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"Can't I Just Live Life Like a Typical American?"

 

I got a message from a friend not too long ago. This friend and their spouse were contemplating buckling down and tackling their debt. They said they were a little reluctant to give up their lifestyle. They were comfortable, and the idea of cutting out some of their life pleasures was not too appealing. I told them something that would hopefully overcome their objection.

"Don't think about what you have to do to get out of debt. Think about what happens if you do nothing, and you continue down the road you're on."

And to that I got this response...

"The healthiest competition occurs when average people win by putting in above average effort." -Colin Powell

If shooting for normal and average is on your list of to-dos, or appears on your dream board, GET RID OF IT! Average is dead broke! Let's look at some numbers.

  • 49% - The percentage of Americans who are concerned, anxious or fearful about their current financial well-being. That's one out of two people.
  • 78% - The percentage of Americans who live paycheck-to-paycheck. That's almost eight out of 10 people.
  • $15,983 - The average amount of credit card debt a U.S. household carries.
  • 68% - The percentage of Americans WITHOUT a household budget. That's almost seven out of 10 people.
  • 51% - The percentage of Americans who are NOT saving for retirement.
  • 39% - The percentage of Americans with $0 in savings.

Some of these numbers might scare you, and they should! You're probably reading them and realizing that you fall into some of these.  But, first and foremost, I want you to know that there's nothing wrong with that. Many people I speak with don't know any different. They weren't exactly taught how to handle their money in a way that will make them successful. They were taught in a way that keeps them in payment hell and in debt. I was one of those people too. Second, it only becomes a problem if you accept your fate and get comfortable with being average. When it comes to your finances, you should be above average, and based on the statistics I just shared, it doesn't take much to be above average. But, here is the thing, now you that you know your finances need some work, it's your responsibility to start taking action. 

Now here's the hard part. You know you're not okay with being average with your money. So how do you become above average? Well if you're reading this, you've already taken a step in the right direction. Seeking out information is always a good idea. But it doesn't stop there. One of the first things I tell our Roots of Personal Finance members is that money is 20% math and 80% behavior. Sure, you understand how credit cards work and the importance of savings, but are you staying out of debt and saving money? More than likely, unless you are a rarity, your behavior needs some major work because math didn't put you where you are today—emotion and behavior did.

I know, I know. It's easier said than done. But it can be done. I'm living proof. I decided that I didn't want to be average when it came to my finances anymore, so I started putting above average effort into it. And now, I'm proud to say that I'm living life free of debt and the stress that comes along with it! You can do this, too. Changing your money mindset, thinking differently, and improving your behavior will help you dramatically. Paying more than the minimum on your debt, cooking everyday instead of eating out, cutting your cable, creating a budget, selling your stuff and putting that money in a savings account or paying down debt—these are the things that put you into above average territory. Two things though, you have to be patient and consistent for them to work. You can't fix your financial life in 30 or 60 days. This isn't a miracle weight loss pill. It takes time and effort. 

It won't be easy at first, because it's going against something that was probably ingrained in you from when you were a child. But the more you do it, the easier it'll get. And you'll find that being average with money isn't okay anymore. Do you believe that you can be above average? If so, take a deep breath and prepare yourself, because it's going to be a bumpy ride. But I promise it's worth it. I'm rooting for you. You can do this!

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