What If You’re Already Good With Money?

Photo credit: Cindy Shebley, CC BY 2.0.

You already know that I regularly trawl the internet for “money news,” and today I want to discuss this Business Insider listicle titled “9 signs you’re good with money — even if you don’t think you are.”

This is one of the questions I often ask Doing Money interviewees, after all: what do you think you do well financially, and what do you wish you could do better? Nine times out of ten, the “wish you could do better” is “spend less money on food,” which is why we’re doing FOOD MONTH in May.

But a lot of us say we think we’re good at budgeting or saving, or maybe we used to not save very much but now we’re putting aside more of our paycheck, or maybe we’ve opened an IRA or 401(k) and are making monthly contributions. At the same time, we’re worried about not having enough savings, or not being able to buy a home in our city, or not being able to retire.

In other words: we’re doing all of these “good with money” actions, but we’re not seeing the results we hoped for. (It must be because we spend too much money on food.)

So back to Business Insider. I won’t spoil the full list, but I’m guessing most of us will hit at least half of what’s on it. Maybe we put money into our savings account every month, or maybe we have “financial goals.” I totally get the importance of financial goals — I wouldn’t have gotten out of debt and built up my emergency fund unless I set myself that goal of living off 50 percent of my freelance income back in 2015 — but I’m still stuck on this disparity between actions and results. We can do everything on Business Insider’s list and still find ourselves living paycheck to paycheck, spending our hard-won savings on small emergencies; we can set financial goals and then realize they might not be achievable.

Maybe it’s the idea that we conflate “being good with money” with “being rich.” Or “being financially stable.” If we do the good money actions, we should be able to afford whatever life throws at us, despite the fact that spending within our means on stuff like vacations (which is another of the tips) doesn’t change the cost of new tires or braces or tuition.

I know this is, like, the umpteenth Billfold post on “it’s about whether you earn enough, not whether you spend too much,” but when I read this Business Insider list my first thought was: a lot of Billfolders are already doing this. I’m already doing this! But if we’re all so good with money, why are we on The Billfold every day, trying to figure out if we’re making the right financial choices?

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