By Ramit Sethi
People have lots of reasons for not managing their money properly. A few of those reasons are valid, but most are just poorly veiled excuses for being lazy and not wanting to spend 10 minutes on research.
I’ve heard some blame the education system for not teaching them about money. It’s easy for people in their 20s to wish that their colleges had offered some personal finance training. But guess what? Most colleges do. You just didn’t take them!
The harsh truth is that you’re not victims. You’re in control of your own finances — and the sooner you internalize that, the sooner you can start to go on the offense.
The first step is to acknowledge some of the biggest money lies young people tell themselves:
1. “I need to focus on making passive income.”
To many millennials, passive income sounds like a dream. They hear about some guy who took a three-week vacation — while still continuing to earn money — and then say, “I can’t do that!” What they don’t see, however, is the amount of time and work it took to get there.
Most people, especially the young ones who are just entering the workforce, don’t need to focus on passive income. Instead, they should be putting more effort into improving their active incomes — by focusing on their careers. They can do this by sharpening their work skills, solving more problems for their bosses and basically out-hustling their co-workers.
A lot of people hate hearing this because it means that instead of fantasizing about earning a passive income of $500 a day, they actually have do some real work at their jobs.
I’ve also seen people who are hard workers, but are too afraid to ask for a salary increase because their “company doesn’t have the funds” or because “economy is bad.”
Why? Because it’s easier: If we accept a force that we believe is out of our control (like a “bad economy”) in dictating whether or not we get a get a raise, we feel less pressure to put in the effort.
Solution: Put in the hours and get better at your job so you can earn more money. If getting a raise isn’t an option, find another job and negotiate a higher salary.
2. “If I just try harder, I can save more money.”
We all know we need to save money, the same way we know we need to exercise more, eat healthier and call our families regularly. But there are serious barriers to doing all these things.
Simply “trying harder” won’t help you succeed (there are even studiesthat will tell you the same thing). Trying to save money by buying the cheaper item isn’t enough. Trying to cut back on buying lattes won’t help, either.
In order to see results, you need to actually sit down and have a conversation with yourself about what needs to be done, step-by-step.
Take a look at your finances and ask yourself: What are you trying to do that takes a lot of effort, but for little gain? What’s not working no matter how hard you try? How can you make things easier for yourself?
Solution: Automate your finances so you’re not dependent on your willpower.
3. “I’m going to start keeping a budget.”
Most of us, at some point in our lives, will get motivated and decide: “Yes! I’m going to start keeping a budget!”
Creating a budget to cut down on your expenses is the sort of worthless advice that personal finance experts feel good prescribing to millennials. But the few people who actually attempt to budget completely fail after a few days because they eventually realize that it’s really difficult (and overwhelming) to track every penny they spend.
Also, more often than not, it doesn’t work because a budget tracks what you’ve already spent, and so when you look back at the end of the month, you feel horrible and guilty after realizing that you overspent. Budgets offer no forward-looking information.
Instead of keeping a budget, I recommend creating what I call a “Conscious Spending Plan,” a strategy that forces you to look to the future while also allowing you to spend extravagantly on the things you love — as long as you cut costs mercilessly on the things you don’t love.
Solution: Create a Conscious Spending Plan by splitting up your income into four categories:
- Fixed costs: Rent, groceries, student loans, utilities, etc. (50% to 60% of your income)
- Long-term investments: 401(k), Roth IRA, etc. (10% of your income)
- Savings goals: Holiday gifts, vacations, down payment on a home, etc. (5% to 10% of your income)
- Guilt-free spending: Dining out, movies, shopping, etc. (20% to 35% of your income)
By allocating your money this way, you can make sure you have enough to pay off all your responsibilities first. Then, any money left over can go towards your savings goals and everyday spending.
The guilt-free spending category allows you to buy what you want while knowing that your most important expenses are taken care of. (More on how to create a Conscious Spending Plan here.)
4. “My friends earns less than me, yet they’re still able to go on four vacations every year!”
You friends are either highly skilled practitioners of Conscious Spending — or have absolutely no clue how to manage their money.
Think back to when you were a kid: How many times did you hear one of your parents ask the other: “Why can’t we go on vacations the way our neighbor does?” — without actually understanding how their neighbor’s spending breaks down. Chances are they’re not conscious spenders, but rather over-spenders.
Put another way, would you ask your friend who failed his English 101 class for grammar lessons? Hopefully not. So why would you look at your ordinary friends — who make ordinary money decisions and end up with ordinary results (a.k.a. not having enough money) — as role models?
Solution: Refocus your financial aspirations and strive to become like people who make conscious money decisions. Don’t follow the examples of those who show off by spending more than they have. If you suspect they can’t afford it, they probably can’t.
5. “I’m going to start investing.”
Ask any of your friends how much they’ve invested in stocks, and most of them will probably say they “don’t earn enough money” or “don’t have enough expertise” to do it.
According to a recent Gallup poll, only 37% of young Americans ages 35 and under said they owned stocks between 2017 and 2018, compared to the 61% of people over the age of 35 did own stocks.
Opening an investment account gives you access to the biggest money-making vehicle in the history of the world — and you don’t have to be rich to do it. Many account providers will waive minimums (the amount required to open an account) if you set up an automatic monthly transfer.
So many people say they’re “going to start investing,” and then end up not doing it. Why? Because they don’t think they’re capable of understanding the basics and don’t want to risk losing their hard-earned money.
But for every day that you don’t invest, you’re losing money due to inflation — and you’ll never realize this until you’re in your 70s, at which point it’ll be too late.
Solution: Any new topic is overwhelming (i.e., diets, workout regimens, parenting). The answer isn’t to avoid it — it’s to pick a source of information to learn from and then actually start investing.
6. “Wanting to ‘get rich’ is bad.”
Obsessing over money and being consumed by greed is bad, but wanting a better future for you and your loved ones is anything but.
Having more money opens up an incredible amount of options for you and everyone around you. I’ve said this many times, and I’ll say it again: “Getting rich” isn’t just about money — it’s about living a rich life, and living a rich life might mean different things to different people.
For some, it means having the financial freedom to spend extravagantly on their hobbies. For others, it means having the luxury of paying for a house cleaner every week.
For me, part of what living a rich life means is the ability to step away from my business for six whole months to go on my honeymoon.
Solution: Think about what living a rich life means to you and let that inspire you to take action in growing your money.
Ramit Sethi, author of the New York Times best-seller ”I Will Teach You To Be Rich, ” has become a financial guru to millions of readers in their 20s, 30s and 40s. He became a self-made millionaire at a young age, thanks to his website (which he started as a Stanford undergraduate in 2004), book and personal finance courses.
This article first appeared on CNBC https://www.cnbc.com/2019/08/23/self-made-millionaire-6-biggest-lies-we-tell-ourselves-about-money.html and is republished with its permission.