The Fourth of July weekend is one of my favorite weekends each year. In what has become a bit of a ritual in the state of Minnesota, families pile into cars, SUVs and minivans and head north to lake country to get away and relax. The days are long and the weather typically registers somewhere in the mid to upper 80s. I make a note to remind myself every year that weekends like this are the reason we choose to tolerate the winters here!
What I really love about the Fourth of July weekend, however, is the opportunity to celebrate. After all, that is precisely what this holiday is all about. Just 234 years ago, our forefathers accomplished something great by declaring the United States a free country. A day before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams wrote the following in a letter to his wife:
The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.
While our observance of the holiday occurs on July 4th (the day the Declaration was signed) instead of July 2nd (the day it was complete), the vision of John Adams rings true across our nation. We gather with friends and family, immerse ourselves in our communities, blow-off fireworks, have barbeques and bonfires in our backyard, and attend parades and picnics to celebrate our country’s independence.
In our personal, business and financial lives, however, we often forget to pause to celebrate our successes. No matter how big or small our accomplishments may be, we must consciously take the time to acknowledge them. A celebration can be something simple and can be either personal or shared, but certainly does not have to involve parties, noise-makers and fireworks. Getting a raise or promotion does not mean you should celebrate by buying a new car. Celebrating success and acknowledging your accomplishments doesn’t even have to involve money! However, if you successfully cut enough waste out of your budget, by all means, take your family on that vacation you have always wanted.
In our financial lives, it is easy to overlook our victories because they can often manifest as the result of us depriving ourselves of something we want. Further, we have an innate tendency to always want more, pushing us to look beyond our accomplishments and notice what is missing instead. Instead of feeling guilty that you have not reached your goal of reducing spending by $1,000/mo, celebrate the fact that you have cut $500/mo out after years of overspending. In reality, that $500/mo reduction is a big deal and absolutely a reason to pause and acknowledge your accomplishment.
Just as our country’s journey toward independence did not happen over night, your path to financial independence may take considerable time, effort and perseverance. Financial planning is not an event. It is an ongoing process that helps you arrange your financial resources and priorities into an ever-evolving series of life events. As you reach and pass by these milestones, make sure you take time to celebrate all the mini-victories along the way.