We live in a world with wars and rumors of wars, pain and devastation, heartache, and many hardships. It can often feel like we’re fighting a battle between us and the world.
We’ve been taught that we can win this battle if we put our trust in the Lord and keep his commandments. But as humans, we tend to sabotage ourselves in many ways: our confidence, faith, callings, health and nutrition, and our finances.
This world is hard enough as it is without us making it harder. Here are just a few ways you might be sabotaging your financial self-reliance.
1. You don’t keep a budget
When I first started a serious budget, I would get so frustrated each month. I hated not having anything to show for all the hard work I put in to earn an income at the end of the month. I’d work so hard to not spend money on frivolous things and still came up in the red each month.
But after a few months, I discovered enough places to cut back on and how much I needed to earn to live comfortably. It’s still not perfect, by any means, but I feel more in control of my finances.
Many people hate the word “budget” because it sounds so restrictive. They think that having a budget means you can’t spend your money on anything fun. In reality, a budget isn’t restrictive at all. It’s simply a way to tell your money where to go.
Alan Lakein, an expert on personal time management, once said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Without a budget, you’re planning to fail financially.
2. Don’t have an emergency fund
My daughter has had a lot of medical treatments and surgeries in the last five years. Each year, we continue to hit our out-of-pocket maximum with our health insurance, which is pretty high.
Each year, it seems like we’re scrambling to come up with $1,000 a month for four to six months just to pay off medical bills before the interest kicks in. We’ve discovered the hard way that not having an emergency fund can hurt be financially crippling. You never know when something might happen and you’re faced with thousands of dollars in medical bills.
President Gordon B. Hinckley taught in a 1998 General Conference address, “If you have paid your debts, if you have a reserve, even though it be small, then should storms howl about your head, you will have shelter for your [families] and peace in your hearts.”
3. Don’t save for retirement
If you’re choosing not to save for retirement now, you’re sabotaging your future financial self-reliance. Retirement is the time to relax and enjoy life – something you can’t do very well if you’re forced to work full-time into your 70s and beyond just to get by.
Almost three-quarters of companies that have an employer-sponsored 401(k) offer to match some or all of your contributions to the account, according to a 2016 survey by Transamerica. Why not take advantage of this offer for a free investment into your future? Say you contribute $200 a month and your employer matches that. That’s an automatic 100% return on your investment.
By setting aside money for retirement right now, you’re making one of the best long-term financial decisions you can make.
4. Try to keep up with the Joneses
One of the worst things you can do for your financial self-reliance is to compare your finances with those around you. I know many people who live in elaborate homes and go on extravagant vacations and are drowning in debt.
Their lives look amazing from the outside, but once you see how much debt they have, you realize it’s all just a facade. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to keep up with the Joneses. It won’t lead to true financial self-reliance.
In a 2009 General Conference address, Elder Robert D. Hales said, “To provide providently, we must practice the principles of provident living: joyfully living within our means, being content with what we have, avoiding excessive debt, and diligently saving and preparing for rainy-day emergencies. When we live providently, we can provide for ourselves and our families and also follow the Savior’s example to serve and bless others.”
5. No commitment
Missionaries are always asking investigators if they’ll commit to getting baptized on a certain date. But, how much do we, as Mormons, live what we preach? Are we willing to commit to things that may seem hard but will provide a lot of happiness in the end?
Committing to stick to your budget, pay off debt, and save money can be a lot of work. But that commitment is essential to establishing financial self-reliance.
Make financial self-reliance a top priority
No one is perfect, so don’t beat yourself up if you’ve noticed some self-sabotage in your own finances. Instead, look for ways to get back on track and put financial self-reliance toward the top of your priority list. And remember, slow and steady wins the race. It may take you years to get to where you want to be, but you’ll get there.