Experience has taught me that struggling people, financially dysfunctional people, have many things in common and they have patterns of behavior that lead to problems and eventually to financial ruin. My list won’t be like the traditional ones you’re used to seeing. Nothing about debt, credit cards, over-spending or under-earning. Those are too obvious.
Do any of these sound familiar?
Symptoms you’re financially dysfunctional
Let me say up front that the majority of people are financially dysfunctional in some way or another. If any of these strike a little too close to home, you’re in good company!
Insanity was defined by Albert Einstein as “doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results.” You’re financially insane if you expect that one of these days you’ll “make it” but you never significantly change anything you do.
You ignore inflation
The old saying “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten” is dead wrong. It should read like this:
If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll get LESS than you’ve always gotten.
Why is that? Inflation. Doing something over and over with no process improvement will yield results that have less and less value simply because of inflation.
You’re in constant crisis mode
If you’re always hitting the panic button or you’re always in scramble mode, you may be financially dysfunctional. Are you constantly scrambling to pay a bill, cover a check you wrote, or make a payment on your credit card so you can use it, you’re in a crisis. Crises are supposed to be temporary but if you’re in one all the time … well, you’re probably financially dysfunctional.
Your family is pluralistically ignorant
No one gets it. You may understand what’s going on with your money, but your spouse doesn’t or your kids don’t. Dysfunction in this case has to do with communication and if no one in your family “gets it,” you need to communicate better.
You’re enjoying relative success
This is the “I suck less” principle. My finances are bad, but they’re not as bad as my neighbor’s! Don’t look at other failures and get smug because they’re a bigger failure than you. You need to be successful with your finances, not just better than others in your circle.
If your silo is full of grain but your farm is failing, you’re sub-optimizing. You’re only worried about one aspect of your finances, like debt, or your investments, or paying off a student loan, all while neglecting other important aspects of your financially health. Having the proper car insurance isn’t any more or less important than another aspect of your financial picture. It all is part of the same machine.
You blame anyone else
- “The check bounced.” Darn those rubber checks!
- “The money isn’t there.” Wonder where it is?
- “My agent didn’t tell me about those discounts.” It’s HER fault!
- “My mortgage payment was late.” Do they keep a calendar?
- “My credit score fell.” Hope it’s not in the hospital!
There are very few things that “happen” to you and me. The vast majority of the time, we have some sort of control, but most people prefer to blame someone else.
You have segmented morals
I knew someone who once told me that honesty went up to $10,000 … after that it was just good business. Honesty doesn’t have a limit. Are you honest enough to point out when someone drops a $20 bill but willing to overlook a bank error in your favor?
Do any of these make you wince?
It’s okay, we all probably saw ourselves in at least one of these. The important point is to not get stuck in one of these dysfunctions but to move beyond it.
What other signs of financial dysfunctionality can you think of?