Do you ever get the sinking feeling that sometimes the stars are against you with your finances? You try and fail, try and fail, then destroy your self-esteem by over analyzing why yet again you’ve failed at a long-term financial goal. You inevitably get frustrated, say to hell with saving anything long-term, roll over and play dead as if a grizzly bear is attacking you. How about figuring out a way fight that big old bear?
If you’re like me, you set long-term goals and most likely forget them; well, except maybe wanting to live by the ocean and/or in Hawaii by 2017. I will not forget that one! It’s what I do naturally, that is, forgetting the long-term. I am aware of and can see the big picture but can usually never figure out how to get there. It’s right up there with my boss asking me “where do you see yourself in five years”. That’s a deer in headlights moment for me; I freeze and go completely silent.
Why? It’s my aptitude, or in plain English my natural ability to do something or to learn something. Like me, it’s quite possible that your natural god given talents could be derailing your budget and financial success.
Now don’t go developing a complex! There’s nothing wrong with you. For each one of us, our brains process timeframes a particular way, and for some, the way you learn combined with your natural abilities, affect the way your brain processes timeframes. We’ve all heard the stories of our friends that are the “need it now” type and the other friends we’re envious of because they can keep a five-year goal front and centre.
What if it was your predisposition that caused spending blunders and stopped you from keeping your long-term goals?
For my third session of career coaching, I took the Highlands Ability Battery Test. It’s a test designed to highlight your Personal style, Driving abilities, Specialized abilities and Vocabulary level. I didn’t make the correlation immediately, as I was thinking only of how the results applied to my career, but I soon realized that one particular trait would have a dramatic effect on how I work with money and budgeting. That trait was the Time Frame Orientation.
What is the Highlands Test?
The Highlands Ability Battery is the gold standard among tools assessing human abilities or aptitudes. Developed from the pioneering clinical studies of Johnson O’Connor, it is a three-hour objective inquiry into the abilities and ability patterns of the individual who completes it.
The Battery consists of nineteen different work samples. Each work sample is timed to measure the speed with which the individual is able to do a particular series of similar tasks. The individual’s score on each work sample establishes whether a particular task is more or less easy for that individual. Shown together on a personal profile and bar chart, the scores achieved by each individual reveal patterns or “clusters” of abilities which require analysis by a skilled interpreter. Once these patterns or “clusters” are understood, the individual is helped to guide his life and work into more productive and satisfying channels.
What is the Timeframe Trait?
The timeframe trait describes what timelines you work best with, either short or long. In my case, I work best with short or immediate timeframes only; this means six months to a year. It helps you understand your orientation towards planning, goal setting and accomplishing tasks. Do you see where I’m going with this?
It translates into long term goals are difficult for me. It is hard for me to keep my eye on that five-year goal unless I break it down into smaller chunks.
When I started my budget, it was something I did not look at. All I knew was the total debt I had to repay in three years’ time. I never made the effort to break it down into smaller annual and semi-annual goals. The way my mind works combined with my natural abilities, requires that I break things down this way.
It also highlights why I am an impulse spender and can very rarely wait to save for something; I have this urgency to buy now. From the test: “Should be aware that your hunger for immediate results can undercut your ability to complete projects that demand longer completion times.”
There you have it, my natural tendency is immediacy and to shop. Now that I have full awareness of it, time for the solution.
How to Fix it
The first and biggest step is knowledge of those natural abilities and tendencies, then finding a way to break them down and make it easier. These natural abilities are important to consider when making any educational, career or life decisions. I must remain cognizant of my need for things to move quickly and remember to set goals when it comes to saving/spending. It means that if I’m working on a long-term goal (five years, for example), I must consciously break it down into clear segments that will fall into my natural time frame of six months to a year.
Here’s what the process would look like:
- Choose a goal – For example, my $500K saved by 45
- Plan and analyze how I’m going to get there – How many years do I want to accomplish this in? How much per month is required?
- Decide if it’s a realizable and attainable goal based on chosen parameters, if not, back to the drawing board
- Set the goal, set achievable milestones along the way, and track my progress.
Bridget at MoneyafterGrad recently posted a fantastic example of how I could achieve this with an Excel spreadsheet. It’s exactly the type of tool I would have to use to achieve my long-term goals without getting off track.
My goals for December include planning and analyzing how much house I can afford, along with planning for my next car in seven years; so all of this couldn’t have come at a better time. I now have a clear path to the How, it’s time to get off my butt and get doing! I’m off to create my own spreadsheet and get planning my way to better financial pastures.
Think the Highlands Ability Test may be for you? Check it out here. Remember it needs to be accompanied by a coach that can translate the results for you.
That, in a nutshell, my friends is why I fail at the long-term things without a proper plan to outline all the steps and track progress. Have you had a similar problem where part of your personality or natural abilities derails you from achieving financial goals?
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