your primary goals. You are not going to achieve them in a few months. But it is necessary to define them accurately. You can have several primary goals.
Once you know your primary goals, you can set smaller goals that you will have to achieve first. These secondary goals will work towards reaching your primary goals.
For instance, here are some goals you could set:
- Save 10’000 CHF by the end of the year
- Save 50% of your income for the entire year.
- Max out your contributions to your retirement accounts every year.
- Buy a house in the next two years.
- Repay a small debt in the next two months.
Once you have set yourself some goals, you need to track your progress. And if you are not on track, you need to act to improve your chances of success.
It may sound simple, but having goals is very powerful. It will motivate you. It will also help you to have a plan.
For more information, I have a complete guide about setting goals.
They have a plan
Setting ambitious goals is excellent. But having a plan is necessary if you want to achieve them. Financially successful people are good at having a plan for their money.
There are many ways to reach a financial goal. You could have a standard salary, save as much as possible of your income, and invest it. But you could also start a business. Or you could invest in real estate and use leverage to increase your returns. You could also opt for a mix of these. But you need to avoid losing yourself by trying too many things.
Nobody can do everything! And nothing works for everybody!
You need to know in which way you want to focus. And you should try to work out on some of the specifics. For instance, in how many real estate properties you want to invest? Or how much of your income do you want to save each month?
Once you have a plan, you need to stick to it. If it does not work as you wanted, you can improve it along the way.
They know their assets
One thing rich people know is how much they own. And not only that, but they also know what assets they own and what liabilities. They know the real value of their assets.
It seems simple, but many people have difficulties evaluating some of their assets. For instance, many people count the value of their car as if it was new. However, a vehicle is depreciating fast. It probably lost a third of its value just by getting out of the shop. And most people do not account for that.
Also, many people give too much value to cash. Cash is dangerous because it does not bring returns higher than inflation. As such, it is losing value constantly. Inflation is why investing is very important if you want to keep a significant net worth.
It is essential to be able to distinguish a real asset from a fast depreciating asset. And it is also necessary to know your liabilities. Many people think they are wealthy because they have many assets. But they do not take their liabilities into account. If they computed their net worth properly, they would find themselves are not nearly as wealthy as they think.
They know what they are good at
Successful people know the things at which they are good and the things at which they are bad. This knowledge is one of their most important traits.
I believe it is crucial to know your strengths and weaknesses. It will make you much better at handling things.
Once you know your strengths and weaknesses, there are several things you can do better than if you did not know.
First, you need to focus on the things at which you are good. Your strengths will allow you to be better than other people at doing these things. Everybody is good at different things. But nobody is good at everything. There is nothing wrong with that! Focus on your strength, and get the most out of your capabilities.
Once you know your weaknesses, you can work on trying to improve yourself on these. If your flaws are holding you back, you need to work on them to help you with your goals.
Finally, sometimes, it is better to avoid doing the things at which you are not good. Once you know your weaknesses, you could delegate to other people that are good at it. For instance, I know that I will never be good at designing things. So, if I ever want to redesign the blog, I will pay somebody good at it to do it for me. You need to use the strengths of other people if you want to be successful.
They are educated about money
Financially successful people are educating themselves about money. They know about the different assets in which they can invest. They know about inflation and the stock market.
If you want to be successful with your finances, you need to know about it. You need to learn how the taxes in your country are working. You need to know the banking principles of your country. You need to understand why inflation is essential and what you can do about it.
Another essential thing is that you need to know the retirement system in your country. If you do not know about this, you will not be able to make a good plan for your retirement.
Finally, unless you educate yourself about money, you will not be able to make plans for your finances. You need to be able to estimate what will happen in the future (on average, of course) if you want to be financially successful.
And once you know about money, you need to stay informed about what is going one. One of your habits should be to educate yourself about money as new things are coming.
They are smart about debts
People that are successful with their finances do not take on bad debts. And they take advantage of good debt for leverage.
Most people take on debts for the wrong reasons. Buying an expensive car that you cannot afford with debt is not a good reason to take on debt. Bad debt will only make your financial situation worse. You should try to avoid debts with high interest such as car loans and especially credit card debts.
One good rule of thumb for debt is: you should never take debt to buy something that does not appreciate over time! So, liability for a holiday is never a good idea.
On the other hand, not all debts are bad. There is nothing wrong with having a mortgage. A lot of people will tell you the contrary, but this is bullshit. If you have a mortgage with a low-interest rate and you took a house that is reasonable for your income, this is fine! Do not let people tell you the contrary!
And leverage can be incredibly powerful for investing. It is especially true with real estate investing, where leverage can be powerful and cheap. However, do not take it too far. You need to know your situation and how much debt you can afford. And you need to take your debts into account when you compute your net worth.
So, avoid bad debts and make sure you can afford good debts.
They are investing their money
It should come to no surprise that successful people are investing in their money.
You need to know about inflation and how to fight it. Investing your money is the best way to fight inflation. Investing will let you grow your money faster than inflation eats it.
If you only have cash and want to be financially independent, you will need an enormous amount of it. Every year, you will lose some of your net worth from withdrawals. And returns will not compensate for either inflation or withdrawals.
They track their expenses
Financially successful people track their expenses. They want to know how much they spend and want to know what they can do better.
Now, it is true that once some people are very successful financially, they do not track their expenses anymore. If you know your spending and are very disciplined about it, you may not need to track your expenses any more.
But, when you get started, it is imperative to track all your expenses. It is an essential habit to develop. Many people do not do that, and they do not realize how much they are spending. Not knowing how much they spend is a dangerous behavior for their finances.
I know people that tell me they spend X amount of money each month. But if they dig deeper, that number would probably be 50% higher. They do not realize it because they never had all the numbers in front of them.
I think that tracking expenses is much more important than having a budget. Tracking is the first vital step to get your finances on track if you want to improve!
If some people are very successful financially, it is for a reason. Except in a few cases, luck does not play a significant role. Very successful people have good habits. And we can learn from their habits to improve our finances.
Some people will tell me that I forgot some habits like having a budget or being frugal. These are good habits. But they are not necessary to be successful. If you live below your means and have a high income, you can afford a high spending lifestyle without issue. If you can afford first-class flights, there is no problem with that! If I could afford first-class flights and reach my goals, I would do it! I think that tracking expenses is a necessary thing. But having a budget is not essential for everybody.
I have made many mistakes with my personal finances. For instance, I started investing too late. And I spent way too much money when I was doing my Ph.D. Fortunately I found out about my mistakes before it was too late. Now, our situation is much better. And I have now developed financial good habits.
However, there are still a few things we can improve. I still need to get better at fixing good goals for myself. This year is only the second year we have been setting goals for ourselves. And the second year is already much better than the first.
But we need to put some better goals next year. We need more ambitious goals. And once we have these better goals, we will need to devise a plan for the longer term.
Do you know any more habits of financially successful people that we could imitate? What should you do better in your personal finances?