6 signs you’re lying to yourself about money

Do any of these mindsets sound familiar? If so, you may want to rethink the way you approach your finances.

You consider yourself good at budgeting, but don’t keep track of your spending. You tell yourself you can afford a special splurge, but don’t make plans to cut back elsewhere. You think you’re spending your paycheck wisely, but skip on saving for emergencies and retirement. So what’s behind these common money lies you might be telling yourself? Well, it’s complicated.

“Many people are uncomfortable with talking about money in general,” says April Rudin, a financial services consultant in New York City. “This contributes to discomfort and leads to many of the half-truths” people tell about money, Rudin says, including to themselves.

Here are 6 money lies you should stop telling yourself and how you can change your mindset:

1. Your lifestyle spending is under control

If your closet is bursting at the seams with new purchases, you’ve been eating out every night, and you’ve repeatedly told yourself you’ll trim expenses next month but don’t—you may well be lying to yourself about money. It’s easy to overlook overspending, especially if a lot of little purchases are adding up, but creating a budget can help. To kick-start your new spending plan, consider returning items recently purchased that you can do without, find new meals to get excited about cooking at home, and find an app to help you manage your money.

A man and a woman sitting on the floor of their kitchen, holding coffee cups and laughing hysterically.

2. It’s OK to keep secrets from your partner

Partners could fall into the habit of being less than upfront about their money habits for a host of reasons, including guilt, fear, or personal attitudes about money. Yet hiding how you manage your money could affect trust and intimacy in a relationship, as well as a couple’s ability to meet joint financial objectives. Have open communication to determine how finances will be managed—both guidelines for joint and individual accounts—and consider planning a regular date night to discuss financial matters and make plans to fix any problems that pop up.

3. The stock market isn’t for me

Despite flashy pop culture depictions, thinking that the stock market is reserved only for wealthy Wall Street power brokers could be a money lie you might be telling yourself.

The first step to overcoming your hesitation is learning more about investing and finding tips for investing during volatile markets. As you do more research, you’ll find that investing does come with risks, but you can start small and build an investment portfolio that matches your risk tolerance.

4. All debt is bad and should be avoided

Some people believe debt is bad, full stop. But this may be one of the money lies you should stop telling yourself.

Talbot Stevens, an author who writes about debt, explains that when used wisely, debt can be a helpful financial tool. “Governments, businesses, and most wealthy individuals use debt to grow their economies and wealth,” he says.

Taking on debt through a personal loan, for example, could be a good way to pay for a large purchase (think wedding or car repairs) and student loans are an opportunity to invest in your or a child’s education.

“Many people are uncomfortable with talking about money in general. This contributes to discomfort and leads to many of the half-truths” people tell about money.

April Rudin, financial services consultant in New York City

5. There’s lots of time to save for retirement

If you’re considering money lies you should stop telling yourself, think about your view on saving for retirement. During the busy throes of your prime working years, it’s easy to put off saving for those golden years. There’s tons of time for that later, right? While common, this type of thinking represents a money lie you might be telling yourself. In reality, time is one of the most valuable tools you have to grow your savings.

If you save $75 per month beginning at age 25, you will have saved more for retirement savings by age 65 than if you waited 10 years and saved $100 per month, according to Bankrate.

6. If you had more money, you’d be happier

You could be lying to yourself about money if you think more of it means all of your financial worries will vanish. Newfound wealth often brings with it a new set of problems, too. How you spend your money affects your happiness more than how much you have. For instance, people experience greater happiness from spending money on others rather than themselves and from spending on experiences rather than material goods.

Graphic showing a human figure running toward a giant dollar bill held aloft by a giant hand.

Consider how you may be lying to yourself about money

Whatever your financial situation, there are money lies you should stop telling yourself because they could hold you back from financial success, happiness and peace of mind. Set goals and target financial priorities. They’ll keep you honest with your money and yourself.

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