Money begins and ends with our mindset. Generally, we see ourselves accomplishing financial success long before it ever comes to fruition in life. Whether the goal is to pursue home ownership, start a business, or gain financial freedom, we create plans and acquire resources based on where we ultimately want to be in the future. When it comes to finances, our vision is therefore the engine that drives us on our journey toward wealth. Very rarely do you end up financially broke, rich, or anywhere in-between simply by accident. If your goals involve living debt-free, retiring early, or passing on wealth to future generations, it’s going to require you to become extremely intentional in your financial vision. All of this speaks to having more than the minimum criteria of financial literacy. It requires having a mindset of financial empowerment.

Know Your Worth

One of the most critical steps to financial empowerment is increasing your awareness through exposure. Just as plants require sunlight, our financial goals require ongoing development in order to evolve successfully toward wealth. All too often we tend to associate high-priced goods and expensive brands with our level of self-worth, particularly in communities of color. This results in us forming and teaching financial habits based on a very distorted view of wealth. However, once we become exposed to broader financial concepts such as equities, real estate, and FICO scores, we then realize most of those high-price goods are really just depreciating assets. And true wealth requires building up assets that increase in value as opposed to subtracting from your net worth. So, what’s the most effective way to gain exposure in your finances? Billionaire, Warren Buffett reportedly spends 80% of his day reading if that happens to be a fair indication. According to Buffet, “That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest.” As of 2017 he just so happens to rank #2 on the Forbes list of Richest People On The Planet.

Your Numbers Won’t Lie

Another key step in becoming financially empowered is fully acknowledging your financial reality. Most of us won’t become PhD’s in finance but we’ll constantly have to make tough decisions about our money day in and day out. When we do so without the aid of a budget we essentially operate in a state of financial blindness. This in turn leads to developing highly dysfunctional financial habits. For example, even the most simplistic budget should be transparent enough to tell if you’re spending more money than you’re earning each month. And if you happen to be spending beyond your means there’s an enormous likelihood that you’re sinking deeper into debt. However, if you’re instead living off less than 80% of your income, there’s a strong probability that money is working in your favor. By using the remaining 20% of your budget to invest, save, and reinvest in your community, your net worth should soon start to rise.

What’s Your Why?

The third and most critical step to empowerment is applying your own individual motivation in the form of a financial “WHY”. On the journey to wealth it becomes very easy to give up on your financial vision when you lose sight of your reason why. Why should you delay immediate gratification? Why save and

invest your money instead of spending it? Why remain disciplined in working to improve your credit each month? One example of a personal “Why” that many can relate to are their children. Some people develop a relentless purpose of passing on as much wisdom and knowledge as possible, simply for the benefit of their kids. Others may relate to coming from a single-parent background and not having adequate exposure to the quality financial information necessary for survival. Each of these are powerful forms of motivation and great examples of a personal why. Above all the key is to find out what’s going to keep you on track to becoming financially empowered while allowing your vision to become reality.