4 Ways Your Brain Is Keeping You From Getting Rich

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Have you ever wondered why you’re not rich yet? Maybe you’re perplexed on why you can’t seem to save more or get your spending under control, despite your best efforts. In theory, managing your money should be simple: spend less, earn more. But as humans our brains are wired in a certain way based on our experiences and conditioning, and that wiring may be partly to blame for your money woes.

1. You Have a Scarcity Mindset

If you constantly feel like you never have enough money, you may be suffering from a ‘scarcity mindset’. According Psychology Today, “A scarcity mindset narrows our time frame, causing us to make impulsive, short-term decisions that increase our difficulties in the long-term, like putting off paying credit card bills or not opening bills, hoping they will magically disappear.”

Having a scarcity mindset can lead to a feeling of deprivation that can lead to poor judgement. For example, you can overspend to try and fill the void of not having enough. Conversely, it could also lead to extreme penny pinching — and the inability to enjoy life — because you feel like there will never be enough.

You may not get over your scarcity mindset over night, but you can work towards getting over it by writing all the things you do have in your life right now. Focus on what you do have, not what you don’t.

2. You’re Not Aware of Your Spending Triggers

Our relationship to money and spending can be deeply personal. We may all have our own beliefs about money, but all of us have psychological ‘spending triggers’. Spending triggers are places, environments, or emotions that can trigger you to spend more than you normally would. For example, if you have a spending problem and walk by your favorite store, you might be triggered to spend. And if you’re tired or sad, you might find yourself shopping online.

The key is to recognize your spending triggers. What situations or emotions tend to trigger a spending spree? Write down your spending triggers and modify your behavior so that you can try to avoid those landmines that can lead to increased spending.

3. The Status Quo Bias Is Keeping You Stagnant

As we grow older, we tend to get pretty comfortable with our surroundings and how we do things. Unfortunately, this may not be so great for our financial lives.

In order to improve your financial life, you need to change aspects of your current lifestyle. Whether you’re paying off debt or trying to save for retirement, reaching your financial goals means making some serious shifts in behavior — and that’s something most people aren’t willing to do, according to the status quo bias.

The status quo bias is a cognitive bias that states that most people prefer to stick with the familiar and prefer things to remain the same. However, if you’re trying to improve your finances, you can’t do things the way you’ve always done them. Getting out of debt or building wealth typically requires changing mindsets getting out of your comfort zone. And it also means recognizing how inertia is holding you back.

To break the status quo, try doing things a little differently and recognize it will be a bit uncomfortable. That’s okay. Our greatest achievements tend to occur outside of our comfort zones.

4. The Ostrich Effect Has You Keeping Your Head in the Sand

As humans, we generally seek out pleasure and try to avoid pain. When it comes to your finances, it’s no different. Researchers Dan Galai and Orly Sade found that investors tend to avoid negative information and avoid risky situations. They dubbed this behavior as the ‘Ostrich Effect’, the process of avoiding risky financial situations by burying your head in the sand and not acknowledging they exist.

Though their study was based on investors, it’s easy to see how this can relate to other areas of finance. Perhaps you’re avoiding that credit card bill or put off logging into your checking account because it’s too depressing. 

In order to combat the Ostrich Effect, it’s important to face your money troubles head on. Avoidance can only lead to more troubles down the line, so take action with your finances and acknowledge that it may be tough or painful — but will lead to better financial management.