Being a responsible custodian of money goes beyond simply knowing how to balance a checkbook, create a budget, or build credit.
Unfortunately, many discussions about improving financial well-being only focus on the mechanics of these behaviors, neglecting the underlying factors that influence them.
In today’s age of social media ‘finfluencers,’ the pressure to showcase financial literacy has reached unprecedented levels, which can have both positive and negative consequences.
On the one hand, individuals who receive criticism from these ‘finfluencers’ may find themselves grappling with guilt and shame regarding their financial circumstances. They may lack the inspiration and understanding necessary to overcome these challenges, making them susceptible to scams, expensive courses, or dubious mentoring programs that exploit their desperation and guilt, further exacerbating their financial troubles.
On the other hand, ‘finfluencers’ who set high standards for their audience under the guise of education may find themselves in a precarious situation if they personally encounter a financial setback.
The fear of facing criticism can tempt them to stretch the boundaries of ethics and honesty when discussing their own circumstances, perpetuating a vicious cycle that leverages fear, guilt, and shame in the realm of financial education. Therefore, being an empathetic financial educator is crucial not only for your audience’s receptiveness to your message but also for your own mental well-being.
Here are four tips to cultivate financial empathy and self-awareness:
Instead of flaunting our financial knowledge and shaming others for their supposed lack of literacy, let’s approach things differently. When we criticize others, they might end up feeling guilty and ashamed, unsure of how to improve their situation. Unfortunately, this vulnerability makes them easy targets for scams, expensive courses, or predatory mentors, which only worsens their financial struggles.
On the flip side, finfluencers often face immense pressure to maintain their financial image, sometimes stretching the truth. This cycle of fear, guilt, and shame doesn’t do anyone any favors. To be effective financial educators, we need to prioritize empathy, considering our audience’s well-being and mental health.
Personal finance is just that—personal! There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Even those with education and resources are constantly learning and adapting their strategies. Some people find leveraging debt beneficial for building wealth, while others feel anxious and stressed about it.
The truth is there are conflicting opinions on debt and its management. By creating a supportive space that welcomes diverse learning experiences and allows for mistakes, we foster a stronger community and boost morale. Being honest about our financial journey and the lessons we’ve learned is the real measure of growth.
To become financially self-aware, we need to set goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (aka SMART goals). Understanding the math behind our income and expenses helps us understand our money behaviors better. It increases our self-awareness and shows us how close we are to achieving our goals. Plus, by demonstrating actionable approaches to money management, we inspire others who may be facing similar challenges.
Empathy is a game-changer, especially when it comes to financial education. By understanding someone’s financial thoughts, feelings, and circumstances, we can provide solutions that build on their successes. It’s all about fostering healthy relationships and encouraging financial growth. Empathy shouldn’t mean making excuses for others, though. Instead, it’s about understanding their journey and helping them move forward.
Cultivating financial empathy and self-awareness is an ongoing journey that benefits everyone involved. By developing these skills, we can reduce shame and guilt surrounding money and have open conversations focused on finding solutions instead of placing blame.
Remember, sharing our money stories and reflecting on the experiences that have shaped our financial perspectives gives us insight into our habits and helps us establish positive ones. In the end, combining financial empathy, self-awareness, and effective communication can transform our financial well-being and those around us.