The 1 Question You Should Always Ask Before Making Any Personal Financial Decision

Whether you want to start a business, expand an existing one, retire early, or simply improve your lifestyle, an essential first step is get your financial house in order. And there is no shortage of tools to help you. A million and one retirement calculators, budgeting apps and useful rules of thumb We offer to guide you to safety and long-term success.

Many of them are excellent. But according to a recent interview with Ramit Sethi, finance guru and author of I will teach you to be richyou shouldn’t touch any of them yet until you’ve done an essential step first.

Your financial goals are probably dire.

At interview with Charlotte Cowes of The CutSethi explains that many people avoid financial planning because it feels so dour and boring. There are very few people who like to be lectured about not buying lattes or entering the $1.57 they spent on gum into a spreadsheet. As a result, too many of us ignore money problems or alternate between commitment to do good and denial like the ostrich.

If that sounds like you, then you don’t need any more information or another tool. What you need, according to Sethi, is a vision of your personal version of financial success. “Most people have never been asked what a rich life looks like to them,” she says, and when asked, they often give the same simplistic and unsatisfying answers.

A lot of people will say something like, “I want to do what I want,” reports Sethi. But when pressed on what exactly they want, they can’t answer. Another unlucky group only dreams of getting out of debt, which is understandable but deeply uninspiring.

Finally, many people have a dollar figure in mind. “I want to have a million dollars,” they will tell Sethi, but when he asks “OK, where did that number come from? What does it allow you to do?” he says “hush, because of course a million dollars in Brooklyn is different from a million dollars in Kansas City. It’s different if you’re 30 or 60. Most people don’t know what to do with it.”

What you should ask instead.

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