Whenever someone tells me that they hate looking at their money numbers, it reminds me of how I hate stepping on the scale after a long weekend or holiday season of excess. I KNOW that I have been behaving in a way that isn’t conducive to losing or maintaining my weight, but I went for the short term gratification anyway. So there are a couple of things at work, I think, when someone avoids looking at their numbers.
Issue #1: Behavior Alignment
Just as I mentioned earlier, looking at the numbers forces you to admit that your behavior isn’t in alignment with your goals. And a lot of times the reason you’re not meeting your financial goals is because you feel like you don’t have control over them.
Solution: Shrink Your Goal
If you feel out of control, you might need to shrink the scope of what you’re trying to fix. And make the goal a behavior instead of a number. For example, as I lose weight, it becomes less and less about reaching a specific number than it is about eating healthy and moving. For someone with money issues, it might become less about paying off $x in debt ASAP and more about putting away the credit cards and becoming more mindful about spending.
Issue #2: Identity
Often, someone things of themselves as someone who hates to look at their money numbers because they hated math in high school. Maybe you made a financial mistake in the past and no longer trust yourself. Or, some people love to think about the possibility of wealth but are nervous about the practical, nuts and bolts side of money management.
To be successful with money, you must reframe your identity. If you think of yourself as a person who hates looking at numbers, then that’s who you are….but if you think of yourself as a someone who stays on top of her numbers, then the emotion doesn’t sabotage you, because regardless of what you’re feeling, your identity is one of someone who acts through both fear and positive feelings.
You might need a Post-It or something else to remind yourself of your new identity. But I have never seen someone become wealthy who doesn’t think of herself as capable of managing it.
Issue #3: Projection of Future
I think a lot of people are afraid to look at the numbers because of what they make them mean…and again, I compare that to stepping on the scale – weighing yourself doesn’t change you, it’s just data. But we all make the number MEAN something about us and get hung up on it. Your financial data is the same way, it’s really just data, the problem isn’t that you hate the numbers, you hate the meaning you’ve attached to them.
To get familiar with something, you need regular exposure to it. Just allow yourself to look at your numbers for 15 minutes a week. And for the first few months, practice reminding yourself that it’s just data, not judgment. You’d be surprised what you discover just by looking at numbers for 15 minutes per week!
This is your foundation. Everyone knows that my favorite review system is Mint, but you could accomplish the same thing by reviewing your spending in other ways. Or review your investments, if that’s what intimidates you. Find away to expose yourself to what intimidates you regularly, and you’ll find yourself having less emotion about it.
Consistency and clarity is the key
If you are feeling like you aren’t where you want to be financially, remember that savings is a byproduct of your intention, and it starts with two things: clarity and consistency. I use the analogy of Weight Watchers, because it helps so many people lose weight NOT by focusing on what you eat or how you exercise, although they talk about how to improve both of those things. But they are looking for small wins every single week. Clarity is the weigh-in and consistency is the food tracking and weekly meetings.
So with your money, build in systems that promote clarity and consistency, and you will be surprised at what changes you’ll be motivated to make, all on your own. Just give yourself space for it.
Actions This Week
- Reflect. What areas do you feel like you could do with more clarity and consistency to improve your wealth?
- Review. Book time with yourself (I usually like Friday afternoons) to review your meaningful money numbers so you can look at them consistently with less emotion and anxiety.
- Reframe. If you’re the kind of person who stays on top of her financial numbers, what does that look like for you? How does that change your behavior?
If you can relate to this, you might like my free ebook, Money Chakra, which starts to help people understand how their attitudes and energy affect their money decisions – you can get that here.