If you have money worries and money regrets you are not alone. Most of us love to beat ourselves up about our poor financial choices or we blame the universe, our parents, the government and any other target for the sorry state of our money situation. What we do not do is to take action to course correct. A few years ago I decided to belatedly start learning from my money mistakes and taking better wealth building actions. These are my biggest financial regrets that I am working to put right.
Not saving as soon as I started earning
While this may seem like a no brainer it certainly wasn’t to me! I had not grown up with money and my experiences growing up were not supportive of me having a future positive relationship with it. I could have gone towards totally hoarding it because of its scarcity or the route I did go – spending it all. Driven by a low self esteem I was a ripe target for any shining, image enhancing item that came across my path. This coupled with a love of beautiful luxurious goods meant my money was out of my bank account so quickly I might have gotten whiplash if I had paused to check this!
Spending all my money on things to make me feel worthy
Following on from the regret above it seemed to me that money gave you status and proved you worthy. People with money were treated differently, they were definitely more confident and looked way happier than I felt. When we have a certain belief our brain goes out to find proof of our belief and looks only for evidence that will prove it correct! So of course I was seeing confident happy people and ascribing it all to having money. Through life experience I now know this is not a direct correlation. There are people who seem to have a lot of money and happiness on the surface but may be equally battling the esteem conundrum. I certainly put forward a happy face and by the quantity and expense of the things I was buying others possibly perceived me as having money. How ironic!
Conversely the stress of living pay check to pay check because of my uncontrollable spending detracted from my feelings of confidence and resilience. By taking control of my personal finances and consciously directing my money to building a solid financial future I am beginning to feel a different level of confidence and certainty. It is a stable confidence not built on external validation but on the internal calm of knowing I am taking empowering, well considered steps for my future.
Not asking the questions when I didn’t understand
This all boiled down to pride. I absolutely hate to look stupid or confess that I do not know everything. Newsflash to myself there is no greater risk than not knowing what you are doing. I have faced this particular challenge a number of times from not querying the correct directions, to totally misunderstanding simple instructions and all because of my absolute aversion to asking. I have now realised that not asking has consistently made me look like a bigger fool than asking ever would have.
One particular foolish move very early on in my career was to start my pension and not understand what I was saving into. The result is that I ended up having a huge management fee attached to it and was effectively invested in cash. I only found this out many years later when I finally decided to ask the questions. This not only made me a fool for not asking it cost me money.
My aversion to asking has even more dangerously often trapped me in inaction. It literally took me years of missed growth before I took the initiative to learn the practicalities of investing. I understood investing, I just did not know how to practically do it as an individual and so I didn’t.
Blindly following others with my money decisions
There is a great quote. “Those who are easily led are easily led astray”. If you don’t have a plan for how you want your life to look and consciously direct all your resources, your intelligence, your time and your money to achieving it you are lost and easily led by what others are doing.
I did this. I had absolutely no clear plan. I lived each day with the vague aim of one day being happy and fulfilled. I thought about all the things I didn’t want but never once contemplated the true detail of what I did want. I vaguely believed I was striving for happiness and “wealth” without ever considering what happiness and wealth meant to me. I chased other people’s dreams and got further and further from my dreams as I sabotaged ever achieving what was burning in my soul to be acknowledged.
Don’t make this mistake. Get to know yourself. Delve into what you value and how you want your life to look to live those values. Start living the values today and with everything in your power, and that includes your money, start building your life to start living those values in a bigger way every day.
Not investing as soon as I had money
As I mentioned earlier my fear of looking a fool meant I didn’t ask the questions on how to build my money. When I first started working after a university education in Accounting that did not teach me one thing about personal finance I had no concept of investing. My grandfather had always drummed into my head to never get into debt but at no point had anyone ever mentioned the more positive aspect of money, it can work for you in building wealth. Unfortunately you can only ask the questions that you know so I am going to go easy on myself for this one, but what is a big regret is when I did learn about investing because I was doing it at work I didn’t know how to do this as an individual. If you are already an investor you are possibly thinking how can you not know this it is so easy, but let me tell you when faced with putting your own money on the line and not understanding exactly how to execute this it seems beyond daunting. I had a book load of questions and no clue who to ask. I couldn’t ask my colleagues because I feared being labelled as an imposter. I invested my employee’s capital every day how could I possible confess I didn’t know how to invest mine ! This is embarrassing even as I write this and became a huge issue for me. And so I did what I do with all huge and confusing issues. Procrastinated and didn’t take action.
Doing nothing and secretly assuming everything will magically work out in the end when it comes to retirement planning
Despite all the negativity you may be picking up about me in this article, my true nature is the eternal optimist. I always expect the best to happen even as I fear the worst. Somehow I have the belief that bad things will happen, but magically without any action from me they it will work out.
This sounds like a great way to live. It isn’t. It is totally delusional because while it is positive to expect good things to happen, they won’t unless you take action. No good thing is going to happen while you are sat on your butt wishing for it to be so. And it is not any action, it is action directed to achieving your defined good thing. I 100% believe the universe is dedicated to ensuring you get your good thing but the universe like all of us needs clear direction on what you want it to bring you. It also needs confirmation that it is on the right track and your confirmation to the universe is the actions you take.
I applied this vague optimism when spending all my money that by the time I stopped working I would have maybe won the lottery or magically come across a windfall to make sure I had enough money in retirement. I confess I still have some aspirations to winning the lottery, but the difference is now I have defined how much I want to have in retirement and when I want to retire and am working towards building that nest egg. I am happy for the universe to intervene but now I have got my own back on this one.
Not talking about money
Money has always been a taboo topic in my life. Somehow it had become one of those no go areas within my family and in particular in my relationship to my single mother. As with any secretive areas this is a fertile pot for problems to brew and of course they did. I could see that my mother was poorly managing the money she had for retirement, in fact I would have had to be blind not to pick up on the fact she was frittering it away on anything that grabbed her attention. By my inaction I was an accessory to this crime. She is now penniless and having to depend on others to support her. This is not a place I ever want to be in. The positive takeaway from my mother’s situation is that it lit a fire in me to take control of my own finances and get committed in consciously building a stable financial future for myself and my family.
My ingrained money taboo resulted in my applying the same principles in my relationship with my husband. Seeing as we should be aligned in our goals and aspirations for the future not talking about money was an epic fail. Thankfully my husband was more transparent in his approach and over the years I have learnt to be a lot more collaborative in working towards common goals.
Finally giving money more significance than it deserves
I have given money meaning and super powers it does not deserve. I have coveted it for the self esteem, security and freedom it could bring to my life. I saw it as bringing all the answers, as the eradicator of all life’s obstacles and as my happy ever after. It was the vessel for my perfect life. It is mind blowing how much value I put in it.
Sadly though it was merely the tool to getting to the self esteem, security and freedom I craved. No tool works without the artisan directing it to create her vision. I had no vision. I hadn’t done the work to discover what exactly my rich life looked like or even taken the steps to start creating that life.
To the contrary the biggest action I was taking was letting the unconscious negative money beliefs I harboured repel it.
As I have started to unravel the mess that was my relationship with money and started to rebuild a more financially healthy story I have realised that money itself doesn’t bring the esteem, security and freedom. It is the empowering actions I have taken to build that story that gives me confidence. The confidence of knowing I am in the driving seat towards my goals, that I am taking supportive actions to secure my future and that while challenges and obstacles come with or without money, it is facing them that brings growth and achievement.