We all have our faults (real or perceived), blind spots, biases, prejudices, and things we’d rather die than do. These affect every area of our lives from the food we eat (“I’d rather die than eat broccoli!”) to the jobs we do (“I can’t do math, so I chose to be an English major.”). Sometimes these are pretty harmless and don’t affect much. If you hate broccoli, for example, nothing terrible will come of you not eating it as long as your diet is otherwise healthy. Sometimes, however, your faults can really limit your choices in life. If you say you can’t do math and choose some other career path, you may be hurting yourself if you really love science, for example. It might be better to figure out math so you can do what you really want to do.
While it’s hard enough to deal with all of our faults in daily life, it gets even harder when you realize that most, if not all, of our faults and blind spots impact our finances in some way. Your fear of buying a house next to an apartment building because you think that all apartment dwellers are trouble makers may mean you have to buy a more expensive house than you planned. If you believe that generic products are never any good, you’re going to have a hefty grocery bill. If you claim you know nothing about investing and you’d rather die than learn, you’re going to miss out on opportunities to make money. If you believe you’ll never be good at math and “settle” for another career, you might not only be unhappy but you might miss out on a lucrative career path. And on and on it goes, with every one of your limitations and biases playing a part in how much money you will spend or earn.
I’m not going to tell you to magically get over all of your pre-conceived notions and to have an open mind about everything you come in contact with. (Although it can’t hurt to try. Being open minded is rarely a bad thing.) Most are so ingrained that it’s impossible to change them. And there are some things that you just may not want to change. That’s fine. What I am going to suggests is that you at least admit your faults to yourself and then make a plan to work around or with them. If you can do that, you can still find a way to be successful financially. Here are some examples:
- If you know you have no willpower to save for retirement and you have no inclination to change that, make sure you get a job that provides a pension.
- If you know you don’t understand investing and you’d rather die than sit down and learn about it, at least put your money in CD’s and savings accounts rather than just leaving it in checking or under the mattress. It’s better than nothing.
- If you know you don’t like broccoli or some other food, don’t buy it just because you think you “should” be eating it. Admit you don’t like it and stop wasting money on it.
- If your preferred career path requires skills you don’t think you can master, either overcome it and learn what you need to learn, or give it up with no regrets later. Decide whether the troublesome skill is problematic enough to keep you away from the career entirely. If it is, accept that you’ll be giving up certain things, mourn the loss, and move on. Decide which path you can live with and go with that.
- If you know you won’t ever buy a generic product or that clipping coupons isn’t something you want to do, make sure you have extra money in your grocery budget to cover the difference. Keeping your beloved name brands may mean giving up some other things.
- If you know you hate DIY, make certain you keep enough money in your budget to pay for someone else to do your projects. Or live in an apartment or rental house where the landlord handles it.
- If you hate being outdoors, make sure you buy a town home where the exterior maintenance is included or rent an apartment.
- If you’re a homebody, don’t keep paying for trips you don’t enjoy. It’s okay not to travel if you’d really rather stay home. Nobody has to travel to have a full life.
- If you don’t want to live near certain groups of people or types of places, admit it and don’t look for housing in those areas because one of two things will happen: You’ll buy something and hate it later, or you’ll fall in love with a house you “cannot” have because of where it is. Either way, you’ll end up miserable so just admit your prejudice upfront and don’t look in those areas.
- Above all, learn when you’re doing or buying something to fit in, even though you don’t like it, want it, or need it. Keeping up with the Joneses rarely to leads to financial success and just ends up with you having and doing a bunch of stuff you don’t like. Just admit that you’re not going to fit in and move on.
The more honest you can be with yourself, the better off you’ll be financially. You won’t waste as much money on things you don’t like and you’ll have fewer regrets about the things you do spend your money on. You don’t have to change all of your faults and prejudices about brands, careers, people, and experiences, but you do need to admit those limitations to yourself so you can plan around them. If you don’t, and you try to act like everything’s equal and doable for you, you’ll just end up miserable and broke.
(Photo courtesy of nimishgogri)