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Living Life to the Full – The Year Ahead at Matt About Money

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

The beginning of a New Year seems like an appropriate time to remind you (and me!) of what this blog is all about.  And I can boil it down to just three words:  Simple. Meaningful. Success.

But now let me take a few more words to explain.

Simple

Money often feels anything but simple.  Just thinking about terms like asset allocation, credit utilization, and fiduciary can make you want to flop down on the couch and grab the remote.  But hang on.

A central tenet of this blog is to teach simple ways to use money well, and a core route toward simplicity is making money much more objective.  Don’t know how much a family like yours can afford to spend on this or that?  There’s an answer, and it’s available through this blog.

Meaningful

Of course, my work is about financial success.  But financial success alone isn’t enough.  Stories of financially successful yet miserable people are a dime a dozen.

What I’m interested in is a brand of financial success that’s deeply satisfying.  It’s about connecting our use of money with what makes life meaningful – using money in a way that’s intertwined with our life purpose.

There are many people who have devoted themselves to studying the causes of human happiness, and their findings boil down to three pursuits – three life purposes, common to all of us, that make life meaningful: Living for something bigger than us, building strong relationships, and using our gifts and passions to make a difference.

For me, that “something bigger” is really someone bigger: God.  My Christian faith is at the center of my life, and therefore at the center of my work.  I find it fascinating, but not surprising, that the three life purposes identified by secular researchers simply echo what the Bible teaches.

As important as my faith is to me, no matter where you stand on spiritual matters, I’m thrilled that you’re part of this community.

Success

Through a ton of study, reflection, and personal trial and error, I’ve come to see that simple, meaningful financial success comes down to 11 core principles.

1 – Know Who You Are.  We are not consumers.  According to the Bible, we are stewards.  However, a term I prefer, also drawn from the Bible, is builders.  We have all been entrusted with all that we need to build lives of meaning, purpose, and joy.

2 – Earn Diligently.  There’s no such thing as guaranteed employment, but there is such a thing as guaranteed employability.

3 – Plan to Succeed.  I’m a huge advocate for the use of a budget. Knowing how much you can spend in each spending category, and then knowing how you can get the absolute most from what you have available for each category, are some key steps to a very good experience with money.

4 – Give Some Away.  One of the central ways to find meaning in our use of money is to be generous.  That’s because generosity has been woven into the fabric of our spiritual DNA.

5 – Put Some Away.  In life, stuff happens.  One of the best ways to live in a constant state of preparedness, and to experience a lot of peace of mind, is to have some money in savings.

6 – Ruthlessly Avoid Debt.  I’ve lived with debt, and I’ve lived without debt (except a reasonable mortgage).  Believe me, living without debt is way better.

7 – Manage Your Number.  One section of my live workshops that always draws lots of questions is where I talk about credit reports and scores.  This is a topic that’s increasingly important, and still shrouded in lots of mystery.  I’ll help demystify the topic.

8 – Patiently Pursue Interest.  Investing is the most challenging part of personal finance.  I’ll help you find it less challenging by discussing proven strategies for successful investing.

9 – Build Walls of Protection.  Beyond keeping some money in reserve, carrying the proper insurance in the proper amounts helps protect against some of the big stuff that can come our way.

10 – Spend Smart on Housing.  For most of us, housing is our biggest expense.  A big key to a financial situation that works is getting this expense right.

11 – Spend Smart on Everything Else.  I don’t care for the term frugality.  I prefer spending smart, and there are ways to spend smart on everything from cars to clothes to Caribbean vacations.

There are two other key topics that I have a lot of passion for: money & marriage, and teaching our kids about money, so I’ll address these topics throughout the year as well.

Are You In?

If this is what you’re after in your financial life – simple, meaningful success – you’ve come to the right place.

My one main request of you is that you participate. Tell me what you agree or disagree with, how the topic being discussed has played out in your life, and what else you can contribute to the conversation.

Let’s be in this together.  Let’s encourage each other, challenge each other, and celebrate with each other as we learn more about using money to live life to the full. Are you with me?

Categories: Miscellaneous

17 Responses to “Living Life to the Full – The Year Ahead at Matt About Money”

  1. Laurie says:

    With you Matt…can’t wait to learn more from you this year!

  2. Barb says:

    Dear Matt,
    All I can say is “thank you.” I believe I found you through a devotional site that I receive emails from regularly. I clicked into your website and joined your email list as well. We are in extreme circumstances due to poor choices, poor preparedness, and then facing cancer with our child and medical issues and job loss with my husband and me. To say the least, we have barely financially survived the past three years. It is only by God’s grace and mercy and generous family and friends that have taken care of our many needs. Obviously, the struggle is not over in any way as we start this new year, however, your website continues to give me the encouragement that I need to know that we CAN still make it. We just need to keep going forward even if it is little steps at a time. Thank you for sharing your wisdom in a positive, thoughtful way. We need to hear it daily!:)

    • Matt Bell says:

      Barb – I can tell from your note that you have a remarkable attitude. You have faced far more than your fair share of hardships, and yet you are taking responsibility and keeping a positive perspective. That’s huge! Stay with this community this year. I – and I’m sure others reading this – want to support and encourage you.

  3. Dana says:

    Matt,

    I find your advice to be very practical. However, I find myself overwhelmed at where to begin to make the necessary changes necessary to achieve financial success according to the aforementioned principles. I did not begin my adult life “spending smart,” and as a result find myself in a difficult situation. I would be very interested in practical advice on how to recover from the damage I’ve reaped and begin a financial life that is Simple. Meaningful. Successful.

    • Matt Bell says:

      Dana – Thanks for writing. My recommendation on where to begin is with a plan. On the Resources page of my site, you’ll find a Budget Quick Start Guide, a Cash Flow Plan, a Cash Flow Tracker, and even detailed Recommended Spending Guidelines. Read through the Quick Start Guide and start putting a plan together. I’ll be saying a lot more about using a Cash Flow Plan this year. I believe it’s the single most powerful tool we can all use for effective day-to-day money management.

  4. Mitch Maloney says:

    Matthew,
    I believe wholeheartedly in your outlook on money. I believe I have convinced my wife to sit down with me so we can set up all of our finances on MINT. I may use your workbook information to be the seed for the information we use on Mint.

    God Bless,
    Mitch Maloney

    • Matt Bell says:

      Great to hear, Mitch. The workbook info on recommended spending guidelines should help you figure out how much to budget for each category. Let me know how it goes and if I can be of any further help.

  5. Dick Towner says:

    Matt,
    Beautifully stated – love seeing your guiding principles so clearly and succinctly stated… and they are “right on!”
    Blessings on your ministry in the year ahead.
    Dick

  6. Miriam Kearney says:

    I have always found our column interesting even when it doesn’t directly apply to me. I am recently retired, also recently widowed and facing an uncertain financial future. My pension income is enough to support me, however I still have a serious amount of debt to pay down. I’ll be paying close attention to your column this year as I want this to be the last year I am struggling with this alone.

    • Matt Bell says:

      Miriam – I’m sorry for your recent loss.

      I’m so glad you’re part of the community. Your notes over the months have been encouraging to me.

      Let’s have this be the year that you not only stop dealing with the challenges you’re facing alone, but let’s have this be the year that you get out of debt! Since it’s such a common issue, rest assured that I’ll be offering very specific steps to get and stay out of debt.

  7. Ailisha says:

    I’m in for the new year! I’ve found many of the sites you link to really helpful, and after reading your posts I always have more hope that money matters needn’t be something inscrutable and scary.

  8. Matt Bell says:

    Glad to hear it, Ailisha. I plan to start unpacking the 11 core principles in more detail next week, emphasizing the clear, simple steps we can all take to put the principles into action.

  9. Lisa V. says:

    I’m struggling big time with money management. I don’t know why I can’t get it right. I’m an educated, employed christian woman that is convinced it can’t be that hard yet I’m in a financial mess. I completely agree with your 11 core principles. The one thing I want to accomplish this month is getting life insurance and a will. I’ve been following your posts for a couple of months now and I look forward to reading what you have to say.

  10. Dianne says:

    This is great information Matt and I look forward to joining your community! I have set up my budget on mint.com but have not fully utilized all it’s features. Thanks for the tutorials!
    Blessings,
    Dianne

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