For many of us, our relationship with money gets less positive personal attention and focus than any other relationships we have. This is especially strange when you consider how much worry, frustration, and stress arises from our relationship to money, how often it dictates our degree of emotional well-being, and how direct its impact is on every other relationship in our lives.
Financial problems can smother your enjoyment of life if you’re not in command of that relationship. And you don’t just cause yourself undue stress by ignoring your finances — you also miss out on an amazing opportunity for financial freedom and personal empowerment.
Not only are most Americans not in control of their financial condition — many actively avoid dealing with it. Why do so many try to evade something that plays such a key role in our everyday lives? Why is dealing with our money so unappealing, even painful?
There’s a simple, one-word explanation: fear.
I’m talking about the kind of slippery phobia that shows up as procrastination, confusion, frustration, avoidance, and ambivalence. Many people procrastinate in dealing with their finances — despite the common-sense knowledge that procrastination erodes our sense of peace, adds frustration to our lives, and, in many cases, spawns lasting financial repercussions far uglier than what we set out to avoid.
Why? Well, it’s normal human behavior to put off tasks that seem unappealing or insurmountable. Ultimately, the confusion and resistance that pervades our relationship with money results from simple ignorance: Very few know the basics of financial planning and budgeting.
Once you get past the fear and begin devoting time and energy to learning how financial planning works, you’ll gain a sense of control over your future instead of feeling like a helpless victim. Educating yourself about money will take you from fear to freedom. Even a rudimentary knowledge of how money works can bring long-term financial and emotional security.
The first step to minimizing your confusion about money is to be fully aware of your financial condition. Some people are afraid to assess their situation, dreading the feelings of guilt, inadequacy, or fear that come from not having enough money. But it’s important not to judge yourself, especially at this point in this process; it only keeps you from moving forward. Once you understand the details of your financial situation, you can move ahead with a budget and goals that will take you from where you are to where you want to be.
The more intimately you know your financial position and condition, the easier it will be to make wise choices that help the relationship flourish. Even if you have no assets or savings today, part of being aware is knowing exactly where you want to be in one year, five years, ten years, and straight through to retirement. This awareness will set the wheels in motion. If you don’t have a plan, you don’t have a prayer.
You can’t expect a relationship to flourish if you’re not giving it your attention — and that includes your relationship with money. The more time and energy you devote to learning about money and finance, the more abundance you’ll realize. Ignore your money and your money will ignore you, too; put nothing in and you’ll get nothing back. Like a jilted lover, money will make you pay for your neglect.
Trust is the foundation of every healthy relationship — and one of the most active ways of building trust is to be consistent. Committing to your relationship with money means consistenly taking the time to stay informed, regularly assessing your financial condition, creating goals for the future, and taking action to better your situation.
If you aren’t satisfied with your current situation, the cure is to overcome your fears, forego short-term temptations, and take committed action. The more energy, consistency, and attention you bring to your relationship with money, the more freedom, joy, and security you’ll experience — from this day forward, as long as you live.