Have you ever felt you should do something but didn’t do it because it would’ve taken you out of your comfort zone? Taking action related to your personal finances isn’t any different. Many times we do something for the first time – buy a car or a house, invest in a stock, or start a family – all of which can take us beyond our personal finance comfort zone. Personal financial growth is all about learning and, in order to learn, we usually have to do something we’ve never done before.
Previously, we’ve discussed the importance of planning financial goals (Planning to Achieve Financial Goals) and how those goals can help us reach the ultimate objective of our financial vision. In setting goals, we must move outside our comfort zone to achieve a new perspective and knowledge base. It’s difficult to sign that loan document for your first vehicle. It’s even harder to hand over your hard earned savings to a broker to invest in a stock. And the process of signing up for a life insurance policy and obligating yourself to pay the monthly premium for a promise of payment to your family takes a big leap of faith. However, each of these actions are important to your personal financial plan. Borrowing, investing, and protecting are significant achievements and necessary actions you’ll experience again and again as you gain financial experience.
The first time you invest in the stock market or mutual funds can be nerve racking, and you’ll find yourself consistently wondering if you made the right choice and looking for validation from a rising stock market that your decision was good. In each “first time” there is a component of learning. The first time you tried to ride a bike, you most likely fell. Did you quit and tell yourself you’d walk the rest of your life? Certainly not. You tried again, learning from the experience of falling and getting help from your teacher. Financial planning and decision making have a lot in common with your first attempt at riding a bike. We all fall. Whether it is a trusted friend who couldn’t pay you back, or a credit card for which you didn’t read the fine print to discover that a $35 late charge would be added on top of an interest rate increase for late payments – we’ve all fallen financially.
Don’t be afraid of exploring – stepping out beyond your financial comfort zone. However, when you do venture out, do so with knowledge and prudence. When you rode that bike for the first time you most likely had a parent guiding and giving you instructions to pedal and balance. You may have had a helmet for protection in case you fell. You may have felt an impending fall and turned toward the grass instead of falling on the sidewalk. As you pursue your financial vision and work on your financial goals, do so with guidance from a parent, trusted friend, or advisor. Explore new financial options with caution. Look for alternatives like a new credit card with a small available balance so you can’t over-extend your credit while you learn to use it properly.
Learning new things is incredibly rewarding; however, it can also be treacherous. Remember – not all new things will work out. Just as we fell off the bike, we’ll realize that a particular stock wasn’t such a good investment, or having a fancy car isn’t worth the high-interest rate loan and payments we couldn’t afford. Don’t confuse new learning experiences with reckless financial decision making. It’s important to pursue new things cautiously and with proper guidance. Stepping outside your financial comfort zone can be uncomfortable, but it can also be rewarding – both financially and academically. Stepping out gives you the experience to pursue the next steps in your financial goals and ultimately reach your personal financial vision.
Jonathon Rowles Captain, USMC (Ret.)
Disclaimer: (have to do it) – This blog should not be considered financial, investment, legal or tax advice. Consult your licensed financial professional, tax advisor or legal counsel. This blog is for educational purposes only.