Home > Fiscal Discipline: It Has to Be Hands-On

Fiscal Discipline: It Has to Be Hands-On

August 5th, 2014 at 01:35 pm

An epiphany came to me in 1980, at the age of 33, after 10 years of short-term financial "thinking" that had left me sitting flat broke in a cramped one-room studio apartment with virtually no money, absolutely no credit and just a beat-up old car to my name. I looked around, I looked at the way I was living, and I just said "no." I did not like what I saw. I did not like the direction I was going. And I just rejected it all.

I resolved to have a good financial future, even though I did not yet know what I wanted that to look like. I resolved to use my own skills and energy to steer a course towards that future. And I resolved to get underway even though my eventual destination was not yet defined.

Fiscal discipline starts with assuming responsibility for your financial destiny. I realized that you must resolve to take control. That you have to acknowledge and accept that your financial destiny is up to you and no one else. That you are going to have a financial future -- good or bad -- whether you like it or not. That no one else has any obligation (or even inclination) to do anything for you or about that financial destiny of yours.

And you have to realize that, yes, you CAN do something about how your financial future turns out. That you are not a helpless, rudderless skiff doomed to just drift along out of control. No. You have to discover that you are instead a motor-sailor able to take advantage of favorable financial winds as well as capable of advancing even when you run into the occasional fiscal squall.

But why didn't I just throw my hands up in the air and play financial victim? Why didn't I just blame the economy, fate, or "the rich" for my situation and just keep wallowing in it? Why do some other people do that? Why don't they realize the future is coming? What makes the difference?

Fiscal discipline is about looking ahead. Because tomorrow is coming. Beginning to look to the future will make a difference.

Fiscal discipline has to have a purpose. A goal. A heavy-duty carrot. Setting financial goals will make a difference.

It is those goals / carrots that will facilitate fiscal discipline. And staying on course will make a difference.

Fiscal grownups choose meaningful long-term satisfaction over transitory instant gratification. Keeping eyes and mind focused on the more valuable goals ahead will make a difference.

The takeaway: Fiscal discipline has to be hands-on. And it is some basic but vital actions that make the difference to make fiscal discipline happen.

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2 Responses to “Fiscal Discipline: It Has to Be Hands-On”

  1. Another Reader Says:

    Why? The answers are obvious.

    1. Often people don't have good financial behavior models to follow. Heck, a lot of people have no role model for any kind of self discipline.

    2. There is no financial education in the schools. There is more sex education than financial education. In both cases, facts and context are key. The subject of self discipline in any area is taboo in schools now, except in competitive sports.

    3. Advertising encourages consumption by implying it demonstrates a person's success. Credit makes consumption and the implied success possible for many folks.

    4. Playing the victim is a successful strategy in today's society.

  2. Retired To Win Says:

    Hi, Another Reader!

    Your analysis is spot on. Still, I definitely believe that people can be self-actualizing. Meaning that, in the case of fiscal discipline, I believe a person is capable of developing it and its component habits whether or not that person has a role model, got a course on it in school, or watches TV up the wazoo.

    Heck, my Dad never saved a dime, I never had a single lesson/lecture on anything money-related, and I used to watch tv one whole lot. Didn't stop me!

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