Others may call it impostor syndrome, but I called it my private torture chamber.
Here was the crux of the problem:
I was in the financial services business for many years, and indeed had advanced qualifications in finance. And yet, when it came to managing my own money, I always felt curiously out of place and…just not good enough. It was not as if I was being irresponsible with credit or drowning in debt — it was just that I never felt comfortable in my “money” skin.
And I was always trying to catch up, to be “good enough”.
After multiple attempts trying anything from the latest personal finance best-seller approach all the way to cracking open tomes with deep investment theories, I finally realized the problem:
I didn’t need a paint-by-numbers approach. I needed a “how” and a “why” — and NONE of the existing approaches gave me that.
I’ve always been a bit of a rebel, and I was looking for something that was uniquely mine, yet simple and effective. Something that was strong yet flexible. That was grounded in good sense and yet had enough “heart” to make it engaging for me to get into. That was objective and yet personal. Something that would stand the test of time regardless of the state of the economy or the level of my own (hopefully, increasing) skill.
Most of all, something that felt natural and intuitive to me.
None of the approaches I tried had that.
They were either dry-as-mud “paint-by-numbers” approaches. Or they were cutesy (mostly aimed at female audiences), but with no teeth to them whatsoever. Or worst of all, they went on forever in a dry and tedious monotone on topics that I realized had a HUGE impact on how my financial chips would end up. But they didn’t make me move one inch forward on what I needed to do.
That’s when it hit me: what I needed was not a rule book or a boring 236-step guide to a peaceful retirement — what I needed was a personal credo, a manifesto that I could use as my unfailing compass to guide every financial step and decision.
Right on the heels of the thrill of recognition came the hard work.
I had to actually sit down and think through what it would mean and how I would apply it in day-to-day decisions as well as the big questions in life: which career option to follow, what to do about this loan, or whether to sock away more cash every month or not.
I finally hammered together a set of 25 principles I resolved to follow, as my own personal money manifesto. It took a while, but it rang true when it was finished.
It’s still a work-in-progress, but it has held up pretty well to the beating I’ve given it so far.
I’m sharing it here in the hope of hearing more perspectives and thoughts: what do you see working? What could be better? What does it miss? And what does it have that’s superfluous? Why would it work (or not) for you?
I’d love to hear thoughts and reactions in my ongoing journey to get better — this is still a work-in-progress.
My money manifesto:
- I am alone are responsible for and in charge of my own financial destiny
- I will set the goals that are right for me
- There will always be trade-offs
- My values are the best guide to help me make the right trade-offs
- The right path to my goal is the one that I can stick to long-term, not the one that’s necessarily in the textbooks
- I recognize that this is a journey not a destination
- I strike a balance short term and long term. I aim for moderate goals in both, but I always keep the door open to let in the great
- I always build options. More options are always better than fewer
- I always remember that every seller is seeking to maximize their profit — financial services companies are not philanthropic organizations
- I am the best champion of my own financial well-being
- I will seek mutually beneficial transactions and arrangements when doing business with financial providers
- I will approach the market with skepticism and a questioning mind
- I will actively seek cons as well as pros to every purchase or decision
- Numbers are my best friend — I will actively befriend them,
- I will find the few numbers that matter for every decision — I know that simple numbers are better than no numbers or complex analyses
- I will get expert help when I need it, but I will understand how and for what they get paid
- Even when I get expert help, I don’t delegate the decision making
- I’ll ensure that the reason for my decision makes sense to a fifth grader
- I’ll pick simple over complex every time
- I build small habits and practices, rather than big one-off actions, for long-term success
- I automate as many favorable actions as possible; I leave little or nothing to willpower
- I will check in on the status of my financial affairs regularly, even if it’s briefly. I limit the numbers to monitor, and understand what changes in those will require action
- Long-term success entails focusing on behaviors, systems and processes and not as much about outcomes. Financial outcomes are driven by too many factors outside a person’s control — but I control my actions
- Negative outcomes don’t indicate poor decisions; similarly, great outcomes don’t usually indicate genius ability
- Process and habits trump everything — that’s where I focus my efforts.
I’m by no means nailing every one of these — many are hit-and-miss. But the thing I’m liking best is that it gives me a road for continuous growth, learning and improvement.
Most important of all, it’s making money feel natural and empowering for the first time….in forever?
In the spirit of making this manifesto come to life, I put together a free 7-day masterclass to use its principles to take charge of your student loans. Get it here!
Shubha Chakravarthy is a 20-year financial services veteran currently living in Illinois, USA. A recovering perfectionist and a scrappy fighter of the financial helplessness mindset, Shubha is obsessed with creating practical, potent and engaging solutions for herself and others to transform their financial lives into one of power, purpose and prosperity. When not dreaming up new ways to solve a thorny money problem, she likes to take (some real and many imaginary) vacations to places steeped in history.