Navigating your money life through often treacherous financial waters can be a tall task. There are a handful of skills absolutely needed to avoid running your financial ship aground.
1. Resilience– the Latin root resiliens means ‘to rebound’ and that’s a good way to think about resilience. There’s been a debate over the years about whether resilience is an inherited trait or a learned skill. Like many things, it’s likely a blend of both but certainly can be taught.
Resilience in the financial sense primarily encompasses behavior, how you act in the face of adversity. Your financial life won’t unfold exactly as you expect regardless of how well you plan. How you behave determines how well you rebound and stay on track.
2. Reasonableness– if your money life is built around “needing” outsized investment returns, that’s unreasonable. Understanding the historical contours of what is reasonable is a necessary money skill. Without it, you will likely bounce from one “shiny object” to the next.
Reasonable expectations translate into every part of your money life. Being reasonable means understanding that making good decisions increases your chances of good outcomes but doesn’t assure that result.
3. Patience– Having patience with your financial life may be the most difficult money skill to teach. However, in our hyper-short term oriented financial world, patience is a critical skill.
Willingness to view your financial life as a marathon versus a sprint can help increase your tolerance of short-term irritations and annoyances. Demonstrating patience, (even if it’s not your innate perspective), allows point-in-time risks to fade in favor of your longer-term goals.
4. Particular– My favorite concept in Morgan Housel’s excellent book, The Psychology of Money centers around the distinctive financial concerns that are particular from one person to the next. “Investors often innocently take cues from other investors who are playing a different game than they are.”
This is why media pundits clamoring about what investors should or should not do each day is so harmful. They don’t know who “you” are and don’t have any idea what factors are most important to your particular situation.
Learning to appreciate and recognize that different people view the financial world differently is a wholly necessary skill that can’t be overlooked. Your time horizon and your risk tolerance are particular and peculiar to you. Treat them that way.
5. Philosophy– Without an operating philosophy about money, you can easily become lost. Money philosophy is easily taught but requires discipline and patience to execute. Having a cogent money philosophy helps you make sense of the world and recognizes the importance of understanding what money is and what it is not.
It’s imperative that your money philosophy match your particular financial goals and be something that you can reasonably stick with over time. Having a philosophy helps you stay grounded when the money terrain becomes rocky and helps you avoid “white knuckles” situations.
6. Adaptability– Possessing the skill of adaptability allows you to take advantage of uncertainty. The most important aspect of reality-based financial planning is to understand that your plans will rarely unfold precisely as you have planned. Adaptability and flexibility are essential skills for creating a sustainable financial life.
The willingness to make course corrections to your overall plan based on changes to your priorities, resources, or external circumstances substantially improves your likelihood of success.
Developing and learning appropriate money skills reduces the obstacles standing between you and a successful, stress free financial life. It’s crucial to comprehend that your overall money life encompasses far more than just your investment accounts.
The common thread weaving through all of these skills is a realization of uncertainty both inside and outside of your financial life. That’s a valuable perspective to bring to the table when making money decisions. Start there.