web analytics

My Number 1 Reason People Fail Financially

May 1, 2013 · 2,073 comments

in Personal Finance

I could make you read through this whole post before you got to my exciting conclusion as to why people often struggle financially.

I will end your suspense though and say it here:  Mindset.

How Mindset Affects Your Financial Life

So often, people will complain about not having enough money.  In some cases, it is totally true.  Some people do live under the poverty line.  I am not addressing that subset of the population.

I am speaking of those that have decent jobs, but still never seem to have enough money.

On the surface, it may seem people don’t have enough money accumulated because they don’t budget properly, or the housing market turned south.  Some of that may be true.  But there also may be an underlying cause beneath the circumstances…

How many times have you seen someone that has a beautiful home, nice cars, a few kids and thought “How do they afford all that?”.  Quite often, unless they were born into or inherited money, they aren’t affording it.  They are just willing to take on a boatload of debt.  To many, that may seem financially irresponsible, but the amount of debt anyone is willing to take on is an individual decision.  (That hopefully does not spill out to the rest of us in the form of foreclosure and such.)

I think that many people find themselves in high debt or low savings is because what they have just ‘is not enough’.  We all channel our thoughts or behaviors in a certain manner, and for some, happiness is derived from accumulating more.  Thing is, many do not even realize the pattern.

Think about it, if people stayed in their first or even second homes and were satisfied with what they had, would we have even come close to being in the housing mess we were in?  Of course, it didn’t help that prospective homeowners were approved for ridiculous loans that resulted in foreclosures.  However, banks did not make people take a look around at their friends and see that they too should be buying a huge house.

Does Expensive Make It Worth It?

Even take vacations for instance.  I have never traveled overseas, nor gone to Hawaii.  (I have been to Tijuana though, and unlike my brother, I was smart enough to not eat a burrito.)  I do hear from a lot of people how great many far-off destinations are, and I will say it sounds fun.  However, I just can’t afford to spend that amount of money on something discretionary like a vacation right now.  (I am too busy spending money on siding for my house that is being attacked by woodpeckers.)   That is OK though as I don’t mind going on inexpensive trips.  As a matter of fact, one of my favorite vacations ever was a camping trip my husband and I took to the Smokey Mountains when we were first married.  Excluding gas, I think that trip cost us less than a couple hundred dollars, and I still look so fondly back on that trip 20+ years later.  Of course, I am sure I would look fondly back on a trip taken to the Greek Isles too…

Regardless though, I have seen people take trips I could only imagine, even though they already were saddled with a ridiculous amount of credit card debt.  Could they have had just as good of a time renting a cottage for a week as they did on their excursion?  I don’t know, but I would think the pain of seeing the resulting credit card bill would have greatly affected my overall view of the trip.  Much like how someone has a bad day and decides to go shopping to ease their pain. Sure that new  wardrobe might feel great when you first wear it, but that feeling always wears off and the reality of actually paying for it all eventually sets in.

Take A Deep Breath, and Think About Why…

Many people say they are ‘impulse buyers’ or can’t stick to a budget, but don’t really think past that assessment of themselves.  Maybe they can’t stick to a budget because in their mind, they can truly justify buying the Ipad 2 right when it comes out on the market when they already own a fully functioning Ipad.  Not having the ability to adhere to a budget may just be a symptom and not the overall problem.  (Assuming this is about more discretionary items.  I am not suggesting people freeze to death during an unusually cold winter just so they don’t exceed their budgeted heating bill.)  As stated earlier, quite often the underlying cause is that people get dissatisfied with what they have over time, so they have to get more.  One day a 1600 square foot house may be just fine, but the next week, it is suddenly too small.  Why?  What suddenly changed?  Did mom just give birth to triplets, or did a house just come on the market that seems too good a deal to pass up?

My point is, people strive and strive for that next thing, when what they already have is good enough.  It may just be people get caught up in what society as a whole is doing, which we saw during the housing boom.  Overall, the people that are content with what they have seem to have the easiest time managing their money.  Traditional methods to control spending such as budgeting may not even be necessary for this subset of people.   They don’t need to set up a strict budget and cut up their credit cards.   They just don’t have the need to spend or accumulate.

So, before you head out the door to shop or are sitting there bored on the computer scrolling through Amazon sales, stop yourself.  Think about what you already have and if you truly need anything else.  When someone tells you about their great new house/car/trip/purse/etc, try NOT to think about how you too would enjoy something like that.  Think instead of how you have gotten by this long without whatever the item is, and just move on.  Changing a mindset isn’t something that happens overnight, it is a process, and in the case of spending, you have the opportunity to work on it almost every single day.  If you can just change the way you think about spending, you may just find yourself in a much better position financially over time, and you will probably be a whole lot happier overall, even though you may have ‘less’.






If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment or subscribe to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader. Thanks for visiting!!!

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Kurt @ Money Counselor May 1, 2013 at 10:54 am

Mindset is huge, that’s for sure. However, the #1 reason for bankruptcy in the U.S. is medical expenses. People can’t afford health insurance, or their insurer finds a reason not to pay benefits. Health challenges are compounded by financial challenges, and bankruptcy becomes the only way out.


Kris May 6, 2013 at 7:42 pm

Kurt, I do agree that medical expenses can be financially devastating to people. Also, medical expenses generally are not a choice, but more unfortunate circumstance. My heart breaks for anyone in that circumstance for sure.


First Gen American May 1, 2013 at 1:15 pm

I’ve been known to take some pretty exotic vacations, but I’ve always had the cash to do it. I remember in college I was waitressing with a young girl who was $80k in debt. She didn’t even have school loans and I was like..how does one even get $80K in debt without a college degree or house? She charged multiple cruises, nights out, and other random things. To me, it seems easy to be frugal on a vacation when you have to fork over the money upfront.

I think in addition to mindset the other critical element is “perspective.” Those who’ve always lived a cushy middle class lifestyle want to jump right into that lifestyle that took their parents years or decades to build up to. Growing up with little to nothing, I didn’t have as high reaching lifestyle goals right out of the gate as some of my peers and I think that helped me get ahead financially.


Kris May 6, 2013 at 7:41 pm

Hey Sandy!
80k in debt? Yikes! If I had that amount of debt as a young adult (and it wasn’t for an amazing college education), I don’t know what I would do! I hated our wedding and (my) college loan debt.

I too often wonder how kids who have pretty much been catered to and had everything handed to them will adapt when they make a moderate salary out of college. But, I think financial struggle is good for everyone at some point as it can hopefully create an appreciation for money and just the things in life.


krantcents May 1, 2013 at 1:48 pm

As I get older, I find I am in replacement mode! I don’t need nor want anymore things. I just replace what wears out. or breaks. In fact, I do not replace everything that wears out or breaks.


Kris May 6, 2013 at 7:11 pm

I totally agree with you Krantcents! The one thing I insist on replacing though is a vehicle. I get nervous driving if it has over a certain number of miles on it, and the same goes for the car my kids drive. Other than that though, I don’t need much. Actually, I don’t even know what I would buy if I suddenly became rich. Maybe I will write about that now that I think about it…


Jenny May 2, 2013 at 12:16 am

I would say a large part of the reason people feel the need to have the newest thing, is because of all the advertising they are exposed to. Everyone wants the ipad 2 because the people at Apple want them to want it. Apple has experts at making people want things running advertising, social media campaigns, product placements, etc. They are very good at what they do.


Kris May 6, 2013 at 7:08 pm

It is true, the advertisers do know exactly how to impact a large segment of the population. People need to make themselves somewhat impervious to advertising though, unless they have an unlimited amount of money to spend.


Don May 2, 2013 at 9:38 pm

I totally agree, I know a lot of people I consider smart, but they are dumb when it comes to finances. It’s not that they don’t have the ability, it just they choose not to.

Unfortunately, the don’t change their mindset, so they are open to my suggestions.


Kris May 6, 2013 at 7:07 pm

Hey Don!
I agree, a lot comes down to choice. Until someone ‘chooses’ to change their behavior it just won’t happen. If the overall mindset can change, it is a more long-term shift in attitude. Kind of like crash dieting vs. weight watchers I guess.

Hope you are well!


Squirrelers May 4, 2013 at 8:08 pm

Hi Kris, good to see you’re posting again. Hope things have been well.

I agree with you, mindset is huge. A big part of that, to me is, emotion and reason. By that I mean that many people might be able to logically think about what constitutes a smart choice, but for some reason they’re unable to prevent emotions and illogical thoughts and assumptions to influence decisions.


Kris May 6, 2013 at 7:05 pm

Hi Squirrel! Things are going well, thank you. I have been having withdrawal from Squirreling Gone Wild, I need to go see what I have missed!

You are right about how logic plays into the whole decision making process. What seems logical to me may not to others. Some others also just see what they want to see, and that doesn’t help.

Thanks for the visit!


Financial Samurai May 7, 2013 at 11:45 pm

Belief in becoming financially independent is definitely important. If we don’t believe in ourselves, who will?

After a certain amount of investment and hard work, I think the rest has a lot to do with luck.



Rich Uncle EL May 8, 2013 at 4:25 pm

The constant want list grows every year and most people do not know how to shut it off. In addition to this constantly wanting stuff, they do not track what they spend so there is no accountability for how much they wasted. Hopefully many people are reading blogs with great financial advice.


konrad June 6, 2013 at 7:07 am

think of it this way. if you can only save 10% of your income, then that means it take 10x as much time to save as it does to spend it. ie you need to work for 10 days to have 1 off “to yourself”.


konrad June 6, 2013 at 7:22 am

i’ll tell you straight out, i’m a financial planner. infact i’ve been an fp for 12 years and my father was a fp for 35 years. people, good people, need to seek financial advice, and i dont mean listening to your friends at a bbq or the hype of your local newpaper. its not a set and forget concept. you need to get the basics right first and annually review your position. think of it this way, one team has a coach the other dosent, its just common sense the team with a decidated coach will win the game or atleast win the season. knowledge/guidence gets you ahead. i cant believe people have their car serviced on an annual basis and they cant find the time to review their future. most peaple spend more time planning a two week holiday yet considering their income, super, tax, debt, savings and need for insurance to protect the unforseen. the delema i see day in and day out is for the majority of the population they prefer not to think about it. but rest asured the day will come when all that “she’ll be right made” hits them like a head on collision with a v double. and they will still say its not my fault, the kids were screaming in the back and my spouse should have been watching the road, and of course its the governments fault because the road wasnt lit well enought. but the truth is YOU wernt paying attention…and now its too late. you’ve fuck up your life and pulled your whole family down with your….and believe me, when you dont have your family by yourside, theres no one left to care, your friends dont even notice you disapering and fading into the shadows because, deap down inside you know you should have been paying attention all allong and theres no one left to blame.


Modest Money August 27, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Couldn’t agree more. Thoughts => Perspective => Choices => Actions!
As you have aptly put it and others have, financial indepence is more a matter of habits and temperaments more that your monthly income. If you can control those, you have conquered the biggest impediment to achieving success in many facets of life, not just finances.


Canada Loan Search November 1, 2013 at 9:03 am

I’ve actually have never wanted great wealth…other than when I used to watch Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous (lol). I’ve found (or remember from some previous incarnation), that it takes away from the fun of “getting there.” However, I would like to build wealth by being able to have my ideas be given the green light/be financed by those who do have money. I don’t mind the hard work, I just want to find like-minded individuals who will help me bring my ideas to market…say when an author is lucky enough to get an agent who starts a bidding war over his book and gets him/her a seven-figure deal!


konrad November 2, 2013 at 4:47 am

money shouldn’t stop you from doing anything in life. but having it under control will have great benefit to your wellbeing.


Cancel reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: