Where do financial problems and character intersect?

I don’t look at financial problems as financial problems, instead I see them as reflections of our character -A tweet and Facebook status update that I recently posted.

Are financial problems the result of a poor character? Eh, probably not. Sometimes they are, but not always. Are financial problems the result of character flaws? Not all the time, but many times. We all have character flaws. We just hate being called out for them. Earlier this week I pointed out some pretty significant character flaws of an emailer who felt his wife needed to cook and clean in order to earn the right to spend family money. To me, the financial problems that the emailer spoke of were caused by some character flaws. I wasn’t playing armchair psychologist, I was simply pointing out that some of the emailer’s own words were demonstrating character flaws.

We shouldn’t try to avoid discussing our character flaws. We also shouldn’t deny their affect on our decision-making. For instance, a character flaw of mine is to “always get in the last word.” This character flaw puts me in very awkward situations from time to time, especially when dealing with criticism on this blog or on my radio show. I can either choose to act like the character flaw doesn’t exist, or I can acknowledge it, and work on it. In addition, I can also choose to get angry when people point out this flaw, or I can use the constructive criticism as a chance to make progress.

What sort of character flaws that have direct affect on our financial lives am I speaking of? Well, there are many. Unrealistic optimism is an often ignored flaw. Conscious ignorance of warning signs have taken down several people. Materialism is quite an awful problem-causer. The inability to work together with a significant other will ruin any financial situation. Your refusal to look toward the financial future can be pretty rough. Our inability to show restraint and say “no” will get just about anyone in trouble. And the list goes on and on.

There are obvious situations in which significant financial problems ARE NOT caused by character flaws. If you had a sudden job loss or you came out on the wrong side of a medical problem or divorce, then it’s obvious that your character or character flaws aren’t the primary cause of the problem. However, day-to-day financial problems such as credit card debt, a lack of savings, and not being able to afford your lifestyle, are in fact a result of character flaws. Something inside of you led to the decisions that you have made. Don’t ignore this fact. Don’t ignore the presence of character flaws. Accept responsibility for your character, accept responsibility for your decision-making, and then accept responsibility for your financial situation.

The financial mistakes that we make that are a result of character flaws aren’t permanent mistakes, in most instances. In fact, these mistakes allow us to build character. These mistakes give us the opportunity to dig ourselves out of the holes that our character flaws have dug. I can tell you with 100% certainty that over the last 14 years in the financial business, the greatest financial stories I have seen are stories of redemption and rebirth. Our mistakes don’t have to define us. But our response to our mistakes will.

My point today is a simple one: look within your financial life, and try to see if any of your financial problems are the result of character flaws. Then work on those flaws, and alleviate the problems that these flaws caused. We must always be aware of our character flaws. They will cause problems, financial or otherwise, our entire lives. Acknowledge them, and work on them. I know I’m trying to.

Character noun

  • the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing.
  • one such feature or trait; characteristic.
  • moral or ethical quality: a man of fine, honorable character.
  • qualities of honesty, courage, or the like; integrity: It takes character to face up to a bully.
  • reputation: a stain on one’s character.

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