Smart About Money: Things people tell themselves about money, and life

Nick Maffeo There was a click-bait article the other day with the headline, “Lies People Tell Themselves About Money.”

As with so many click-bait articles unfortunately, the intriguing headline was not backed up with useful information. But it got me thinking about things people tell themselves about money that often turn into bigger things that they tell themselves about life – not “lies” but more misconceptions that can make situations more difficult than they have to be.

Here’s a classic – “It’s a problem if things don’t go smoothly.” Right now as a lot of people think about the effects of inflation on their pocketbooks – or – the value of their retirement savings when the market goes down, they think it’s a problem if things don’t go smoothly. They get frustrated, or depressed.

The truth is that in life things very rarely go smoothly. It can seem like they did in retrospect. That’s what makes it tricky. The past often looks so much better while today can seem messy and tomorrow can feel quite frightening.

Remembering that you usually figure things out and fix them as you go along is one way to deal with today’s issues. Being as positive as you can and being committed to being a problem-solver kicks in your resiliency, which often gives you more control. That usually helps people feel better.

Another one is: “It’s too late to start.” The reality? As long as you’re alive, it’s never too late to start.

Doing what you can when you’re starting never seems like enough. But it happens time and time again – getting started (even starting very small) is what tends to make all the difference in the world.

Obviously some people have significant physical or financial problems that can make an individual feel like they have no options. But problems – especially big ones – usually don’t solve themselves and they very rarely go away.

Keep searching for good ideas. Keep seeking trustworthy individuals who can help you start, or start over. If there is any opening for you, find a way to take it. It probably won’t be easy but chances are you’ll be glad you did.

A third common misconception: “You have to have a plan.” And/or a budget. If you have a life plan or a budget and it’s working for you, that’s great. But the idea that everyone has to have a formal plan or budget and you’re lost otherwise – that misses a couple of key points.

First, usually people have an idea of things they want to achieve and occasionally getting there requires a plan and/or a budget for that specific project. So a lot of targeted planning and budgeting is going on.

Even then, plans and budgets often have to be fine-tuned in real life, according to circumstances. Knowing what you want and being adaptable is usually more important (and more generally useful) than having carved-in-stone timetables and pre-set expectations.

The important thing is to learn what works for you and to go with that, avoiding predictable road blocks while working around your own blind spots and weak points as much as possible. The goal is to move in the direction you want to be in while keeping an eye out for unproductive misconceptions that may be discouraging you or holding you back. (And everyone has a few!)

Nick Maffeo is the President & CEO of Canton Co-operative Bank – right next to the Post Office – in Canton. Have a question? Email to

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