When was the last time you had a great conversation about money? Not what you would buy with a million dollars or what you’re “supposed to” do to maintain good credit. I’m talking about how cash flows in and out of your bank accounts each month, what you actually do with it and how you decide what your financial goals are. If you’re like most people, you’d probably eat a million dollars before bringing up one of these fun topics at a dinner party. ?
And, if you’re like most people, your beliefs about money were formed before you moved out of your childhood home. It’s true that your family’s socioeconomic status and level of financial literacy will largely determine what resources and opportunities you have access to. But your beliefs also have a direct effect on what you do: what do you think you’re capable of right now? How much wealth do you think you deserve? What do you need to get to your next level?
Before I get to the 5 lies you might be telling yourself, here’s a killer truth: whether you stay in the same ruts or make a change is up to you. Negative beliefs and cynicism keep you locked in a fixed mindset, and you keep doing what you’ve always done because “that’s just the way it is.” However, you can choose to develop a growth mindset by questioning those beliefs, challenging your assumptions and asking “what else is possible?” It feels incredibly risky, and it takes a big person to admit you’re wrong―but when you do, you open up a world of possibilities.
I’m here to take that scary first step with you! So which of these 5 lies have been holding you back?
1. When I have a million dollars, then…
It may be a certain amount of savings or a salary milestone for you, but the idea is that there’s a magical destination when you will feel happy or safe or immune from financial hardship. That’s not true for anyone! Even with a few million dollars in the bank, you are one or two emergencies away from being back at square one. But being paranoid about it is just as counterproductive: the only true safety comes from within yourself. When you know you are capable of making smart financial decisions, keeping up the good work and being resourceful, that is when you will be able to relax and enjoy yourself.
2. If I don’t have X in the bank by a certain age, I will never be ready for retirement.
Of course, starting sooner will save you more money in the long run. That’s how compounding interest works. The problem with this lie is that it ignores negative circumstances and potentially leads to guilt over not being or doing “enough.” There’s no sense in beating yourself up if you’ve had a hard time saving, for systemic reasons or personal ones, or if an emergency or two wiped out all your progress. It’s far more productive to look at what’s possible rather than the expectations you aren’t meeting. Things are changing every day, and the solutions that worked for past generations may not work for you. But there will be new solutions.
3. My credit score is all-important and debt is bad, full stop.
This is one that really makes me mad because of how insidious and pervasive this judgmental mentality is. Even after years as an accountant and CPA, I have found myself feeling down about my credit score. I know how many different things can affect this number, and that it absolutely doesn’t represent how responsible (or not) I am with money. It’s just a number! But as soon as it takes a dip, I have to fight that sense of guilt.
In order to use credit, you have to be approved. Using that credit you are approved for lowers your score, whether it’s a 30-year mortgage, a medical emergency or a Lamborghini. Using too much credit and, especially declaring bankruptcy has a material impact on how much you can get approved for in the future, regardless of why those circumstances came about. A low credit score is very often a systemic issue, not a personal one, and it can take years to “fix it.” The system is broken—not you, my dear.
4. Money can’t buy me happiness.
First of all, it’s obvious that making enough money to afford the basic cost of living makes an enormous difference in your capacity for happiness. A new study has disproved the famous 2010 finding that earnings and happiness are only correlated up to about $75,000 a year. Researcher Matthew Killingsworth found that well-being continued to increase as steeply past an annual income of $80,000 as it did below it. The caveat is that income is only a modest determinant of happiness; that is, there is more to life than money. Those who base their happiness solely on money are more often disappointed, and other factors like job satisfaction and the demands of high salary positions have a significant impact.
5. There is one way to manage money successfully, and I am either “good” with money or “bad” with it.
The situations we are born into definitely determine what resources and knowledge we begin our adult lives with. But like many other things in life, we can’t blame our parents for our bad money habits forever! And because of the wide variations in our life circumstances, there are all kinds of different “truths” that are possible. Few things about money are equally true for everyone, or even for the same person at different points in their life. It’s your job to determine what’s true for you right now―what can you really handle, what threats do you need to be aware of and what options are available to you? What do you really want, and what strategies will help you get there?
I know, looking at the difficult truths underneath all of those lies was probably a little painful. We covered a lot of ground, and most of these lessons take years to (un-)learn. I am still working on a few of them too.
I’ve found one of the best ways to keep my money mindset in check is to find a friend or two who are doing the same work and make space to talk through these things without judgment. I’d love to be that person for you! Get in touch with me and let’s chat.