Have you ever spent time making plans for your goals and thinking ‘Awesome, I got this!’, only to start your journey and trip over an unexpected obstacle? Something you feel you could have seen coming? In a previous post, we covered how personal finances is similar to video games where you need protection and weapons. Whether you’re at the beginning or well into your journey, there are four financial obstacles you’ll should be on the lookout for and have the right protection and weapons to slay them:
- Destructive attitudes that prevent you from learning about personal finance
- Lack of goals
- Fear of financial skeletons
- Not understanding your emotional relationship with money
Destructive Financial Attitudes
It’s amazing how many people have a lack of interest in personal finance. And you know what? I get it. I was in the work force for a decade before I started taking an interest beyond living within my means. I suspected I should take more of an interest but I let two common financial attitudes get in my way. In the meantime, life happened anyway and eventually when I woke up, I realized the only result was that time had passed, and I still had to tackle the obstacles to get by.
Personal Finance is Boring and a Necessary Evil
When someone says personal finance, what thoughts does that conjure up? Budgets? Taxes? Retirement savings? It generally comes across in two ways: so dry it’s excellent reading material when you have insomnia or overwhelming when trying to learn about it. Our brains are wired to categorize things in two ways for our survival: dopamine hits to reward survival enhancing behaviour and fear to avoid self destruction or discomfort. Here’s the thing though… Personal finance has nothing to do with money, budgets or anything else typically associated with that term.
Personal finance is about your dreams and goals. Everything is a means to an end. Strategies and skills to get what you want.
Not convinced? Are you into home ownership? Or maybe travel is your jam? Both of those things involve learning some financial skills. If traveling is what you live for, learning how to make multiple income streams and living as frugally as you can to save as much as possible and spend most of your time traveling will seem a lot more interesting. All of a sudden you have an interest in:
- Hustling at work for raises and a good bonus’
- Increase income with side hustles
- Travel hacking
- Frugality: Spending your money only on survival and what matters most
The moment you connect personal finance as a means to an end to what you want, both now and in the future, it’ll become much more interesting.
Another common financial attitude that’s out there is financial imposter syndrome. Have you ever said: ‘I know nothing about investing, I leave it to my financial advisor’ or ‘I don’t know anything about money, I leave that to the experts’? Sure there may be a lot you don’t know about investing, or <insert any financial topic>, but as adults, we ALL have experience with money. So there’s zero chance you know NOTHING. I’m certainly not saying you should become experts at every topic. But don’t let yourself fall into the fallacy that you know nothing and it’s too complicated to learn. What should you do about it?
- Make a list of what you do know to gain confidence.
- This includes financial mistakes big and small. This ceases to be a mistake and becomes hard won knowledge. And knowledge turned to action is skill.
- List out the gaps in knowledge you need to accomplish your goals.
- Decide whether you’ll learn a new skill and be your own navigator for each knowledge gap or seek the help of a ‘professional’. Ex managing your own investments.
- For anything you choose to let a professional handle, learn basics about the topic so you can
- Understand what they’re telling you. And don’t just take their explanation.
- Know how to select the right professional and ensure what they recommend is in your best interest and not just pocketing a commission or fee.
- Learning about personal finance is like building a brick house. It’s done one brick at a time. Figure out your foundation and build up from there.
Lack of Goals
So we know that personal finance becomes much more interesting when you use it a means to an end for your goals and dreams. Do you know what your goals and dreams are? I’m not talking about the passive goals or what you occasionally talk or dream about wanting. I mean something that you truly want, something that ignites your passion. If you don’t have a plan or aren’t working on a plan, it’s doesn’t count.
Having a specific goal in mind, with a plan gives your purpose and direction. If you’re not sure what you want, that’s okay. Then your goal is self discovery and exploring what your goal(s) are. That’s the first step. Once you discover what that is, it’ll be a lot easier to get somewhere. Where does money fit into this? Without a goal in mind, you don’t have your own direction on how to run your personal finances or how to spend and save it. It’ll get spent either way, just probably not in a way best for you.
Fear of Financial Skeletons
Fear is a powerful emotion. I think it can be a great when you harness it to your advantage. In finances though, it mostly causes harm. This is because fear is usually associated with avoiding dealing with unpleasant realities:
- Ignoring debt
- Pain of changing your lifestyle to live within your means
- Spending money based on fear of how other’s will perceive you. Think keeping up with the Joneses.
- Avoiding telling a significant other about a financial problem.
Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.
– Tony Robbins
We loathe discomfort and change, so we’ll ignore a problem out of fear until ignoring it is more painful than dealing with it. Most of us have been there. If you happen to be in this situation, or find yourself here in the future, don’t beat yourself up.
- Time is passing either way. The problem won’t magically disappear. The only difference is how much worse will it get and you’ll still be at the starting line to solve it.
- I believe in a NO SHAME POLICY. It doesn’t matter how you got there. Have you ever tried driving forward looking in the rearview mirror? No of course! You wouldn’t get anywhere. Spending time feeling ashamed, guilty or like you failed is no different. It keeps you focused on the past.
- When you stop ignoring the issue and making a plan or ask for help, YOU SHOULD BE PROUD. You’ve taken a courageous step some never will.
- I once read a saying: “forget the deed, remember the lesson”. You are not defined by your financial mistakes. It becomes a lessons with hard won wisdom and new skills. Let the negativity of the mistake fall away and walk forward with PRIDE and recognize the new wisdom and skills you’ve gained.
- Don’t hide your mistakes in shame. Become an ambassador with other people in your life and learn from each other.
Emotional Relationship With Money
As a society, we spend TONS of time understanding and researching relationship dynamics with each other. It’s no wonder, we spend our entire day interacting. But our lives are also intricately linked to money. Even though money is a means to an end, it’s tied into everything we do. We all have a relationship with money. Inherited attitudes, fears, strengths and weaknesses. So given that it’s such a big part of our everyday, doesn’t it make sense we spend some time understanding how our emotions affect our actions with money?
At a high level, there’s two reasons why this is important: avoiding harmful financial mistakes brought caused by emotional reactions and recognize financial strengths that help us achieve what we want. Here are a few places to start:
- How do you deal with fear, sadness or depression?
- Is your discretionary spending in line with your goals and values?
- Have you spent time making a financial plan for your goals?
- Do you care what people think of you? How do you deal with criticism?
- How do you nurture yourself when feeling like a fraud or low in confidence?
- Have you learned the skills to have a money related conversations where applicable with roommates or partners?
So there you have it. Four financial obstacles you need to slay for success. Do you have any experiences or wisdom to share? Put them in the comments!