I want so many things for you this year: I want you to have more than you need and to enjoy the luxury of spending within your means, on things that are meaningful to you. I want you to have fulfilling employment, self-employment, or no employment. I want your income to be steady, predictable, and abundant.
I want those things for you even though this might be the year of illness, job loss, costly emergencies, and plain old doing what you have to do because you have to do it.
Some of the things I want for you might be out of your reach: your income might come in fits and starts. Your boss might be miserable and your co-workers more so. Your expenses might exceed your income.
You might (understandably) be asking yourself what on earth I’m getting so excited about if there’s a good chance that 2015 might not be better than last year and might actually be worse.
So when I say “this is the year”, I don’t want to follow it with empty promises of abundance and the unspoken implication “but only if you work with a financial planner”. Nope, 2015 isn’t “the year you hire a financial planner”.
2015 is the year of clarity.
If that sounds a little womp-wah to you, then I’m sorry. We’re not reinventing the wheel here. But let me submit to you that the pursuit of clarity is under-rated.
How would your life be better if you were absolutely clear about what you want your life to look like, the resources you have or will have at your disposal, and the obstacles that you’ll have to get over, around, or through to make it happen?
Would knowing how you’re invested make it easier to make decisions about the uncertain future? Would having a clear debt-free date encourage you to keep on keeping on? Would a precise knowledge of how you spend help you understand why you spend and when to cut back (or spend more)?
I submit to you that it would. At the risk of really oversimplifying your complicated life, understanding where you are now is the only way you can make plans to get to where you want to go. Clarity about your direction is the only sure defense against getting lost when bad news spins you one way and good news spins you the other.
One thing to understand about the pursuit of clarity is that it’s not a once and done activity. Life changes. Goals change. People change. My husband and I have been married for fourteen years, and I don’t think there were two in a row that were the same in terms of jobs, homes, cities, or plans.
My hope for you this year is that – no matter what your circumstances – you take the time to get really, really clear about what those circumstances actually are, and plan to repeat the process when they change.
If this all sounds a little hippy-dippy, pie-in-the-sky for you, then here are some practical ways to get cracking on clarity:
If you have no idea how you spend your money:
Pull out or download your bank and credit card statements, and add up everything you earned and everything you spent last year.
If you have no idea what you’re invested in:
Make friends with Morningstar or Globefund. Request the fund fact sheets from your financial advisor. Check out this interactive primer from the Canadian Securities Administrators and commit to looking up anything you don’t understand.
If you have no idea when you’ll be done paying off your credit card, loan, line of credit, or mortgage:
Use this calculator from Get Smarter About Money and figure out when each of your debts will be gone.
If you know all this stuff already, but don’t have any idea what it all means for your real, everyday life:
Start reading, listening, and thinking. The Wealthy Barber Returns. The Value of Simple. The Because Money podcast. This subreddit. Happy Money. MoneySense magazine. Depending on your position in life, your interests, and the amount of time you have, there’s a book, blog, magazine, or podcast out there for you. Probably more than one.