I didn’t realize it until the past few years, but I actually had some pretty unhealthy perspectives about money. Like anything else in life, it was worth looking into and the deeper I began to look, the more I realized that my own thoughts about money were holding me back. This is a pretty personal topic, and not one that is easy for me to talk about publicly. But today I am diving into it because some of these new perspectives really changed my life.
(Disclaimer: This is my advice based on my experience. If your experience is different, that does not mean I am disagreeing with you and I would love to hear your perspective in the comments. I’m only one person with one perspective and set of life experiences.)
Here are some things that were holding me back and how I changed my mind about them over time:
A lot of people I know seem to freak out when they turn 30 and haven’t achieved financial goals they thought they would by that time. Or worse, turn 40 and realize they should have started a retirement account in their 20s. There is SO much pressure attached to money and so much shame. It took me a while to realize that I was tying money to my self esteem. I never thought of myself as a person who cared anything about money. But all the sudden, here I was in my 30s, starting to panic about how I needed to "catch up."
The truth is, we’re not all going to be wealthy, or even comfortable, by the time we turn 30. Sometimes we don’t start our retirement account until WAY later than you’re supposed to. No matter how organized and devoted you are to your financial plan, there will always be a bigger goal that is just out of reach.
What I learned is to be gracious with myself. I learned to look forward and not back. And most importantly, I learned to adjust my expectations a little bit. I am not a "money person," but I’ve learned to not use that as an excuse. For the past few years, I’ve been doing one financial goal at a time and it’s made a big difference, but it did take time. Most big money goals take years of consistency and you can’t fast track that.
My best advice is to worry about whether or not you are headed in the right direction, not when you will arrive at your ultimate goal.
If you wish you had a time machine to join your company retirement plan five or 10 years ago, I encourage you to forget about the time machine and join the plan this week!
Comparison can be so toxic, especially in a social media age where it’s all Gucci bags and marble kitchens and stuff, stuff, stuff, all day, every day. The truth is that comparison is an unhealthy mind space and so much of the time it isn’t even real.
I know everyone talks about not comparing, but it is still tough to actually not do it.
When you feel tempted to compare your life to someone on a screen, remember that you have no idea what their actual financial situation is. And you don’t need to know (it’s none of your business). Just because you see something pretty does not give you permission to put your own situation down. Comparison is so toxic. You deserve better.
Instead, you need to worry about is whether or not you are satisfied with how you use the money you earn. That’s all that matters!
-Frugality without a purpose
Money guilt. I was raised without a lot of money. In my early 20s, I was so poor I could barely afford basic things like a small apartment and groceries. I read a ton of Dave Ramsey books, and at the time they helped me so much because I had some debt, I had no emergency fund and I was living paycheck to paycheck.
As the years went by, I began earning more money, and I increased my spending in some areas (hello eating at restaurants basically every night until we had kids—haha), but I kept the guilt in other areas. I felt that it was bad if I spent more on groceries, clothing and some other random areas. I felt guilty every time I spent money on certain things, but not others, and there was no real reason why.
More recently after I read I Will Teach You To Be Rich (of which I am now a superfan), I took the time to define my own "rich life" and reworked our family budget. It’s so funny, but my spending habits are basically opposite now of what they were for the 10 years prior. We spend unlimited on groceries because we love to cook at home and we rarely eat out. We go to Disney parks pretty often, but we don’t buy our kids toys when we go to Target. Big picture—we picked what matters to us and we spend our money on those things without guilt. It’s so freeing.
Now that we have defined our values for money I never feel guilty spending. It’s the best feeling. Now I understand that money is just there to help you live your life—not something to tie you down or make you feel bad. Money does not make you a good person or a bad person. It’s just money.
This one is so huge for me! Some money advice will apply to you and some just will not. That is normal and it’s good to know what works for you and aligns with your values and then when it doesn’t you can just skip it!
There is so much money advice that I totally ignore now. For example, I always felt guilty my ENTIRE life for not having an intricate budget. But now we don’t have a budget because we don’t really need one. We have goals, we check in with each other before we make larger purchases and we know what we are saving up for and we spend relatively the same amount of money every month on daily life. NBD! I can finally stop feeling guilty for not having a spreadsheet of every single expense divided by category because, big picture, we know we are OK with the money we spend.
This may mean something different for you, but you don’t have to use money advice if it doesn’t serve you.
-Trying to make money "fun"
This one is big for my enneagram 7 personality. For years, I resisted doing boring investments and that’s why we have several bnb properties and I thought we could just keep doing and doing and doing them … until we couldn’t anymore. Recently, I realized we don’t have capacity (AT ALL) to keep doing bnb properties on that pace (there is a lot of behind the scenes you don’t see that is WAY more boring than room makeovers).
Recently, I realized that with two little kids and a job I love with all my heart, all I really have time for in the next few years is boring investments. And guess what—THAT IS OK. Money does not have to be fun. This was such a big turning point for me. I’m so glad I could remove some pressure for now.
Boring money stuff like saving, retirement accounts, investing in stocks and bonds, paying down a mortgage … these things matter too! They are not fun and exciting, but they can really pay off for your future quality of life.
I hope this has been helpful for someone! Money isn’t the easiest subject to talk about, but I’m so glad I took some time to rework my thinking to make it a more positive and empowering subject in my life. xx- Elsie