The Keys to Getting Ahead Financially (It Gets Easier!)

Does this money thing get any easier?

It does.

Look, we're all in different stages. There are plenty of us who are just getting started or who are “in the middle” of our own journey with mastering money.

I'm here to tell you that getting ahead financially takes time; even for a well-educated, financially-nerdy, entrepreneur-oriented guy like me.

It took me until my late 20s before I could fully wrap my head around (and act upon) some of the core concepts of personal finance. I'm still learning new things and setting new goals.

It really is a process.

So, how do you get ahead? Well, let's first define what that means.

What is “Getting Ahead”?

Obviously, we're each going to have our own definition of what it means to get ahead financially.

To use a cliche, personal finance is personal. But generally, I think getting ahead comes down to a few things.

  • An awareness of where you are and where you want to be (i.e. establishing some type of goal).
  • Seeing progress towards those goals. This could be reducing your credit card debts, increasing your emergency savings, setting up life insurance, or any number of things.
  • Having the ability to fast-forward that progress, either through wise spending, increased income, or both.
  • Developing a confidence in your ability to maintain your progress and, probably more importantly, not end up back where you started.

That's really it. It's less about a number.

Who cares how much actual debt you have?! There's someone with more debt, and there's someone with less debt who's mismanaging their money. 

Who cares how much net worth you have compared to your peers?! Your net worth is growing by huge percentage points. 

Proper money management is not a race against others. It's a marathon, and you're mostly competing against yourself.

What do you think it means to “get ahead”?

The Keys to Getting Ahead Financially

There are a few, less-tactical things, that I believe have helped me in my own journey:

1. Learning to Be Satisfied

To get ahead, you need to at some point be satisfied with the things you have.

If you're constantly unsatisfied with your life and you use new things to help you feel temporarily satisfied, then you're doing it wrong.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't about doing without, or settling. I'm as capitalist as they come. Get as much as you want and get it today.  But it's much more important for me to be able to get as much as I want, than to actually get it.

Besides, stuff just costs you more money because you end up having to take care of it – which costs time and expense.

If you're not careful, the stuff you own will end up owning you!

Look for satisfaction through the free things that life offers: relationships, experiences, effort, and growth.

2. Seeking Out Value

To get ahead, you need to seek out value. This is two-fold. First, you need to understand what you personally value. Once you zero in on that, you won't waste money on things you don't value.

Second, you need to understand what has inherent, long-term value. This is where you should be placing most of your money – in things that last and appreciate.

If you understand what you truly value and what is valuable, then you'll be able to get ahead.

3. Being Conscious of Opportunity

To get ahead, you need to be conscious of new opportunities.

There are new opportunities everyday to make more, save more, and spend more wisely. Are you training your brain to spot them?

It doesn't take much to train your brain. You know how when you buy a new car or even a new shirt, you start seeing that same car or shirt everywhere?

It's like it was always there, but you somehow missed it. This is a real thing. It's called the “Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon”.

Baader-Meinhof is the phenomenon where one happens upon some obscure piece of information– often an unfamiliar word or name– and soon afterwards encounters the same subject again, often repeatedly.”

Money – getting it and optimizing it – works the same way. Once you discover a few little opportunities to get ahead with your money and experience them for yourself, you'll start seeing them everywhere.

4. Having a System But Keeping an Open Mind

To get ahead financially, you need a few systems in place: automatic savings, a spending or debt reduction plan, a few tax-advantaged accounts, etc.

Financial systems and automation are important, almost critical in some ways. But don't marry yourself to one way of thinking. Be open to different solutions.

Like with opportunity above, you need to be constantly seeking out fresh strategies and different ways of thinking about your money.

Our lives change through the years and technology advances every day, so you should be on the lookout for new ways of doing things.

5. Accept That There is No “End”

Finally, to get ahead, you need to accept that there is no true “end” when it comes to fixing your finances.

There is no ultimate financial promised land.

You are always going to have to deal with something money-related, even down to how to pay for your funeral.

And really, you should always be making the most of what you have, which takes continued effort and education.

I don't know where you are on your path to improved finances, but from where I stand today, I can tell you that it does get easier. Keep at it.

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Last Edited: October 24, 2018 @ 9:56 pm
About Philip Taylor

Philip Taylor, aka "PT", is a former practicing CPA, blogger, podcaster, husband, and father of three. PT is also the founder and CEO of FinCon, the conference and community dedicated to helping other financial influencers and brands. He created this website back in 2007 to share his thoughts on money, hold himself accountable, and to meet others passionate about moving toward financial independence.

PT uses Personal Capital to keep track of his financial life. This free software allows him to review his net worth regularly, analyze his investments, and make decisions about his financial future.

PT keeps a portion of his emergency fund in Betterment, the automatic investing tool that makes investing super simple. Betterment focuses on what matters most: savings rate, time in the market, investing costs, and taxes. PT recommends this service to anyone looking to get started investing for themselves.

All the content on this blog is original and created or edited by PT.

Comments

  1. Ross @ Go Be Rich says:

    I think starting out is easier when you realize that you won’t really see the majority of your progress until you’re almost towards the end. What I mean is that financial growth and success is exponential. When you’re starting out you probably have some debt to pay off, you might not have the best-paying job, and you might only be able to sock away $100 a month. But slowly, over time, the debt will disappear, your earning potential will rise, and one day all of the sudden you’ll realize that you’re actually doing pretty good. This realization motivates you to do even better, and then it’s all downhill from there.

  2. No Debt MBA says:

    I think it does get easier if only because some personal finance basics become habitual and you are constantly learning how to improve. Suddenly saving, rebalancing your portfolio and checking your insurance coverage become no-brainers. Though you may still be learning about other areas you are chipping away at what you don’t know and forming good habits.

  3. Aspiring Millionaire says:

    Excellent post. I think too often people get discouraged at the start when they are getting a hold of their finances and think it is just so hard. Then as it starts to get easier, it still seems so far away, but once you ‘get there’ you realise it is a journey, not a destination and there is always something to be done, its just easier when you have financial control.

    Thanks for sharing

  4. Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager says:

    Seek adventures, opportunities and memories. Not just things.

  5. cashflowmantra says:

    It is a journey and one that I think of like golf. It is a battle against myself to improve and make progress. Sure there are better golfers and there are wealthier individuals. I am simply working hard day by day to get farther down the road than I was the day before.