Throughout my career I’ve seen it all. I’ve worked with the ultra-wealthy and I’ve seen what it looks like when someone files for personal bankruptcy. I’ve also experienced market cycles that create mania and despair for investors. A trend that I’ve experienced is how personal responsibility and attitude plays on investment and financial outcomes.

Those who take greater responsibility for their actions and have a more sensible view of financial events tend to have better investment experiences and greater financial success. These types of people are curious, introspective, open to recommendations, and, overall, happier. Those on the other end of the spectrum tend to blame things that are out of their control.

What I’ve learned is that financial success comes down to understanding the Three Orders of personal finance.
When it comes to managing personal finances, there are three distinct layers or orders that play a crucial role in shaping our financial well-being. Understanding these layers empowers us to make smarter decisions, take control of our lives, and secure a brighter financial future. In this article, we’ll explore each layer and discuss why embracing responsibility and consistency are the keys to achieving financial success.

1st Order Elements: The Sphere of Control and Influence

At the core of personal finance lie the First Order elements that we can directly control and influence. Think of these as having a one-to-one relationship between action and outcome. It is often said that a person can create their own luck; being at the right place at the right time, hitting the right card in a poker hand, or being part of a movement that catapults your success, these are some of the things that one might point to as “lucky.” I contend that if you’re prepared for something to happen then when that moment comes your way, you’ll be well equipped to take advantage. In this way, you have more control over outcomes than you may think.

In the world of personal finance, you need to set yourself up for success by taking control and responsibility for the things you can. These include our savings habits, spending patterns, productivity, job choices, portfolio allocation, and education. By understanding our financial goals and aligning our actions with them, we lay a solid foundation for a stable and prosperous financial life.

  • 1.1 Saving Habits and Smart Spending Patterns – Saving and spending are intrinsically related. Your spending habits will also play a significant role in shaping your financial well-being. Cultivating healthy saving habits is something you can directly impact, and it helps you stay prepared for emergencies and seize opportunities when they arise. Being mindful of your expenditures and distinguishing between needs and wants allows you to allocate resources efficiently.
  • 1.2 Productivity and Earning Potential – Your ability to earn income is a crucial determinant of your financial success, but, unfortunately, how much you earn something you directly control. However, you have control and influence by continuously improving your skills, education, and decisions which can enhance your earning potential over time. This is also linked to your career decisions, which can have a profound impact on your financial trajectory and long-term stability.
  • 1.3 Portfolio Allocation – Effectively managing your investment portfolio is essential for growing your wealth. Allocating your investments across different asset classes based on your risk tolerance and financial goals helps you balance potential returns with the level of risk you’re comfortable taking. In effect, you have control over where your funds are invested.
  • 1.4 Financial Literacy – Reading, attending workshops or collaborating with an experienced financial advisor to enhance your financial literacy is a decision you can make, and control and it equips you with the knowledge and tools to make informed decisions. Nearly everyone carries a supercomputer in their pocket giving them unfettered access to information and research, so the answer to your question is one click away.

2nd Order Elements: The Realm of Influence but Not Control

The second layer of personal finance encompasses elements that are influenced by our decisions and actions, but we do not have complete control over them. These factors are subject to external influences, market forces, or regulatory changes. While we may have some sway over these aspects, understanding their limitations is vital in developing a realistic financial plan and managing expectations.

  • 2.1 Income – While we can actively seek better career opportunities, negotiate salaries, or pursue additional education to enhance our earning potential, external factors can still influence our income. Economic conditions, industry trends, and corporate decisions can impact on our earnings despite our best efforts.
  • 2.2 Specific Investment Returns – Selecting investments that align with our financial goals and risk tolerance is within our realm of influence. However, we cannot control how individual investments perform from one year to the next or predict the future market movements that may impact on their returns. This is why having a diversified investment strategy is key to overcoming market volatility and help manage emotions during turbulent market cycles.
  • 2.3 Tax Planning – We can influence our tax planning strategies by utilizing tax-efficient investment accounts, deductions, and credits. Still, changes in tax laws and regulations are beyond our control and may affect our overall tax liability. By implementing a tax planning strategy, my clients are setting themselves up for success because, by large, they won’t have major tax surprises when Tax Day comes around.

3rd Order Elements: The Zone Beyond Control and Influence

The third layer of personal finance comprises elements that neither fall under our control nor can be influenced by our decisions and actions. These factors are external and often subject to market forces, economic conditions, or events beyond individual control. It is crucial to recognize that while we cannot shape or change these aspects directly, we can control how we react to them. Instead of placing blame on factors beyond our control, understanding their nature is essential in adopting a realistic and adaptable financial approach.

  • 3.1 Interest and Inflation Rates – Interest rates in the money market fluctuate based on several factors, including central bank policies and economic conditions. These rates can influence the returns on certain savings accounts and short-term investments. As for inflation rates, these are influenced by economic factors and government policies, and while we can take steps to protect against inflation’s effects, we cannot control its overall trajectory.
  • 3.2 Market Performance – The performance of financial markets, including stocks, bonds, real estate, etc., is subject to a complex interplay of economic factors, investor sentiment, and global events. The returns on specific funds or investment products are beyond individual control, and attempting to time the market to maximize returns is often challenging and risky. We can allocate our investments strategically and diversify our portfolio to manage risk, however we cannot control the overall performance of the broader financial markets.
  • 3.3 Economic Cycles – Economic cycles, characterized by periods of expansion and contraction, impact overall economic growth and activity. While we can anticipate and prepare for economic cycles, we cannot directly control or alter their timing or impact on personal finances.
  • 3.4 Global Events – Events such as natural disasters, geopolitical tensions, or pandemics can have far-reaching effects on economies and financial markets. These events are unpredictable and uncontrollable on an individual level, but their consequences can impact personal finances indirectly.

Rethinking Blame: Aligning Effort with Outcome

Placing blame on external factors (3rd Order Elements) can be a tempting but futile exercise. True financial empowerment comes from understanding that the outcome is often a result of the alignment between effort and decision-making. If the results are not as expected, it is essential to reassess our choices and make better-informed decisions going forward.

Taking Charge of Your Financial Journey

Accepting responsibility for our financial decisions is a hallmark of financial maturity. It’s natural to experience setbacks or challenges along the way, but how we respond to those hurdles can make all the difference in our financial journey. This doesn’t mean going at it alone, in fact, it’s the opposite. You should have trusted advisors in your corner to help you navigate complex financial decisions.

Taking responsibility means acknowledging that we have the power to shape our financial future through intentional actions and informed choices. When we blame external factors or circumstances for our financial woes, we relinquish control and hinder our ability to make positive changes. Rather than feeling powerless, we can take proactive steps to improve our financial situation.

The Power of Consistency

In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing financial landscape, it’s easy to get lured by the promise of quick gains from new trends like NFTs, cryptocurrencies, or other market novelties. However, chasing after quick gains and constantly switching lanes can lead to financial instability and missed opportunities.

Consistency, on the other hand, often leads to more reliable and sustainable results. Instead of frequently switching lanes, focus on staying disciplined. Here’s why staying the course matters:

  1. Sticking to Your Financial Plan – A well-thought-out financial plan considers your goals, risk tolerance, and time horizon. Putting together a comprehensive plan will allow you to be more prepared for financial challenges and set you up for success when opportunities arise.
  2. Benefiting from Compound Interest – Compound interest is a mighty force in growing wealth over time. By consistently contributing to savings and investment accounts, you allow your money to generate returns on previous returns, significantly enhancing your overall gains. By allowing interest to compound, not disrupting the cycle, you can accelerate yourself to financial success.
  3. Focus on Long-Term Objectives – Consistency helps you maintain a long-term perspective on your financial journey. It allows you to look beyond short-term market noise and keep your eyes on the ultimate destination—financial security and independence.

Remember, the journey to financial well-being is a marathon, not a sprint, and by staying disciplined and focused, you can achieve your financial goals and secure a brighter future.

As a financial advisor, I am here to support you in navigating the complexities of personal finance and making informed decisions. We implement an advisor driven, technology enabled process that delivers inspired wealth solutions to match your ambitious and adventurous lifestyle. Whether you are looking to enhance your savings and investment strategies, plan for retirement, or optimize your tax planning, I can provide personalized guidance tailored to your unique circumstances and goals.


Advisory services are offered through CS Planning, Corp., an SEC registered investment adviser.

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