How being 'adept' can improve our financial well-being

Take charge of your money, step outside your comfort zone, educate yourself financially and find your purpose

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The beginning of a new year is a good time to reflect, take stock and formulate a plan, particularly with regard to the one aspect of our lives that we all wish we could do better – money.

Making it, spending it, managing it wisely – seems simple enough on the face of it, but in reality, is complex, multifaceted and dependent on so many wildly fluctuating variables.

Common advice and principles such as spending less than you make, having an emergency fund and paying your credit card in full are frequently emphasised and often written about.

Yet, they seem to have a limited effect on people’s money behaviours.

Consumer debt is spiralling, financial fragility is widespread and money continues to be the biggest concern for most people.

So, maybe it’s time to look beyond the obvious. To understand that our money behaviours lie at the intersection of psychology, behavioural economics and neuroscience.

To take the time to understand how a few key actions and perspectives could positively impact our financial well-being for the year.

Five steps based on the “Adept” framework is a good starting point.

1. A – Agency

The first idea to grasp is that we need to take agency in this important quest.

It’s all too easy to sit back and wait for the stars to be perfectly aligned before we start, while precious weeks and months fly by.

We mistakenly and patiently wait for something or someone to urge us on.

We need to realise that getting on the path to financial well-being is too important to be left to chance, or to other people’s motivations.

Taking agency in this aspect is crucial. We will realise that our actions compound over time and give us a financial advantage.

2. D – Discomfort

We need to feel discomfort, it’s the first sign that we’re evolving. And if we’re not feeling stretched beyond our usual boundaries, it’s very likely we’re not doing enough reps to make a noticeable difference.

It’s not ideal. No one particularly enjoys feeling inept. It’s scary. And intimidating.

But as author Bob Proctor said: “Everything you desire is on the other side of fear.”

Putting ourselves in positions outside our comfort zones is soul-strengthening. There’s no denying that this growth will inevitably lead to financial rewards.

3. E – Education

Financially educating ourselves is a critical part of this framework.

Many of us fall victim to the Dunning Kruger effect, a cognitive bias in which people with limited competence in a particular domain overestimate their abilities.

This is particularly pertinent in the money domain and has an expensive fallout.

Educating ourselves on different perspectives, learning key concepts that could affect our money behaviours and understanding how we can take control of our finances is extremely empowering.

It builds our competence and our confidence, both being material elements to financial well-being.

4. P – Purpose

Finding our purpose is crucially important. This isn’t merely about identifying a career or a set of goals; it’s about uncovering the deeper meaning that propels us forward.

It’s what gives us a sense of fulfilment and direction, and maybe more significantly, helps us navigate challenges with resilience.

We’re happier when our work’s aligned with our purpose, it positively impacts our mental and emotional well-being.

In his book The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor makes the case that happiness is the precursor to success, not merely the result.

He says that happiness actually fuels performance and achievement – giving us the competitive edge he calls the “Happiness Advantage”.

It’s easy to see how this then translates to financial success and well-being.

5. T – Thinking long-term

Arguably the most important element of this framework is the ability to think long term. It’s also the hardest, especially in this age of instant gratification.

Used as a primary decision-making strategy, it helps us to easily distil the good/smart decisions from the bad/stupid ones.

All we need to do is ask ourselves: “What’s better for us in the long run?”

While the answer may not always be what we want, it will invariably align with what we need.

As with any skill, we get better at this with practice. Over time, the ability to prioritise the long-term impact of our actions becomes an invaluable asset, one that not only steers us away from impulsive decisions but also strategically positions us for success – financial or otherwise.

As we stand at the threshold of a new year, I hope that the Adept framework detailed above will inspire us all to transcend conventional wisdom and look deeper into ways that influence real behavioural change in our finances.

Marilyn Pinto is the founder of KFI Global

Updated: January 19, 2024, 6:34 PM