Find Your Motivation To Change

This week, I read a couple of blog posts that all sort of revolved around a central theme, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.  Today, it all came together.  The brilliant thought that I had been trying to capture was this:  no one makes a change until something triggers a particular motivation to change.  The key to being successful in anything is figuring out your unique motivation, and capturing it and using it to propel yourself forward.

The reading started with Jackie Beck’s Decades To Get Out Of Debt published at The Debt Myth.  I don’t know Jackie’s motivation in writing this, and I think her point is that it usually isn’t some short, pretty, straight-line road from debt to debt freedom.  What jumped out at me was that while she had thought about her debt problem for a long time, she didn’t really start to make progress until she had a significant motivator.  This got me thinking about my reasons for getting my finances together, and how finding that push is essential if you really want to have focus.

Then, I read about the death of Thomas J. Stanley, author of The Millionaire Next Door and several other great personal finance books.  Stanley used research to identify characteristics of people who accumulated wealth that was disproportionately large when compared to their income.  Reading the Millionaire Next Door was a turning point in my financial journey, exposing many of the myths about money that I believed and giving me a good idea how to direct my spending and saving in a productive manner.

Then, I found J. Money’s My Answer To All Financial Debates at Budgets Are Sexy.  I think that J hit the nail right on the head:  what gets you excited?  That’s what you should do!  Some people are excited about having a big savings account.  Some people are excited about paying off all their debt.  Some people want to sell everything and live in an RV.  They’re all great, if they motivate you to take positive financial action.

If you’re not happy with your current financial situation, take a little bit of time to think what would get you fired up to change?  My reasons have changed over the years.  It started out with the small desire to be able to go to the grocery store without having to count pennies.  Once we accomplished that goal, I wanted to be able to get through a small emergency without having to worry about the cost.  Now, I want my husband to have the choice whether or not he wants to work when he retires from the military.  Identifying a desired end state makes it a lot easier to take all the small and big actions required to accomplish your goals.

Where do you want to go with your money?  More importantly, why?  What will get you excited to make it happen?

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • MMMM

    Right now we live on 2/3’s of what we will make in retirement if the system stays intact, but that’s a long, long time from now.

    Our goals from now to then:

    -Fund our retirement accounts @ 20% of taxable pays (even though we will be able to live comfortably on 50% of basepay, we don’t want to have to be a part of the military for financial reasons, we want to be here because we like it, not because we have to stay for that pension. So we fund our own family retirement accounts fairly heavily).
    -Fund our children’s college accounts @ 5% of taxable pays (our kids are going to get the cold shoulder from FASFA, so we’ve got to plan to help them get a good start on life, w/o piles of undergrad debt).
    -Spend 10% of taxable pay on vacations each year (military life isn’t easy, and you’ve got to use or lose leave so you might as well go somewhere awesome).
    -Buy a new car every 3 years. (car safety technology is exploding, and we see cars as an expensive form of insurance, we forgo the leather and nav systems and get what really matters, the three year cycle has us refreshing our cars every 6 years, which is typically a full generation of automotive advancement, we do 3 year loans so we only ever have one car payment).
    -Have a pot of money big enough to buy our dream home in our dream location when we decide to get out (This is the toughie, but its the dream right?).

    • Kate

      Wow, those are some pretty aggressive goals! I am super-impressed that you can accomplish all of that. Good job!

      • MMMM

        To paraphrase the millionaire next door:

        We’ve got great offense (a nice income), and play great defense (by committing to living on E3 pay we’ve opened up the ability to do a lot with our income, at least until our vacation fund exceeds the EIC we would have got if we really were receiving E3 pay).

        The cars are an indulgence, but represent a very small portion of our income now. I’ve taken DD and MSC (although it’s for bikes the principles are applicable to cages too), and still like the idea of using my money to protect my family by buying the safest cars on the road (with good handling, brakes and plenty of power). It’s like an extra layer of insurance.

    • guest

      We live off about 30% of our combined household income at the moment and are looking at the mystical big M in the very near future. Great start and good job! I’d rethink the car thing though. They are a sucking vacuum of spendy waste, why bother investing in a depreciating asset? Think of how much more money you could contribute if you didn’t have a car payment. Invest in a defensive driving course, it’s worth more money then fancy car features. You get hit by a semi and no amount of car safety features is gonna save you, learning to avoid getting hit is priceless.