We all need a little help in life. When it comes to staying on track with our goals, friends and partners can make a huge difference in your success rate.
For example, I’m currently training for a half marathon. It’s a beautiful half marathon that takes you through picturesque New England towns and by gurgling brooks and horse farms, one of the most popular half marathons in the area. This will be the fifth time I’ve run it and the race is happening weekend after next. I’m a little behind on my training, though.
Yesterday, I needed to run ten miles. The only time I had to do it was before work, which meant I needed to get up at 4:30am and start running at 5am. The night before, Tuesday night, a friend had a get-together. If I had to run those ten miles by myself, with no one to support me or keep me on track, I’m sure I would have stayed way too late at the get-together and would have found a reason not to get up the next morning.
Instead, I knew that I had two people who were willing to meet at the crack of dawn to run with me, even though they aren’t currently training for a race. Because of my two running friends, I didn’t stay too late at the gathering and went to bed at a respectable 9:30pm. There was no way I was going to let them down since they were doing so much to support me.
Without my running partners, I doubt I would run half as much. If I’m running by myself, I seem to often find an excuse to skip the run or do it later. But when I know there are two or three friends getting up early, putting on their running gear no matter the weather, and running with me, I put my excuses aside and just do it.
This is a perfect case of positive peer pressure. I feel guilty if I let my friends down and I feel like I’m “missing out” if I skip too many runs. Our super-small “running club” of four supports each other through frigid winters, grey and rainy springs, and hot summers. I need my running friends’ support and energy to motivate me to run outside throughout the year.
Just as I use my running partners to help me stick to my physical goals, there are several people you can turn to when working on financial goals. These are a few I’ve depended on:
- Significant Other:
Mr. ThreeYear and I set our goals at the beginning of each year and review them periodically. We use each other to keep ourselves on track and as sounding boards. “How are we doing with saving? What are ways we can minimize some of our costs for the Chile trip? Let’s try to accumulate travel miles and see if that will help.” We informally hold each other accountable. “Which credit card should I be using now? How close are we to earning those miles?”
2. A Personal Finance Nerd Friend:
While using your significant other can be great, sometimes it’s not. You may have a spouse who’s not interested in the financial side of life (sometimes I catch mine yawning–yawning! when I start talking retirement account strategy). You might be single. You might just want an outside opinion to make sure you’re on the right track with your goals.
I recommend finding a friend, neighbor, or acquaintance who’s really good at personal finance, and inviting them over for coffee. I did this three years ago, with a friend who’s a personal finance professor at a local college. I asked if she’d be willing to come over and help me talk through our PF strategy to see if she saw any holes.
She came over and gave me some terrific advice. She also gave me perspective-changing ideas that I later implemented. Without sharing specific dollar amounts (I shared percentages), I showed her how much we were spending and saving for different categories: housing, food, retirement, college savings.
She said, “I always tell people that you have to decide what’s important to you when you budget. For example, my family lives in a tiny little house. Our house just isn’t that important to us. But we love to eat well, so we spend what some people might consider to be a lot of money on food. My husband picks up premium T-bone steaks from [a super expensive grocery store in the area] and we eat well. We also spend a lot for our son to play hockey, because that’s really important to us.”
She also gave me feedback on our housing costs. She helped me realize that because we had a 15 year mortgage and the apartment in Chile, plus high property taxes, the percentage of our take-home pay that we spent on housing was probably too high. We brainstormed ways to improve this scenario and because of our talk, I decided to go back to work part-time.
3. Your local millionaire-next-door:
Seeking out personal finance professionals or millionaire-next-door types can provide you with perspectives you hadn’t thought about before.
These are, of course, those individuals made famous by Dr. Thomas Stanley in his book The Millionaire Next Door. Dr. Stanley, an economist who spent decades studying high-net-worth individuals, found that millionaires, rather than spending big bucks on flashy cars and designer clothing, tended to live way below their means and invest wisely.
One of my running partners is such a type, and I regularly ask her PF questions. “What’s the one thing that you and your husband have done, in your opinion, that’s contributed to your financial success?” (They’re multi-millionaires but live very frugally). Not surprisingly, she said, “we’ve always paid cash for cars. We pay cash for pretty much everything. We also max out all of our retirement accounts. We don’t waste money if we can help it.”
If I have a specific financial concern or conundrum, I’ll ask people who have accumulated a large net worth what they think.
If you’re not sure who the local millionaire next door in your town is, ask around. They probably have a reputation for being super frugal, and may wear low key clothes and drive older cars, but are liable to say things like, “we don’t have a mortgage anymore” or “we pay cash for our cars.” I’ve even heard gems like “we are so fanatical about saving that we take our leftover coffee from the pot and keep it in a pitcher in the fridge to make iced coffee later” and “we would never pay anyone to mow our grass. That’s what kids are for!”
I haven’t mentioned using personal finance professionals. There are undoubtedly many qualified, fee-only financial planners out there to assist with financial planning. But I must admit that I am skeptical of the industry at large. Here’s why: oftentimes, the personal finance industry is set up such that there are inherent conflicts of interest. Many times, these professionals are sales people, interested in selling you the products that make them the most money. My dad always says, “Who seeks to profit? Who stands to gain?” You’re paying for their advice, one way or another.
If you do use a personal finance professional for advice, make sure you do your due diligence and avoid salespeople like the plague.
Going Public with Your Goals
Another fantastic way we’ve used other people to help us with our goals is this blog. Since starting this blog, we’ve put our scary BHAG goal of doubling our net worth and becoming location independent in three years out into cyberspace. It’s a scary goal because it’s a stretch goal. We think we can do it, but we’re not 100% sure. It will require major discipline and focus. The great thing about it, though, is that we’re publishing periodic reports on our net worth increases. We’re keeping you updated on our location independence progress. As we hit “publish” we feel more committed than ever to achieving what we say we will. It even affects our daily decisions: Should we plan a weekend getaway trip to Montreal? Not right now! We’re committed to the roof, Chile, and savings this year. It doesn’t fit the plan.
I’ve found the personal finance community to be extremely supportive of our goals. The support and encouragement have made our goals seem reachable. Other readers and bloggers have opened up our imaginations to new and different ways to save more and move abroad.
Forums like Rockstar Finance Forums have been invaluable in getting advice and meeting new people. Almost any question you have can be answered by some of the most knowledgeable people around! For free! (I really like free).
The Debbie Downers of Life
Are there instances where other people can sabotage the pursuit of your goals? Of course! We all know the Joneses. Who hasn’t had a case of FOMO or major jealousy after seeing a long-lost friend’s Facebook post? Who hasn’t had someone rain on your parade after sharing your biggest, scariest dreams?
But if you have a clear sense of what you want and have taken the time to set your goals, you can find friends and partners to support those goals.
Human beings are social beings, and finding supportive and encouraging friends is one of the sweetest parts of life.
So as you’re working toward your financial goals, don’t discount the power of other people to help keep you on track. Just make sure to find unbiased, knowledgeable, and positive friends with a track record of success!
Who’s your go-to person for keeping you on track?