It’s that time of year when we all swear we are going to get to the gym more often, eat healthier, limit our time on social media, and make a better effort to stay in touch with family and friends. Looking ahead feels good, but how many times have you set those goals only to have abandoned them by January 31st?
In this year-end review episode, Matt Robison and I discuss looking back before you look forward. In particular, when examining your finances it is imperative to understand past actions in order to prepare for future financial decisions.
Let’s say last year at this time, you resolved to make exercise a priority for the New Year. If you are like most people, you probably stuck with it for a few days, maybe a few weeks, perhaps even a month but then it fell by the wayside. Did you ever stop to ask yourself why you were making the goal? To get healthier? Why did you not succeed? Was it the time commitment? The discomfort of sore muscles and stretched lungs? Looking at your past behavior can be the key to succeeding in future endeavors, including financial goals.
Matt loves colorful metaphors. The best way to approach your year-end financial review is with a 💩 sandwich. Yes, you read that correctly. What are we talking about?
- Figure out what you did well (your first slice of bread).
- Make the time to sit down and review your expenses.
- Look at your income sources over the year, including salary, investments, rental income, etc.
- Take a look at what you can improve (the 💩).
- How were your expenses this year? Examine your spending patterns and identify areas where expenses may have increased or decreased.
- How’s your debt? Assess your progress in debt reduction, including credit cards, mortgages, student loans, etc.
- Have you checked your portfolio lately? Evaluate the performance of stocks, mutual funds, retirement accounts, etc.
- Make progress and plan for moving forward (the last slice of bread).
- Be sure to look at all your employee benefits to take advantage of everything offered to you.
- Identify the positives and focus on consistency.
Did you do one thing really well this year? Anyone can perform exceptionally once in a while. Consistency is what truly creates greatness. Take professional athletes, for example. All the best are the first in and last out because they play consistently. The best way for you to be financially consistent is to work on one thing at a time and do that job well. If it is budgeting, look at your past expenses, predict future spending, set limitations and stick to them every month. Achieving consistency will help you realize financial success.
Remember, look back before you look forward to enjoy a prosperous 2024.
Don't you love it? A robot is telling me personal advice. Hey, that's a great segue. It's financial life planning. I’m Matt Robison, my co host, Mike Morton, and we are talking today about what did you learn? And I love reflecting and getting feedback ;ike if you're really unfocused Matt, maybe that's something I learned this year. Mike, why do you want to talk about what we learned this year, before we turn that page to the next year?Mike:
I'd like to talk about that so that you can be focused Matt, come on.Matt:
Iit occurred to me, we were chit chatting about the concept of the show. And it occurred to me that people are always thinking about New Year's resolutions, we make New Year's resolutions but we never talk about the steps that should go before that, which is okay, if you're going to do something different. Why are you doing that? Did you learn any lessons this year? Are there things that were good? Why is it that I always want to do something different? Maybe it's hey, I want to do more of something that was successful this year. That's what seems valuable to me.Mike:
Yeah, you're right. But we seem to put the cart in front of the horse. Let's get the horse in front of the cart. Anyway, we should look. Oh, wait, my hats not…Matt:
These rural metaphors really resonate in 2024 horse riding cards, but I am going to go to Lancaster this summer, though.Mike:
Maybe it's putting…Matt:
We should try that out on the Amish,Mike:
Putting the driver in the car with the driver in the backseat of the driverless car.Matt:
Alright, I'm not sure what the point is. But look, you started this with a financial focus. Should we go there?Mike:
I totally agree with you. We make these look forward looking, which is fantastic, setting goals, coming up with plans and all of that's great. But you've got to start from a starting point of where you are and why you're doing this. And so that's a lot of the work I do with clients to begin with is like, hey, let's set the stage on where are you today? What have you done in the past that's worked really well and that maybe didn't work so well? And then, you know, after reflecting on that, then of course, we can look forward and we're gonna see what we want to continue doing, or what we want to change to be smart and organized.Matt:
I hate this process. I hate it. Like when I write articles I hate editing my own stuff. I just find it painful and I hate the self reflection process, who likes it? Because if you're really doing it right, you should be critical not like negative but critical of yourself. I find that uncomfortable, I don't, I don't love it. So is there Mike, you give people advice and you walk people through this in a gentle way. How should people adopt a mindset for this, of being productive about it, unsparing and clear eyed about it without like bumping yourself out with here's all the things I did.Mike:
It's funny you say that because so many clients come to me, that's why we're doing the work together. It's easy to do by yourself, you don't want to do it yourself. And you're like, I know I shouldn't be doing this I know I haven't done it. Maybe I need to hire somebody to help me. It's the same with going to the gym. I know I should be more consistent with working out. I know not doing it. Maybe I need to hire that trainer.Matt:
You know, I would love to make fun of you right now and your whole business model is ‘I hand you my watch you tell me the time’. But actually, you know what? That's so valuable. I really do want someone to hold my hand through this kind of thing. I want someone to tell me. Here's how you quit the gym. I want someone to say okay, here's some things we can learn from you did. Feed me the shit sandwich where it's like you start with a delicious layer of bread. You know, you did amazing this year Matt, you were so consistent in the way we did our pie whatever it is, make something up and then you slip in the Impossible Burger in the middle. Now here's something we could work on that would be so great for you and would really take you to the next level next year. Then a nice slice of bread and it's this I mean what we're talking about here is you going from great to amazing. Do you do that with people or do you just give it to him straight?Mike:
Stop giving away all my secrets man that's exactly how it goes. Always the compliment first man you guys are doing so well you're in such great situations. Congratulations on all your saving and investing. And here's a couple of things we can do to even improve your situation. Absolutely.Matt:
First of all, if you're dining at Chef Morton's you should be aware of this, see what you're getting fed. Second of all, I dine at Chef Mortons. I do the show with you and we talk offline and you tell me Matt you're doing great. And now it's a wait, do I trust you now. Are you honest? Okay. All right. So let's start on the financial side. When you walk people through the financial side and you do this, like an end of year review, how do you navigate them through that?Mike:
Yeah. I would say as you said, What can we recommend? Dude, so you could do this on your own, but you definitely can. And the number one thing is just making the time, it's the same as like going to the gym or doing your finances, like have to first set aside the time, hey, on Thursday at 3pm, I'm going to spend an hour and a half doing this thing. Like, either it's getting to the gym so that way it's gonna happen, or it's reviewing some finance, either your budget, or expenses or upcoming travel next year that you want to accomplish, or whatever it is, first, just set aside the time, put it in your calendar and say, Hey, we're going to do an evening with a partner and be like, oh, let's do Thursday night, we're going to sit down and review X, Y, or Z, you know, whatever is important for you to review to stage looking backwards to set the stage for what you want to accomplish in 2024.Matt:
I know we covered some of this in our nine things, which was actually sneakily 10 things, which we should have just called 10 things. So that's our bad people.Mike:
I know now, but you always use odd numbers, Matt, always odd numbers. Itdraws in the listener, don't you notice? Matt, you're the marketing guy.Matt:
Yes. Number 10. We think it's hardwired into us. 10 fingers, five things or 10 things. It's always five, five or ten nine.This is why the speed limit at Hampshire College near me is 17 miles per hour. It's really attention grabbing. It's like 17. Why 17? Why not 17.6? Are there, we covered some of this, but are there common things that jump out when you do this like that? People always find oh, I'm not doing this, darn it, that people can skip to the end of the line and figure out right away.Mike:
Yeah, man. The first thing I would say is sort of wherever you're feeling that you're sort of missing something. Like usually people have a sense of oh yeah, my expenses seemed a little out of control. Um, you know, or I, man, we didn't really get to travel this year. Like, why didn't we make that happen or, Hey, I'm, I just started a new job. Maybe I'm not looking at my employee benefits. I set that aside and didn't really , dig into it. So usually people know like, oh, this is where I haven't focused and, and I need to spend a little bit of time.Matt:
Wow. That once again gets to the idea of you really are. It's like when you go to a therapist and most of the time people know what they have to do. They just don't really wanna do it. And so, that's useful. So you think that people frequently have a sense. That, oh gosh, darn it. I knew I should have set up this employee benefit. I backburn it. It's an open tab in my browser that I haven't gotten to, and it's it's actually not that much of a mystery.Mike:
Yeah. Yeah. And I think so every time because everybody that comes in my door already knows what they need help with. Oh, we're thinking about changing homes , and moving, , for X, Y, and Z reason and kind of need the, I look at the numbers, like there's always a, reason, but that's clients that are coming to me, they've a big enough need to get over the hump to like actually hire somebody. Everybody has a sense of. Yeah, I know that this is something I should be working on, so I'll give you an example for myself. We've been working on you know, our budgeting from this past year. I keep track all of our expenses every year cause I'm crazy like that and so I like looking at all those things. But what I haven't really done is set a budget, quote unquote budget and because we've always been fine, we talked about this before, like if you don't really need to track everything, don't bother. Like it's fine. But going into next year, we want to make some changes to our income and expenses. And so I really want to dial in like what is an actual budget? You know, how much do we need to make to cover our expenses? Then I have to know all the expenses, especially going into next year. So really kind of working on the budgeting aspect. So for 2024, I'll be even more dialed in, you know, something that I want to keep track of for my family. Are you ready to create your ideal lifestyle? Let's discover what's most important to you and design a plan to have more of that in your life. Go to meet Mike morton.com. All one word, meet Mike morton.com.Matt:
It is interesting to me how what jumps out and what you said is, I was thinking about New Year's resolutions, right? And just taking, they always seem to skip the first step, which is if you ask me right now, Matt do you have a New Year's resolution in mind? I'd probably, my brain would just go to one of the usual suspects.I am going to do this with my workouts. I'mgoing to do whatever it is. What your answer says to me is if you think backwards first and you identify here are the things that. I could do better. That really helps with the resolution. Do you ever find the inverse? Do you ever find, what about the genuine positivity of Hey, you know what, here's something that I truly did do well, this isn't just a layer of bread in the sandwich. This is oh, I really liked how this went, so I'm gonna recommit to this, or I'm gonna be consistent about it. Does that come up with your clients?Mike:
Absolutely. If it's funny you mentioned this Matt, I did have a call this morning with some clients and we're reviewing uh, what's their ideal life, they want to spend their time and energy and after reflection, they spent some time ahead, you know, before the call and then we had a live call talking through those things and really they were just very grateful for really already spending their resources in alignment with how they wanna live, you know? Um, and so that was just really wonderful to hear and to see oh, we've thought about some of this in the past.
We're already a bunch of it. It's not that there isn't more to do, but it was really being grateful for some opportunities and spending , their resources and alignment and recognizing it. And thinking about how we can be more aggressive with that in the future? Like how do we double down on the things we're already doing, you know, to make them even better in the future?Matt:
Sometimes consistency is a tricky concept and a really important concept. You hear this, if you're listening to, sporting events, commentators for sporting events all the time, they'll say, Robeson is so explosive as a basketball player. If he just becomes more consistent, he'll be an all star and I feel like screaming at the television, the ability to be consistent at a level of greatness is what separates everyday performance from truly great performance. That's the hard part. Being consistent is the hard part. All of us are great at things. Sometimes it's being better consistently that's really hard. And this comes up in coaching all the time too, when I'm coaching kids in, in, in sports, it's making sure that you're adopting the mindset of, I'm gonna work on this thing and I'm always gonna bring the same mindset to it. And that's one that really stands out to me is, identifying when I think back I about and it is a good, helpful starting place for me mentally. 'cause I, like I said, I can't go into this with a, let's list all my faults and have an internal Festivus airing of grievances. That sounds like fun. I have to go at this from, alright. There are genuinely some good things that I liked from the past year that I did. That's really helpful. And it's just all about, all right, I'm going, I'm going to really identify them now. I'm gonna work on the consistency. So much good comes out of that, right? Like I was just, this morning I'm recording another show. I do, it's a panel discussion, show me and a Republican political consultant and a Democratic former member of Congress. And we were chatting before the show and I was saying, one thing I'm getting a lot of really good feedback on is people are getting a positive vibe that it feels like a good hang listening to the show or having we're just in a run of a really good exchange that's positive even when we're disagreeing and people really like that. And having identified that, I was like, great let's keep that rolling. Let's be really consistent about that. 'cause we've hit on something that's really good that the audience likes, that kind of thing. I don't know I find it really helpful.Mike:
It is amazing just a tiny bit every day, every week, every month. Think of what you will be in a year or two years, five years. Like, the compounding of consistency is unbelievable. The problem is, it's super boring, Matt. It's like there's, it's like eating your broccoli, you know, eating, eating your vegetables every day is that really going to change the world? Yes. If you do it every day, for years and years and that's the point. So I would highly recommend, James Clear has written Atomic Habits, a great book on sort of habit forming. The consistent, you know, and the reason you want to build habits and form habits is to be consistent. Whatever. And the other thing is take your strengths that you have that you're enjoying in your life or you want to get better and take, you can take strengths and improve those. A lot of people focus on negatives, right? Oh, I'm going to improve my weakness, where am I weak? I’m going to try to bring that up. You could flip it around. Take your strengths that you really enjoy and want to build on, and, and double down on those, and it is unbelievable where you end up.Matt:
It's true it is a mental trap that people always want to work on their strength. Like I'm not a golfer, but golfers talk about this a lot. If you're already strong at putting, people love to work, it's always harder to work on your weak points. But still there is that increment of huge value in just taking things that you're good at sometimes. And being good at them all the time. The difference in the Tour de France between the riders who are in that big cloud that they call the Peloton for no reason, except it's French and it sounds cool, and the riders who are at the front, right? The difference between LancesArmstrong and everyone else was, first of all, drugs. Got it. Shout out to the drugs, but everyone else was on drugs, so that wasn't all of it, right? Everyone was on
drugs. It's the difference is if you look at across the whole race, it's half of a percent. That's what we're talking about. And that's the difference between like excellence, greatness, and like huge rewards in.Mike:
Well, you know, yeah. You know, every sports athlete ever the best line is what first in last out? You know, I mean, every single best athlete in any sport, the first in last to leave, you know, they just put in the effort every single, every single day.Matt:
But if that sounds exhausting, the good news is you don't have to be LeBron James and be LA like you don't have to have atomic habits. That sounds scary to me. Like I don't want my habits to explode in my face like that. What a terrible name for something. You really, you just need to, it's a little bit, it's a little bit of consistency. A lot comes from that hey we've talked about the finance side. Let me put you on the spot. When you think back, just more broadly, like in your life, it could be financial, it could be something else. What lesson do you take from the past year as you take stock that you want to carry forward?Mike:
Yeah. Well the first was that budgeting, you know, I thought about that and something because we want to make some changes in our lives, you know, in 2024 and beyond. It's something that's a great step that I want to build awareness. First, right? We talk about that like, I'm going to look backwards, build up, you know, my awareness of the expenses so I can predict a budget and be consistent with tracking it. Which, to your point, I already have been, I have every week I spend like 10 minutes a week just , categorizing stuff, reviewing it, and want to continue that consistency going into next year. But I'll give you another answer too that very recently, I've wanted more time and space to be present with my family and friends and my community. Like, just really, be a little more focused, you know, when I am somewhere and not always thinking, I've gotta do this next. Oh, I got to crush through this so I can get to this next thing. just trying to slow it down by 10% and be like right there. And I'll tell you, Matt, one thing that has made a difference. Meditation, five or ten minutes of creating space. And the way to think about meditation, there's of course a million different varieties and stuff, but for me it's training the mind. So same as you would go in for a workout to train some muscles so you could be healthy and fit. This is training your mind to be more present and to have more space. And it literally changes you know, now they can measure it, right? What's going on in the brain activity. And people that meditate literally have a different brain. Same as like people that go and workout muscles, literally have a different body. And so that's what I want to be more consistent with going into next year.Matt:
That's interesting. And just to build on that last piece about slowing things down. One of the things that I picked up, I'm not sure if it was early this year or maybe last year, but that really stuck with me is this aphorism, slow is smooth. Smooth is fast, and it's incredible. I give my kids this advice all the time. We're trying to get out of the house. We're on the way to an activity, we're late to school. And I'm sometimes frustrated if they're like, because they're distracted, right? They're doing something but what I really want them to do, and what I've tried to do is paradoxically slow down because when you're rushing, you make mistakes that take more time to correct for and fix. And over time, not to overuse that word, you end up later you end up doing things worse. Slow it down. Focus on what you know. Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast. It's amazing. It's actually sped me up. I think I'm getting to things more on time and with fewer ah, darn, I forgot my cell phone. I'd never forget my cell phone.Mike:
Never forget that. Yeah,Matt:
I'd rather leave the house without pants. Honestly.Mike:
To leave, leave the house without pants. Of course, that's, that's really true. It's also true uh, smooth, smooth is fast, like slowing I've also found that slowing down when you can be. You know those certain flow states when you're really crushing it, maybe it's that morning like, you know, you get in that mid-morning, , and these couple hours, I'm really, or maybe it's like early afternoon for you, or it could be evening time where you're like, ah, this is my go-to creative time.Really like crushing some, some work or some activity. can get more of that and be more efficient. You know, if you set up your day to be a little bit slower and, and be more present, , for those times, and it's so true. Over and over, that's like, oh, I can get even more done in a shorter amount of time if I focus on these energetic windows and give myself time to build that energy, you know, for the next day or whatever it is.Matt:
Not to sound like a toothy, self-help guru like Tony Robbins, but those high energy moments, that is a thing. That is a real thing. Like when I used to run cross country and track, I used to very rarely get those runner's highs. It was ridiculous. I would literally be in a sprint workout and laughing as I ran because I had so much like endorphins. That flow state thing is real. The problem that I've had is I can't always make it happen. It has to come upon me, but when it does, I do try to like, I'll text my wife and I'll be like, everyone leave, move, go to another house. I am in the zone. And then I just ride it and it's, oh, it's awesome.Mike:
Here's what you gotta do, man. So here's a takeaway for you and for the listeners. Because I'm, I'm sure everyone can resonate with that Certain times, some things align and you're like, oh man, I'm just really feeling it right now, getting so much done. Take note of what occurred right before those times. What was the things that occurred 30 minutes, one hour, two hours prior to you feeling that way and having that chunk. Because I guarantee you, if you look backwards, 30, 30 minutes and hour, whatever you did right before led you into that state. , and you can reproduce that. That's the whole point is you set up your day and your environment to have more of that.Matt:
It, it, it, I've tried that and it's still a mystery. Like the last time it happened to me, like I had lunch, I had cleared my to-do list, I'd snorted some coke, and then 30 minutes later I had this rush of energy. I still can't figure out what was going on. My wife is listening to this and literally thinking I text you all the time to get the hell out of the house and leave me alone. And that still hasn't happened yet. I'll give you my I did this, I was thinking back over the last year, like what's my number one thing? I'm gonna be real meta about this. It's. Number one thing. It's one thing if I have a lesson learned from the past year, it's another aphorism, one job at a time. Every job is a success. I am increasingly struck when I think back over this last year when I tried to focus on myself. It's a kissing cousin of yours, gross expression yeah I don't know, man. I, I don't know. It's when I really try to focus on executing one thing. I'm so much better off and I don't split my attention. I don't try to like, oh, I've got this other task in the back of my mind. And when I really tried to, I broke down the financial changes I needed to make and I shifted money that I was putting away for retirement and I shifted a bunch of that over to 529s for college and it was several steps, but it was one thing when I really focused on that. Oh, man, like it's just, that was an accomplishment. It was great. I got it done. I cleared the decks. I felt better. It was productive, and I'm just I'm, so if I had thought about New Year's resolutions for 2024, again in a vacuum, I probably would've come up with something having to do with diet and exercise. But I think I'm gonna really try to drill down on, maybe it's two things. I'll break my own rule. It's the one thing rule and it's also the to-do list rule. When I start my day by very assiduously going through, here are the things I want to get done. And I, here's a realistic list of things that I can get done today, and I check them off as I go. I'm so much more productive. I feel great, and I'm better able to focus on the one thing at a time because I've compartmentalized all the bees buzzing around.Mike:
One job at a time. Every job is a success. I love that one, Matt. I thought about that a lot this last year as well. And I do the same. I love what you said about how it makes you feel better, like during the day and at the end of the day to be able to say, man, I had a to-do list with three items. And I knocked out all three and it just feels really great rather than knowing your to-do list is 25, like everyone's got a list that's always at least 25 and it never gets shorter, so you're never gonna do all of it. So every day you're just like these three things, boom. I knocked them out and I feel so great. And I do the same like when I'm working on , for me in my work, it's client stuff, I'm cranking on some strategies or analysis or whatever. I focus on one person at a time, right? Because then I'm really getting in the mindset, what am I working on? What am I doing? I'm going deep doing an analysis, writing things down, just one person. I know there's like five other people I have to get to as well, but I'm like, while I'm in the moment focusing on one thing, I'm gonna go all the way to the end of that one thing. You know, and really do my best job. And I know if I try to come back, oh, I just, I only need to get them, you know, the first 20%. Well, I know when I come back, I'm going to spend twice as much time revisiting all the stuff, getting my mind back in the flow, right of that, of that situation. all the way to the end of that job, finish that one job, make it a success, and then I know I can come back to it in a few weeks or a month later or whatever, you know, if we have to revisit stuff.Matt:
I think that was a really strong ending to the show. I think you laid that out perfectly. And that my friend is the bottom layer of bread in the sandwich that has been this episode of financial life planning. I think we should leave it there for Mike and meWe will see you next time.Mike:
Thanks. Thanks for joining us on financial planning for entrepreneurs works. If you liked what you heard, please subscribe to and rate the podcast on Apple, iTunes, Google Play Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. You can connect with me at LinkedIn for Morton financial advice.com I'd love to get your feedback. If you have a comment or question please email me at financial planning Until next time, thanks for tuning in. This recording is for informational purposes only and should not be considered for investment advice or opinions expressed as our of the date of recording. Such opinions are subject to change. We do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the data presented here.