One of the ways to ensure that you meet your goals is to review your progress along the way. Doing so involves taking stock and making tweaks as necessary. No journey is perfect for all people in all circumstances. That’s simply not possible. As a matter of fact, there is no such thing as a perfect journey for anyone. There will always be challenges along the way.
That said, I’m equally convinced that there are some universal mistakes. These mistakes have the power to derail everyone’s path for a very long time if not rectified as soon as possible.
Atleast once a year, you should be assessing your progress. The gyrations of the stock market are out of your control so don’t worry about them. Continue to invest into the market through dollar-cost averaging (my personal preference) or through lump-sum investing. However, you should be taking stock of the things that are in your control and tweaking them as necessary.
- Have you increased the amount you’re investing from your paycheque?
- Did you set up an automatic transfer from your paycheque to your investment account?
- Are you eliminating subscriptions that you never use so that you stop wasting money?
- Do you track your expenses so that you know exactly where all your money is going?
- Have you ensured that the MERs you’re paying are all under 0.5%?
- Are you using a no-fee online bank account so that you don’t have to pay service charges?
In addition to controlling what you can, you should also assess whether you are making any of the following mistakes. And if you are making them, then take the necessary steps to stop. Eliminating these mistakes from your life will allow your money to grow faster so that you can live the life you want.
Again, this is a personal finance space so I try to stick to personal finance topics. Here we go.
Mistake #1 – Never Getting Started
It’s hard to build wealth if every nickel is spent. In order to invest, you need to live below your means and sent a portion of your paycheque to your investment account. You can start low and work your way up.
When I was still living in the bosom of the family home, I was able to send $50 to my savings account every 2 weeks. My parents were paying for the big stuff, so I had a leg up on that front. Once I moved out and started working, it was far harder to save that $50 every two weeks. However, I was used to it so I kept doing it even though all of my expenses were on my shoulders at that point. The savings habit had been ingrained.
Start today, where you are. If you can only set aside $5 for investing, that’s better than $0. You’ll increase the amount as you’re able. When a debt payment is finally gone, direct 80% of it to your remaining debts and send the other 20% to your investment accounts. There will come a day when all your debts are gone. Those former debt payments are yours to invest and spend as you see fit.
Mistake #2 – Paying Higher MERs Than You Should
Should is one of those words that invokes judgment. Good. You should be ashamed of yourself for paying more then necessary for your financial products. If there’s a mutual fund that charges a 2% MER and an ETF that charges 0.35%, and they’re both invested in the same things, then use the ETF to build your investment portfolio. Paying an extra 1.65% seems unimportant but it’s a serious blow to your ability to build wealth for Future You. Higher MERs compounded over long periods of time result in the eventual loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars from your portfolio. Money that could have been left to compound over decades was instead paid to someone else via MERs.
Mistake 3# – Failing to Master Your Credit
This one is tricky. Everyone needs credit at some point, but staying out of debt is extremely important if you want to build wealth. It’s extremely hard to invest money if those same dollars have to be sent to a creditor for a past purchase. Maybe you have student loans, credit card debt, veterinary debt, car loans, personal loans to family & friends. It doesn’t matter.
You need to get rid of it. Credit is a tool. It’s also the only way to go into serious, crippling debt if it’s not used properly. Always be very, very cautious about using credit. Pay the bill in full every month. If you can’t do that, then don’t use credit. Get a promotion to increase your income. Find a second job. Start a side hustle. Sell your stuff. Eliminate the fat from your budget and only spend on needs. Do what you have to do to pay cash.
Getting into serious debt is very easy. Getting out of it is very, very hard.
Mistake #4 – Ignoring Your Priorities
Just like the rest of us, you have one precious life. How do you want to spend it? Is there something that’s very important to you? What do you want to accomplish, experience, see & do before you shuffle off this mortal coil? How do you want to spend your time?
Once you have answers to these questions, you’re better able to plan how to spend your money.
Here’s the thing. It won’t always be easy to stick to your plan due to the influence of others. You have family and friends. They love you and they want to spend time with you. So they invite you to do stuff with them – concerts, travel, sporting events, poker night, whatever. And you love your family and friends so you want to be there with them too.
I’m not suggesting that you always say no to invitations, but I am warning you that it won’t always be easy to stick to your priorities. If you’re trying to get out of debt, others in your life might not understand why that’s important to you. Maybe you’re saving to pay cash for a used car. Others might try to persuade you that “everyone” has a car loan so why are you trying to be different?
Now You Know
When you know better, you do better. If you see yourself making mistakes, stop making them. They’re only harmful or fatal to your financial goals if you allow them to continue. Once you’ve rectified them, then you’re moving closer and closer to the life you want for yourself.
You’ve got nothing to lose by spending a few minutes each year taking stock and making tweaks as necessary.