For most of us, financial mistakes are a rite of passage.
Even the most successful people have a money-related regret or two (or more). As a financial planner in New York City, I’ve come to expect new client meetings to include conversations about financial anxiety, confusion, and frustration.
The reality is, when it comes to money, most people are doing far better than they think they are. Sure, you may not have reached your goals yet, but that doesn’t mean you won’t, or that you’ve failed already. Even if things are particularly tough right now, it won’t stay that way forever.
Which is why the best piece of advice I can give you about money is this:
Money is dynamic. Plan for the long run, and don’t get too caught up on today.
To see this in action, all you have to do is take a look at any of your account balances over the past year, or five years, or longer. If you’re like most people, you’ve had highs and lows. The stock market is the same way. Money is constantly on the move.
Keeping track of your net worth is a good way to follow the ups and downs of your financial situation, and to remind yourself that you aren’t stuck. Making one mistake doesn’t doom you to a lifetime of financial struggle, and getting lucky once — even winning the lottery — doesn’t necessarily mean you’re set for life.
If things are great right now, enjoy it. But make sure to save as much as you can for a time in the future when you’ll need it. Retirement is one universal example, but a job loss, medical expense, or other big life event could happen as well. It will be easier to weather the tough times if you prepare during the good times.
And, if you’re currently living through one of those tough times, try to remember that it’s temporary. Don’t stress about the progress you’re not making. Just try to get through today. If you lost your job, focus on finding a new one. If you’re in over your head with debt, cut back as much as you can to pay it off. You’ll get through it.
It’s worth mentioning — and this is where the long-term planning really comes into play — since money is dynamic, your financial goals can be, too. Don’t underestimate your potential. If your current goal feels far away, be patient and keep working toward it. If you’ve recently reached a financial goal, set a new one. The important thing is to keep moving.
Lauren Lyons Cole is a certified financial planner and the editor of Your Money at Business Insider.
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