The Power of Focus in Personal Finance

Focus

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How do you get things done? I mean, how do you manage to accomplish the myriad of tasks that are in front of you every day? And in the middle of doing that, how are you ensuring you’re staying on track to meet your goals?

This post is a little different from my regular teaching on personal finance, but it does have an important application there as well so stay with me.

The Background

Over the last few months I have been dealing with the questions in the opening paragraph. As you may know, I have a full time day job as a Project/Program Manager for a large IT/Services company. I have been with that company for a little over 20 years now and I have had what I consider a successful career.

But as you also may know, I have been working on launching a personal finance coaching practice for a little over 3 years now. Since I have a full time job, the time I have left to devote to this personal finance coaching practice comes from evenings, early mornings, and the weekends.

So I recently started taking stock of where I am with the coaching practice. As a good project/program manager, I defined a set of key monthly measurements and I have been keeping track of them since January of this year.

After careful analysis of my results, I have determined that time is the limiting factor in taking the coaching practice further in the next couple of years.

Don’t get me wrong, I have learned quite a bit over the last 3 years and I have connected with some great people. I started blogging on a regular basis and I also jumped into the social media fray.

I also can tell you that I am very proud of the new things I have learned to do this year like writing 2 e-books, starting a monthly newsletter, and launching a personal finance Podcast in Spanish. So I have made some progress and I am thankful for that.

The Decision

But I also know that when you are working on something new and you want it to grow and prosper, it needs more of your attention and time. In other words, it needs the power of focus.

When I look at the amount of “free time” I have outside of my day job, it has to be enough to cover everything else in my life. This includes my spiritual and physical well-being, my marriage, my family, and my service to God.

In other words, you and I can’t do everything and I found myself having to make some tough decisions about where to spend my time at this juncture.

In his book “Start”, best-selling author Jon Acuff speaks about the concept of “dropped balls”. These are things in your life that you may have to set aside so you can focus on achieving your dream.

These are not bad things, but you can only do so much in any given day, month, year. It’s like Gandalf told Frodo: “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.

So after much prayer, I decided to stop serving in 2 ministries that I love because I was spreading myself too thin. I was not putting enough focus on the coaching practice and I did not think I could continue at that pace and still reach my short and long term goals.

As the great Zig Ziglar said: “I’ve got to say no to the good so I can say yes to the best.

The Application to Your Personal Finances

And here is the application for your finances. Regardless of where you are with your money today, the power of focus will be your best weapon going forward.

There is nothing like laser like intensity to help you accomplish what you are trying to do with money. For example:

  • If you are just getting started, your immediate focus should be on gaining control of your money via a monthly budget.
  • If you have no savings, your immediate focus should be on saving a beginner’s emergency fund so you can avoid having to rely on debt when you have an emergency.
  • And if you are trying to get out of debt, focus on that with all your energy and attention. This is no time to worry about retirement or college savings. You will get there, trust me.
  • If you are out of debt and are thinking about buying a home, make sure you focus first on saving an emergency fund of 3-6 months of expenses and then focus on saving enough for a down payment for your home.

There are exactly 61 days left in 2013 after today. This might be a good time to take a moment and see if it is time for you to turn on the power of focus in your life.

It could be in any dimension: spiritual, professional, relationships, finances, health, etc. But spending some time deciding where your focus should be, will enable you to finish strong in 2013 and start 2014 on the right foot.

Question: Which area in your life could benefit the most from the power of focus?

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Generosity as a Lifestyle

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 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.
34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.
35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’
Luke 10:33-35 (ESV) 

You might recognize the verses above as part of the parable of the Good Samaritan as told by Jesus in Luke 10:30-37. Jesus told this story in response to the question “and who is my neighbor?” He used this story to illustrate the principle of love for one another.

As I write, teach, or coach on winning with your money, I want to emphasize that generosity does not have to be limited by the size of our bank accounts. Each day, we can cultivate and develop a heart that is generous to others around us.

I would like to unpack these verses to show you how we can be generous regardless of how much money we have. Generosity is a distinguishing trademark of people who prosper with money.

Let’s see how the Good Samaritan showed he had generosity as a lifestyle:

Time

You will notice that first of all, the Samaritan saw the need, felt compassion, and stopped on his tracks. Two previous travelers saw the same problem and ignored it and moved on with their lives.

You can choose to be generous with your time. Yes, we all have responsibilities to family and work. But if we were to be honest, it is quite possible that we waste a lot of time that could be used to help others.

Look around you and you will find that there is a need you can fill. Choose to give some of your time to help someone else.

Talent

The Good Samaritan applied some skill, some talent to the situation. He bound up the man’s woods and he took care of him in the inn.

We all have the ability to do something and someone out there needs you to come in and share what you can do. What skills do you possess?

Could you cook or bake and deliver a meal to someone? Can you sing or play an instrument and bring joy to an orphanage or an assisted living facility? Can you coach sports and help kids?

Do you know how to sew? What about using your organizational and administrative skills to help a non-profit organization with event planning? How can you invest yourself in others?

As you find the time to help others, make wise use of your time by doing something you can do.

Treasure

Yes, the Good Samaritan had wealth. He owned an animal he could put to use to carry the wounded man. He also had money to cover his costs at the inn.

So yes, we can put our money to good use by helping others. The main motivation for achieving control of our money and building wealth is so that we can help others.

But don’t wait until you have all of your money problems solved before you decide to help someone. You can be generous today and you can be more generous tomorrow!

“Be generous with all your possessions, and passionate about justice.
Share your time, talent, and treasure with those who have less.”
Tim Keller

 Take the challenge this weekend and see how you can be generous. Let me know how it goes!

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