I’ll turn 58 in September.  December will mark 3 decades for me as a financial advisor.  So I’ve seen a few things.  I’ve had challenging business and life experiences, as well as having successes that far outweigh the occasional setbacks.  And through those experiences, I’ve learned ways you can be smart, even when the world around you can seem pretty stupid.   

First, just realize that you will become whatever your values are.  Some people value family more than money or power, like the person who decides to spend more time at home than at work.  And some place greater value on money than their physical and mental health, like the people I know who have suffered serious health issues because they worked so hard.  Each of us have our values and I’m not passing judgement on anyone or their individual values.  I’ve simply observed that your path in life will most often reflect your personal values.  They are your foundation and your future.  

I’ve found that during these difficult times, focusing on the important values and beliefs that you have helps to reduce the noise and distractions.  I’ll be the first to admit that these current times can be disturbing.  Reaching out in ways that reflect your core beliefs helps to curb the overwhelm. 

So be persistent.  Long-term success depends on never quitting, even when the next step is difficult and/or painful.  Achieving your goals means working on them daily no matter what. 

Second, be financially efficient.  There are good and necessary costs in life, like a mortgage payment or saving for a child’s college education.  And then there are unnecessary costs.  Personally, I hate financial inefficiencies like credit card debt, late fees or stupid spending.  If you want to see my weakness for stupid spending, just watch me in a grocery store when I’m hungry and with no list!  I can buy all kinds of stupid, unnecessary things.  That may be frivolous, but when stupid spending occurs on bigger things like technology (the fancy cell phone, streaming services, gaming, etc.), it can add up to real money. 

Or if you have a storage unit, please take a close look at how much value you place on the things stored and compare that to what the unit costs you.  Does it make real sense to pay $1,200 a year to store a dresser, clothes, stationary bike, books, files or old stereo and TV that you’ll probably never use? 

Putting it all together: by smart finances, I mean focusing on your finances in ways that reflect your values.  I find we add to our strengths by diminishing our weaknesses. For example, don’t go to the grocery store on an empty stomach!  Instead, take smart actions that help you focus on what really matters to you, even (or especially) in stupid times.