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In the fast-paced rhythm of life, where financial responsibilities often pull us in different directions, finding a way to manage and prioritize these demands is essential. Imagine a simple process that not only helps you maintain focus on your primary financial goals but also enables you to address imminent needs and maintain balance in your financial journey. Designed by the financial accountability coaches at Accountable Network, this is where the Priority List process becomes your financial compass.

Understanding the Priority List Process

Before delving into the intricacies of the Priority List, it's essential to comprehend its role in your financial toolkit. This process is more than just drafting a list; it's a dynamic, adaptable system aimed at maintaining a balance between your immediate needs and long-term financial aspirations.

Foundations Before Priorities

Before embarking on the Priority List journey, ensure that your financial foundations are solid:

  1. Define Your Wealth: Establish a robust personal "why" (where you critically analyze each item based on its opportunity cost or ‘why’ it is necessary) or wealth definition.
  2. Craft a Spending Plan: Develop and consistently follow through on a spending plan that aligns with your financial goals.
  3. Short-Term Savings: Ensure your short-term savings account is set up and utilized effectively.

From Wish List to Action: The Seven-Step Process

Creating a ‘Priority List’ involves a seven-step process that turns your aspirations into actionable steps, therefore fostering financial clarity.

Step #1: Brainstorm a Comprehensive Wish List

Take a moment to dream and share your heart's desires. If married, encourage both spouses to create individual wish lists. This isn't a demand for immediate purchases but an opportunity to express wants and needs freely. Allow a day or two for this process; many find their lists extend beyond 30 items.

Pro Tip: Partner with a financial accountability coach to guide you through this process, ensuring alignment with your financial goals.

Step #2: List Rough Dollar Estimates or Time Needed

Attach rough estimates to each item. At this stage, approximate costs are sufficient; precision can come later. For tasks that could be done via DIY, include material costs and the estimated time required (a weekend, for example). Spend roughly 10 seconds per line item for efficiency.

Pro Tip: Don't get bogged down; this is about quick estimates to give you a sense of the scale.

Step #3: Combine Lists (If married) and Make a Copy

For couples, simplicity is key. Photocopy, share, or send copies of individual lists to each other. This ensures both partners are aware of each other's desires, fostering transparency and understanding.

Pro Tip: Maintain simplicity and straightforwardness in sharing; photocopying works well.

Step #4: Create Unique Top 10 Lists

Before ranking, revisit the foundational "WHY" and other financial goals. Recognize that individuals might have different perspectives, and ranking a long list can be time-consuming and stressful. Independently, select the #1 item you wish to prioritize. Then, imagine if #1 was already accomplished—what would be your #2? Continue until you have a personal Top 10 list.

Pro Tip: Focus on aligning personal desires with the bigger financial picture.

Step #5: Combine Top 10 Lists for Couples

Gather in a comfortable meeting place, briefly revisiting your foundational WHY. The meeting should be a reminder of what's important. Given the multitude of items and their emotional nature, no decisions are made during this process. Instead, the aim is to create a unified list by listing items present in both partners' Top 10 lists.

Pro Tip: Recognize the emotional aspect, and realize that alignment is the goal, not immediate decisions.

Step #6: Prioritize Your Top Two

In cases where combining lists might lead to stress, consider engaging a financial accountability coach. Otherwise, looking at the overlapping items, decide if you could choose only one—which would it be? If there's a #2, identify that too.

Pro Tip: Prioritize based on a collaborative decision-making process.

Step #7: Decide if the Item Gets Added to Your Spending Plan

Considering that you already have a working Spending Plan, evaluate whether adding the #1 priority to the plan aligns with your financial goals.

Pro Tip: Ensure alignment with broader financial objectives before incorporating into your Spending Plan.

By following this systematic approach, you not only create a roadmap for your financial desires but also strengthen communication and understanding within your household. Each time a new want or need arises, reference the Priority List to determine its priority relative to the existing list. If it doesn't surpass your #1 priority, consider it for future consideration.

Incorporating Priority List Items into Your Financial Landscape

  1. Adding to Short-Term Savings: Start by integrating Priority List items into the Short-Term Savings tab. Set specific goals, establish deadlines, and calculate the monthly contributions required.
  2. Merging with Your Spending Plan: Seamlessly bring the monthly amount needed into your spending plan, understanding that this might necessitate adjustments in other spending categories.
  3. Juggling Priorities: Recognize that managing your financial priorities may require some juggling—be it delaying certain purchases or reallocating funds within your spending plan.

Navigating the Process with Pro Tips

  1. 15-Minute Rule: Keep Priority List discussions focused and efficient to prevent them from turning into time-consuming endeavors.
  2. Create the Right Atmosphere: Select a comfortable space for these discussions, ensuring it's free from past financial tensions. Transform these meetings into enjoyable moments for both partners.
  3. Structured Agenda: Beyond financial matters, incorporate calendar planning, family activities, and discussions on non-financial aspects like relationship dynamics into your meetings.
  4. Inject Some Fun: Infuse these discussions with elements of fun, such as rotating who leads the agenda, posting upcoming topics, or involving your children periodically.

The Power Unleashed: Benefits of the Priority List

The Priority List isn't merely a financial management tool; it's a transformative approach that brings clarity, contentment, and unity to your financial journey. Aligning your priorities and intentionally focusing on them not only helps you sidestep unnecessary conflicts but also allows you to witness the tangible progress of achieving your financial goals.

Embrace the Priority List as a dynamic and comprehensive approach to managing life's financial complexities. To gain deeper insights into effective financial strategies tailored to your unique situation, schedule a free assessment call with Accountable Network. Let's embark on a transformative financial journey together! 




About the Author

Dave Jacobson is a nationally recognized personal finance expert and the founder of Coach Connections, LLC, a membership that trains and mentors financial accountability coaches. Since 2009, he's been passionately educating people on the dynamics of money—its workings, the psychology behind financial decisions, and its potential as a tool to impact happiness.

Recognizing the need for improved coaching services, Dave founded Accountable Network. This platform helps clients connect with the right Financial Accountability Coach, each approaching coaching on a case-by-case basis, adapting methods to fit individual situations. Accountability is a core component, reflected in the network's name—Accountable Network.

Dave connects with teenagers through innovative means. His brainchild, the video game Money Mavericks, transforms personal finance education into an engaging experience for the younger generation. Emphasizing the significance of early financial literacy, Dave sees the game as a dynamic and enjoyable tool for teens to grasp essential mindsets, habits, and behaviors crucial for fostering happiness and achieving success.

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