A leader that I highly respect once made a statement about me that I do not think I’ll ever forget: “You love to learn.” Before this leader had given me this assessment of myself, I had not really characterized myself as a “learner.” But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that, yes, I do love to learn. One of the biggest reasons why is because I love the process of learning, which doesn’t simply involve hearing something new. The process of learning also involves practicing that newly obtained knowledge, building new habits through that practice, and experiencing real change after having gone through the learning process. Indeed, the learning processes that God has graciously allowed me to go through over and over again have shaped me into the man and leader that I am today, which inspires me to want to learn more.
The learning process can apply to any area of your life, and you should certainly apply it to your financial life. Here’s how I have applied the learning process to my financial life.
Acquiring knowledge is the first step in the learning process. Early on, I acquired knowledge through books such as Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover and Larry Burkett’s Debt-Free Living. Personal Finance Books that I have read (or am still reading) this year include The Richest Man in Babylon, Your Money or Your Life, and The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing. I also acquire personal finance knowledge through blogs of those who are quite a bit further along in their financial journeys than I am, including Free Money Finance, Financial Samurai, and ESI Money. Last, I listen to podcasts such as The His & Her Money Show and MoneyWise from Compass.
The next step is to decide what points to test out from what you have learned and put these concepts into practice to see what proves beneficial for your financial journey. For me early on, this meant building an Emergency Fund, paying down debt using the snowball method, and using an online money tracker such as Personal Capital. Now, this includes investing in Index Funds and taking advantage of Credit Card travel deals (We’ve scored well over $2,000 of free travel rewards so far this year!). The more I test out and practice new concepts, the more I perfect my own financial strategies, leading to the next step.
As I keep practicing sound financial concepts, I start to build good financial habits, and so will you. Early in my financial journey, this included automating all of our bills so that everything was paid on time, paying off our credits cards in full each month, and regularly socking away money in our saving accounts. These practices were not necessarily easy or smooth at first, but now they are second nature of my Wife and me.
The evidence of true learning is the experience of change in your life. The evidence of real change for us has been improved credit scores, a fully funded (One year!) Emergency Fund, the ability to invest, and the ability to travel stress-free (and at a reduced cost through credit card reward points). We are thankful for the changes that we have seen and continue to see in our financial lives. All of these changes started with the process of learning.
I encourage you to commit to the process of learning now so that you can see and celebrate real change in your financial life years down the road.