3 (Incorrect) Reasons You Think You’re “Bad with Money”

by Alexa Mason · 13 comments

Have you ever put a label on yourself and then had a hard time removing it?

A lot of people do this, especially when it comes to money.

This is because: a) money is a taboo topic, and b) it’s the easy way out. It’s so much easier to say “I’m bad with money” than it is to actually do something about it.

If you’re constantly thinking you have bad luck with finances or are generally bad with money, it’s probably because of one of these reasons.

Let’s take a look.

No, You’re Not “Bad with Money”

1. You’re comparing your beginning to someone else’s middle

This is sage advice from bestselling author Jon Acuff, and it definitely applies to personal finance, too. When you’re trying to straighten your own financial mess out, it can be really hard not to compare yourself to someone else.

The problem, though, is that this is the absolute worst thing you can do; it’s a total motivation killer.

Let’s say you’re saddled down with student loan and credit card debt. You want to start saving and investing, but you know you should eliminate all of your high-interest loans first. You devise a plan and get to work.

Then you hear a coworker talking about how much money he has in his 401k, how fast he was able to pay back his student loans, and how he took his family on an exotic vacation.

You may be jealous and feel like a failurebut you’re comparing apples to oranges.

You can’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle or end. What matters is that you’re getting started now and doing the best you possibly can. The only comparison you need to make is your past self to your current self.

2. You don’t want to put in the work

How many people do you know that could do something amazing with their life if only they’d try? Probably way too many. And if you’re constantly saying you’re bad with money, you might be in the same boat.

When it comes to finances, are you really trying? Or are you just throwing in the towel and using excuses?

Money is simple: There are only a few basic things you need to know. What’s hard is putting in the actual work.

Before you make excuses, make sure you’re actually trying in the first place.

3. You don’t know where to start

To me, this is the only excuse with merit. You want to improve your financial life, so you make a list of things to work on. The problem is you’re trying to work on so many different things that nothing seems to stick.

Does that sound familiar?

If so, you’re not bad with money: You’re bad at focusing.

Instead of trying to work on everything at once, pick one thing — like starting an emergency fund or paying down debt — and concentrate on it until you’ve reached your goal. Only after finishing that should you move to the next item.


It’s very rare that someone is simply “bad with money.” Instead, this problem usually stems from self-comparisons, consumerism, and unclear goals — all of which can be fixed!

Have you ever said you were bad with money? If so, why?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Kelly says:

    Many investing consumers forget to keep their ‘consumer’ hat on when it comes to their investments — both inside an employer-sponsored plan, and outside of it. We are amazing shoppers when it comes to purchasing a home, auto, or big screen tv, but for some reason when it comes to the management of our money, many of us stick our heads in the sand. Overwhelming, we say. Too hard, we say. It doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s a non-commercial resource, developed with the input from more than 100,000 investing consumers to make it easy, understandable and straight-forward to navigate the financial services realm using a checklist system approach. And, if they chose, employers could also do more to inform and arm their employees with this as well. If they wanted to. http://www.MyChecklistSystem.com. Could help lots of folks.

  • Jason @ Phroogal says:

    There are so many excuses but you’ve summed them up nicely. But, I do want to highlight #2. We tend to use this excuse more often when we haven’t even tried in the first place. It’s hard to start but once you’ve started the friction has been overcome so its much easier to move forward.

    • David Ning says:

      Don’t wait for the brain to comfort you in starting because it ain’t gonna happen! Make your body start the process first, as it’s easier to continue than to begin.

      Thanks for sharing Jason! 🙂

  • Davey Pockets says:

    Have fallen guilty of all three. Its a constant reminder to compare my progress to where I used to be and see how far I’ve come. Thanks for posting!

    • David Ning says:

      That’s a great idea David. Do this right and you are bound to be able to find motivation when you compare your current financial picture with your past!

  • Aldo @ Million Dollar Ninja says:

    These are so true, especially #1. I was one to say “well, it’s easy for you to save, you have $10,000 in the bank.” and I didn’t realize that person had to start from zero just like me. I quickly learned that I need to concentrate on what I need to do to get there and that I should set goals based on MY ability to save and my ability to earn, and not on what others are or have done.

    • David Ning says:

      That’s a good mindset to have Aldo. And with consistency and discipline, it’s very likely that you will be ahead of that person who already has $10,000 in no time!

  • Cindi says:

    It took me a lifetime to get my financial world in order. And it’s hard! Don’t let anyone fool you. Takes a lot of guts, hard work and glory!

    • David Ning says:

      But if you keep at it, debt and ultimately riches can be had for just about anyone in the first world nations.

  • Dee @ Color Me Frugal says:

    I think #1 is a really important one to be aware of. It’s so easy to lose motivation when you find out that someone you know (maybe who you consider to have similar financial characteristics to yourself) is actually way ahead of you in the financial game. Best to compare yourself to yourself and forget about everybody else!

    • David Ning says:

      The difficult part of this is that no matter how far AHEAD you are, there are always a bunch of people with more. You lose the minute you start trying to compare, so it can be a biggie if you let the non-sense comparison get to you.

  • Phil says:

    These goals will come into focus if you create a budget. It takes 3-4 months to get it right. Getting started is the hard part. I personally use Google Docs Spreadsheets to create mine. And every month I seem to change a few things, but I have been doing this since 2007. I have never missed a month.

    On another note, a 20 year old was helping me get a BBQ out of my SUV yesterday (BBQ bought on Craigslist…another great way to save money), and the topic of money came up. I told him my wife and I were going to be millionaires someday. He started laughing, because he thought I was joking. I had to explain to him that it was true, that we are 1/4 of the way there, and since my money doubles every 7 years or so that even if I quit investing today we would make it. I think he got the picture. I hope I convinced him to stay in college and get that degree 🙂

    • David Ning says:

      Good conversation you had there Phil. Sometimes it can be hard to share what you’ve already accumulated but it’s these stories that can change a young person’s life!

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