On Your Own

Get the latest information and tips on financial planning.

The Psychology of Can vs Can't

It's human nature to want what we can't - or shouldn't - have.

Think back to when you were a teenager, living at home. All you wanted to do was assert your independence and infinite wisdom, and all you heard from your parents was, "you can't." Back then, your parents told what you could and couldn't do, and all you wanted to do was break the rules. You probably did from time to time, and even if you got in trouble, it was probably fun. Right?

Then, when we finally get older and can make the adult decisions to do those forbidden things, the doctor comes along and says we can't eat this or drink that. There's always someone telling us what we can't do. And we humans seem to want to choose the destructive path, because it's easier, or looks like more fun, and then we do those things we supposedly can't, or shouldn't, only to regret it later.

Whether because people are making resolutions or they've got after-Christmas sticker-shock, this time of year, we always hear from several people who are trying to be more efficient and tackle some outstanding debt - most of which is a result of doing something they shouldn't have.

We applaud everyone who has taken this step forward, as many of you have. When it comes to getting your finances on track, one of the most important things you can do is admitting where you've gone wrong, and finding a way to take control so you can focus on the more important things in life.

Now, as we've talked about in the past, debt isn't always a bad thing. Student loans, mortgages/lines of credit or even small car loans are all debts that can be factored into your overall financial life and serve a purpose. However, we have also talked about the fact that, just because you can do something (or buy something), doesn't mean you should. Let's explore a little further.

Just as we find a way to have that burger, or piece of cake the doctor said was bad for us, if a credit company extends a credit limit of five digits, we get excited about simply hearing someone say, "go ahead, you can!" And so, we do. Maybe deep down we know we could be doing other things with our savings or finances (or health!), but that sizable credit limit keeps us entranced, and thinking that we need something. Can somehow becomes need when that opportunity entices us.

Perhaps it goes back to those teenage boundaries that we all tested. Even when someone knowingly can't afford something, a loan or credit limit allows that person to test the boundary and do that very thing. The rush of doing something forbidden draws us in - it's human nature. Have you ever gotten that mailer offering a pre-approved credit card, or lower payment on a shiny new car? Even if you didn't fall into the trap, did you daydream about it, if only for a fleeting moment?

Back to today, though. Now that Christmas is over and you're taking stock of your holiday spending, maybe you're seeing that you let your emotions take over and you spent a little too much. Maybe you're scared to even look at that credit card statement that's sitting unopened on the kitchen counter. Maybe you secretly know you need help in certain areas, but are afraid you might be told you have to change your habits, that you can't keep doing what you're doing - there's that word again, right?

Or, maybe you've got your spending under control, and you're setting other goals for the coming year. Maybe you're worried that you won't be able to achieve those goals, and so you avoid seeking help because you're scared of being told it's impossible - that you can't do it. The key here is to face that fear. We all have them, and it's natural to feel some healthy stress about a lofty goal. That means you're pushing yourself, and that's good.

Remember, you don't have to do it alone. Even if your goals aren't going to materialize this year, our team can help you create a plan to figure out when they can come to fruition. With a financial plan tailored to your unique personality, goals, and circumstances, we can help you go from "can't" to "can." Give us a call today.

Loading Conversation