Are You Your Own Financial Worst Enemy?

As we start the second month of the year, take a moment to consider this question: Is your financial house in excellent, good, fair, poor or dire condition? If you fall short of being in the “excellent” category, it could be that you are sometimes your own worst enemy financially.

When you are your own worst financial enemy, you thwart your economic progress and hold yourself back from reaching certain goals—often without even realizing it. The good news is that you can stop being your own worst financial enemy in 2014, just by recognizing how the laws of “cause and effect” impact your finances.

Your Finances and the Laws of Cause and Effect

Often, circumstances beyond our control or unexpected life events (such as divorce, job loss or a death in the family) can ruin one’s finances. But to help you take control of your finances in 2014, I want you to consider also all the things you have done—both positive and negative—that have put your financial house in its present state.

As a Money Coach, I teach a workshop called “Get Financially Fit Now!” One crucial lesson that I tell participants is:

Your current financial situation is directly tied to your own actions (or lack thereof), because your finances operate according to the laws of “cause and effect.

What this means is that we have to first look in the mirror and determine what financial mistakes we have been making and what actions we might have taken to cause or continue our financial troubles.

In some cases, it may not have been what we’ve done, but what we’ve procrastinated about, or failed to do, that has led to financial difficulties.

Again, there are certainly events that happen—such as illnesses or accidents—that are no fault of our own. But what I’m talking about are the financial problems we face that can be directly attributed to actions we have taken, or have neglected to take. In essence, through our actions—or lack of actions—we sometimes invite financial troubles right to our doorstep.

Let’s stop talking money for a minute and look beyond the economic world. Instead, let’s examine other areas of life: the physical, natural and mechanical realms. Each area illustrates the laws of “cause and effect.”

Cause and Effect

When obesity occurs, frequently it is caused by improper nutrition and a lack of exercise. Barring some medical condition that causes one to gain weight, doctors agree that they best way to restore oneself to a proper weight and good health is to eat right and exercise regularly. If you fail to do this, obesity results.

It’s easy to blame other people for whatever ails you financially. But it’s only when you take a long, hard look in the mirror, and think about how “cause and effect” really works, that you’ll start to improve your situation.

You don’t need a green thumb to know that dying plants or a weed-filled garden are often caused by lack of water, insufficient sunlight, or inadequate pruning. To get that garden back in good condition, you must tend to it and give it proper care.

The reason auto manufacturers suggest you change your car’s oil every 3,000 miles is because a lack of maintenance or excessive wear and tear will cause your vehicle to break down. You get regular or annual checkups at the doctor, right? Well, using the same logic, your car should also get regular checkups at the mechanic to keep it in proper working order.

In What Condition Is Your Financial House?

Whenever something is neglected or abused—no matter whether it’s your body, your garden or your car—that thing will suffer. And the first order of business to get it into good condition is to apply some care and attention.

The same principle holds true in the economic realm. When you neglect or abuse your financial house, the result is that it is in disrepair. And it won’t get into tip-top condition until you start taking positive steps to fix the things that are detrimental to your financial condition.

Your Next Step

So, here’s a “cause and effect” action item to aid in you in creating a financial turnaround: Make a list (like this one) of what you have done right, and where you have clearly gone astray in conducting your personal financial affairs.

Evaluate your past behavior as far as handling credit, paying bills on time, saving for the future, managing your money, and more.

Whatever your present circumstances, I’d like for you to also think about how long your situation has been this way. Has it been less than a year, more than a year, two to five years, five to 10 years, or as long as you can remember?

Take 10 minutes or so to reflect on your circumstances and face the truth about your current situation. After you have a list of a few things you’ve done right and wrong, commit to fixing just one problem.

If, for instance, you have been a chronic over-spender, write down a few ways you can stop that negative financial behavior, then get about implementing them. (Here a few ideas to help shopaholics). If you haven’t been saving money, you need to get to the true reason why you can’t stash away cash.

It’s easy to blame other people—your ex, your boss, “the Man,” etc.—for whatever ails you financially. But it’s only when you take a long, hard look in the mirror, and think about how “cause and effect” really works, that you’ll start to improve your situation and stop being your own worst enemy financially.

Lynnette Khalfani-Cox is a personal finance expert and co-founder of the free financial advice site, AskTheMoneyCoach.com. Follow Lynnette on Twitter @themoneycoach and Google Plus