Your money, your choices - MoneySense

Your money, your choices

Regardless of what all the experts say, it’s less about a magic path and more about finding your road.

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When I began writing about money 30-odd years ago, there was barely a single shelf given to the subject at the bookstore. Investing was the domain of the experts. Money was a mystery.

Things sure have changed. Now the shelves sag, the media bustles daily with stories about how to make and keep more money, and experts proliferate. Yes, the seminars are sometimes free, or next to free, but you know what they say about free advice: It’s worth everything you paid for it.

Depending on the day of the week, they’ll either tell you it’s time to mortgage your house to get into the market so you can leverage your way to a fortune, or that the idea of mortgaging your house to make a market play is a dumb one. There are folks who say having a line of credit is all it takes to protect you from an emergency while others, like me, say that an emergency fund is cash in the bank. Contrarian views abound as speakers seek to differentiate themselves from each other. Implied promises of wealth are designed to grab the attention and, ultimately, the money of those in attendance.

Unfortunately the proliferation of viewpoints and tactics hasn’t made the money maze any less confusing for most folks. If you’re waiting for someone to tell you the one true way to make money work for you, you’re in for a long wait. Regardless of what all the experts say, it’s less about a magic path and more about finding your road. Since each of us has a unique life with problems and challenges that are ours, the one-size-fits-all solution will never do anything more than feel like a force-fit.

If you want to be smart with your money you must first look at what you have been doing with it. Where have you been spending? How have you been saving? Is it working for you?

If not, it’s time to make some changes. But these can’t be changes someone else imposes on you; those never stick. You must decide what changes you are going to make, and you must make those changes slowly. Rushing to new financial heights in terms of how you handle your money usually means running out of steam mid-way and sliding right back down the mountain.

Think about what you want your money to do for you. Now answer this: What one thing are you going to change so you can get what you want? Once you’ve mastered that, do one more thing. And so on, and so on. And when you need some advice don’t default to one source. Learn to gather information and take from it what you can really use to make your money work for you and your life.

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