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For years, even as our jobs were to help people manage their money and invest, we held complete disregard for our own money.

Like many Americans, we always had more month left at the end of every paycheck. Financial emergencies were a precarious threat because we didn’t have the financial means to protect ourselves. That’s because we lived well beyond our means with a lifestyle financed by credit cards.

About 51,000 Bad Choices

Despite living the high life on the outside, we were stressed and upset on the inside. This resulted in us living the “below-life” in a basement apartment buried under $51,000 of credit card debt.

How did we dig this grave for ourselves? We lived the life we thought we were supposed to live and not what we wanted to live. Gay men dress well, drive well, live well and travel well, right? We thought so. We thought this so much that we took 51,000 digs at our financial future.

After we lived a year in our below-ground apartment, we realized we were only digging ourselves deeper into debt. That was when we decided something had to change. This sparked a debate between us that lasted weeks.

The question was, “What is it we most want out of life?”

Choice Correction

When we first asked ourselves this question, we honestly didn’t know the answer. There were lots of things we loved about our lives; at the same time, we were miserable about our financial situation and the prospects of our future.

We loved dining out regularly. We loved dancing at clubs with our friends. We loved having the latest and greatest phones and the newest designer clothes. We didn’t love watching our credit card debt increase or getting past-due notices in the mail. We didn’t like our credit scores. (You can see where your scores stand by viewing your free credit report summary each month on Credit.com.)

What was obvious was that we didn’t know what we most wanted in life. It’s not possible for everything to be No. 1. This isn’t little league soccer. It’s life.

After much deliberation, we whittled our list of wants down to two: travel now and save for retirement for later. Everything else— the fancy jeans, VIP clubs, expensive cocktails — wasn’t what we wanted. We enjoyed those things, but they didn’t add real value to our lives, they added false-value.

False value is when we perceive something as valuable that’s really not, such as a new car with large car payments for 6 years or a mortgage payment that takes all our extra monthly income.

Once we realized what we most wanted in life, everything else fell in place. Stephen Covey recommends in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to focus with the end in mind. If we don’t know what our goal is, we can’t be effective. Knowing why we wanted to be debt-free and why we went to work every day made all the difference in improving our financial situation and our future prospects.

You, Too, Can Choose

By knowing what we want in life, we’re empowered to make better financial decisions because we know which ones support our goals and which ones don’t. We now have motivation to stick to our goals because we know what we want and we know we can only get what we want with the right financial decisions.

We often ask ourselves, “Do we want a margarita at a bar in Denver or do we want a margarita on the beach in Mexico?” The answer is consistently Mexico.

The best part about this financial tip is that anyone can do it, including you. We all have the power to decide what we want in life, whether with our finances or any other aspect of our lives. We have the power of choice and it’s our choices that really make all the difference.

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