4 Money Attitudes that Will Lead to Financial Failure

Sometimes, the way we think about money can have a big impact on how successful we are financially.

It seems strange that your mindset could matter so much, but how you think about money, and what you think is possible, can affect your financial success over time.

Take a few minutes to examine your money attitudes, and determine whether or not they are healthy.  Think about some of the attitudes you have that might be bringing your finances down the road to financial failure, including:

1. I’ll Start Saving When I Make More Money

My husband and I fell victim to this attitude early on in our marriage.  We thought we had to be making a certain amount of money before we could start saving.

Eventually, though, we realized that we needed to start small.  Building the habit, especially with our low income, was more important than anything else.

It’s important to get in the habit of saving.

While you might not be able to save as much as you want right at this minute, you can still try to save a little money at a time.  Put all of your change in a jar and take it to the bank every month.  Even better is if you get in the habit of having 10% or 15% of your paycheck automatically deducted and put into a savings vehicle of some kind, whether it’s a high yield account or a retirement plan.

Don’t keep saying that you’ll start saving when you make more money.

With that attitude, you’ll never make “enough” to save.  And soon you’ll find that you aren’t prepared for the future.  Start now, even if you have to start small.  Then, increase the amount you save as your earning power increases.

2. Consumer Debt is OK Because It’s Normal

angry about financial failureWe all know that consumer debt is the norm in our society.  Hardly anyone blinks at the idea of carrying a credit card balance these days.

The fact that consumer debt is so normal has led many to decide that it’s OK to rack up the debt.  The idea of saving up for something seems ridiculously quaint when you can have what you want right now.

Unfortunately, feeling OK about consumer debt can eventually lead to problems down the road.

One of the biggest issues is that it’s easy to believe that you don’t need to pay off your credit cards with any sort of haste.  After all, you can handle the minimum payments.

The problem with this money attitude is that it puts you in a position where you are turning your resources over to someone else.  You continue to pay interest, instead of using that money to build your own wealth.

While high interest consumer debt might be OK for society at large, don’t become complacent about debt.

Make a plan to pay down your debt as quickly as possible.  You’ll keep more of your own money, and put it to better use. It’s always better to be earning interest instead of paying it.

3. I Have Plenty of Time to Get My Finances in Order

None of us really thinks that we’ll run out of time.  Retirement seems so far off.

When something is 20, 30, or 40 years in the future, it’s easy to think that there is plenty of time.  When you’re young, you think you’ll have plenty of financial life left over once you finally discharge your debts.

All of this is misleading.

You really don’t have as much time as you think, especially since this money attitude can lead to procrastination.  If you are always thinking that it will be better in the future, and that you will get your act together at some point later on, you’ll never actually get started on anything that can help your finances.

4. Stuff = Money

One of the most dangerous financial attitudes is that having stuff is just as good as the money you spent on it.

Having stuff, however, doesn’t make you rich.

Sometimes it just means that you are cash poor and you have a house full of things that aren’t bringing you any sort of financial stability.  Stuff is not the same as money.  In most cases, stuff depreciates in value at a faster rate than inflation erodes the value of your dollar.

Instead of “investing” your money in things, you can actually invest your money, and beat the rate of inflation.


While it’s sometimes pleasant to have nice things, don’t make the mistake of thinking that it’s the same as having actual financial resources available to you.

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Published or updated March 28, 2013.


  1. Jane Savers @ The Money Puzzle says:

    #3 I have plenty of time to get my finances in order. I was guilty of #3 and I am paying for it in big ways. I am in my late 40s and have no real retirement savings because I must pay my heavy load of debt off before I can start to save.

    $19,800 of HELOC debt that will take at least 2 years to pay off stand between me and planning for retirement.

    I am working hard at my problems but some times, like this week when friends are flying off to warm destinations, I do feel sorry for myself but a pity party never helped anyone accomplish anything.

    • That sounds tough but you’re ahead of many people in that you’re taking care of your debt now. You’ll get it done and get the savings rolling soon enough!

    • I too made some financial mistakes when I was younger and while my friends were off taking vacations, I too was staying home wishing I could’ve gone. It’s a long road to recovery, but at least I’m making some progress. Younger people need to learn about making good financial decisions.

  2. Stuff surely doesn’t equal money. I’m always amused by people who are so enamored by that. Good reminder.

  3. My first time visiting here. Loved this post. I do agree that people’s attitude towards money decides the ultimate outcome. All the points you outline are very valid.

  4. Great article. Changing your mindset is important if you want to succeed. If you think and act like everyone else you’ll end up exactly where they are.

    • Good point there. You have to look at the people around you and recognize their financial attitudes as well. If you’re rolling with folks that have bad attitudes then you’ll tend to match them.

  5. Nunzio Bruno says:

    All of those points were 100% dead on! Even in some of the finances courses I teach I have to overcome these objections. The biggest ones I see are number 1 and number 3. It doesn’t matter whether you think you are in a position to make adjustments or save or whatever. If you have the right attitude you can take actions to make that stuff happen – even if they are small ones in the beginning!

  6. All very true points. Our attitude towards money is mostly formed at a young age and seeing our own parents’ attitude towards finances. I was fortunate enough to be born in a family that teaches the values of saving, so I try to tell my friends about it too.

  7. Such true points. It is so easy for people to get in the mindset where debt is ok, I need to earn more to save any money etc. But it is simply no true. If you can’t manage your money now, a higher income won’t change that, you need to change you mindset.

    • I see it all the time, and have thought it myself, where if we only have x more dollars everything would be ok. What tends to happen though is we get extra money and then it disappears as quickly as it came as we still have the same money problems.

  8. if all your friends think this way then you will think it is normal and starting behaving this way too.

  9. dusty rhodes says:

    Following the herd mentality is in my experience the biggest detriment
    to retirement saving and planning. After having followed about 25 years
    of what conventional financial planners had to say, it was things like
    real estate investment, private lending with first position deeds of trust
    that accelerated my path toward retirement. I just saw an article this
    week about how 401k’s have turned out to be a bad experiment for the
    average person. Fully one third of people in this country have saved
    nothing for retirement, and 40% of those age 55 to 65 have retirement
    accounts of $120K on average. Until a person decides to take the
    reins into their own hands to figure out at all cost how they will get there,
    they don’t have too much hope. Believe it or not, there are ways today
    to make 20% on your money safely, rather than under 1% at the bank.
    The 3-5% most people have gotten in the market doesn’t have to be the
    norm, but success will only come by you being your own money manager.

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