It is challenging for many people to discuss feelings of financial fear without a sense of shame. Behind closed doors, people may open up about their feelings and embarrassment and be honest about their current financial situation. By voicing their fears or shame, many people feel as though a weight has been lifted and can then take stock of where they are; to formulate a plan to get financially fit.
Financial shame often comes from not living up to a particular ideal. It may be a false expectation or a false belief. The banker “tells” you that you can afford the monthly payment for a brand new home. The car dealership points out that you can purchase a new car and keep your payments the same. Ads on television “sell” us a dream: we deserve to have all the “things” we want now. You may believe you should own a big home, multiple cars and provide for all of your extended family, but perhaps you lost your job, and that is no longer possible. Many of us live with an illusion of the sort of person we should be (or what we should have) rather than being honest about our situation.
It is smart to have an accurate benchmark for what you consider to be a healthy financial goal or lifestyle. For example, you may want to have 500,000 dollars in your retirement savings account as your measure of being financially healthy. Not meeting that benchmark doesn’t mean you are a bad person. However, it may result in a different outcome. If you have 485,000 dollars in your savings account, don’t beat yourself up over the difference, but if you only have $45,000 saved for retirement when you turn 65, be prepared to live on a lot less than you are used to. You are delusional if you think you can postpone saving and live in better style than you do now.
Most people imagine that their retirement will be even better than their current situation and will live exactly as they do now — if not better! But the reality is that many of us have not saved enough money to make those dreams come true. Now is the time to keep feathering the nest. Make an appointment with your CPA or a financial coach who can help you assess your net worth and develop and a plan for staying financially fit. Creating an honest budget and reevaluating what is important long-term may change some of your choices today. Our current cultural and political mindset of deserving it all now and never stopping to say, “I can’t afford that,” isn’t doing you any favors. Set yourself apart, be honest with your money choices. You can do it. You can live abundantly for many years to come.