Before you can begin to move forward with your personal finances, before you look at any of the math – you need to examine your mindset around money. This is such an overlooked part of the personal finance picture but one of the most critical pieces for financial success. You can learn all the mechanics of money, such as budgeting, how to invest, how to save, etc., but if you don’t change your perception and attitudes around money, you will just go back to your poor money habits.
Be aware of the money stories that were instilled in you in your upbringing. What was the attitude around money and finances in your family when you were a kid? Was having money perceived as good or evil when you were growing up? Was there a scarcity mindset rather than an abundance mindset when it came to money? Have you carried negative money values from your childhood into your adult life? These are the sort of legacy mindset issues that need to be addressed in order to money forward with new healthy money habits.
Don’t beat yourself up for past financial mistakes. The windshield in your car is bigger than the rearview mirror for a reason. You need to focus on the future instead of wasting time lamenting over the past. I made plenty of financial mistakes in my past. I think of all the shoes and clothes I purchased in my 20s but had no real savings in my savings accounts. I didn’t take retirement savings seriously. I kept telling myself that I had “plenty of time” to save and that charging stuff on a credit card was no big deal. I kick myself for the financial mistakes I made in my 20s but I can’t go back and change it now. Forget the past. You need to start right where you are to move forward with your money in a positive manner.
Don’t compare your financial situation to other people’s financial situation. You think everyone else has their financial life together with new cars and houses and trips. They may have a lot of debt going on behind the scenes that isn’t visible to you. The people that you are comparing yourself to may have invested sweat and time that you haven’t (yet) to get to where they are financially. You also may have experienced events in your life that others haven’t that you may have not been financially prepared for, such as a job loss or a divorce. Walk your own path and focus on what you want your financial outcome to become. Use your time and energy to focus on what you want your financial success to look like.
Don’t be jealous about other people having great financial success. Unless they are trust fund babies, they had to put in a LOT of hard work – blood, sweat and tear – to reach their financial goals. Be happy for their success and grateful that you have someone to look up to. Look at what they had to do to reach their goals. Even better, ASK them what they did to achieve financial success. What mental hurdles did they have to overcome? What sacrifices did they make in order to reach their financial goals?
Now is the time to work on new money habits. The best way to start is to address those money mindset issues first so that you can move forward to make better financial decisions from this day forward. What are the money mindset issues that you need to work through?