Money is an uncomfortable topic of conversation, the elephant in the room we have traditionally been advised to ignore or avoid bringing up.
Asking for a deserved raise at work, splitting a bill, or even regularly checking our bank balances are all things we tend to shy away from—or, at least, postpone. But getting past this taboo and achieving clarity when it comes to our finances is pivotal to gaining control of our lives and leading more intelligent, conscious lifestyles.
So, where to begin, if the world of money and finance seems foreign and impossible to crack? The answer doesn't necessarily lie in learning how to use spreadsheets, investing in the stock market straight away, or understanding complicated economic policies.
Money and Mindfulness
Believe it or not, mindfulness and gratitude have a big role to play here, too, and can determine your financial future.
How so? When you integrate mindfulness practices into your day-to-day life—be it meditation, breathing, or journaling—you can become aware of your conscious and subconscious beliefs about money and work towards reconditioning your mind with a more positive attitude about your ability to create a healthy financial future.
An overwhelmingly large percentage of the population grows up with a scarcity mindset ingrained into them when it comes to money. As a result, they limit themselves by adopting beliefs that "money doesn't grow on trees" or that financial abundance simply isn't for them. A mindfulness practice will help you identify and dismiss those old beliefs in favor of a state of abundance—which is, in fact, every human's true state of being.
Gratitude has a similar impact. No matter where you stand financially, there's always something to feel grateful for, small or big. It could be the fact that you have access to the Internet and can consume content on this very platform; the fact that you could afford to pay your electricity bill and have a well-lit home; or a big bonus to reward months of hard work.
If you make it a regular habit to express gratitude for even the smallest of financial gains in your Five Minute Journal, you will automatically put yourself in a position of attracting that much more into your life.
Mimi and Alex Ikonn, founders of Intelligent Change, are living proof of the power of this practice. Before starting their first business and while still struggling financially, they made a point to go on gratefulness walks and express thanks for the money that was coming their way.
“Money is tight for a lot of people, we’ve been there. Changing your mindset and your relationship with money can truly transform your life in so many different ways,” said Alex Ikonn speaking on The Ikonns podcast.
For Mimi, the foundation of healthy finances comes back to self-worth and developing a healthy relationship with yourself.
“Your relationship with money starts with your own relationship with yourself. You have to go inside yourself, work on that relationship and understand that you are worthy of happy things in life, you’re worthy of good relationships. Then, when the money comes, you won’t become attached to it to the point of being scared to lose it, because then you lose everything,” she added.
An abundance mindset is only the first step towards building a healthy financial future— and taking action needs to follow. But again, this doesn't mean you need to study economics at university level, read the Financial Times every day, and build a complicated investment portfolio in order to get your finances in order. You can start small.
Ask any expert and they'll tell you that the foundation of having healthy finances starts with working towards eliminating outstanding debt and building a savings account, including an emergency fund.
Lauren Simmons, one of the youngest women to trade at the New York Stock Exchange, recommends following the basic 50/30/20 budgeting principle. This means dedicating half of your monthly income to everyday expenses, 30 percent towards savings, and 20 percent towards future investments.
That way you can achieve a healthy balance where you are looking out for your future, while also giving yourself some room to cover regular expenses and occasionally treat yourself, too.
But getting there requires organization and carefully tracking your expenses to understand how much you actually spend per month. Having the self-discipline to put away money into savings every month is also a big part of the success formula.
Whether you commit to saving $5 or half of your income, as Simmons recommends, you'll definitely be more likely to pull through if you put pen to paper and write down your goals.
Try adding micro-goals, like saving as little as $5 per month, as a top-priority task on your Productivity Planner on the first day of every month. The goal immediately transforms from an abstract idea in your head to a practical task you can hold yourself accountable for.
And once you get more comfortable with monthly savings, you can start setting more ambitious, macro goals in your Best Year Journal. Take an honest look at your spending habits over the last 12 months, decide what you would like your financial situation to look like, and determine how much money you want to save per year, how much you aim to increase your income, and the measurable tasks that will help you get there.
As you see your savings increase, the next step is to start thinking about investing. By definition, money sitting in the bank depreciates in value, so consulting a financial advisor or actively beginning to invest in the stock or property markets is a smart next move.
It might sound like a scary thing to do and the traditional education system doesn't equip us with the necessary knowledge about this type of money management, but the solution is all about taking control and educating yourself on the subject.
There are tons of online resources you can learn the basics from, financial advisors you can consult, and books you can read. Superstar coach Tony Robbins' latest book The Path comes highly recommended for its practical tips towards "conquering the quest for financial freedom."
"Don't fear the market. If you have a fear-based mindset, then you should not be investing," says Simmons, who recommends doing your own research and investing in companies you are aligned with. Be mindful of ESG (environmental social governance) investing. People are really starting to look at: How is this company running? Is it giving back to its community or making a positive impact on the environment?"
Find Your Why
Understanding why you are seeking financial freedom in the first place is another big part of the journey. Society will sometimes have you thinking that if you earn a certain amount of money and buy expensive, shiny things your happiness levels will automatically rise, or people will miraculously start treating you better.
But that kind of happiness is only momentary—there's a reason the saying money can't buy you happiness is so commonplace. You need to identify a bigger reason for seeking financial freedom, one that will keep you truly motivated to achieve your goal. Do you want to provide security for your family? Do you want to invest in conscious businesses and give back to the less privileged? Are you trying to help your parents get rid of their debt or take them on a big, life changing trip?
Get curious about your why and identify the bigger reasons motivating you to work hard and achieve financial abundance. You can achieve this through journaling about your feelings around money, your ultimate financial goals, and any lingering negative thoughts stalling you, in order to discover what really is driving you on that deeper, subconscious level.
"Being in control of your money is being in control of your foundation. Being in control of your foundation is being in control of your freedom," adds Simmons.