As a financial advisor, I’ve offered financial advice to people of all ages, helping them reach financial goals. I’ve also guided myself through my financial journey, working towards different money goals and experiencing many bumps along the way.
Looking back, I wouldn’t change much, as it helped me learn from my mistakes and get me where I am today. But there is some advice I would give my younger self — and anyone working to build better financial health.
Here it is: Understand money psychology, and the rest will follow.
When it comes to personal finance, it’s not just about numbers and spreadsheets — it’s about understanding ourselves. Each of us has a unique relationship with money, shaped by our upbringing, experiences and personality traits.
Recognizing and understanding our money personality is the first step towards making better financial decisions.
What are your beliefs about money?
So, what exactly is a money personality? It’s the set of attitudes, beliefs and behaviors we have towards money. Some people are natural savers, while others are spontaneous spenders. Some may be risk-averse, while others are comfortable with taking calculated risks.
Uncovering your money personality can show why you make confident financial choices and help you align your goals with your inherent tendencies.
Understanding your financial behavior directly impacts your financial well-being and future stability. By becoming aware of how you handle money, you gain valuable insight into your spending habits, saving patterns and overall financial decision-making.
Once you look hard at what shapes your money beliefs, you can identify harmful habits or detrimental patterns hindering your financial progress. For example, if you tend to overspend on non-essential items, you can recognize this behavior and develop strategies to curb impulse buying.
Similarly, if you struggle to save money, understanding your financial behavior can help you uncover the reasons behind this predilection and find ways to improve your saving habits.
How understanding your financial behavior can help you reach your goals
Understanding your financial behavior empowers you to set realistic goals you’ll have a better chance of achieving. This can keep you motivated and continuing to work towards your goals.
Start by examining your beliefs and attitudes towards money. Identify any negative or limiting beliefs that might be holding you back. By becoming aware of your money mindset, you can work towards adopting a more positive and empowering attitude.
Next, set some goals. Having specific financial goals helps you stay focused and motivated. Define short-term and long-term objectives, such as saving for a down payment, paying off debt or building an emergency fund. Visualize your goals and remind yourself of them regularly to reinforce your commitment.
Now that you know about yourself and your behavior, it’s important to block out the noise. This means avoiding comparing yourself to others financially and focusing on your goals.
The comparison trap
When we constantly compare ourselves to others, particularly in terms of money, it becomes a never-ending race. This is especially easy to do on social media.
These platforms have become a prominent space for people to showcase their wealth and material possessions. This phenomenon can trigger what is known as “money envy” or “social comparison.”
When we see our friends or strangers flaunting luxurious vacations or designer clothing, we may feel inadequate in our financial situation.
But remember that social media often portrays a distorted reality, creating an illusion of constant success and wealth. People tend to selectively share their best moments, creating a false perception that everyone else is doing better financially.
This can lead to a fear of missing out, where you feel pressured to keep up with your peers’ spending habits, even if they exceed your means.
But everyone’s financial situation is different. Comparing ourselves to others only leads to unnecessary stress and dissatisfaction.
Setting better financial goals with self-awareness
Instead of getting caught up in someone else’s version of success, take a step back and define your own financial goals.
What does financial success mean to you? Is it starting your own business, buying a home or saving for retirement? By focusing on your aspirations, you can create a roadmap that aligns with your values and priorities. Remember, it’s not about keeping up with the Joneses — it’s about fulfilling your dreams.
Understanding your money personality can provide valuable insights that can guide you in setting better goals. You can design a financial plan that aligns with your strengths and motivations by leveraging your natural tendencies. Here’s how:
Play to your strengths: Identify your money personality’s strengths and use them to your advantage. If you’re a saver, harness your ability to cut expenses and build a robust emergency fund. If you’re a risk-taker, focus on educating yourself about investment opportunities and take calculated risks.
Address your weaknesses: Recognize the pitfalls associated with your money personality and take proactive steps to address them. Spenders should create a budget and practice delayed gratification. Savers might need to loosen the purse strings occasionally to enjoy life’s experiences.
Set realistic goals: Understanding your money personality enables you to set realistic financial goals aligning with your identity. This self-awareness will help you avoid setting unattainable targets that will only lead to frustration. Instead, break your goals into manageable steps that suit your personality and gradually work towards achieving them.
Seek accountability: Share your financial goals with someone you trust, such as a friend or family member. Their support and regular check-ins can help you stay on track and hold yourself accountable. Additionally, consider working with a financial advisor who can offer objective guidance tailored to your money personality.
Recognize the connection between emotions and spending habits. Many people tend to spend more when they are stressed, sad or seeking comfort. Instead of turning to retail therapy, find healthier ways to cope with emotions, such as exercise, spending time with loved ones or pursuing hobbies.
Lastly, try to cultivate a healthy money mentality. It’s easy to fall into a scarcity mindset, believing that there’s never enough or that we’ll never be as successful as others. Instead, cultivate a mindset of abundance. Focus on the progress you’ve made, the opportunities ahead and the financial freedom you’re working towards. This shift in perspective can have a profound impact on your overall well-being.
As I reflect on my journey and the lessons I’ve learned as a financial advisor, understanding my money personality and behavior is the advice I would wholeheartedly give to my younger self.
By knowing who we are and how we relate to money, we can make informed decisions, set better goals and ultimately achieve financial success. So take the time to explore your money personality, embrace your strengths, address your weaknesses and set yourself up for a lifetime of financial well-being.
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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: I’m a Financial Advisor: Here’s the No. 1 Piece of Advice I Would Give My Younger Self