Throughout my career I’ve worked with some pretty brilliant people.
First at a national newspaper, then at one of the world’s largest tech companies and now at a leading multinational financial company. I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by innovation, always pushing me to my intellectual limits.
But a worrisome pattern has emerged. At each job, I’ve been struck by how such intelligent people can be so lazy when it comes to learning about personal finance.
The mental blocks folks have around learning even the most basic financial concepts — ones which will ultimately save them thousands of dollars every year — is mind boggling. Time and time again, people I respect make costly mistakes because they failed to spend two hours searching a topic on Google.
I’ve seen it all. From defaulting to the standard company retirement savings fund instead of choosing a high performing one, to blindly believing that your health insurance claim was paid out accurately, to not doing the math about whether a contract job will put more money in your pocket than a full-time job with benefits. I can literally calculate the amount of money friends and coworkers have lost annually.
Women and men alike are leaving the fate of their financial future to “experts”, and let me tell you, it won’t always end well. Because no matter how much an expert knows about mutual funds, mortgages and income tax, they will never have the same emotional attachment to your money as you would. Full stop.
So why would people who clearly have the intellectual capacity to understand financial concepts shy away from them?
Are they simply too busy with their work and personal lives to invest the time? Are they under the mistaken impression that finance is a topic too hard for them to grasp? Do they naively believe that “experts” will figure it all out for them? Or is finance just too damn boring to bother learning?
I suspect that the answer is all of the above, yet none of the above. The real answer goes MUCH deeper.
Let me be clear. I am no financial wizard. I did not study finance at university and have no greater aptitude towards making money than the folks I’m talking about. We are all just relatively smart people trying to get by in this complex world.
Which is why I’m so disheartened. Because I suspect the real, hidden, nuanced reason people aren’t learning personal finance is because of FEAR.
The fear of knowing where they stand financially in this vast world is too much for them to carry. Understanding their net worth, how much money they can expect to live off of in retirement, and what they need to save now to buy a home in five years – all becomes too much of a burden to bear.
But what’s more, I further suspect that at the heart of their fear are issues with their self-worth.
You see, financial planning makes them feel less than. They fall prey to dangerous mind traps like equating their net worth with their self-worth, looking at their past financial mistakes as failures rather than learning opportunities and replaying old stories in their head about how they are destined to lead a humble life because they come from humble beginnings.
None of these old stories are true, of course. But the power that these limiting beliefs hold over them prevent them from dreaming and then chasing after those dreams as if their life depended on it.
It’s a cyclical pattern. Making your dreams come true almost always requires money. And in order to have the drive to make money, you have to believe that you ultimately deserve the BEST life has to offer. And the only folks who believe they deserve the best are those who truly value their self-worth. It’s really that simple.
So ask yourself, do you believe you deserve the best? What does the best look like to you? How does it feel to live it? Do you dream of a future that you actively create or one that is predetermined?
If anything I’m saying resonates with you and you are like my smarty pants friends who can’t bring themselves to take true control of their financial future – I promise you, there is hope.
I too used to waft in a space of financial paralysis, indecision and fear of moving forward. I was so focused on surviving my present financial circumstances that I forgot to set long-term lifestyle goals, such as, how did I want to spend my days 5, 10, 30 years from now.
While I was good a saving money when I had the means, I didn’t have plans for what the saved money would be used for. This is all fine and dandy for about a year, but when it goes on for several years, you have to wonder, what was I waiting for? Was I really living life being so scared to commit to long-term initiatives?
The truth is, whatever your blocks are, they can be overcome. If you can identify what it is that’s stopping you from dreaming, what limiting beliefs are holding your back, you’ll be one step ahead of the rest.
Learn to push past your feelings of self-doubt and understand that only you control your financial future and ultimately your happiness. It will be one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.
Because after all, you’re worth it.