Money Decisions: The Numbers Are Not The Hard Part
It has been said that there are only about 6 personal finance stories, with newspaper columns, finance blogs, and radio programs repeating them over and over. A handful of finance books, a pad & paper, and a few months should be sufficient to understand the basics, from income to expenses to debt to saving. And yet multitudes of people struggle with managing money, handling unexpected expenses, and saving for the future.
So much of our interaction with money is focused on numbers – how much we earn, how much things cost, rates of return, etc. – that it is easy to think that money decisions should simply be a matter of knowing the options and solving the correct equations. If we keep twisting, turning, looking at it from different angles, then the perfect solution will appear and our money decisions will be clear. Right?
That kind of thinking seems intuitive, but it is far from reality. The mathematics involved in most personal finance calculations tops out with some arithmetic and high school Algebra I.* If decisions about money were simply a matter of solving equations, then everyone with a high school education would be a competent money manager. But that isn't the case.
Making decisions about money is almost never as cut and dry as just running the numbers. Existing beliefs, biases, fears, formative lessons about money, and ego all inform how gracefully we navigate financial dilemmas. People make choices based on instinct, impulsiveness, and emotion, rather than a calm and deliberate weighing of options.
The "hard work" of making good money decisions is not about understanding financial calculators or following elaborate strategies. The heavy lifting is done by recognizing what is of personal value now, what type of life could bring more satisfaction in the future, and what choices will make that future life more likely. That conversation is much harder than cooking up moonshot scenarios or ignoring a pain point, but it is the first step in connecting the dots between the life you have now and the life you would like to have later.
Some of those choices might run counter to the way you have done things in the past. That's ok. You may find that a belief that was really important to your younger self is not all that important any more. Still ok. Sometimes doing the best thing for your future is not all that convenient or fun. That's harder to do, but still ok.
Will saving more money now make your future life easier? Likely. Will spending less money make saving easier? Almost certainly. Can separating past narratives, societal expectations, and ego from the process help? Bingo.
Looking for someone to help you separate the forest from the trees? Find out how Iseler Financial can help with the big picture and the details by emailing us today.
Timothy Iseler, CFP®
Founder & Lead Advisor
Iseler Financial, LLC | Durham NC | (919) 666-7604
Iseler Financial helps creative professionals remove stress while taking control of their financial futures. As both advisor and accountability partner, we help identify current strengths and weaknesses, clarify and refine your long-term goals, and prioritize understandable, manageable, and repeatable actions to bring long-term financial well-being. Reach out today to take the first step.