Ah, money problems. Something the majority of us have probably dealt with in some way or still are battling through right now.
Either way, money problems are something all too common and there can be many causes to why you are struggling financially.
Of course, there are factors in life we can’t control and others we can, when it comes to money. Unfortunately, you may have a few bad breaks in life that can be financially devastating.
But, out of all the money problems that are out there, I think there are three that are major contributors to my generation (Millennials) and younger.
Heck, even some older generations are affected by these as well.
The point is, a majority of people may not realize how much of a factor the below three are to their financial problems and that yes, they can take control of these.
Common Causes to Your Money Problems
Before I get into the three major contributors to money problems, it makes sense to cover some common causes for your empty pockets.
No one likes to feel stressed or anxious about their finances. But, it is the most common thing people and families tend to worry about.
And data from the American Psychological Association also shows that money is the No. 1 stressor for Americans and continues to be.
I won’t cover everything here, but these are a few common money problems that come to mind and ones I’ve dealt with personally myself:
- Underemployed: Not making enough at your job to get by
- Unemployed: Job loss and having trouble finding a good gig
- Large amount of debt with high interest, whether student loan or credit card
- Not preparing for retirement, whether lack of knowledge or lack of money to set aside
- You don’t know where your money is going (not making a budget or tracking expenses)
- No emergency fund for unexpected situations like job loss, sickness, home repairs, etc.
- Overspending on a home, apartment, or car, thus taking on more debt
Like me, you may have also faced some of these as well. And there are plenty more that can cause your money problems too.
However, there are three things I think that causes a good portion of our societies money issues and are areas we do have control over.
By understanding and correcting these, it may set you up to be prepared for those uncontrollable life events that hurt your wallet.
1. You Have A Consumer Mentality
It’s okay that you might have a consumer mentality. In fact, it’s not really your fault.
We are bombarded with advertisements whether through television, your phone, billboards, etc.
For example, digital marketing experts estimate that most Americans are exposed to around 4,000 to 10,000 ads each day! (Forbes)
The challenge is — unless you learn to break the mentality and adopt more of an investor mentality — you’ll find yourself overspending and needlessly upgrading your material things.
We focus on the items that we want for personal use, which will bring temporary satisfaction and happiness.
But, that wears off quickly — until the next thing catches your eye. You already know from reading that, that a vicious cycle of spending money happens.
Clothing, phones, cars, computers, video games, etc. are all things that are okay in moderation, but these items depreciate in value and something many tend to upgrade constantly.
Many times it is on impulse or emotional spending. Shopping excites you and brings you a sense of satisfaction.
But remember it is temporary and does it really make your life that much better? And the big area is it can really attribute to your overall money problems.
- Racking up more high-interest debt
- Spending before you even save
- Living paycheck to paycheck
To start correcting the consumer mindset, stop yourself and ask: “Is this something I really need now?”
Sleep on any purchases and more times than not, the next day you’ll realize it’s not something you need.
You really need to sit back and crank out your spending from the last few months, the number may be shocking and be the wake up call you need.
2. Social Media
It’s funny that I’m including social media here because I work in tech and also work for a social media company.
I see social media as good for businesses, building a brand, and great for marketing. But on the flip side, social media can hurt your pockets if you compare yourself to others too much online.
Majority of people are on social media, in fact, close to half the world’s population (3.03 billion people) are on some type of social media (source).
Because of this friends and family are constantly in your social feeds, many are showing off new cars, clothing, dining out, traveling, etc.
Now, you start comparing yourself to them and have an urge to upgrade and spend money you don’t have just to keep up.
You might laugh at the above because it sounds ridiculous, but I know plenty of people in this trap and then complain about lack of money.
Don’t worry what your friends or followers are doing, spending, driving, etc. Not only can it cause you anxiety, but you may find yourself spending just to keep up your own appearances.
Half the time those friends are in debt themselves or spending money to put on a facade too. Now you are trying to keep up and hurting your own finances.
The key is to realize it and limit your social media if you think you can’t ignore others.
Too many people spend money they earned..to buy things they don’t want…to impress people that they don’t like.” – Will Rogers
Note: The Millionaire Next Door is one of my personal favorite books, which talks about the ones who have the least money problems are those who do not appear rich. Really great read, I highly recommend.
3. Financial Illiteracy
Lastly, financial illiteracy is a big reason for your current or past money problems.
It was one that greatly affected me up until a few years ago, but correcting that has made a world of difference.
Case in point: two-thirds of American adults can’t pass a basic financial literacy test.
Again, not something I necessarily think is your fault, but is if you recognize your lack of finance knowledge and still do nothing about it.
But here are some more alarming stats from this Forbes article:
- 33% of American adults have $0 saved for retirement.
- 38% of U.S. households have credit card debt.
- 56% of American adults have less than $10,000 saved for retirement.
- 43% of student loan borrowers are not making payments.
Why it’s not your fault:
There is no real financial education in most of our school systems.
I firmly believe there should be a required course or two in high school and/or college that helps ensure you know basic concepts. This can include budgeting, investing, 401ks, credit cards, loans, etc.
Of course, thinking back to my high school self, I probably would have been pretty bored.
But again, it starts to set the foundation.
If your parents didn’t have the knowledge or had their own lack of interest, they aren’t able to pass this down to you as well. That cycle then continues.
Why it is your fault:
While financial education may not have been presented to you via school or your family, you can control how financially literate you are.
Even if you don’t like personal finance or know where to start, you have access to take control and learn.
Majority of people want to be successful in their finances, but when it comes down to putting in the time to teach yourself, excuses are made or your Netflix show is waiting.
I was taught basics of credit cards, savings, and 401ks, but not enough to fully set myself up for investing success.
It took reading a bunch of books and dedicating an hour or two a week to really become more financially stable and savvy. And now, a lot of things are second nature to me, even though I’m still learning every day.
Additional Ways to Fix Your Money Problems
While the above three factors are major influencers on your financial issues, fixing them might not solve everything. Your personal finances and the root of tough financial situations can go well-beyond that.
So here are a few additional ways you can start to fix your money problems.
Get motivated – No matter how rough your finances might be, motivate yourself and realize you have the ability to change these outcomes. This might be one of the biggest hurdles to get through.
Put the credit cards away – Start to leave these plastic traps at home until you get any of your debt squared away and have your spending temptations controlled. Credit cards make it easy to impulse buy and that’s the last thing you want to do as your tackle your money problems or any debt you have.
Track every bit of your spending – It might not be fun for you, but to escape your financial struggles, you have to track everything. This means your monthly income, expenses, and anything you spend. I like using a combination of spreadsheets and free personal finance software.
Start a side hustle – I’m a big believer in the value of starting a side hustle to make additional money. When I was stuck in a low-paying career, this helped put some extra money in my pockets. It also saved me when I got laid off too. If you aren’t sure what to do, analyze some of your hobbies. You’d be surprised how many hobbies can make money.
Automate your savings – A big challenge for many people is saving money or building an emergency fund. True, it might be hard with a small salary with debt or tons of bills to pay. But, if you are tracking spending and automating your savings, you’d be surprised what you can do. Schedule automatic recurring savings to your bank. Immediately when you are paid, a percentage will go to your savings before you even see it.
My money problems in the past and your current ones can primarily be from a lack of financial literacy.
Get motivated to learn and many of your challenges and problems with money can start to go away.
Do you agree? Disagree? How have you faced your own money problems in the past or currently? Let me know in the comments below!