Creating a Positive Relationship with your Money

Reposted blog from America Saves Week

Money and finances can trigger a range of emotions. Throughout our adult lives we can feel shame for making purchases that we really didn’t need, confident about the amount of money we’ve saved for retirement or regret for not saving for emergencies when we had to use credit to pay for an unexpected expense. Many people will describe themselves as “good” or “bad” in how they handle money. Either description is probably an oversimplification, ignoring the more complex factors associated with our money.

Typically, money is a subject that isn’t openly discussed, even in families. Friends don’t share how much they spent on their new car, how much they have saved for retirement, or what their mortgage payment is. Whereas we often share stories with others when dealing with difficult situations to find support, money is more often regarded as something to “figure out for yourself.”

While today financial education, particularly in schools, is becoming more prevalent many working adults have not had formal education for managing their personal finances. Instead, we’ve learned from observing others or reading information online and then implement action plans for our own finances. Based on our definitions of success or failure we end up telling ourselves:

  • “I’ll never be good at money, so why should I try?”
  • “I must be doing something wrong with my money because my friends all have more spending money than I do.”
  • “I don’t make enough money to save for retirement, so I’ll worry about that when I earn more.”

Our relationship with money doesn’t have to be fraught with tension, fear, or disillusionment. We don’t have to resign ourselves to the belief that we don’t know how to handle money and will never be able to save enough for our dreams and goals. Instead, with some mindset changes you can begin to change your relationship with money to create a new outlook for your saving journey:

  1. Money is a tool. Look at how money can help you build the life you want. Just like savings is a journey, not a destination, money is not the ultimate goal – it’s what you do with that money.
  2. Today is not tomorrow. Recognize that wherever you are in your saving journey, there is always opportunity to change. Where you are today is not where you will necessarily be tomorrow. You get to decide what tomorrow looks like for you and what you will change to reach that destination.
  3. Avoid comparisons. It can be difficult not to make assumptions about someone’s finances based on their outwardly actions – the type of vacations they take, clothes they buy, how often they dine out. We tend to think that they must have a lot of money and/or are good at managing their money. As in many things in life, perception is not always reality. You don’t know what other decision or choices they’ve made so these comparisons can create unhealthy feelings of inadequacy.
  4. Change the story. Instead of telling yourself “You’ll never have enough money in savings,” tell yourself “I have plenty of money for myself, my family and our home.” Our brains are powerful and the stories we tell it impact our choices and actions. Start with the positive.
  5. Be mindful. Intentionally track what you spend and how it makes you feel so you can decide what’s important to you and what isn’t.

Now that you’re on your way to a new and different mindset about money take the America Saves Pledge to get started working toward your saving goal. You can also tune into the The Perfect Bite for even more ways to stay positive and focused on your financial journey.