Here’s an unsurprising fact for everyone out there: when you’re a business student, your end goal in life is to have a 3 letter title beginning with the letter C following your name. CEO, CFO, CMO…you catch my drift. As a self-diagnosed bossypants and a type A personality, I thought this was a perfect career to aspire to. A job where I get to plan and tell people what to do? Hello, C-suite. Come at me.
However, it’s not every day that a 20-something becomes CEO of a company unless you started that company yourself (looking at you, Zuckerberg), BUT there is something we should all be running as if we were the boss: our finances. Yes, put on your pencil skirt and hit that power pose, ladies. You just fast-tracked to the top spot of controlling how well you live your life. How’s the view from that corner office?
Running your financial life as a business doesn’t mean you have to spend hours poring over spreadsheets and bank accounts. It means that you are fully aware of two key points that determine the success of any business: the direction you want your life to take and your current financial situation. Knowing just these two things is instrumental in bringing added value to your life. Not money (although it can do that). Value.
Many of us allow life just to happen to us, and as a semi-control freak, this pains me. You have no idea how much you are missing out on by being a bystander in your own life. You’re the main character in your own play, people. You shouldn’t allow the extras standing in the back to choose the direction it’s going to go.
By playing CEO of Me, Inc., you’re putting an end to allowing the world to decide your future and taking control of it instead. We each have the opportunity to achieve all we want in life, whether that’s international travel, owning our own home, or retiring early. It’s just a matter of knowing how and using a little elbow grease to get there. And I’m here to fill you in on the first part of that equation.
If you’re ready to become a #ladyboss (or #gentlemanboss – I wouldn’t leave you fellas behind), here are the 5 simple steps it takes to run your financial life like a business and start living your best life.
CALCULATE YOUR NET WORTH
Fun fact: Just like a business, if you’re riddled with debt, your game plan is going to look a lot different than the person sitting next to you who is debt-free. You have to take the time to sit down and really dive into your current situation so that you can figure out that starting point and build a plan to move forward.
Thus, before you can even update your profile on LinkedIn with your new CEO title, you need to calculate your net worth. This can be done by taking all of your assets (cash, house, savings, retirement, etc.) and subtracting out all of your debt (student loans, mortgage, etc.). It might be scary, you may not want to see it, but it will show you where you stand. And make sure you check in on this number every once in a while – the geek in me likes to track mine each month, but you could get by with looking at this once or twice a year.
Action Step: Tell Siri to remind you when you get home tonight to calculate your net worth. Seriously. Tell her. And then when you get home tonight, do it.
FIGURE OUT YOUR GOALS/STRATEGIES
No company is going to succeed long-term without a clear vision of where they are going and how they are going to get there. And neither will you. If you want to live a kicka$$ life, you are going to have to a) define your goals and b) develop steps (or in business terms, a strategic plan) to achieve them. Sorry, but yes this takes a little work. Put on your big girl pants and just do it.
For example, let’s say you want to buy a home in 3 years. Awesome. Great goal. Get ready to spend Saturdays doing yardwork.
Anyhoo, in order to do that (and do it right), you’re going to need to do some research. How much do you want to pay per month for your mortgage? How much house does that give you? What size down payment will you need? How much do you need to save per month to get there and still have money left over for furniture and your emergency fund?
You need to work the numbers, create a timeline, and then stick to it. You may have to put in a little effort to get this done, but by doing this, you’ll have a set plan and a home in 3 years. Mic dropped.
Action Step: Write down your goals (max of 5) and detail actionable steps on how to get there, including what portion of your budget will be allocated each month to achieving these and a timeline of when you will hit certain landmarks along the way.
Once those goals are set and the strategic plans are made, it’s time to decide which ones take priority over others. Just like you don’t have unlimited resources, neither do companies, and that means that they have to decide which projects will have the best return on their money. For you, you want to pursue those that will add the most value to your life. As much as you want that updated kitchen, funding your kids’ college education will probably (I hope) take precedence.
This doesn’t mean you throw those other goals in the trash – they just have to take a back burner until you have the added resources to bring them back into the game.
Action Step: Choose your top 1-3 goals and focus on those initially. Note, you may even have to focus on less than you originally planned after implementing the next step and seeing which you can afford to include in your budget each month.
This is my bread and butter, mainly because it constitutes much of what I do for a living. I mean, you should see the spreadsheets I work with at my full-time job on a day-to-day basis. Ridiculous. As in ridiculously awesome.
However, successful companies are strict and detailed with their budgets for a reason. Having a budget allows businesses to see holes in their expenses, recognize opportunity for improvement, and determine how well they are meeting their strategic goals. If an unexpected expense appears one month, it means another one must get axed. If revenue isn’t meeting the mark, some projects will have to be delayed. I see this every day at my 9 to 5, and it is a vital part to making any business successful.
You, likewise, need to have a plan for your money and stick to it. Look at how much you earn and adjust your expenses to fit those goals you set back in step 2. If something unexpected comes up, you may have to cut back on those expenses not serving you and your goals – i.e. those things like happy hour with the girls or that new watch you’ve been wanting. If you find you don’t have as much wiggle room in your budget as you’d like, try increasing your income. One of my fellow bloggers over at Money Peach wrote a great article on 68 different side hustles you can get into to make extra cash (read it here).
Action Plan: Create a budget every month. Need a budget template? Sign up for my newsletter here, and I’ll send you one on the house ;) Plus, it’s really pretty! (I mean, masculine, fellas. It’s really masculine.)
TRACK YOUR PROGRESS
View from your corner office still rosy? Good because we’re on our last task as CEO, and it’s one that never ends. Don’t worry, you’ll enjoy it after awhile.
Just because you set your goals and implemented a budget doesn’t mean you now get to wipe your hands clean of them forever. They are babies you will need to constantly nurse if you want them to grow into functional adults. And you want functional adults.
Companies review their budgets constantly in order to make sure that they are still on track to hit their goals. Make sure you do the same. Each month, make an appointment on your calendar (tell Siri to do this, too!) to sit down and review the progress you’ve made in the last month. Check your budget to see if you can identify any weak areas and verify you are still on track to hit your goals. The 30 minutes you spend doing this each month will allow you to know the ins and outs of your finances and make you one profitable b!$#&. And hey, you can even do it with a glass of wine. Or two.
Action Step: Put a reminder on your calendar for the same time each month to review your budget. Make sure to look for areas where you spent more than you originally planned and adjust your lifestyle or budget accordingly the next month.
Being the CEO of your financial life is a way for you to make this life of yours what you want it to be. So start acting like a true #ladyboss, follow these 5 steps, and know I’m proud that you’re finally taking the reins to your own destiny. Get it, girl.
Now it’s your turn to share: What steps did you take to revamp your finances? What goals have you prioritized over others?