Upward mobility: the capacity or facility for rising to a higher social or economic position. (Merriam-Webster)
Not every person reading this blog strives for upward mobility, but I would wager that most of you do. It is the idea that you want to make a better life for yourself, your family, and your heirs. Some would even include a desire to better the world around them or the world at large. Those are lofty goals!
The burning questions are: What does upward mobility mean to you? How do you make things better? And what does “better” mean for you?
What does upward mobility mean to you?
The first step, and perhaps the hardest step, is to decide what you truly want for yourself, for others that are close to you and maybe even dependent on you? What do you value in life? Think long term, lifetime. How do you picture your life and those you love when you are living the life that you desire? Notice I said “when” and not “if”. What are you doing, where are you living, who is included? Even if it does not seem achievable, picture the life you desire in as much detail as you can.
Some people like vision boards. They cut out pictures of their dream home or car, or places they want to travel, or a happy family, or doing things with friends, etc. and post the pictures where they can see them every day. I have a couple of pictures that hang inside my medicine cabinet along with some words of inspiration. I see them at least every morning and night when I brush my teeth. They are not only a reminder but also an inspiration.
Please take the time right now to list one, two, or three major life goals. Cut out pictures if that will be a good reminder. I have two major life goals that I set over 20 years ago, and they have not changed. However, it is not uncommon for goals to change during different phases of your life. Don’t worry about that. Just focus on what you want and value at this point in your life. I mean BIG picture stuff.
Maybe it is to be able to cover the costs of everyday living and shed the anxiety that you carry every day. Maybe it is to be able to start setting aside money for emergencies. Perhaps those essentials are covered, and you can start thinking about other possibilities—a different place to live with better education opportunities for your family, for example. Perhaps you wonder how your skills can be put to better use or you want to help find a way to bring peace to your family or community.
How do you make things better?
I receive a daily inspirational message that calls it “the cursed how’s”. The premise is that if you focus on the end goal, visualize, and act as though you are already there or on your way, the how’s will take care of themselves. That does not mean, however, that you do nothing and just wait.
I know people that wait for life to make choices for them. They know what they want, have set goals, but make no preparation or do nothing to move toward those goals. How would you respond if you set a goal for your children or your employees, they agreed wholeheartedly, but did nothing to meet those goals? First, you are not likely to meet the goals. Maybe some will be fulfilled but not all. You are likely to feel frustrated, angry, and demoralized! Too many people talk the talk but do not walk the walk. How about you?
Action is the key. You must do something, take a step to convince yourself (and sometimes others) that you are in the game. If you set your GPS to go to a destination and don’t start your car, how likely is it that you will get there? No chance, no way! After you start your car, you must do something else—put it in gear—and then something else, and something else. If you want to learn to play a guitar or make the basketball team, it takes effort. Why do you think that reaching life goals is any different?
I cannot make a personal recommendation of steps necessary to reach your life goals, but I know that there is a step that you can take right now! Do you need new skills? I bet there are resources available in your community or online to help you get a start. Do you have the skill you need to do what you want, but can’t find a job? Have you made sure your friends and family know what you want? Most jobs are filled by referral or word of mouth. Don’t be shy! Make your needs known.
If your goal is to have better relationships, how do you intend to accomplish that? From my experience, the first place to look is at yourself. What do you bring to your relationships; what are your strengths and skills? What are your weaknesses? What do others bring to the relationship? What are their strengths and skills? Their weaknesses? Are you appreciative of the value the others bring to the table? Can you put yourself in their place and see a different perspective? If this seems difficult, there are many resources to help.
What does “better” mean for you?
For me, better means progress. One of my life goals is to find the best way that I can help people. During the isolation of COVID I wrote a book: How to Dress a Naked Portfolio: A Tailored Introduction to Investing for Women. Is it the accomplishment of my life goal? NO! It is a step, as is writing this blog. There are so many more things that I can do. I try to do something every day. Sometimes I get discouraged and frustrated and angry. When I dissect those feelings, however, it is mostly my choices that are the cause.
I recently read an article about upward mobility in the United States, and it triggered this blog. The article talked about how difficult upward mobility was in our country. It discussed how the ownership of financial assets are concentrated in a small percentage of our population. In a small way, my book is an attempt to give you the knowledge to get a sound financial start and make life better no matter your age, even if you have no savings right now. The only way we can change trends is to act, take a step.
During my career I witnessed the financial success of working people who made saving and investing over their lifetime a priority. It is not impossible, even if you are starting mid-life, but it means not only setting goals but more importantly acting.
It is up to me to make my life “better” and likewise for you. I wish you great success!
~Beverly J Bowers, CFP®