Happy December, all! For many of us, December represents the holiday season and spending time (desired or not) with family. I also see it as a time to reflect on the past year and plan for the coming one. Every December, I spend a week reflecting on the previous year, using prompts my coach, Kat Knecht, shared with me. That reflection reminds me of what I've accomplished and learned over the previous year and informs my goals and outlook for the year to come.
This practice has truly been a blessing each year because it allows me to savor all that can happen in a year. So easily we forget what January was like by the time we are in December. By doing this reflection, we can see our growth, have a deeper insight into what things brought us joy, and hopefully learn lessons from the hard times during the year. In this post, I want to offer you some prompts to help you do a financial year in review.
We'll look at the year through three lenses: mindset shifts, habit shifts, and quantitative shifts. Often when we think of finances, we only think about the numbers, but our mindsets and habits are what make our financial numbers change. Let's get started!
What we tell ourselves to be true about our finances or our ability to manage them is often self-fulfilling. If we believe that we can save money, we can. If we believe we can't ask for a raise, we won't do it. So, the first few prompts speak to belief:
What did you believe at the beginning of the year?
What do you believe now?
What helped you shift (or maintain) that belief?
Something I believed at the beginning of the year was that for my business to be "successful" I had to have a constant and steady stream of clients. That belief shifted over this year. I'm realizing that I get the clients I need, in the quantity I need. In my more relaxed life seasons, more clients have always appeared, in my busier life seasons, I've gotten fewer clients, but they've been the number of clients I could successfully maintain. I haven't quite named what that shift in belief is, but I no longer feel bound to define success by the number of clients I have.
Maybe you believed you wouldn't ever get out of that job, or that you'd never make enough money to take that trip to Nigeria. Has that changed? Why did or didn't it change? There is a lesson, no matter what the shift in or maintenance of your belief. And you get to decide if you want to continue in that belief, or actively work to shift that belief in the new year.
Our habits are arguably what makes our goals come to fruition. What we do every day determines where we'll be at the end of the day, the month, or the year. Everyone has a plethora of great habits that have supported them on their journey, and some not-so-great habits that have prevented their progress. So, the prompts for this section are:
What financial habits did you cultivate this year? What has been their impact?
What habits did you stop? What has been that impact?
At the beginning of this year, I read "Finance for the People" by Paco De Leon. She recommends dedicating 30 mins a week to checking on your finances. Now, I had already cultivated a habit of checking my budget and accounts weekly if not biweekly, but I had not created the habit of looking at my finances holistically. By this I mean, looking at all my investment accounts, checking, savings, debt, etc., and updating my net worth. While cultivating this habit didn't lead me to change what I was doing financially, it helped me see the results of all the habitual work I was putting into my finances. Knowing my habits' results, or the impact, encouraged me to continue them.
Whether you started, stopped or continued certain habits, they have impacted your life. Examining the impact helps us learn what does and does not benefit us.
I have a secret for y'all: financial independence isn't gained by superior knowledge or that investing hot tip, it is gained by habits; habitually budgeting, intentionally spending, or not spending; saving; investing; the list goes on.
What we believe informs what we do, and what we do informs our outcomes. For finances, there are tangible and intangible outcomes, but for this section, we'll focus on the tangible. As Tom Cruise said in Jerry Maguire:
By what percentage (or dollar amount) has your net worth shifted this year?
How many accounts do you have?
How much have you contributed to retirement?
What metrics would show you progress?
These prompts may not align with the financial goals you set for yourself this year. If that's the case, use a prompt that makes the most sense for you. But make it specific enough that you can look at numbers.
This year, one of my financial goals was to consolidate my investment accounts with Vanguard. I had investment accounts with Ellevest, Vanguard, and Ally, and that was frankly too much for me to keep track of. I now only have investment accounts with Vanguard and Ally. Reducing the number of accounts I held ensured I would be able to check them regularly.
Another financial goal I had this year was to increase the balance of my Traditional 401k to 6 digits and I hit that some time this fall! This was a huge win for me.
Something I started to do this year was track the percentage (as well as dollar) increase of my net worth. My plan for next year is to know where I start in January and be able to assess the change by December.
If you're saying to yourself: "I didn't set any numerical financial goals this year," that's okay! Maybe this section is to prompt you to set those goals for 2024. Tracking this information can be very inspiring when you're accomplishing your goals, and let you know when to adjust (either the goal or the habits) if you aren't.
Phew! Let's take a breath. How are you feeling after this financial year in review? What have you learned? What do you know to be true about yourself? What I know is that no matter where started in January, or where you are now, tomorrow always presents another opportunity to do something different.