Developing good financial habits can be difficult. But if you want to develop better financial habits this year, you are not alone. Over 30% of people have made financial goals for the year ahead, and new habits are often needed to get there.
The good news is that according to The Power of Habit, studies show that if you can diagnose your habits, you can change them whichever way you want. The bad news is that it can take anywhere between 2 – 3 months to form new habits. This period isn’t arbitrary; it is the precise amount of time our brains require to get comfortable with a new idea, habit, or outlook. During this time, our brains begin re-wiring our neurocircuitry to establish new habits.
When you think about it, this makes perfect evolutionary sense. It’s biologically expensive for our brains to change. Instead of revamping itself based on our fleeting whims, the brain ensures our intentions are true. In other words, neuroplasticity – our brain’s ability to change throughout our life – requires us to make deliberate change. As a measure of self-preservation, it insists on consistent intention before spending the biological energy necessary for neurological rewiring.
But how do you know if you actually need to rewire your brain to form better financial habits?
Well, if you aren’t hitting your current goals, that is a clear indicator that something needs to change. Alternatively, if you are striving for financial improvement but feel like you are on the proverbial treadmill, that is an indicator as well.
If you still aren’t sure, here is a list of questions to ask yourself (out loud):
- Am I debt-free?
- Do I have a $3,000 emergency fund?
- Do I have FU money?
- Am I financially independent?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, then chances are that you have some work to do on habit formation. To help you get there, here are 5 steps that will help you rewire your brain for financial success.
1. Decide You Want to Change
Everything beings with a decision. If you decide that you want to change, then dedicate yourself completely. In Millennial Money Makeover, I call this Turning Professional. Take this process seriously and decide, for a brief period, that you are going to completely dedicate yourself to the task at hand. You will thank yourself later.
2. Diagnose Your Habits
Habits are predictable. They always follow the same pattern: Cue, Routine, Reward. Break down the habit you want to change, whether it is spending less, saving more, or building an investment portfolio. Analyze the cues before your routine begins, and change them to set a new course. Break the mold of your previous routine and reward yourself with something new, to begin resetting the neuropathways.
3. Write Down Your Goal
Goals are great, but they are meaningless unless you write them down. The best way is in a Productivity Journal. By writing them down you create the mental space necessary for your goals to exist. This process makes them real. So, get out a pen and physically write your goals down on a sticky note. Then place your goal sticky note in a prominent place (think bathroom mirror, refrigerator, or bedside table). This ever-present reminder will allow your mind to focus on the task at hand. Your brain will subconsciously and consciously work on your behalf – as it’s been hired to do.
4. Reverse Engineer for Success
Now that you have a goal, which is written down, how are you going to tactically achieve it? Do the math and figure out how much you need to cut in spending every day, earn through a side hustle, or percentage of your paycheck to contribute to your 401(k). Make your goals tangible and prominent.
5. Track Your Progress
You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Tracking your progress is critical to ensuring the variance between your actual and targeted results doesn’t get too large. If you get off course, self-correct. If you get ahead of schedule, double down and go beyond the pale. You can do this!
These five steps will help rewire your brain. Remember that the 2 – 3 month period required to form new habits will pass quickly. Ride the momentum of your success. Do this process continually; the rewards will shock you. Financial success will stroll right into your life.