Are Your Emotions Costing You Money? Take This Quiz

By Tim Lemke on 21 June 2017 0 comments

Building a strong financial foundation for you and your family requires discipline. It requires patience. It requires a steady mindset. But even the best of us have found ourselves spending and making financial decisions based on emotions, whether that's retail therapy, or holding off on investing due to fear of the markets. We've made decisions based on joy or comfort in the short term instead of satisfaction in the long run.

Are you letting your emotions control your finances? Answer these questions to find out.

Do you spend money when you feel sad, happy, or stressed?

You had a bad day at work, so you go on a shopping spree for new shoes. You got a promotion, so you celebrate by taking friends out to eat at a fancy restaurant. You spend money as a reaction or antidote to whatever feelings you have at a given moment, and this makes it hard to save money at a healthy rate. You don't need to treat yourself to a costly reward every time you're happy or sad. This is an easy way to fall into a dangerous emotional spending cycle. (See also: The High Cost of the "Treat Yourself" Mindset)

Have you held off on investing because you are afraid?

Fear is one of the most powerful emotions we have, and many people have never gotten started with retirement planning and investing because they are intimidated. They may find the whole process of investing to be overwhelming, or they may have a fear of asking a dumb question. Additionally, they may fear that their investments will lose money. In reality, it's best to channel fear into investing more, because not having enough money saved for retirement is a truly scary thought. (See also: 3 Steps to Getting Started in the Stock Market With Index Funds)

Have you sold investments when you realized they lost value?

We've probably all found ourselves frustrated with certain investments that have tanked, and sold them at a loss. Of course, then we've kicked ourselves when we've seen those same investments rebound in short order. It's not a good practice to be emotional when investing; the most successful investors practice discipline, patience, and steadfastness over the course of many years.

Have you ever bought something out of jealousy?

One of your closest friends just bought a big house in a nice neighborhood. Another just bought a fancy car. It can seem like other people are making out better than you, but this is no excuse to spend irresponsibly. Keeping up with the joneses is a path to financial hardship if you spend simply because you feel left out or jealous.

Do you get excited about getting a tax return?

It's an often ignored fact that if you are getting a tax refund, you've been lending money to the government interest-free all year. Remember: This was your money that you should have had all along. And yet, most people get a rush of excitement from getting a tax return. What's worse, people often treat their tax return like an unexpected windfall, and spend it frivolously. The sound, unemotional approach to taxes is to adjust your withholding so that you don't get a return at all. In fact, even owing a small amount to the IRS is OK as long as you don't pay a penalty. (See also: 10 Smart Ways I'm Spending My Tax Refund)

Have you ever sought a refund anticipation loan or payday loan?

The same psychology that governs the love of tax returns also applies to those who seek money before it's due to them. If you are seeking cash early, you may end up paying exorbitant fees or interest rates. A typical payday loan might have an annual interest rate of 400 percent, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. (See also: Six Horrible Financial Products You Should Avoid)

Are you a habitual gambler?

Let's face it: Gambling can be exciting. It's a rush when you place a bet on some ponies and see your horse cross the finish line first. It's a thrill to see your ball land on your number. But gambling is ultimately an emotion-driven experience, and the excitement of winning can be addicting. Betting on a few hands of blackjack or the occasional football game won't kill you, but it's important to not let your emotions guide your betting habits. There's a long list of fine people who have ruined their financial lives through gambling.

Do you give a lot of money to children and other family members?

There's nothing wrong with being generous to those people who you care about most. But it's important to not let people take advantage of that generosity. Often, the decision to support a family member or friend is done not out of basic selflessness, but a feeling of obligation or guilt. It's important to not let your feeling of obligation to others outweigh your obligation to yourself.

Have you lost a job due to your temper?

Jobs can be frustrating. But if you've ever flown off the handle at work, you may be threatening your income and job security. While it's true that hiring managers look for workers with specific skill sets, they also want to make sure employees are able to get along with their colleagues. Workers who don't interact well with their peers, or respond poorly to criticism, often don't last long.

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