Understanding Your Mindset Around Money

Photo by Dylan Nolte

Photo by Dylan Nolte

I really enjoy being married to an interior designer. There are a lot of perks: We spend a lot of our time engaging with the culture in whatever city we find ourselves in. Nearly every industry party is impeccably designed with delicious food. The bins and bins of fabric samples mean I have access to thousands of potential pocket squares. Since so much of my wife's work relies on being inspired, we’re constantly looking for beauty in the world. 

But of course, there is another side of the coin. She has enough inventory for a small store which is diametrically opposed to my philosophy around stuff. Her ideal for our home will always be a moving target. And I used to be blissfully ignorant to even the smallest design faux pas, but now I find it harder and harder not to be critical.

It’s interesting how my mindset towards aesthetics have shifted over time. 

As I piece together my idea of myself, I take into account things I hadn’t before, like how people see me and how I see myself in the world. Things that felt like they were “nice to haves” have started to feel more like things I find myself feeling entitled to. And that sense of entitlement has shifted my thoughts, behaviors, feelings and standards. I have different expectations; from regular life experiences to the quality of the work I put out. 

To sum it up,  I’m going to quote Tony Robbins. He says,"If you don’t set baseline standards for what you’ll accept in your life, you’ll find it easy to slip into behaviors and attitudes and a quality of life that’s far below what you deserve.”

What you believe about money impacts your relationship with it.

I’m not so naive as to think that having a positive attitude about money is the one thing you need to counteract systemic inequality and crushing poverty. 

What I am saying is that if you’ve come from poverty, and you’re trying to thrive in a system with profound inequality, the first thing you need to do on your journey out of poverty is to understand your mindset around money.

It’s a foundational part of getting your money right. For example, if you believe rich people are entitled assholes and you think people who become wealthy turn into raging dickheads, you probably won’t want to become that person or associate with them.

What is a money mindset?

Your money mindset is your core beliefs and attitudes about money and how it works in the world. 

Your mindset is a unique snowflake based on your personal experiences, what you’ve observed in the world around you and your interpretation of your observations.

Your mindset is your attitude about money. It shapes how you think you can and cannot use money. 

Your mindset determines how much you think you can earn and how much money you’re entitled to. It shapes how much you think you can spend on yourself, your family and your friends. It dictates how you use debt in your life, whether or not you choose to invest and if you give money away to charity.

what is a mindset?

How does your mindset get formed?

Just through living, yo. You observe and internalize experiences and messages about money through your parents, family, caregivers, friends and your community. 

All you have to do is watch a little kid’s mind get blown by something and you’ll see them absorbing and forming their beliefs about something.

The narratives you pick up from the people around you have a big impact on how you see the world. 

When I was a kid, there was this chiropractic practice that my family passed by on our way to and from lots of places. It always had hilarious displays of a dummy chiropractor working on a dummy patient. So I asked my mom what a chiropractor was and she explained the best she could, but ultimately couldn’t hide that she kind of thought it was a scam. Because of that belief that I never questioned, I didn’t go to a chiropractor until I was in my 30’s and even then, I was skeptical because I was associating this type of practice with Scamy McShiesters. Even when I feel better after going to the chiropractor, I still think, “Maybe it worked or maybe it was something else.” I still haven’t totally shaken my beliefs.

The same kind of thing can happen with something like money. For example, let’s look at a household where a husband earns less than his wife. Let’s say this fellow can’t even deal with that because his father always told him he needed to provide for his family. So now, every time money is the subject of conversation, he gets defensive, picks a fight and his little kids see this going down.  So his little kids are now associating talking about money with a giant screaming match and tears. You can see how beliefs get passed down generationally.

Some examples of how my crappy mindset costed me more money.

Despite my parents being able to afford to send me to Catholic school, there wasn’t a lot of discretionary spending happening in our house. Compared to some of my family we were balling, but compared to my classmates we were poor losers. My parents did the best with what they had and taught me the best they could, but when they were really little, they grew up relatively poor. So when they got older, even if we were somewhere in the middle class, they held tightly to some of their early beliefs and a lot of their beliefs from their childhood were passed down to me. 

Here are a few examples:

  • I didn’t think about the long term and I didn’t care about quality so I bought cheap things because it saved money in the short run. But in the long run, I spent so much more. I got cheap furniture and clothes that didn’t last long and needed to be replaced more frequently. And eventually, out of frustration, I would end up buying the higher quality thing anyway. But I had wasted my money buying shitty things because, I didn’t plan ahead or think about the long run. 

  • I accepted job offers without negotiating my pay. I also accepted pay raises on their first offer without considering the value that I was bringing the firm. Even though I was integral in generating multiple six figures for my boss. I didn’t negotiate the terms of my bonus; although I was thankful for it. At the time I believed “people like me” didn’t make a lot of money. I’m triple minority with immigrant parents and a college degree from a whatever state school. Who was I to ask for more? 

  • I thought rich people were shitty humans who exploited other people and the planet earth. All humans can be shitty at some point in our long, weird lives and it’s regardless of our socioeconomic status. And yes, capitalism has it’s flaws, but holding on tightly to this belief held me back from exploring entrepreneurship sooner. So, I under-earned for years. I struggled for years. I didn’t make a plan for years. I helped build someone else’s mediocre dream for years. I didn’t think “people like me” deserved to live the life of their dreams. Frankly, I thought “people like me” didn’t have dreams. I never even gave myself space to dream. I just got what we got and I was thankful for it.

It wasn’t all bad though. I was taught how to be resourceful and creative with what I had access to. And we were good about creating as little waste as possible.

How to figure out your mindset around money

If you want to change your mindset, you first have to figure out what your mindset is. 

The first step to figuring anything out is observation. Observe yourself.

Pay close attention to your thoughts, actions and behaviors around money.

Exercise 1.

Here are some statements to help you get a better understanding of your mindset around money.

Rate these statements. Give them a rating from 1 to 5. Where 1 is an absolute truth for you and 5 is totally false.

  • I’m great with money.

  • People in my industry don’t make money.

  • I don’t care about money.

  • Rich people are spiritually bankrupt.

  • Money doesn’t grow on trees.

  • More money, more problems.

  • I deserve to be wealthy.

  • I deserve to earn a living wage.

  • Money is the root of all evil.

  • People like me will never be wealthy.

  • I always make great decisions with my money.

  • I’m really good at earning money.

  • Money comes to me easily.

  • I’m irresponsible with my money.

Be Open

Trigger warning: We’re about to get a little woo-woo. But as my good friend Nina Beckhardt likes to say, “woo works”. 

Let’s reflect on the exercise you just completed. Do your answers reflect that you’re open to receiving money? If you aren’t, that’s the first place you need to start.

You don’t have to have a lot of money to believe that you deserve wealth. You could be wealthy by most people’s standards, but still feel like you don’t have enough. 

Have you ever had a conversation with a friend about a relationship you’re struggling with? And you go into the conversation with a friendly, forgiving attitude. But after talking with your friend, your attitude changes. You realize you need to say something or do something to change that relationship you’re struggling with.

It’s the same thing with being open to receiving money. I’m your financial friend telling you that it’s time to change your relationship with money. Think about it differently. Be open to the possibilities of something insane happening that takes you from struggling to having abundance. 

Exercise 2.

Rewrite your beliefs.

Pick three statements from the first exercise. They can be as-is or you can rewrite them to be positive affirmations about money. 

There are a lot of different ways to practice jamming these affirmations into your dome. Here’s a list of some options:

  • Write it on a card or a paper and put it in your wallet.

  • Write it on post it’s and put them in your home or office or both.

  • When you hear your thoughts negging you about money, say a positive affirmation. 

  • Write it in your journal.

  • Write it in your weekly planner.

  • Put it as your wallpaper on your phone.

Exercise 3. 

Get in your feels and explore the narratives of money you’re created

Take some time to answer the following questions.

  • What were your parent’s mindset around money?

  • How has their mindset impacted your beliefs?

  • Did you grow up talking calmly and freely about money or was it a source of tension and conflict?

  • Were you taught about money as a child?

  • Does money feel like a source of possibility or a source of stress? Why?

What you focus on expands

I get that all of this might seem hella corny, but here’s the thing: our brains are amazing and humans are fucking incredible creatures. Look at all the things we have built in the world.

It’s important to understand that you’re literally capable of rewiring your brain and neural pathways. It takes work, but it’s a skill set that is portable. In other words, once you learn how to reset negative thoughts and emotions in one are of your life, you can surely do it in other areas of your life. 

There are different methods you can use. The two widely accepted ways to physically rewire your brain are mindful meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy.


Let’s focus on mindful meditation. It starts and ends with you.

It’s all about self-awareness; being aware of your thoughts, feelings and behaviors and how these three things impact your life. What you focus on expands.

Without questioning your thoughts, your smart little brain will look for examples in your life to reinforce the thoughts, morphing them into your beliefs. Humans have a tendency to discount examples of things that oppose their beliefs and have a bias for anything that confirms their beliefs. Silly humans.

Your thoughts impact your feelings. Your feelings impact your behavior. Your behavior impacts your thoughts.

Without self awareness, you’ll mindlessly get caught in this circle, believing these thoughts that got subconsciously trapped in your noggin.

The good news is, you are not your thoughts. You can change your thoughts and change your life.