Money

7 mental mistakes that are stopping you from getting rich

Getting rich starts with your mindset. But before you can fully adopt a wealth-focused mental state, you may need to let go of the ingrained habits and preconceived notions that are holding you back.

"If we're to be successful managers of our own money, we need to come to grips with some unflattering truths," writes Jonathan Clements, the former personal finance columnist for The Wall Street Journal, in "How To Think About Money."

If you want to get rich, here are seven of those truths to start rethinking.

You're only focused on the immediate future

Saving and investing for 30 years down the line often gets overlooked in favor of how you can put your money to work today. Whether it's a new phone, car or house, there's often something you need now that seems more important than saving. In fact, "to persuade us to postpone [a] purchase for a mere 12 months, somebody would likely have to offer us a huge financial incentive," Clements writes.

Even those who do look ahead can get caught up in the current political or economic climate.

"We ascribe great importance to the days and weeks ahead, and not nearly enough to next year, let alone the next 10 years," Clements says.

The next 10 years and beyond, however, are crucial. Americans say their No. 1 regret is not starting early enough when it came to saving for retirement.

You hate losing

"Studies suggest that the pain we get from losses is more than twice as great at the pleasure we receive from gains," Clements writes.

This mental block can subconsciously steer you into making poor investing decisions or shy away from taking worthwhile risks. Clements gives the example of betting on a coin flip where you lose $100 for guessing incorrectly. Although a $100 prize for guessing the correct answer would make it a fair bet, it would take $200 or more for most people to agree to the offer.

People hate losing so much, they go out of their way to avoid it, sometimes to their detriment.

You're too confident

Most of the time, confidence is key — but there's a limit. As Clements points out, "we can't all be better than average." With investing, he says, overconfidence causes people to take risks they later regret.

"It encourages us to trade too much," he writes. "To believe that we can beat the market and to make large undiversified investment bets."

You rationalize bad decisions

Over the course of your lifetime, you're going to make a few financial mistakes. That's a given. It's how you choose to bounce back that matters. "Instead of acknowledging and then correcting a mistake, we will often cook up stories to make our bad decision seem more rational," Clements writes.

Sometimes, "the notion that 'I just made a stupid financial decision' might clash with the idea that 'I'm smart about handling money,'" Clements says. But instead of pretending it's no big deal, fix the issue and move on.

You make financial decisions emotionally

"As we manage our finances, we might insist our goal is strictly utilitarian, and that all we want to do is make money. But in truth, we often make decisions for expressive or emotional reasons, and these other motivations can hurt our goal of greater wealth," Clements says.

If you want to be rich, you need to apply an objective lens to your financial decisions. You might "feel good about investing in a mutual fund that buys companies that are socially responsible" or "get a thrill from rapidly trading stocks," but neither of those motivations take into account if your choices will pay off in the long term.

You rely on what feels right

Clements says that we often base decisions on information that stands out in our minds. For example, "airplane crashes make the news, so we are more fearful of flying than driving."

The same thing can happen with your finances. "We hear a lot about investment legend Warren Buffett and a lot about lottery ticket winners, which makes beating the market and winning the lottery seem far more likely than they really are," he says.

Instead, do your research before making any major financial decisions and base your choices in facts and statistics.

You lack self-control

With so many opportunities to spend, spend, spend, saving money can feel like the last thing you want to do. But it's necessary to start saving as early as possible if you want to finish rich.

Even though "our ancestors didn't have to worry about restraining their consumption so they could amass money for retirement," Clements says, we do.

Remember that a little discipline goes a long way. And at the end of the day, you're the only one responsible for your finances.

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