Money is a powerful force in our lives. We're required to think about money-how much we have, how much we want, how to get more of it- on a regular basis. Undoubtedly, how we think about money influences our emotions and behaviors. For these reasons, if you're serious about improving your financial life, it can be helpful to examine your money mindset, look for patterns that may interfere with your personal goals, and replace what hinders you with more productive habits.
Acknowledge the influence of your personal history. Because our financial lives are inextricably linked to our family of origin and upbringing, we're all bound to have a complex and layered relationship with money. If you grew up in poverty, you may have an underlying sense of never having "enough." If you are accustomed to abundance, you may never have learned how to manage money wisely. Of course, neither of these scenarios may be true if you had someone who taught you good money habits. The purpose of looking back is to see if you have any ingrained stumbling blocks that can sabotage your best intentions to earn what you're worth, save adequately, spend responsibly or be more philanthropic. If you see room for improvement, awareness paves the way for change, as needed or desired.
Evaluate your emotional response to money. Is your emotional state tied to your assets? Does your bank account define you? When you allow money to occupy the driver's seat, normal emotional states can sometimes turn into feelings of anxiety. It's not that it's wrong to feel a certain way, it's just that certain powerful emotions can prevent you from making reasonable choices.
Stop playing money mind games without much possibility of winning. If you find yourself in any of these mental exchanges, you might be setting yourself up with challenges down the road.
- I'll be happy when I make more money. Working toward your financial goals is crucial, but it's also important to enjoy successes you're experiencing today.
- Money is the only thing that matters. Money is important as a means to an end. However, worshipping money at the expense of people, nature, art and ideas is likely to lead to loneliness and disappointment.
- Money is meaningless. This kind of thinking can also be harmful, because it can feed reckless spending and de-motivate your work life. Money should be treated with respect and not frittered away.
Let go of the past. Stop beating yourself up for your financial mistakes. It's better to reframe regrets as opportunities to learn and grow. Don't shut the door on your past, but don't let it convince you that you don't deserve another chance, or that you can't change the present or the future. Plenty of people have turned their financial lives around after a failed business, job loss, stock tumble, tax trouble or any number of other financial fiascos. Focusing on what you can do now, with an open mind about the future, can free you from a history you'd prefer to forget.
Curtail the time spent thinking about money. There's an appropriate amount of time to devote to money matters, and then there's the extreme of continuous, non-productive dwelling on dollars and cents. If you find yourself mulling over financial mistakes or fantasizing at length about winning the lottery, it's time to switch gears. Try to gain insight into what you really hope to accomplish (or avoid) by allowing money to monopolize your thoughts, and step back to see the futility of your preoccupation. Next, identify actions you can take that will be more successful at helping you reach your goals. Give yourself permission to problem solve or daydream for short bursts of time, but then get back to the business of living.
Enlist a financial ally. A skilled financial advisor will be very familiar with the mental, emotional and behavioral landmines you may be grappling with as you work to establish a strong financial foundation for your life. They can provide you with the tools to plan, save, and invest, within your timeframe and budget, according to your personal goals. But you can also look to your adviser for guidance and encouragement as you sharpen your mental game with regard to personal money management