Today’s headlines focus on a global pandemic that’s ravaging our physical health. In all the noise, it is easy to miss the way another scourge is quietly destroying our financial health.
Over the years, what we consider to be normal in personal finance has moved in the wrong direction. Peer pressure encourages us to believe it’s acceptable to run up thousands of dollars in credit card debt. Our friends tell us we need to buy expensive items that aren’t within our budget. We are convinced that every penny from our paycheck is needed for daily living expenses.
Right now, the average Canadian owes $173 for every $100 they earn. As more people acquire more debt, society normalizes living outside your means. But no matter what society considers normal, the facts point to this lifestyle as not sustainable. Canada has been consistently climbing a mountain with no peak in sight, especially with interest rates remaining at historically low levels.
In January 2020 -- before the job losses that came from the pandemic -- the average Canadian earned just over $54,000 per year, according to Statistics Canada. In 2020, the number of credit users who missed at least three payments rose 10.6%, according to Equifax Canada.
There is another way to live, though. You can make different choices than your friends and neighbours and instead of building debt, find yourself building wealth. Three simple steps will put you on the path to financial health.
First, you must change how you think. Don’t think in terms of failures or successes. Instead, think of everything that happens as stops along the path to success. For example, many people were laid off during the pandemic. Some of them collected Canada Emergency Response and EI benefits while binge-watching Tiger King. Others, though, spent their time off learning new skills. Which group do you think is more likely to find themselves working in new, better-paying industries when the pandemic ends?
Second, you need to consciously develop new habits. Stop procrastinating. Successful people do not procrastinate. They get things done. One of the first tasks you should tackle is creating a written plan for reaching your goals. If you want a new job, then figure out how to get there. You may need to earn a certification. You may need to refresh your resume. If you want to step up your investments, then call a financial planner today and make an appointment.
Whatever you write in your plan, make sure that every element is based on data, not emotions. You get objective data from trusted advisors, so surround yourself with experienced people who also want to grow and improve. You also must set a deadline for making these changes.
Finally, celebrate your successes. It might not seem like this is important, but celebrations matter. For example, if your goal is to save $10,000 this year, then you should celebrate every milestone along the way. Celebrate when you set up an automatic deduction to put 10% of every paycheck into an investment account. Celebrate again when you reach 25% of your goal. Those celebrations mean you’ll begin to focus on your growing portfolio instead of your weekly paycheck. Once you start noticing and celebrating your successes, you’ll find yourself experiencing even more of them.
It’s never easy to change. But if you make these changes, you will quickly see benefits. By investing in yourself and doing the hard work of making changes, you’ll see your financial health blossom in 2021.