Saturday, December 13, 2008

Personalities Pay the Price

It's depressing that I fell so far behind on being an active part of this blog. I have no real excuse, save for my personal life, but what else is new?

Financially-speaking, I have been doing really well. It's odd how when I stopped obsessively focusing on my money, it seemed to largely resolve itself. What I mean by that is I realized I had several goals that were too overbearing and inadvertently critical of myself. They were certainly achievable, but on the whole, unrealistic. And I made the mistake of tying in my self-worth and self-esteem with the monetary process.

What I mean is, I had the unfortunate habit of setting forth an extremely unlikely goal that left no breathing room for emergencies or a sudden change of circumstance. Then, the unexpected would inevitably occur and throw a monkey wrench in my carefully-constructed plans, torpedoing the whole affair and my self-esteem would plummet lower than the Dow on Foreclosure Day. Absolutely depressing.

So, in order to really become proactive in dealing with the constant disappointment and emotional subterfuge, I first had to scale back on my goals. Instead of immediately determining a future date, amount and reason behind saving, I decided that creating a routine for no other reason than the sake of having a routine would go a long way. Psychologists and addiction specialists will tell you that it takes two weeks to form a pattern (gee, if only I could absorb that into my gym routine) and fortunately for me, my paychecks come on varying weeks. I got into the habit of going to Bank A (where I keep my savings account) to cash out my paychecks, and leaving at least $50 from each check I cashed before moving the rest of the money to Bank B, where I keep my checking account.

The growth of my money in Bank A was definitely slow, but as a good friend often tells me, "Slow growth is good growth." Last I checked, I have over $1,000, and I'm proud of that. I was, after all, a girl given no formal training in money management (to date, I haven't even taken an economics class) who had to learn the hard way how to budget, plan and save. I refer to my savings account as my "Move to California" fund, but it may also pan out to be "AMP's New Car" fund, depending on how much more I really want to sink into my current vehicle (at this point, it needs a new windshield, new wipers, new tires...the list goes on) and knowing at what I have accrued in just a few months makes me excited for how much more I can do in the future.

Even better, all of my living expenses are drafted out of my checking account, which is housed as Bank B. I don't have to touch any of my Bank A money unless the expense is great than $500, because I keep a steady, small, minimum balance in my checking account for protection. That feels like real progress and real empowerment.

My advice to any person starting to uncover financial tips of success is to figure out who you are and how that's effecting your money management. I'm an all-or-nothing, impulsive and rather impatient perspective. In this respect, I like to play the ostrich when it comes to money woes and dig my head in the sand. I don't like how it inspires feelings of failures, but darn if sometimes I find myself reaching for my debit card or my roll of cash when I know I shouldn't be. I either balance my check faithfully every day or I don't touch it for a month, and when I sense I'm off by even a few cents, I come completely unglued. I've noticed, naturally, that retail therapy can provide a great solution.

Having said that, ask yourself what tenets of your personality are shaping the way you manage your money. It's a hard look to take, but evaluating your spending style (big purchases? small? impulsive? planned? angry? happy?) and even your budgeting goes a long way towards revealing what the actual problems are. Very few people are in the position that they just don't care or don't know what they spend. Most are aware of their ups and downs, but haven't quite realized how their personality shapes the behaviors.

I'd also suggest checking out Suze Orman. She has some great suggestions, especially for women, who are often unfairly overlooked in the finance industry.

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