Personal Finance

Is fear holding you back?

“How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives; to experience adventure or to be limited by the fear of it.” – Judy Blume

Since my post last week I’ve had some interesting conversations with people about fear. I’ve been aware for a while of how much fear has impacted my own life in subtle and complicated ways but it wasn’t until I started talking to other people about it, that I realized I am definitely not alone; fear has become quite an epidemic! This is especially true when it comes to money focussed fears, which is not good news for our plans to retire happy, and so I thought I’d explore those fears a little more in this week’s post.

Fear of exposure

In the good old days when saving was valued, using credit was considered a bad thing and it was next to impossible to spend more than you had, it was pretty obvious who had money and who did not. Today, in our materialistic, credit hungry society it’s possible to live like a rock star without actually having a rock star’s bank balance. For many of us, “keeping up with the Jones” means living beyond (or at the absolute limit of) our means in order to keep up with our social circle and impress our families and co-workers. We buy more house than we need, furnish it with great “stuff” and park expensive cars in the driveway. We take fancy vacations because our friends do or because we ‘deserve’ to and we ignore all the warning signs that suggest we’re relying just a little too much on the money we don’t have on upon. We’re afraid to look too closely at our finances in case we see something we don’t like and so we continue living life with our fingers crossed, hoping that everything will continue to be ok.

The reality is that 55% of Canadians are living paycheque to paycheque and a further 15% are in serious financial trouble. That means that for every 10 people you know, only 3 of them are actually in good financial shape (ie: debt-free or on track to being debt-free); the other 7 just look like they are. If you’re one of the 70% you are definitely not alone. Facing your fear of knowing the reality of your financial situation could be just the trigger you need to propel you away from financial challenges and into the arena of financial security and chances are, rather than judging you for living within your means, your friends will thank you for motivating them to do the same!

Fear of success

I had a great conversation this week with a sales professional who consistently makes well over $100,000 a year but has very little to show for it. She’s in a 100% commission role and she finds that when she applies herself she can make great money but then she gets intimidated by her success and produces very little for a few months until her bank account runs low and the cycle starts all over again. Somewhere inside her subconscious, her view of herself doesn’t mesh with her view of what a successful person looks like and so every time she achieves significant success her brain reminds her that she’s stepping outside of the zone she belongs in and pulls her right back into the underachiever box. All of us carry beliefs attached to money and success that either push us to achieve or hold us back from reaching our true potential. Figuring out where these beliefs are rooted and then making a conscious effort to prove them wrong and replace them with beliefs that actually serve us can have a huge impact on both our personal, professional and financial success.

Fear of change

There is great comfort in the familiar. Familiar people, places, and routines create an illusion of safety that our brain really appreciates and which it would prefer we maintain at all costs. The challenge with sticking to the same routine is that just because something worked for us at one point in time doesn’t mean that it will work for us at every point in time. Life throws curves: situations change, people change and holding on to something just because it worked once maybe the one thing that is holding us back from discovering something even better. In the same way that people loved silent movies, until they discovered movies with sound and radio dramas until they discovered television shows so stretching our comfort zone a little to discover new ways of managing our finances, new comfort zones with wealth, new friendship groups and mentors who challenge us to do more and be more can open up a whole world of opportunity that we’re currently unaware of. In the words of Mark Twain, “Why not go out on a limb? That’s where the fruit is.”

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