Reflect: How Do You Think About Money?

How you think about money can have a big impact on your financial wellness.

Thoughts and beliefs effect the way we behave so before we can change our habits around spending money, we must first understand our thoughts and beliefs about money.

Scientists estimate the average person has between 50,000 and 60,000 thoughts per day. Ninety percent of these thoughts are repetitive and of these, 70 to 85% of them are negative in nature.

Thus, if you believe you will never be financially healthy, you will behave as if that is true.

To be truly effective at changing the way you handle money, you need to first understand how you think about money.

There are four common negative thought patterns. Take a moment to reflect on your mental approach to managing finances. Do you find yourself falling into one of these patterns?

Should Thinking

In this pattern you create distortion through “should” statements like “I should have more money in the bank before I speak with a financial professional.” Often (or definitely in this case), these types of statements aren’t true at all.

If this is you, try to give your thoughts a more positive spin:

Information on the internet tells me I “should” have saved for a house by now, however, these sources don’t know my situation. I have to decide what is best for me and right now, paying off my credit card debt is more important.

Magnification

“It will take me forever to pay off this debt. It’s impossible. I’m a financial failure.” In this case you take an emotion or feeling and magnify it to be a fact. Your feelings are temporary reactions to your current situation and may not reflect reality. Feeling like a financial failure does not make you one.

Positive thought spin:

Instead, change the framework of the thought to include reality while still acknowledging the emotion behind it: “I had a discouraging week and I feel like a failure right now, but these are the ways I am succeeding…”

Disqualifying the Positive

In this thought pattern you filter out the positives and focus only on the negatives. For example, if you go over your budget you might spend energy beating yourself up with negative thoughts like “I’ll never get the hang of this.”

Positive thought spin:

Consider your finances overall – did you spend less money this month than normal? Instead of berating yourself, find the positive and tell yourself: “Wow. I was only $50 away from sticking to my budget this month. I’m not perfect but next month I will do better!”

All-Or-Nothing Thinking

All-or-nothing thinking has you only seeing in black or white with very little room for the gray area in between. In your head, you are either a success or a complete failure. This creates anxiety.  “I’m not a financial expert and will probably make my situation worse so I’m not going to try to invest my money.”

Positive thought spin:

Avoid thinking in extremes and using absolute terms like “never” or “ever” in your self-talk. Instead, replace negative thoughts with realistic ones and make a stronger effort to find alternate solutions. “I’m not a financial expert but I do know a financial planner. I will make an appointment with her next week and get some advice on how to begin investing.”

If you find yourself often using negative thoughts when you reflect on your financial situation, it’s time to become more aware of your thoughts. Reflect on your self-talk and notice when you get stuck in a negative loop.

Next, remind yourself that feelings don’t portray your actual situation and find positive ways to view your financial situation.

To this point, when irrational thoughts or feelings about money creep in, stop and look for evidence that in fact, what you think is not true.

Don’t forget to offer yourself grace. We are all human and none of us are perfect so be compassionate and go easy on yourself if you make a mistake.

Lastly, licensed therapists can help improve your mindset. Consult one if you think you need deeper intervention.

Change is hard and setbacks are likely but as you remove negativity from how you approach your finances, you can make better financial decisions, reduce stress, and increase your financial wellness!

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