OPINION: How you see yourself matters when it comes to money.
All of us have a sense of our own personal identity, and if asked to describe ourselves, we could.
Some of what would come out of our mouths would be self-affirming.
“I’m a decent man.”
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“I’m a woman who cares about others.”
“I value family.”
That’s lovely. We all need to bolster our egos to face up to the day, but some of what would come out of our mouths would point to why we fail in our money lives.
I’m not a great proponent of neuro linguistic programming, where you repeat “I’m a success, I’m a success…” each morning a hundred times while looking at your reflection in the mirror.
But I do believe we give ourselves excuses for not doing some of the things we know we should.
A grand insight into how excuses are letting us down with money came in an unusual document sent to MPs by the government-funded Commission for Financial Capability.
In it the commission compared the ways people characterised themselves with the state of their money lives.
It found those of us who are bad with money tended to say things like: “I live for today”.
They also tend to describe their decision-making style as “spontaneous”.
In addition, they admit to worrying about paying their normal living expenses, and do not see eye-to-eye with their partners in how money is spent and saved.
By contrast, people who are flying along in their money lives say pretty much the exact opposite.
They describe their decision-making style as “planned”.
They describe themselves as having a “natural” tendency to save, or a saving “mindset”.
And they aren’t prone to bickering with their other half about money.
There are lessons here.
The first is to stop giving ourselves excuses to make the wrong decisions.
Nobody is inherently “bad” with money. There are just people who for various reasons have their money lives in control, and others who haven’t.
As Diane Maxwell, who heads the commission, puts it, many of us have “sophisticated self-defence and self-denial mechanisms”.
Learning how to be better with money isn’t especially hard, but you have to try.
It really is a case of deciding to be better, and then taking it step by step.
If you’re not sure what you are doing with KiwiSaver, make April the month you learn about it. Watch Youtube videos on saving. Call up your KiwiSaver provider. Work out which kind of fund you should be in.
It isn’t hard.
If you haven’t got an emergency savings buffer, make May the month you set yourself a strategy to get one.
Years ago I spoke with British author Matthew Lanchester about his book “How to Speak Money”.
He went from financial illiterate to speaking money fluently by doing just a little each week.
Any of us can do the same, but only if we choose to be the kind of person who does things like that.