The Art of Stealing Good Financial Habits

The Art of Stealing Good Financial Habits

I was recently drawn to a new book by Austin Kleon called Steal Like an Artist. As an artist, who also works with many artists, I thought it was an important book to read…especially since I don’t feel like I (or any of my clients, for that matter) are thieves.

Kleon says that in order to maximize creativity, you must realize that everything has already been done before. Creativity is seldom about finding a new subject; it’s more about placing your own spin on existing work. I think this is true. Shakespeare’s plays are all stories that had already been told. He told them better. Monet wasn’t the first person to paint people, landscapes, or buildings. He just improved on the existing process.


What does this have to do with money?

So many people want to be great at money, but they don’t realize that to be good at something (ANYTHING), you should emulate the best work of the masters in that field. Only then will you begin to practice good money management techniques.

Artists often tell me that financial books are boring. My friends in the financial industry tell me that much in the art community puts them to sleep, too! The person who achieves greatness is the one who can dive into an area and keep practicing until they become great. The funny thing about becoming great? Those areas that used to be boring are suddenly some of the most exciting parts of the task, once you understand the nuances of the trade.

If you’re a painter, what would you say to a person who stated, “Painting like Jackson Pollack is simple!”? How does it feel if you’re an actor and someone remarks how easy it is to just pretend all day? You know the truth, don’t you? It takes years of practice.

It’s the same with money management.

No matter where you are now, take the time to begin “stealing” some of the work of the masters:

1)   Open accounts and automate your financial picture so you don’t have to remember to pay bills, save money, and transfer investments.

2)   Write down your goals and create a simple timeline of how you’ll achieve them.

3)   Start simple investments that are well diversified, such as mutual funds or exchange traded funds. Not sure what these are? Begin learning how they work and invest a small sum. You’ll never know how to invest until you actually do it.

4)   Don’t be afraid to mess it up. How much will you pay for education? When it costs you a few dollars (and it will) consider it education. Learn from your mistakes and move on. Learn to protect against mistakes by the careful application of the right insurances.

5)   Build on your plan. You are what you think about. Continue feeding yourself financial information. At first, it might be tough. Choke down the healthy reading that you don’t like enough and you’ll soon realize that the boring information about stocks, real estate and tax planning isn’t boring anymore. Well…I’ll admit that SOME of it may still continue to be boring… J But there is some good news: you’ll now know how to tell the good stuff from the bad. Like the chef who knows exactly what to remove or to add to the stew, you’ll be pointing out holes in financial plans with the best.

Once you’ve followed these five steps used by the “masters” in financial acumen, you’ll begin to appreciate how each portion of your plan works for you individually. You’ll start to place your own spin on these steps to create a personalized plan that attacks your goals in the way you deserve!