I started setting financial goals for myself at an early age. I grew up on a farm in the country seven miles from Loveland, Colorado. I didn’t have neighborhood kids to play with, so I had to generate my own entertainment. At the ripe old age of nine, I decided to buy a stereo. Most normal nine-year-old kids spent their money on candy and comic books. But to me, a stereo meant companionship, so nothing was going to stop me.
Without knowing it, I was zeroing in on a key to personal financial well-being: Be clear about what you want.
I was determined. I even knew which stereo I wanted; I saw it in the appliance store where my mom bought her washer. It had a receiver, a turntable, an eight-track player (I know, I’m dating myself) and the best part of all, the speakers. They looked like sleek end tables with slate black tops. No matter where you were in the room, the sound was aimed at you. It was cool.
My only sources of income were my $2-a-week allowance and the occasional money I received as gifts. I saved for over a year. I didn’t spend a dime. For birthdays and holidays, I always asked for money in lieu of other gifts. At long last I had the $163 saved to buy that cool stereo with the awesome speakers!
I’ll never forget the day when we went to the appliance store. My mom told the salesman I wanted to buy a stereo. He asked me which one and I pointed to it. He then asked my mom how she was going to pay for it. She said, “I’m not buying it; she is.” His eyes popped out as I brought out my wad of carefully folded $1, $5, and $10 bills.
Early on I learned the joy and power of setting and achieving financial goals. I learned the power of “I can!”
When faced with a desire to do or buy something we’ve always wanted, most of us review our mental checkbook and say, “Oh, I don’t have the money.” We make this assessment quickly and automatically. The door slams shut. I’ve seen it time and again when I ask people why they don’t do something they really want to do. “Why don’t you go ahead and go to Hawaii? You’ve wanted to do it for years.” In the vast majority of cases, the answer comes out in no time, “Oh, I can’t afford it.”
I generally prescribe a much more constructive and positive approach. I have people ask themselves, “If this is something that is really important to me—that I really value, and very much want to do—then how can I make it work? How does it fit into my current goals? If it looks like this new thing may be more important than a goal I previously had, then maybe I can free up the resources to accomplish this new goal.”