When it comes to money management, there is no such thing as one size fits all. Everyone has their own income levels and comfort zone – some prefer to spend, some prefer to save and others try not to think about it at all. According to Susan Hayes though, one thing does hold true for everyone: the better you learn to control your finances, the more your money will begin to work for you, and by extension, the more you will be in control of your life. Hayes’ new book, “The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Financial Freedom”, teaches you to do just that, in a few easy steps.
There is currently an emphasis in teaching people about personal finance – and there are a great many very useful books on the subject (see my recent reviews on #yourmoney and Money Fight Club). Hayes approaches the subject from a different angle. As a businesswoman specialising in financial training, she argues that in order to be fully in control of your finances, you have to treat every aspect of your life as a business. Understanding the jargon is of course very important, but this should form part of a bigger plan.
We are thus introduced to many tricks of the trade that Hayes has learnt from years of running a successful business. The SMARTER goal-setting technique for instance, stands for,
and teaches you to work smarter, rather than harder, and this is as true of money management as it is of running a business. By being specific about your goals, and stating exactly how you are going achieve them, you will be far more likely to make those crucial first moves. For instance, listing all the reasons for building up an emergency fund, will help you visualise what it might take to build up a rainy day fund. By extending yourself, you are constantly pushing beyond what you think are your limits. Not only will this increase your confidence, it will also lead you to bigger, more exciting challenges. In short, if you apply business formulas to your financial arrangements, it should make it much simpler to succeed.
Cost-cutting then, which forms the basis of any business, should play a huge part in money management. Sounds obvious, but how often do you justify spending the loose change in your pocket ‘just because it’s there’? And how often would you see this happening in a successful company? You just wouldn’t, because everything is accounted for. Hayes includes a chapter on cost-cutting. But she takes it further. After all, we all know that necessity breeds creativity, and we’re constantly told that shopping at charity shops is a great way of putting together a new look, but Hayes break it down into purely business terms. If you look at your income as a “gross profit margin”, you’ll find ways to make the most of your income. It is not always worthwhile to avoid spending altogether: it is better to find less expensive ways of buying the things you have to.
And unless you do this exercise first, there is little point in earning more, as this behavioural pattern is doomed to repeat itself. You need to be in control. It’s not how much you have but how you spend it that counts.
By the same token, you should also be looking to increase your revenue. In other words, perhaps you should be putting the coins you fritter away into an inflation beating interest account. Again this sounds obvious, but what if someone offered you the chance of make your money last to the end of the month and to lose some weight for instance? Working out exactly what you are spending your money on – in this case, it would be chocolate bars – would allow you to cut this excess out of your life. And as if by magic, “the Savvy Woman” has an entire section devoted to calculating your revenue, and maximising your gross profit margin.
Once you have worked through this, you can scroll through the book and find the chapter devoted to increasing your earnings. This mixes a heady range of options, such as getting paid for something you already do (mystery shopping for instance), investing in a high-interest account, or even selling unused household objects online. Hayes tries to dispel the limiting beliefs that many people have, which makes them believe that they can’t make extra money on top of their salary. She drums home the point that you should think about what other people might need, and try and build on this. This section is made all the more poignant by the fact that she herself has grown an international company using some of these techniques.
Despite this book having a strong business element to it, often looking at money from a dispassionate standpoint, Hayes also stresses how important it is that emotional aspects are taken care of. She advises talking to friends about financial goals and financial situation (it is amazing how often women who will share so much with their friends keep their financial matters private) – an accountability partner. She encourages positive thinking, and pushes you to work hard to achieve your financial goals, whether they might be having enough money to go on a holiday once a year, or becoming a multimillionaire.
Whether dipped into or read from cover to cover, this book has most of the answers. Follow Hayes’ advice, and you are well on the way to achieving financial independence.