Believe it or not, becoming a millionaire doesn’t take much capital. It mainly a mindset shift as it pertains to money.
In order to unpack how to do just that, we spoke to financial expert, journalist and author Kara Stevens from TheFrugalFeminista.com.
In this Q&A, we discuss money management, the emotional aspect of money, and why you must heal your relationship with it first before you can learn to have more of it.
Let’s just talk about it out the gate. What’s the biggest money challenge you see in the people you work with?
I see so many things when it comes to money challenges—from fear of looking at bills to avoiding having important yet difficult conversations with their family members about money. I’d say the underlying challenge is an ambivalent relationship at best and a harmful relationship at worst with money.
We walk around usually unaware of our thoughts about money so our decisions are on autopilot and unexamined. This becomes a problem when you have goals of wealth but your actions and thoughts work in opposition to those goals.
You mentioned “financial dysfunction” and bad money habits being passed down from generation to generation. What are some that you see and how do you break them? (feel free to incorporate own experiences here)
Some of the habits that I see include living beyond one’s means and using credit cards and payday loans to subsidize lifestyles.
That’s a tricky one.
I also see the other side. People who hoard money in fear of being poor and who ironically keep their money in a low-yield savings account that will eventually erode its purchasing power.
Or inflation, which literally eats your money alive. So how do you break the money dysfunction?
Breaking free of money dysfunction begins with awareness. You have to acknowledge that you have a problem and commit to change. Even when there are setbacks.
I think the next step is seeking help whether through reading and educating yourself if you’re a self-starter or seeking support from a professional or a mentor that can guide you through your goals and offer feedback and accountability.
And finally, I think creating simple plans and goals that can be easily achieved and tracked helps you stay committed and motivated to improve your relationship with money.
You talk about “the link between self-worth and net worth.” What do you mean by that?
Usually when people hear that, they think I mean that more money makes you better or feel better. That’s not what I mean. When I say there’s a link between self-worth and net worth with respect to how we treat money. In other words, when you realize that you are enough, so you don’t have to overspend anymore or hoard money because you’ve reached a level of financial security.
Almost like being at peace with who you are financially?
Yes. How you manage your money—meaning what decisions you make around spending, saving, giving, and investing. This message is specifically those of us with money management issues and not income issues. Money management is for those of us that have enough to meet our needs, but our spending decisions keep us from making progress in our finances.
In other words, building wealth.
Right. Income issues and issues around generating wealth stem from structural inequalities. For instance, gender-based pay gap, race-based pay gap, predatory lending and so on. There is definitely an overlap when the discussion is that they don’t have enough income to manage.
Your book is called Heal Your Relationship With Money. What is it that people need to heal and why 28 days?
I think people mostly need to heal their past financial trauma from childhood, across the board. Whether you lived in poverty or privilege, there may have been beliefs passed down to you that make it hard for you to overcome financial self-sabotage.
This comes in so many forms from buying the cheapest foods because you don’t want to spend the extra money, to believing that the opposite sex is your best financial plan.
Healing can happen in a short period of time—like 28 days—when there are actionable steps and accountability. The book offers the space to engage in deep metacognition—meaning thinking about your thinking—while simultaneously offering bite-sized and tangible action steps.
What’s the biggest piece of money advice you can give someone who’s starting from scratch and doesn’t know where to go?
I think the first place to begin is to take inventory of your money mindset. Assess and examine your thoughts and subsequent decisions that stem from that train of thinking.
In doing so, you’ll be able to cultivate financial self-awareness which you’ll need to replace those thoughts and actions with ones that align with your financial goals.