You can recover after making money mistakes. This is how to do it

2020-01-01 10:20

I was recently giving a talk and one of the areas I addressed was how to pay off debt. But before that I spoke about healing or forgiving yourself for the past money mistakes you have made. A woman from the audience later told me in an email how this had liberated her from the burden of regret and shame.

She said she had felt so ashamed about all the mistakes she had made with her money that she hardly ever spoke to anyone about her woes. But she kept on replaying what she could have done differently over and over again in her head.

Talking about money can be clinical and numbers-heavy, but this takes the person out of personal finance. Personal finance should not just be textbook because people are different with unique circumstances.

Once you dehumanise those who have made mistakes, you lose an opportunity to teach and help people get back on the right path.

We have all made some mistakes when it comes to handling our finances. For example, when you moved into your house, you had underestimated how much it would cost to do some of the renovations. So, you found yourself using up most of your savings. No matter how big or small the mistake, we have all made decisions that put us under financial strain.

If you are beating yourself up and drowning in regret about the past, you are highly likely to stay stuck in that quandary. The best way to move forward then is to first forgive yourself. You are only human.

This is what you can do to heal:

Talk about it: You have to understand that the mistakes were an event and not your entire life. Speaking to someone you trust or a financial planner can help you get unstuck. Talking to someone can help you bring perspective to your situation. Sometimes, in our heads, the problem seems bigger than it really is.

Own up to your mistakes: A big part of moving forward is to own up to the part you played in the situation. Acknowledge that you made a mistake but don’t beat yourself up about it.

This helps you to realise that you have control over many situations instead of blaming your circumstances.

Learn from your mistakes: Once financial mistakes are made, there is no use beating yourself up about it because regret produces no positive results. You can look at your mistakes as an opportunity to learn what NOT to do in future. Perhaps it’s an opportunity to educate those around you about what not to do.

If you view it as a lesson, it takes away the emotional heaviness of it, allowing you to deal with the matter in a practical manner.

Face the issue head on: We underestimate our power to control the outcome we want in dealing with our finances. For some people, ignoring the situation and hoping that it goes away seems like a solution.

Much like an ostrich which buries its head in the sand when danger looms, many people do this with their finances, hoping that the problem will go away. You have to know exactly what you are up against so that you can come up with a plan to tackle the situation.

Simple steps such as knowing what interest rate is being charged on your debts or coming up with ideas of how you can earn extra income to get out of debt faster are very useful.

You cannot take any of these steps if you have not quantified the size of the problem.

Set inspiring goals: Once you have done the above, it is time to set goals that inspire you to action.

Just as much as a financial mistake comes with the uncomfortable emotions of guilt, regret and shame, start thinking of how you will feel once the debt is paid off.

I find that a lot of people focus so much on the pain of paying off the debt or fixing a financial mistake – what it is taking away from them – instead of thinking about what they will gain once the debts are paid off.

Ask yourself, how will I feel once I am debt free? What will I be able to do when I am debt free? What will this newfound freedom mean for my life and my loved ones?

Lastly, educate yourself: Getting things wrong gives you an opportunity to learn. When you view your financial mistakes as a stepping stone, you can start learning about how money works. Not just about the debts and liabilities you are facing, but also about compound interest, investing and diversification. Educating yourself through financial literacy can be the best gift you give to yourself despite how you started.

Makhu is a personal finance coach:

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April 5 2020