One of the biggest reasons investors and consumers harm themselves financially is due to the shame they allow themselves to feel for a wide variety of reasons. Their shame prevents them from seeking information or guidance to rectify their challenges. The list of reasons why people feel bad about themselves financially can be quite long, but include: past investing or spending mistakes; not making enough money; being in debt; being conned and the list goes on and on.
People very often shut down when confronted with past mistakes, and this is one of the multiple reasons why only 30 percent of Americans have a financial advisor because they have to admit to another person-and to themselves-that they have made mistakes. Diving into the details of what you need to change is a tacit admission of what you have been doing in the past is incorrect is something people irrationally do not want to do, even if it means an eventual improvement to their lives.
There is a tremendous amount of psychology revolving around money and bad financial behavior and to be fair, not all of it is due to shame. Complex topics combined with those in an industry that use technical language and jargon automatically triggers an animal instinct in all of us. When we hear or see something unknown or different, in nanoseconds our subconscious reacts with fear. Fear means we stop and do not proceed, not unlike when an animal hears or sees something different. Do they keep walking forward toward the new and unusual noise? No, they stop and freeze, preparing to retreat in a moment’s notice.
There is also the innate feeling that when someone is using highly technical language, part of our psyche is telling us that perhaps this person is trying to take advantage of us with either a scam or sell us something we do not need. Sadly, this tactic historically has worked on trusting people as the Madoff saga continues to remind us.
The practical reality is we as humans should actually fight the urge to hide from financial problems and instead turn and face them head on. Doing so will reverse the spiral effect that can happen when one ignores the underlying issue. When it comes to shame, there are various types: shame one feels in their own mind, shame they feel if they perceive others are judging them, even from one’s children.
As it pertains to others judging you and your mistakes, investors and consumers (consumers are those without a portfolio, but needing some form of financial planning) should understand that the hundreds of thousands of financial advisors, financial counselors, educators and non-profits that help people improve their lives have seen it all. No matter how bad you think your situation is, whoever you seek assistance from, rest assured they have seen someone worse off than you. Your situation is not bizarre or indicative of something wrong with you as a person. You are not alone in making financial mistakes.
It is healthy to rely upon your gut and animal instinct. However, habitually hiding, running from and feeling shame about your perceived issues with your finances is unnecessary and more harmful than dealing with them head on. And, you will feel a tremendous weight lifted once you do.
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