When I first started my blog in 2015, my content mainly focused on paying off debt and saving money. And one of the really cool things about that was getting emails and messages from readers who would tell me things like, “Your story really inspired me to pay off my student loans, and yesterday, I finally paid them off!”
I love getting messages like that. I’ve always tried to be the biggest cheerleader for my readers because I genuinely want nothing more than financial and life success for them. And that desire is actually why we’ve switched to a make-money brand—that’s the most effective and fastest way to find financial success.
Back to getting messages from readers, that’s the kind of thing that gets me fired up about what I do. Those are people who are committed to making a change in their life, but then there are other readers who want change but aren’t ready to work for it, and those are the people who I want to speak to directly in this article. It puts me in a strange position, though, because as much as I always want to be positive and motivate readers toward whatever goals they have, sometimes I have to get a little real.
Now before I go in on this, I want to tell you something: success is hard. Getting ahead financially is not an easy journey, and it can take years to get ahead. After talking to thousands of people from different backgrounds and even through some of my own experiences, I feel like I have a decent perspective on the difficulties that a lot of people face financially.
So if you’re someone that has been guilty of any of the things below, just understand that you aren’t alone. Also, I’m not attacking you. It takes time to make changes, especially if you have to break habits and make time for yourself. What I’m sharing are common themes I’ve seen over the years, and you may recognize some of these themes in your relationship with your financial life.
Once you recognize something and realize how it’s affecting your future success, you can evaluate and correct. That’s what it’s all about.
With all of that being said, here are four habits that might be holding you back financially:
1. You Don’t Act (Even Though You Know What to Do)
We’ve all been here at some point. You know you need to do something, but you simply don’t take action—and I’ve been there too. And out of everything on this list, inaction is probably the one I get the most frustrated with. I see so many people that have everything it takes to get ahead, and they just don’t start.
Honestly, it never seems to be one specific thing that’s holding them back. Sometimes it’s fear, which I’ll talk about shortly, but a lot of times, it’s just procrastination.
“I’ll start paying more than the minimum credit card payment next month.”
“I’ll save more starting next year.”
“I’m waiting to see what the market does before I invest.”
“I’ll start a side hustle when I have a little more time.”
While you could try to justify all of the statements above, the reality is that most people haven’t yet reached the tipping point that creates action. It’s not painful enough yet. You’re not worried enough to get started on the journey.
This lack of action happens with more than your financial life though, and it’s recently been something I’ve been dealing with regarding my health. Since working from home 100% of the time and having a kid, I’ve progressively gotten in worse shape. I kept saying I’d do something about it. I kept telling myself that I’d eat better tomorrow or next month, but then I didn’t.
Eventually, I became so frustrated with my pants not fitting that I made a change and hired a fitness coach. Now I’ve lost weight and feel awesome, but it took me feeling the pain of literally not fitting in my clothes to push me toward action.
Looking back, I wish I had made that decision years ago. So if you’re right at the edge of being frustrated enough financially that you want to make a change, but still sort of comfortable enough to keep procrastinating, go take some action today.
2. You’re Afraid To Make the Leap
Ah, yes. Fear. My old nemesis.
I’ve seen email after email from readers mentioning that they’re afraid to take a leap of faith. And real talk, I’ve been right there before. I mean, I quit a solid teaching job to run a personal finance blog. And you can imagine how terrified I was to take that jump.
There was definitely a moment before I quit when I almost stopped myself out of fear.
What if I failed? What if I let my wife down? What if I lost money? What if I let myself down?
But I did it. And guess what? I survived.
Now, please don’t take that as a green light to quit your job for a slow business model, like blogging. But you should definitely take it as a green light to step out of your comfort zone to start a side gig, attack your debt, work toward financial independence, or even take that job that you’ve always wanted.
What I’ve learned is that people who are brave enough to make big changes in their life are usually resourceful enough to make it work once they’ve put themselves on the path.
At some point, you just have to believe in yourself and your abilities and go make things happen.
3. You Complain or Make Excuses
Back when I was a teacher, I used to complain that teachers don’t get paid enough (honestly, they don’t, and I still talk about this, but that’s beside the point). But I would use my salary as an excuse for why I was buried in student loans, why I’d never have my dream house, why I couldn’t travel as much as I wanted, and so on.
Wishing for a life I didn’t think was possible wouldn’t lead me on a path toward a bigger house, travel, or debt freedom. And complaining about my salary wasn’t going to increase my income. I had to take action if I wanted any of those things.
Complaining and excuses go hand in hand, and neither are helpful when it comes to making a real change in your life. Complaining about where you are financially is just ineffective. This might sound harsh, but very few people care when you complain about your finances, and I believe that’s because most people are concerned about their own financial situation. They barely have the energy to focus on their own finances, let alone yours.
Excuses are even worse because you’re just lying to yourself. And again just as a disclaimer: these are all things I’ve done before, especially when I was buried in student loans on a teaching salary.
Nothing really changed for me until I decided to stop talking about that and took some action. Nobody forced me to be a teacher, and nobody really forced me to take out loans for college. I knew how much teachers made before I took the gig.
I put myself there, so I had to figure out how to turn things around.
4. You’re Settling for the Life You Have Instead of the Life You Want
I’ve actually had readers directly ask me if I think that they are destined for greatness. There are a lot of people who don’t believe in themselves enough to create the life they really want, and I truly wish that more people believed that anything is possible.
But then when I look around at a lot of the messaging out there in the world, I get it. The world can be a mean place—I’ve had people tell me directly how little I would accomplish. Co-workers told me that I’d never make it with M$M, people tell me I couldn’t pay off my student loans as fast I wanted to, and even people now who hope my next big project flops so that they can watch me fail.
It seems like everywhere you look, someone is telling you that you can’t make it or that you’re not good enough to do what you want to do in life.
I’m here to tell you that’s all bogus. Everyone has potential. Everyone can be special at something.
The only way you can get there is by tuning out the noise, hustling hard, surrounding yourself with people who will root for you instead of tearing you down, and understanding that success for you isn’t the same as success for someone else.
And you also have to try new things and expose yourself to the possibility that you’ll fail a few times along the way. My trajectory with this site and my personal finance journey hasn’t been squeaky clean. I’ve had bumps and bruises along the way. But I’m not afraid to try things and see what happens, and you shouldn’t be either.
So please, don’t settle for your current situation. If you want to go do something in life, you need to try it—everything from paying off credit card debt, starting a side hustle, reaching for financial independence, retiring early, starting a business, etc.
What’s the point in all of this if you don’t, right?
Originally written by Bobby Hoyt for Forbes Media