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Recently I made a trip across Indianapolis on Interstate 465. I left my Brownsburg home around 5pm and my trip should have taken about 45 minutes. Instead, the trip took 1 hour and 40 minutes! I had quite a bit of time to think while waiting in traffic and it occurred to me that my family’s personal finance journey had some similarities to that interstate jaunt. Here’s what I think I can learn from traveling both roads:

A road map and trip plan is important.
Before I headed out to this destination I needed to pull up a map program to chart my route. Having never traveled this path before it was important that I know where the available roads would take me and what obstacles I might encounter. Our personal finance journey is no different. A budget is the best road map I’ve ever used to put my money on a road to success. My TFC Finance Coach is another part of my travel plan. I rely on people who’ve been there before to help me find my way.

Things may not go according to plan all the time.
When I left my house I thought I had plenty of time to get where I was going, but unforeseen events on the road quickly brought my car to a complete halt on the road.

I’ve had more than a few “halts” on my personal finance journey.
Just when I think the road is clear for miles ahead, an unplanned expense or repair pops up. This is where I’m thankful for the third step in the Financial Play Book taught by The Finance Coach: Create a Starter Emergency Fund of $1000 available cash. My EF is like snow tires on my car and keeps me prepared for the unexpected.

I will need patience along the journey.
At one point during this trip my car was at a complete stop for 20 straight minutes. I know because I watched the clock. The simple truth is that there was absolutely nothing I could do to move the traffic along. On every side of me, in every lane, traffic was stopped. As frustrated as I was, I couldn’t move, period.

Often that’s the way I’ve felt as I’ve climbed out of debt over the last few years. I wanted so badly to be done with my debt snowball, to move forward to creating wealth instead. The simple truth is that at those times there’s simply no option but to stay on course and move steadily forward with all the focus I can muster. Like traffic, I see my debt snowball beginning to move a bit faster every month now and that’s a great feeling.

I must be thankful that I’m not the one waiting on the wrecker.
I didn’t see the traffic accident that caused the huge back-up on I-465 that day. The traffic reporter on the radio said that nine miles ahead of my location someone had an accident and several emergency vehicles were there or in route. I stopped grumbling and thanked God that I had not been a few minutes ahead of schedule that day and that I had not been the person waiting for help.

Four years ago, when I hit the rock bottom of my financial pit, I had to call emergency vehicles to come to my rescue. That help was in the form of The Finance Coach. As I sat in the traffic I was grateful for having come so far and said a prayer for the people, families, and communities that are waiting for their own help and may even be hurting and in despair as they search for someone to come alongside of them and tow them out of the bondage of debt.

I can enjoy what’s around me while I wait for the road to clear.
You can learn a lot about a person, or yourself, while stuck in traffic. The man in the pickup truck in front of me made many gestures of impatience while he waited. The lady in the left lane multi-tasked by talking on the phone. The person behind me unsuccessfully tried to squeeze in and out of lanes around him as if this would create a shortcut to get him where he wanted to go.

What I decided by observing those around me was that there was no sense in complaining about my financial situation. I made the mess and no amount of gesturing, complaining or crying would get me out of it. Like the lady on the phone, I could use the journey to do something else while I waited for things for my finances to clear up. And finally, there are no shortcuts to success in personal finance. There is only consistent, persistent, step-by-step forward movement while staying on your path.

As you set out on your road to financial success in 2012, I hope your journey is free of detours, roadblocks and traffic congestion. If, however, you hit some construction, detours or road hazards along the way, I hope some of these thoughts will help you along.

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