Major struggles in the area of personal finances are a common source of stress among families and individuals throughout America today. According to a survey conducted in 2014 by The American Psychological Association, 72 percent of adults in America report feeling stressed about money at least some of the time, and 22 percent say that they experience extreme stress about money. Top reported triggers of stress related to money include paying for unexpected expenses, paying for essentials, and saving for retirement. According to the report, women shoulder much of the burden of stress related to personal finances. Far more women say they have lain awake at night in the past month due to stress related to money; 51 percent, compared to 32 percent of men. Almost a third of adults with partners (31 percent) reported that money is a major source of conflict in their relationships.
The nationally renowned author and financial expert Dave Ramsey has stated frequently that personal finance is 80% behavior and only 20% head knowledge. You can read all the books about money management you can get your hands on, and even have a degree in finance, but that accumulated knowledge won’t help you if you fail to apply the knowledge and wisdom gained. I believe failures in personal finances and money management can largely be blamed on 5 specific character traits that tend to manifest themselves in people who are broke and whose finances are a train wreck. People who have had major problems with money management and debt frequently exhibit one or more of these negative character traits. These traits will eventually sabotage an individual’s personal finances. If you will give me a few moments, I would like to list each negative character trait and discuss how they can prevent you from having success in money management and personal finances.
- Materialism– Probably the most common negative character trait that will get a person in trouble financially is materialism. Nothing is more erroneous than believing material things will bring lasting fulfillment and happiness. People often try to “buy” happiness through the purchase of bigger houses, finer cars, the latest and most expensive electronics and “toys”, and designer clothing. When they do this, they quickly discover the happiness they thought would remain as part of their purchases quickly fades. All they are left with is debt as a result of their materialistic indulgences. The simple truth is happiness is a choice. You must choose to be happy in whatever situation of life you are in. Now please don’t misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that you settle in whatever your situation is in life. It’s good for a person to always have a goal of bettering themselves. House, cars, and designer clothes are great. Just don’t expect those things to bring you happiness. Choose to be happy regardless of what material possessions you have. In the Bible, the Apostle Paul said, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11 New International Version)
- Impatience– Impatience will also eventually manifest itself into problems with money. Impatience causes a person to crave things they want regardless whether they can actually them. Many young couples get married and immediately want a nice house fully furnished with all the nicest furnishings. They want and expect this because they grew up in a very nice, well furnished house owned by their parents. They have come to look at this as what a normal household should look like. There is nothing wrong with that thinking, but young couples often forget something. They forget it took their parents 20 or 30 years to be able to afford and acquire the standard of housing they enjoy. Their parents did not start off their marriage with a $250,000 home full of flat screen TVs and leather couches. Impatience causes people to want something and want it NOW. Other than the purchase of a home, unless you can pay cash for something, NOW is not the time to buy something. I love Dave Ramsey’s philosophy. He says, “Anything you can’t pay cash for, you can’t afford.” That is a great way to live. Paying cash will rarely get you into financial dilemmas. Using credit cards screams “I WANT IT AND I WANT IT NOW! I’LL PAY FOR IT LATER!” That my friend is a dangerous way to live if you want to have success in your finances.
- Insecurity– If a person has insecurity or low self-esteem issues, they will always be concerned about what other people think about them. Insecure people often purchase things they cannot afford to try to impress someone else. I like the saying that says, “We spend money we don’t have, to buy things that we don’t need, to impress people that we don’t even like.” You have to learn to love yourself for who you are. A person who is always concerned with how others feel about them, will normally do whatever it takes to win the approval of others. They do this even if it means spending money they don’t have. I recently heard a great quote that said, “You will never have enough, do enough, or be enough, until you see yourself today as enough.”
- Lack of self-discipline– A person lacking self discipline, will almost certainly fall into debt and financial struggles. Today’s retailers are EXCELLENT marketers! They do study and research on how to lure impulse buyers into buying their products. All those items lining the check-out lanes at stores are placed there very strategically! They are placed with much forethought, in hopes of luring the impulsive shoppers! To succeed in your personal finances, you have to learn to say NO! Part of having self-discipline with money involves creating and living by a BUDGET! Many people cringe at the word budget. They think a budget will put them into a money prison prohibiting them from having any fun. That is SO untrue! A budget will actually do the opposite. Dave Ramsey often says, “A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where your money went.” People with self -discipline create and live by budgets. Once they reach a certain limit they have set in a specific area of spending that month, they STOP! Whether that area of spending is dining out, buying clothes, or buying groceries, there must be limits placed on how much can be spent. This all requires self-discipline. Without self-discipline, you are setting yourself up for financial disaster.
- A sense of guilt– Last but certainly not least, is guilt. Far too many times people are pressured into spending money they cannot afford to spend. Often, they are pressured by a friend or family member that needs or wants something. Out of a sense of guilt, they give them money or buy them something. What people don’t realize is continually bailing out a friend or family member having financial struggles only enables their dysfunctional behavior and lifestyle. This equates to buying an alcoholic a drink. Eventually, the person whose personal finances are a complete disaster has to take responsibility for their own actions with money. Continuing to keep a person struggling in their finances on “friendly welfare and financial life support” is not helping them at all. In fact, it is doing them a great injustice. Don’t ever allow a sense of guilt to cause you to spend or give money you can’t afford to spend.
I hope listing these five personal character issues has at least made you think. Examine yourself and determine whether you have fallen victim to any of these issues. Having success in personal finances and money management, requires changing your thinking and interaction with money. Remember What Dave Ramsey says; personal finance is 80% behavior and 20% head knowledge. If you want to change your success with finances, start by changing yourself. When a person changes how they look at things, everything around them changes. Often, we spend days, months, or even years attempting to discover the source of our problems, only to discover that the problem lies within us. As we change, our situations change. In become better people, we will make this world a better place.
Thanks for reading!
Until next time,