Financial experts share their tips on how to feel wealthier today in the current financial uncertainty and stress. Here are their best suggestions.
In a way, it’s less about how many zeros you have in your bank account and more about feeling “rich” and more about knowing how to use them to get what you want out of life.
For author and certified financial planner Tom Corley, feeling rich comes from having an Irish pub-style structure in his New Jersey backyard that allows him to invite friends over for drinks outside. For Liz Gendreau, founder of the Chief Mom Officer website, this feeling comes from taking advantage of free, fun activities like visiting local state parks in her home state of Connecticut. And financial adviser Andi Wrenn in Raleigh, North Carolina, gets that feeling when she climbs into her RV and takes a road trip.
“Wealth comes from small, tangible financial goals that you work toward,” says Megan McCoy, an assistant professor of personal financial planning at Kansas State University. These goals could be paying off student loan debt, buying a home, or something unique like Corley’s backyard structure.
We asked financial experts to share their tips on how to feel richer today in the current financial uncertainty and stress. Here are their best suggestions:
THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU VALUE
Gendreau knows her cars aren’t important, but family time is. So instead of spending money on a new car, she invests her money in family activities. She extends her budget to these, too, using free museum passes, local libraries, and free state parks.
“It’s about finding fun things that don’t really cost a lot of money but bring a lot of joy and happiness,” she says. Indulging in such adventures, even if they are not costly, makes her feel rich.
Corley, author of Rich Habits, calls this strategy “value-based spending.” He encourages people to think about what’s really important to them, like travel or spending time with friends and family, and focus on putting money into those areas rather than material goods that may not bring as much joy .
CHOOSE HEALTHY ROLE MODELS
This joy-focused approach can also help with feelings of financial envy. “If you don’t have value-based spending, then you can become a victim of comparison to others and the lifestyle creeps in,” Corley warns, when spending grows with income.
McCoy says when we’re constantly comparing ourselves to wealthier neighbors or influencers on Instagram, it’s easy to be dissatisfied. “We need healthy comparisons. Is there someone you could compare yourself to, such as your former self or your aunt who worked so hard and achieved the retirement of her dreams?
Gendreau suggests hiding social media posts from people who inspire feelings of jealousy, or giving them your own spin. “If I see something that looks like a lot of fun in a fancy place that’s outside of my budget, I might think, ‘Can I do something similar for a lower price? Do I have to go to a fancy beach or can I go somewhere closer?’ I don’t have to go to the Caribbean to have fun at the beach.”
CULTIVATE RESILIENCE WITH SAVINGS
“You’re going to make mistakes,” says Heath Carelock, a financial advisor and coach from Prince George’s County, Maryland. In order to overcome them, it is important to forgive yourself and build up a financial cushion. When he entered the workforce, he faced what he called the “1-2-3-4-5” challenge: He saved $123.45 from every paycheck.
“Seeing your money stack up is an important way to double resilience,” he says. Then, when faced with a sudden unexpected expense, you have a financial cushion to cover yourself, evoking a sense of “wealth” or comfort.
“People are a lot more relaxed when they have emergency savings so they know they can pay any bills they need each month,” says Wrenn. She says even spending a month or two can provide that elusive sense of financial well-being.
CREATE A BUDGET AND PAY OFF DEBT
“If you’re not tracking where your money is going, you’re going to feel financially insecure because you’re always worrying, ‘Where is my money going?'” says Gendreau. She suggests using a budget to track your spending, especially given current inflation rates.
Debt can keep people from realizing their dreams, says Carelock, because instead of putting money into starting a new business or going on vacation, you have to put it into paying off debt. “If it’s not a dream killer, it’s a dream delayer,” he says. Using an online calculator to create a plan to pay off your debt can be helpful.
CELEBRATE YOUR PROGRESS
When McCoy finally paid off six-figure student loan debt, she celebrated the first cashless paycheck. But she says she would have felt even better if she’d instead celebrated her progress along the way.
“I only had a moment of happiness that quickly faded. If I could do it all over again, I’d celebrate every $10,000 I paid out – I could have celebrated 10 times.”
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This column was provided to The Associated Press by personal finance website NerdWallet. The content is for educational and informational purposes and does not constitute investment advice.
Kimberly Palmer is a personal finance expert at NerdWallet and the author of Smart Mom, Rich Mom. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @KimberlyPalmer.
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