What to Do If You Feel Hopeless When it Comes to Money
Trying to get your finances in order can be difficult and frustrating. When you attempt to get out of the financial doldrums yet continuously struggle, it’s completely understandable to feel helpless and want to give up. Unfortunately, this is a common feeling for many people. According to a 2021 CreditWise survey, 73% of Americans rank their finances as the most significant source of stress in their life.
If you’re feeling hopeless when it comes to money, here are a few tips that might help you overcome doubt and achieve your financial goals.
Understand why past attempts might not have worked out.
The information to be financially successful is available to everyone on the internet--yet so many people still cite money as a major pressure point in their lives. Knowledge isn’t the problem. It comes down to behavior.
People have biases with money whether they realize it or not. For example, humans are naturally wired to exhibit what behavioral economists call present bias. Put simply, present bias refers to the tendency of people to prioritize immediate gratification versus delayed gratification. We are impatient! It’s no wonder we’d rather spend our money now on an impulse purchase rather than putting it into a savings account or investment portfolio.
Present bias is just one of many psychological roadblocks that keeps us from our financial goals. Our emotions and psychology are headwinds as we attempt to gain solid financial footing in our lives so it’s important to identify what bias or behaviors may be standing in your way.
Do a spending analysis to figure out where every dollar is going.
It’s common to just spend money mindlessly without a plan or knowledge of where each dollar is going. But doing so can lead to overspending, credit card debt, and feelings of regret.
Do you know where your money is going? Are you happy about how you’re spending your hard-earned income? By assessing what you spend your money on, you become aware of tendencies. You can find the leaks in your budget and plug the holes. Are there unused subscriptions charging automatically? Do you regret any purchases you recently made?
Being mindful of where your money is going allows you to curb spending before it happens and think twice about low-value (or regretful) purchases. That’s why we encourage our clients to do a spending evaluation so they know exactly where their money is going and if those purchases are adding value to their life.
Break down your goals into small, achievable micro-goals.
Setting unattainable goals can be counterintuitive because if you don’t feel like you’re making progress, you can lose the willpower to keep pushing forward.
That’s why it’s so effective to break down your big financial goals into smaller micro-goals. Small achievements can be completed faster, provide wins that can be celebrated sooner and build positive momentum. Over time, these small wins roll up into large accomplishments and before you know it you’ve checked off one of those big goals that previously felt unattainable!
You can do this by creating a timeline of when you want to ultimately achieve your goal and determine which milestones you’ll need to hit along the way. For example, you might want to build a $10,000 emergency fund over time but decide that saving $500 within two months is your first micro-goal.
Automate your savings to stay on track.
People tend to take the path of least resistance. Did you know that studies have found that automatic enrollment in 401(k) plans leads to substantially higher participation rates? When the default option is to contribute to your company 401(k), people tend to stick with it rather than take the steps to opt out. This strategy can be applied to any goal, not just retirement.
Automating your savings ensures your money is going towards what’s important to you instead of low-value discretionary spending. Do this in just minutes by setting up a recurring transfer from your checking account to your savings account each month. Pick a date right after payday so you can guarantee your goals get funded first.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Earlier I talked about how managing your finances goes beyond having a strong technical knowledge. Emotions and psychology both play enormous roles in your success (or struggles) with money. That’s why having an expert or accountability partner by your side can make such a huge difference.
Working with a Financial Advisor or Wealth Coach can offer the support you need to find success. Just as a personal trainer would push you to finish an exercise in the gym, a financial coach can help you stay motivated and on track for your financial goals.
With a OneEleven membership you get access to your own personal Wealth Team, which includes your Wealth Coach and a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™. When working with your Wealth Team at OneEleven, you can be confident that you have an independent, objective resource to keep you motivated as you work towards creating the life you want to live. We’re here to meet you wherever you are in your financial journey so let’s get started today.
OneEleven Director of Wealth Coaching
Jason is a Certified Financial Planner™ and earned a B.S. in Economics from Penn State University and a M.S. in Accounting-Tax from Southern New Hampshire University. Jason worked on Wall Street for over 15 years and has always been fascinated with the stock market. Throughout his career, he has enjoyed sharing that passion with his clients. He also loves helping people with their finances so that they can live the life they’ve always wanted to live. Outside of work, Jason enjoys spending time with his wife and three young kids. He is an avid distance runner, huge sports fan, and amateur hot sauce maker.