Wise consumers take on the responsibility for managing their resources over time, as well as periodically reassessing their consumption and lifestyle. This includes ongoing snapshots of how they are using their resources, how their choices are affecting their well-being, and when needed, making changes. Concerned about having the time to do this? Based on data from the American Time Use study, we spend 7000% more time watching TV than we spend managing our finances. Specifically, we spend on average 2 minutes per day on finances and close to 3 hours per day watching TV. While it takes some effort and time to get started, managing your finances shouldn’t take more than a few hours each month. What that looks like can vary quite a bit. Some of the people I interviewed carefully set and followed detailed budgets. Others – typically in later stages of life and with more financial experience and financial freedom – don’t feel the need to monitor detailed budgets. Instead, they simply monitor their aggregate monthly income, spending, and changes in their net worth (all relatively easy to do today using online tools), and then reflect on how things are going with respect to the pursuit of their goals and enjoyment in life (time and energy). They have already dialed into a lifestyle that works for them, and simply want basic data and a gut-check to make sure that things are on track. So, regardless of how you do it, periodically study and reflect on your resources: financial, time, and energy. What is working? What is not working? And, what is next?
Like I said, there is no single path. There is no best lifestyle, no best career, and no simple prescription for these decisions. Wisdom is not about a single, definable outcome. It’s about a process that is focused on promoting your well-being and the well-being of others that you care about. And it all begins with taking full responsibility for your choices.