How I Faced My Financial Fears

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I write about and teach finance for a living, but I’m not a numbers person. In fact, numbers and I had a wonky relationship for decades.

It all started when I was eight years old and got a C on a math assignment. It was the first time I’d ever gotten less than an A on anything. It was at that moment that I realized math wasn’t my strong suit. It was also at that moment that I gave up on ever being good at math.

Yes, I gave up on math at the age of eight. While I could go on about how to improve the education system so that this doesn’t happen to other eight year olds, I’ll refrain. Instead, I want to focus on how I overcame my fear of numbers and, subsequently, my fear of managing money.

I didn’t have a choice.

Sometimes the only way to get over a fear is when you don’t really have a choice. That’s exactly what happened to me.

I graduated from college in 2010 into a down economy. At the time, my hometown had an unemployment rate of 13 percent which was higher than even the national average. I went six months without any sort of employment, went a year without a full-time job, moved back home into my parents’ house. Oh, and I was broke beyond belief because I’d squandered everything I’d earned while I was working and going to school at the same time.

Most people would throw their hands up in the air and give up or complain. I did both for a while. Very cathartic, but not very helpful. Fortunately, I snapped out of it. I realized I needed to learn about money because we need money just to survive. That was when I purchased my first personal finance book.

I started focusing on my beliefs about money.

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Toward the end of 2011 I found the work of Gabby Bernstein. I randomly stumbled upon one of her YouTube videos where she was discussing how our thoughts affect our behavior and our reality.

My mind was blown. This was the first time I’d ever heard such a thing and for some reason it made sense to me.

After binging on her other YouTube videos and watching an entire lecture she did just about money, I decided to give it a try.

From that point forward, I started paying attention to how I was thinking and feeling as it pertained to money. I quickly realized I’d learned some pretty messed up stuff and that I was carrying around a ridiculous fear of numbers since the age of eight.

Just being able to identify it helped me to start changing my behaviors. It wasn’t easy at first, but I did slowly start facing my fears. I started asking for more money. I started investing in myself and in my business. I kept putting money into an IRA even when I felt broke. I started trusting myself to figure out this money thing.

I asked for help.

A big key to my success has been asking for help. I’m friends with people who are more naturally inclined toward understanding numbers and I ask them for help when I need it.

My accountant and I are also friends and I’m asking him for help all the time.

This has given me a heck of an education as it pertains to numbers and money. An education I certainly never got in school.

Even though I’m not a natural numbers person, I’ve learned to love managing my money. If this totally right-brained creative person whose hated math since the third grade can do it, then you can do it too.