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#4 Build the structure: Identify a sound financial plan that works and then work the plan.

ThinkstockPhotos-82355283When you understand this fourth ingredient for success, you will find yourself wonderfully prepared for life. Have a plan that works. Why is this simple ingredient so important? Planning is knowing where you are today and where you want to be tomorrow. And you do this buy breaking your dreams down into components and phases. You set realistic goals that reflect the component parts or the phase. These goals are the signposts that will tell you where you are and what to do next.

This is neither new advice nor complicated advice. To build a house, you have a blueprint and work backward from the finished product. It’s precisely the same way successful people build any business; just one step at a time. Unfortunately, people get caught in a pattern of avoidance, false starts, and failed finishes. An unanticipated obstacle arises and they abandon the entire plan. They listen to old thoughts of fear of failure playing in their minds. It usually does not occur to people to challenge their own thinking. They’ve lived with these beliefs for so long, they no longer even question them. It doesn’t matter whether their beliefs are true, reasonable or accurate. They’re familiar and comfortable.

Maybe your mother used to tell you stories about growing up during the Depression and passed on her worries. We have catchphrases that reveal our belief systems about money and wealth: “Well, I’ll never be a millionaire.” “I’m not smart enough.” “I’m too much in debt.” “I would like to, but…” If you pay attention, you will hear the self-limiting and self-dismissing beliefs other people have. What are yours?

Do this exercise: Identify your investment beliefs. Ask yourself who told you that. Try to identify how you came to believe that. Values are made up and then perpetuated for safety. Do your thoughts fan the fires of confidence or do they squelch motivation and courage? Do they inspire your belief in yourself to attempt new challenges or do they talk you out of things before you get involved in anything that’s outside your comfort zone?

You have to be mentally tough to be an investor, because initially, you will have no tangible proof that what you are doing will work. This is why you must understand how markets work, but you will need to manage the self-talk that influences your response to setbacks and failures and plays a role in how you handle success. In short, no aspect of your life is exempt from the power of self-talk. You need the ability to stay focused, on task, and not let anything deter you no matter what happens around you, to persevere and stay tethered to your dreams and objectives. That requires having a well-thought-out plan…and sticking to it!

Going from a Saver to an Investor. (2004). The First Time Investor. (3rd ed., pp. 14-15). McGraw-Hill