Can your friends help you become financially independent? Yes — if you choose the right friends. My fellow planner, Kelley Long, recently wrote a thought-provoking post about how financial frenemies can sabotage your financial wellness. “Much like starting a new diet or fitness program has a higher chance for success if you do it with a friend,” she wrote, “engaging your friends in financial habit changes could greatly increase the likelihood you’ll stick to it.” I couldn’t agree more.
Two decades ago, when I was in the midst of my own financial transformation, I was successful in large part due to the support and encouragement of friends. Together with other self-employed companions, we formed an informal group dedicated to providing support and encouragement for tackling our individual financial challenges. Each of us had a different challenge: paying down debt, dealing with employer responsibilities, saving for a home, retirement or college, managing financial paperwork, navigating money in a relationship or learning about investing. Sometimes we all got together as a group, and sometimes we got together informally in pairs.
Because we had diverse challenges, we were all able to gain inspiration from each other’s strengths. The group, formed expressly for the purpose of achieving financial goals, offered us motivation and structure. For me, the support of those friends was a critical lifeline at a time when I felt overwhelmed.
Now, forming a “Financial Independence Day Group” is even easier. With the publication of our CEO’s new book, What Your Financial Advisor Isn’t Telling You: The Ten Essential Truths You Need To Know About Your Money, Financial Finesse has launched a new, interactive website offering financial wellness tools and resources to accompany the book. We hope users will form their own Financial Independence Day Communities using the book and the website resources as a guide for group discussion. Our suggestion: meet at regular intervals to discuss one book chapter at a time. Groups should be judgement-free zones, confidential, and focused on financial education and support, not financial advice or sales.
For those readers who form Financial Independence Day groups, we also have a private Facebook group to share discussion topics and ideas. Our CEO Liz Davidson is holding a free kick-off webcast for group leaders January 28th. (To sign up for the webcast, simply email a copy of your receipt showing purchase of the book to [email protected].) What does forming a Financial Independence Group offer you?
Encouragement – Having the support of a group of like-minded seekers of financial balance is like having a personal cheer-leading squad. Group members can provide the extra boost needed to tackle the tricky tasks. Choose people to join your group who are positive, encouraging and trustworthy – and who really want to learn.
If you need to make a stressful phone call to your credit card company to negotiate an interest rate, they’ve got your back. If you can’t decipher the FAFSA financial aid form, there’s someone who’s done it before. If you just got a raise after a successful negotiation, who better to celebrate with than folks who know how hard it was to ask for one?
Confidence – Take it from the late Vince Lombardi: confidence is contagious! The structure of the group learning experience creates confidence, especially if you encourage a “judgement-free” zone for meetings. First, everyone in your group might not have the same challenges or questions. Use that to your advantage. Those who have “been there/done that,” can share their guidance with those who are just getting started on a financial goal, while the novices may have a fresh perspective or ask thought-provoking questions.
Second, by working through the puzzle pieces to financial independence in bite-sized chunks, you create a pattern of success. As group members build up small wins, overall confidence grows. That’s what happened in my group.
Accountability – Many of us are more successful when we have to meet the expectations of others. Gretchen Rubin, author of the recent bestseller about changing habits, Better Than Before, calls this the “obliger” tendency of meeting expectations. Obligers try hard not to let other people down, but might let themselves down. If that describes you, a group structure is particularly helpful in creating the kind of external accountability that aligns your goals with what you need to stay focused on them for the long term.
I’m like that, which is why the group accountability worked so well for me. Even when I didn’t feel like working on sorting receipts for taxes, knowing I had to meet a friend to tackle financial projects together kept me on track. Not sure if that describes you or if a group setting would work for you? Take Rubin’s quiz.
Opportunity — “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity,” said Albert Einstein. You may feel frustrated by your financial life. Maybe you don’t feel in balance, or you aren’t on track to achieve your financial goals. Perhaps you find financial terms and jargon frustrating and complex. It could be you have good money habits, but you just don’t know if you are doing all you could be doing.
If you are reading this post all the way to the end, consider this an invitation to get started. No matter where you are, forming a Financial Independence Day group is an opportunity to take your financial game to the next level. Have I convinced you? If you are ready to start your own group, let me know by emailing me at [email protected] or tweeting me @cynthiameyer_FF. I want to hear your stories!