Attitude is everything. This is true in all aspects of life – from how you carry yourself at work, how you approach your fitness goals and especially how you save or spend your money. The first step to changing any behavior is understanding your starting point – and in this case, what your motives and your attitude toward money is. Since your money attitude is often subconscious and engrained in you from early on in life, you may miss this important facet that impacts your financial decisions.

The Journal of Financial Therapy identifies four basic money attitudes that you may fit into. Instead of feeling drowned by what may seem like an endless spiral of financial distress, you can reflect on why you may feel a certain way. These four attitudes can hurt people’s finances and if not recognized and addressed, can turn into an uphill battle to your financial goals.
As you review the categories below, you may notice you can fall into more than one, or one may resonate higher with you than another, but the key is to critically reflect on your mentality toward money to determine where you fall. Then, once you have a better idea of where you stand, you can be more mindful when making financial decisions.

Adoring/Money Worship: simply means you adore money. If you consider yourself a shopaholic, then you’re here. You love to spend money even if you may not have it at the moment, often resulting in buying on credit. Losing sight of the fact you need to pay it back later, you tend to only make minimum payments on that credit card bill. You believe a future increase in income will solve your problems. Most likely to carry revolving debt with this attitude.

Change Your Attitude By:

  • Stop buying on credit. In fact, cut up those credit cards now. Make a monthly budget and consider the “envelope cash system” to only spend what you have. Next, make a plan to get out of debt, starting with making more than the minimum payment on your credit cards.
  • Get a hobby (that’s not shopping or near a mall). Perhaps it’s a weekend hike, new skill you’ve wanted to learn or weekly phone call to a friend to find joy in something other than spending money.
  • Start a gratitude journal. Write down what you are grateful for to gain a new perspective of what’s important to you. Bonus, this exercise has been proven to lower stress levels too!

Entitled/Money Status: status and how things look to others may trump your financial decisions. You tie self-worth to net worth and see money as a status symbol. Often referred to as “keeping up with the Joneses,” this can quickly turn into a debt spiral as you buy things you can’t afford. Young, single, less educated and less wealthy people are most likely to hold this attitude.

Change Your Attitude By:

  • Find the root cause of why you have this attitude. Do you feel something is missing in your life? Are you intrigued by a part of someone else’s life? Perhaps their job, house, clothes, or something else?
  • Develop your own value system. Reflect on what’s important to you and use it as a check-and-balance system when making financial decisions.
  • Consider the effects of social media. Remember that the lives seen on these platforms are highlights and not necessarily an everyday reality. You may need to limit or pause social media activity if feeling the pressure of the online world.

Avoidance: you think money is bad or you aren’t deserving of money. You may also get feelings of fear, anxiety or stress at just the thought of money. Low income, young and single individuals are most likely to hold this attitude.

Change Your Attitude By:

  • Answer the question (truthfully): why don’t I deserve money? Whether your answer is due to a past behavior or concern for the future, understand why you feel that way. Then remember that everyone deserves to make money. How much, when, how, etc., are up to that individual.
  • Use your money for a good cause. When you set up your budget, consider setting a portion aside to a charity or cause you are passionate about. This way, if you develop negative feelings toward money, you can prove to yourself you are using it for a better good.
  • Implement a personal mantra. This is a word or short phrase you can tell yourself to remind you of your belief system. For example, if money brings anxiety, you may use “I will use money to drive positive change” as a potential mantra. Repeat this to yourself when you find yourself going to a dark place.
    Cautious/Money Vigilant: you are very careful with money and are often referred to as frugal or a classic miser. Worried about letting go and potential loss, you tend to be very risk-averse when making any money-related decision. In extreme cases, you may even be hoarding or underspending. Typically, very financially secure individuals hold this attitude.

Change Your Attitude By:

  • Set up a budget so your money is accounted for and you can have peace of mind. Ensure your budget has a line item for spending on YOU – whether that’s dinner out, shopping or travel.
  • Consider the missed opportunities if you are too cautious. This can include the benefits of compound interest by investing early, or potential gains in the stock market. Just take Amazon stock for example. What started at $18/share in 1997 is now well over $1500.
  • Talk to a professional. If you are concerned about where your money goes or how it is spent, consult with a financial advisor. Discuss your concerns and use their expertise to help manage your money and feel confident in your decisions.

Professor Brad Klontz, one of the authors of the financial attitude study, states, “If we can identify our money scripts, have insight into the early experiences of our childhood and multigenerational patterns of money beliefs in our family, we can challenge and change financial beliefs that may be causing us financial harm or limiting our potential.”

A healthy attitude is important for success. By nailing down any unhealthy habits you may have formed early in life, you can correct those behaviors and build your own value system in line with your future financial goals.