I was recently introduced to and taken hostage by the English production “Downton Abbey”. Among the more pleasant personalities in the series is Mrs. Hughes, ever dispensing wisdom to servants and nobility. In one scene, in which a character learns only after a long time of the death of a loved one, Mrs. Hughes attempts to comfort by saying that a harsh reality is always better than a false hope. I don’t remember how comforting this may have been to the character involved, but the truth of this jumped out at me in the context of our money management.
We’ve written often about the behavioral and psychological aspects of managing money. False hope is often a companion to poor management. Folks tell themselves all kinds of stories to explain their mishandling of money, in order to justify, excuse or rationalize. Hope springs eternal that soon everything will suddenly fix itself, this without any change of tactics or strategy on their part. (What else accounts for all the lottery players?) Here are some of my favorite mantras on the subject, some of which have actually been recited to me by clients.
- My overdraft helps me get through the month.
- Paying in installments is much easier.
- One cannot get ahead in life without borrowing money.
- What a waste to throw away money on rent! (Not always true.)
- What?! I don’t deserve a new car every 5 years?
- If my kid wants it, I’ll buy it.
- I’ll start saving when my income increases.
- The checks from the guests will cover the wedding.
- Our food bill is the one thing we will not cut back on.
- (And my favorite!) You only get married once.
False hope and its accompanying mantras stand in the way of changing harsh realities. Better to look at reality in the face (or in the mirror) and commit to a good program of financial education and counseling.
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