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When I look back at my financial life, two things that helped me on my journey to financial freedom were my financial values and financial vision. Very often, I find investors wanting financial independence but are unable to define it. Further, the few who do have structured financial plans are not able to keep up with their goals. With short-term requirements occupying mind space, it is easy to get distracted from your financial plan. While investors focus on quantifying goals and deciding the “best" investments to make, I believe that financial values, commitment and vision have been the backbone of my financial journey, even though they were there subconsciously. Hence, I would highly recommend investors to figure these aspects before jumping into trending investments.

In my case, I started investing 24 years ago. At that time, the way of life was very different from what it is today. Lifestyle aspirations were certainly present but at a different scale. However, I was clear that I would save a part of my income, come what may, and this really meant having fun but within limits. Thankfully instant loans were not available. Thus, having a commitment to savings is the first step in financial planning.

Next comes financial vision, which is all about what you want to achieve financially. It goes without saying that financial vision needs to be simple but motivational. Financial vision needs to be able to inspire you to take the path of financial freedom. Of course, your financial vision will change as you grow older and have higher income.

In my 20s and early 30s, my financial vision was to have my own home and enough money for my financial goals. From mid-30s, the financial mission moved on to not only meet financial goals but have enough to indulge myself in terms of travelling or buying certain apparel. As I grew older, my aim was financial freedom so that I could live life on my terms and do what I pleased.

Along the way, there were certain financial values which took me forward in this journey. These were to be debt-free as early as possible, to splurge but up to a percentage of my income, to track my investments regularly and to use my money to make life more convenient and give me more time to pursue my interests. Value for money was the guiding factor behind spending. Also, I spent on large material purchases only if I had the funds for it and certainly not by taking loans.

Financial values are your beliefs around spending, borrowing, saving and money management and are different for everybody.

For your financial vision to work, you must identify problem areas like spending problems or too many loans or not being able to comprehend investment products and look at working around these issues. I can honestly admit that in my 20s, I invested in alternate products because they sounded so exciting and I felt I was taking a more interesting investment approach. Over time, I realized that sticking to simple, boring products made more money. If you have a problem of wanting to have all the latest stuff and are prone to taking loans for it, you need to probably put up your EMI list on your fridge and make it the screensaver on your computer and phone, to deter you, each time you think of spending on lifestyle expenses.

Staying motivated to achieve your financial vision is not easy and the best way would be to dream a bigger dream. One gets so used to thinking about finances in terms of what needs to be done for common goals, that not much thought is given to what more can be done with money. Your financial vision can be a constant reminder of what you want to accomplish and can keep you committed to reaching your financial goals.

Chase the vision, not the money. The money will end up following you.

Mrin Agarwal, financial educator; founder director, Finsafe India Pvt. Ltd; and co-founder, Womantra

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