As a financial planner, it’s really hard to not give advice during any conversation about money, especially when it’s about money behavior, a topic about which I’m especially passionate.

Recently I had an exchange with a younger friend who was wistfully talking about abundance and her desire to reach that stage with her finances. You may be familiar with this mindset that became popular with the book “The Secret,” which states that your thoughts create your reality and your life, and if you think thoughts of abundance, it will be yours. I listened intently as she talked about her financial entanglement with her parents, who were co-signers on a significant amount of student loan debt. She had what I call a “screw-you” attitude toward money, as she believed the debt was unfair and she would never be able to pay it back with the liberal arts degree it funded. She felt victimized not only by the debt, but by her parents, who all but coerced her into going to school.

I’ve heard this story before, in different variations. But suddenly I had an “Aha!” moment about it, which I shared with my friend: There is a very important choice that is necessary, I believe, before abundance, and that is responsibility. It was going to be important she clean up her debt mess before she could enjoy a different experience with money.

I once heard a story money guru T. Harv Eker likes to tell about a little boy being taken out for ice cream by his father. No sooner do they leave the ice cream place the boy has dropped his cone and he is in full-blown tears. So back they go into the store to order another cone. This time the boy sees a sign for a triple scooper and eagerly yells “I want THAT ONE!” At this point Eker would ask the audience if the father should get him the three scoops, being a kind and generous parent (to which most of the audience would say “Yes!” because after all, the little boy was upset). But he’d explain, “No. Why would you want the child to fail? The single scoop was too much for him to handle, so how could he possibly handle three?” Eker says “we exist in a kind and loving universe that says until you show you can handle what you’ve got, you won’t get any more.”

“Responsible” is something we define individually, in a given situation. Obvious examples could be paying off a debt, saving for emergencies, asking for a raise, or giving your investments some attention. Or maybe it’s looking into life insurance for your family, tracking your spending, or finally updating your estate plan. These are the obvious “responsible” money choices, but it can also look different — maybe it’s saving and strategizing for the freedom to leave an unhappy job situation, to go out on your own, or to retire early. Only you can answer this question for yourself.

Author Greg Baer writes that there are three keys to happiness: being loved, being loving and being responsible. So it really comes down to love and responsibility, and this also applies to money. Money allows us to provide for our loved ones, for ourselves and hopefully for others who are less fortunate. That’s love and responsibility. Being responsible surprisingly leads to happiness and contentment, and, I believe, greater abundance with money. I tell this to my clients all the time when it comes to budgeting. When you’re not tracking your money, how do you know where it’s going, and whether your spending is aligned with your values and priorities?

A sure sign that there is a responsibility that you are not facing is procrastination. You know you need to take action on a financial matter, but you let months — maybe years! — go by and continue ignoring it. The truth is, the dreading is worse than the doing. And once you actually do it, you will  first stop wasting energy on the dread and guilt over the procrastination and then feel happy and peaceful that you got it accomplished, and it wasn’t that big of a deal after all. In fact, usually much greater amounts of energy are wasted on not doing it. And this too can free up energy for more to come in—and that’s our ultimate goal.

Being responsible is an important piece of everyone’s financial picture. Ask yourself, what are two or three things you can do to be more responsible with your finances right now? Then write them down and get them done. And my favorite tip: Be sure to share your list with someone if you need an accountability partner.

Source: Denver Post