Have you ever been looking for something, maybe something you misplaced or a particular location where you want to go, and instead of finding what you were looking for you end up finding something else completely unexpected? That is what happened on this date (November 8th) way back in 1895 when German physicist Wilhelm Roentgen produced and discovered what became known as X-Rays. It was quite accidental as he was experimenting with Cathode Rays and trying to determine if they would pass through glass. He soon realized the potential application of this new discovery as he took a picture of his wife’s hand revealing all that was beneath the skin. I can only imagine how the doctors of the day were amazed that they could now see what was inside someone without having to cut into the patient. As it turns out my youngest daughter actually rolled her ankle pretty badly this week and the X-Ray revealed a broken bone. Isn’t it great that we have this discovery along with many others today that allow for accurate diagnosis and help keep our bodies healthy without being too invasive.
Unfortunately, in our financial lives many of us are only willing to look at ourselves skin deep. As long as we keep up appearances and things look good on the surface we ignore what is really going on under the surface. We don’t take the time to use all the tools at our disposal that can help ensure our long-term financial health. Even simple things like balancing our deposit accounts each month or creating a budget go undone as we go through our lives blissfully ignorant of our true financial condition. Recent studies and surveys reveal that as many as 78% of American workers live paycheck to paycheck and yet less than one third of Americans utilize a household budget that would help keep them on track financially. Believe it or not even a siginificantly high number of people earning over $100,000 per year still can’t seem to make ends meet.
How does this happen? Here are a couple of thoughts I have. First, people don’t set goals for themselves. When we fail to set goals or aim for a financial destination we should all know that we will still end up somewhere, probably somewhere unexpected. Many unexpected discoveries in life turn out to be good, like the discovery of X-Rays. However, in most cases that is not how it turns out financially when something unexpected hits us and we discover our true financial condition by accident. I encourage you not leave your destination up to chance or accident. Aim for somewhere. Set some goals, even small ones for the short-term are better than nothing. It could be something as simple as having $100 in a savings account by the end of the year. As you commit to those and reach them it will become easier to set bigger goals like paying cash for your next car. Second, people don’t like to look at themselves with a critical eye and evaluate how they are doing. Everyone should take a serious look, like Superman with X-Ray vision, at their financial condition on a regular basis. Dig deep below the surface and be honest with yourself about how you are doing. Evaluate what you spend each month and know where your money goes. Are you living above your means? Are you spending money unwisely without much thought or planning? After you know where you are right now and where you would like to be financially, you should determine what changes you can make to help you reach your goals.
It is unfortunate that so many people are walking around with broken financial bones and they just ignore the situation until they literally can’t take another step. Sometimes dealing with the problem is painful and requires some hard choices but just like with our bodies the sooner we recognize and work on treating the problem the better off we are.