You don’t have to change your money mindset if you don’t want to
What is money mindset and why can't we stop talking about it?
About the author: Dana Miranda is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance® and founder of Healthy Rich. She’s written about work and money for Forbes, The New York Times, CNBC, Insider, NextAdvisor and Inc. Magazine.
How’s your relationship with money?
Too much advice about money focuses on how to get more (and give less) of it. That misses the point. It treats money as the end goal itself, when, actually, it’s just one more piece of the whole of your life.
Like any other element of your life, how money makes you feel, how you interact with it and how you see it fitting into your life are as important as how much of it you have.
We tend to call this relationship “money mindset” — and it’s central to how money works in your life.
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What is money mindset?
Money mindset is another name for your relationship with money — the way you think and feel about money and wealth in general and your finances in particular.
Originally a concept in woo-woo circles, money mindset was thought of as the basis for your ability to attract wealth. (Think: the power of positive thinking or the law of attraction.) But the concept is a lot broader now, and a lot of us in the money world talk about money mindset as an important factor in how money plays into your life.
Your money mindset impacts and is affected by your jobs and personal relationships, how you’re treated in society, your comfort, happiness and generosity.
A healthy relationship with money is the baseline for a budget-free life.
Some people talk about money mindset in flat terms, like “think rich, get rich,” where rich means “having lots of money.” I think of it much more holistically — not as one more tactic to grow your net worth and bank balances, but as the sum of your relationship with work and money.
When you think about your money mindset, consider the habits you have around money, and the stories you tell yourself about money, wealth, poverty and worth.
Abundance vs. scarcity: 2 types of money mindset
For simplicity, we tend to describe money mindset as seeing the world through one of these two lenses: abundance or scarcity.
Having an abundance mindset means believing there’s always enough. You might have an abundance mindset about a lot of things in life, not just money: food, space, attention, jobs, resources.
What is abundance, actually? That depends on what you’re after.
Wealth seekers tend to think of abundance in terms of the ability to attract as much money as you need. You don’t have to worry about having or earning enough, because enough will always come to you.
Minimalists might think of abundance instead as feeling satisfied with whatever you have: Love the one you’re with. Be grateful for everything, and don’t long for more.
I fall in the camp with mindfulness folks who think of abundance as enoughness. That’s a little vague, because what’s “enough” is different for everyone. Abundance is the belief in and feeling that everything, in this moment, is enough — and there’s always more when you need it.
(Told you this has some woo-ey roots…)
Having a scarcity mindset means fearing there’s never enough. It’s generally treated as the opposite of an abundance mindset — instead of seeing enoughness all around you, you see lack and competition.
Scarcity mindset might be easier for you to imagine because it’s sort of the default mode our world trains us for.
With everything, but money in particular, we’re trained to believe we never have what we need and there’s not enough to go around. That makes us hoard what we can, worry about finding the next dollar and fear losing everything we have.
Scarcity mindset could push you to overwork and worry about money, no matter how much you have. Or it could convince you you’ll never be wealthy so the work isn’t worth it. It’s often tied to limiting beliefs about your worthiness, abilities or lot in life that keep you from taking action to change your financial situation even if you can.
Mindset is a spectrum
Like any mindset, identity or relationship, your mindset about money exists on a broad and varied spectrum and is always shifting.
That means no label perfectly describes your relationship with money. It also means you should ignore anyone who ranks any kind of money mindset as “good” or “bad.”
Your relationship with money is what it is and will evolve how it evolves. Giving it a name is about recognizing where you’re at in any given moment, not shaming you into contorting yourself toward what’s “right.”
Why money mindset is important
We’ve already acknowledged this whole mindset thing feels a little indulgent. It’s been wielded by an array of gurus toward the same capitalistic goals they pretend to circumvent. Let’s set aside their nonsense and understand why money mindset matters.
How you think and feel about money dictates how you behave around it, even — especially — if you don’t realize it.
Just like late-night deep dives with your spouse or group therapy sessions with your parents, facing and understanding your money mindset is a vital step in owning and changing your money behaviors.
Do you need to change your money mindset?
Here’s the annoying thing about conversations around money mindset: Everyone seems to be talking about how you can change.
Maybe you don’t want to change. (Or don’t want to change yet.)
Maybe your relationship with money — whether you see scarcity, abundance or something in between — is working for you in this moment or season of life. Maybe you’re working exactly as hard as you want, thinking about money as often as you want, earning what you want, spending what you want; doing, owning and giving exactly what you want.
Your money mindset isn’t right or wrong. Your beliefs, thoughts and feelings about money developed to serve a purpose. They might:
Help you blend in and stay safe in a community.
Protect you from failure you’re not equipped to weather.
Encourage you to prioritize earning during your most productive and ambitious years.
The problem is holding onto a money mindset that no longer serves you.
Once you leave that community, gain the skills to face that failure or move into a season of life that wants you to prioritize rest or family, your relationship with money needs to change, too. Often, it doesn’t. We tend to cling to an old mindset and set of beliefs long after they’ve served their purpose.
I encourage you to get to know your money mindset, regardless of your financial situation. Understanding your mindset will almost certainly help you move through life with more ease, even if you’re already crushing all your measurable goals.
And if you take a long, hard look at your relationship with money and realize it’s not serving you now? Then you can decide to make a change.
How to change your money mindset if it’s not working for you
Follow these steps to change your money mindset.
1. Explore your relationship with money
To make any change, you have to know where you’re starting from. Grab a notebook or a friend, and think through some of these questions to identify the messages you’ve heard, experiences you’ve had and relationships you’ve developed around work and money.
This part of the process might be uncomfortable.
Digging in and getting to know parts of yourself you haven’t explored before is almost certain to conjure up difficult memories and feelings (as well as pleasant ones!). Take care to recognize when that’s happening and give yourself a break.
Messages you’ve gotten about money
How did adults around you talk about money when you were growing up?
What kinds of lessons about money did your parents or other adults teach you?
What do your family, friends and colleagues think and say about their financial situation?
What do people in your family, friends and colleagues think about folks with lots of money?
Your experiences with money
How do your identities (gender, race, age, generation, sexuality, ability, nationality, affiliations, etc.) affect your career, jobs and relationship with money?
Have you experienced or witnessed financial trauma or injustice?
Which financial decisions have you made in the past month? The past year? The past five years? (No need to judge them as positive or negative; just name them.)
How have your financial decisions served you so far? Are they still serving you?
Have you set and achieved any financial goals for yourself? What are they?
Your relationship with work and money
How do you feel when you talk (or journal) about money?
How does thinking about money affect your mood?
How do you feel when others talk about money around or to you?
What comes to mind when someone brings up money?
What kinds of financial habits do you have that you’re aware of?
Where do you sense resistance when you interact with or think about money?
Look for common threads in your answers to understand your relationship with money.
By laying this all out together, you can develop a picture of how you’ve internalized messages about money, how past experiences influence present decisions and what kinds of emotions about money you’ve been carrying without noticing.
2. Identify and release limiting beliefs
Your money mindset is made up of a set of beliefs about money. The beliefs that don’t serve you and instead hold you back are called limiting beliefs. They keep you thinking small and avoiding your goals.
From exploring the questions above, you can identify your beliefs about money. For example, I grew up in a blue-collar town and internalized messages like work is meant to be a struggle and wanting money is greedy, as well as things like every job deserves your best effort and you can find a lot of joy in giving to others.
The beliefs you uncover could feel positive, negative or neutral; they might guide you toward scarcity or abundance thinking. Those are all OK; start by just naming them.
Name your beliefs
Break down some of what you discovered above to dig into the beliefs you might be holding onto. Use these questions to make a list of your beliefs, thoughts and fears about money:
What are the central beliefs that drive the messages you’ve gotten about money?
What do your financial decisions and goals say about your beliefs about money?
Why do you feel the way you do when you think about money? What underlying beliefs drive that?
Which beliefs (i.e. fears) lie behind the places where you feel resistance around money?
Identify limiting beliefs
Now review your list. For each belief, consider:
How has this belief served you?
What does this belief protect in you or your life?
Does this belief still serve you — or is it holding you back?
First, let’s be positive: Celebrate the beliefs that still serve you! Say a little thanks to yourself and the environment and experiences that helped you develop those beliefs.
Highlight the beliefs that no longer serve you — these are your limiting beliefs.
They could be things like my beliefs that work is meant to be a struggle and that wanting money is greedy. Those served to help me work hard and be humble for years, but they’ve also limited my imagination about what I can experience and how I can earn money and how much I can earn.
Finally, imagine yourself and your life without your limiting beliefs. Use these questions to write a little story about the you who doesn’t hold these beliefs:
What changes do you want to make about your work or financial situation?
How do your beliefs stop you from making those changes?
Where would your work or finances be if those beliefs weren’t true? How does it feel to imagine being in that place?
Now go through each of the limiting beliefs you identified, and write a brief explanation for why it’s completely untrue. Even if you feel like you’re making it up for now, go through this exercise to imagine a reality where this belief is untrue.
Return to these three steps anytime you feel stuck in your progress around work or money. With time and awareness, you can start to release your limiting beliefs and replace them with expansive beliefs that open you up to the experiences you want.
3. Give yourself reminders
Deep dive journal exercises feel good — for a moment. You’re going to discover a lot about yourself and experience some incredible aha moments by answering the questions above.
But beliefs are embedded deep in your psyche. One journaling exercise won’t entirely uproot your mindset. Changing your money mindset requires daily awareness and action.
So give yourself reminders.
These reminders are the antidote to your limiting beliefs. They express the expansive beliefs you want to take hold. Basic as it sounds, just hearing yourself say them over and over can convince your brain they’re true.
Build reminders into your life in any way that works for you. You could say them out loud to yourself in the mirror every morning or night, write them repeatedly in your journal daily, hang posters with the messages in your office or post sticky notes all over your house. Try a few out, and keep what fits for you (and keeps you in good standing with your family or roommates).
Here are some examples — take what works for you, and create your own!
I’m worthy of everything I have and everything that’s coming my way.
There’s always more than enough.
I deserve to be paid well for what I contribute.
I am healthy. I am rich.
I know what to do with my money.
My income always increases.
I have the power to experience the life I want.
There’s more than one kind of wealth in life.
I’m grateful for what I have and for everything that’s coming my way.
I’m fearless about money.
I choose to live a healthy, rich life.
4. Discover new perspectives about money
If you’re going to shift your mindset about money, you’ll need to discover new information and stories that challenge the messages you’ve always gotten.
Your current beliefs probably come from your family of origin, your hometown and the culture around you. To challenge them and form new, expansive beliefs, discover and nurture new perspectives about money.
Speak to new people, read diverse stories about money, study a variety of ways to approach finances, experience different jobs and even look into unfamiliar spiritual and cultural practices to see the ways money seeps into those.
Exposing yourself to these stories and perspectives from outside of your world can reinforce the reminders you’re giving yourself on the inside.
5. Experiment with new money habits
The whole point of changing your money mindset is to change your financial behaviors and habits so you can love the ways you experience work and money in your life.
You could have any number and variety of money habits that serve or limit you in a variety of ways. Untangling those, strengthening what serves you and dropping what doesn’t is a long process and a lot of work.
No one expects you to change everything overnight.
Instead, experiment with just one small thing right now. Commit to doing it for a week, and see how you feel. If you love it, do another week, then two or three. If it’s not working for you, drop it, and try another experiment.
Experimenting takes the pressure off of that giant project we call “self-improvement.” And it eliminates the perfectionism that might keep you from trying anything at all — this is only an experiment, so you can’t fail.
Here are a few ideas of money habits you can try out this week — feel free to invent your own!
Practice gratitude. Through journaling or mantras, raise your awareness to what you’re thankful for each day.
Be generous. Give money away every day this week. Consider how it feels to be generous, regardless of whether you have a lot or a little yourself.
Map your money. Recognize your resources, understand your commitments, prioritize your goals and discover where you want your money to go.
Use jars or envelopes. Make your money map 3D by segmenting cash into digital or physical buckets that make it easy to see what you can spend at any given moment.
Look for positive models. Who already has the relationship you want to have with work and money? Which messages and stories do you see them sharing?
Ask for more. Faced with a negotiation with a client or employer? Before the conversation, write down the pay you want to ask for, and add 10%. Ask for that amount, even if it feels a little uncomfortable.
What’s your money mindset?
Do you have a deeper understanding of your relationship with money now?
Understanding the root of your beliefs about money and identifying which of those beliefs serve you and which don’t will help you see why you behave the way you do around work and money. Learning to release your limiting beliefs, discovering new perspectives and experimenting with new habits will strengthen your financial muscles, and help you experience life with more ease and joy.
Today is just a start — return to these exercises periodically to dive deeper and deeper over time. You’ll be astonished by how much you have to learn about yourself.
Image by Karolina Grabowska via Pexels.