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Signs You’re In Financial Denial

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Financial disaster rarely comes about overnight. Even for those devastated by a sudden, tragic event, the foundation of their collapse lies in their daily habits and assumptions, and has been brewing for many years.

Whether overcome by an unexpected experience, or living in a state of horrible financial neglect, many people are in full-blown denial about their contributions to the event. ‘How can this possibly be my fault?,’ they ask.

My friends, you have more power than you think.

Defining Denial

My definition of financial denial is simple, although the effects are far from that:

Having a money problem and not being able to admit it.

Without getting past acceptance, the problem never exists in the first place, and you can’t begin to work at the root of the issue. Without diligence and a sound plan of action, a solution is impossible.

The form of denial most familiar to many of us is associated with substance abuse – alcoholism and drugs. In fact, financial denial is very similar, and you’ll likely recognize some of the symptoms on the list.

The Symptoms

Denying financial problems is as much a disease as substance abuse, and the effects can be damaging and long-lasting. Money affects every other area of life – including relationships, careers, and personal health.

Let’s look at some of the signs you or someone you know is in denial:

1. Using Lack of Failure as Evidence of Success. Many people without any visible or major money problems use their high success rate as an excuse to avoid saving or making other smart money moves. Unfortunately, getting lucky is not evidence that you’ve done all the right things, just that you haven’t been caught by Murphy yet.

2. Getting a Thrill From Living on the Edge. For many people, living paycheck to paycheck is a psychological thrill. They get a short-lived high figuring out how to pay their bills and successfully making it through another month. It may be fun for a while, but the likeliness of disaster looms.

3. Hiding Money Problems from Friends & Family. If you’re not willing to share your financial habits with your loved ones, you’re probably embarrassed about something. Hiding can extend the problem, because others it affects are often unaware that it’s even happening.

4. Making ‘Someday’ Statements Frequently. People who play the lottery, overspend regularly, or are living in a perpetual state of ‘it will be better tomorrow’ are victims of this symptom. When did we stop being happy with what we have today, and instead look for a quick fix in the future to fix our current problems?

5. Having a Rationalization for Everything. Excuses, excuses. The highest-level deniers can come up with a logical, thoughtful explanation for almost any expense or silly money move. These folks are particularly hard to break because they usually think that their logic equates to being correct in their assumptions.

6. Getting Angry When Confronted. One of the classical denial symptoms is using anger or blame to shift attention from the issue and onto something else. It’s often the most hurtful to those around you.

7. Believing You’re a Unique Exception. While we’re all unique in some way, it’s hard to say we are exceptions to the rule. Dealing with money follows a set of principles that, when violated, boomerang back and hit you in the face harder than you expect.

8. Thinking Emergencies Won’t Happen to You. I hate to break it to you, but none of us are God. Believing that you’re invincible doesn’t decrease the probability of a financial emergency striking at any minute.

9. Creatively Making the Problem Look Smaller. People in denial have the uncanny ability to disguise and downplay money issues in a way that makes them seem insignificant.

10. Being Scared of ‘Normal’. Many people have the genuine psychological need to stay away from ‘normal.’ They believe that life without debt, without money problems, and with adequate income and savings – would simply be too boring. See #2.

11. Not Having Hard Data to Back Your Claims. It’s great that you think you’re on your way to a comfortable retirement, but do the numbers speak the same truth? You may get a lot of psychological mileage by making generalized and inflated statements, but be careful of actually believing what you say! Do what you say.

12. Refusing Genuine Help. If this is your problem, you’re probably not reading my blog, or getting any other form of financial help. Whether it’s arrogance, ignorance or indifference, you simply will not seek assistance. It will be hard to help you unless you decide you want to help yourself.

13. Using Success in One Area to Overshadow Failures. It’s great to celebrate even the smallest of victories – lasting change does not happen overnight! But like making the problem look smaller, people in denial can often take the tiniest victories and use them as their victory speech for months, ignoring the rest of their declining financial situation.

14. Believing Your Actions are Independent. You are not alone in this world. Even if you’re single and live alone, your actions still affect others around you. If you’re in a relationship or part of a family structure, the effect is tenfold. Making decisions without considering their implications on others is a quick path to failure.

15. Missing Out on Promises and Responsibilities. Being unable or forgetting to pay your bills, or promising to go on a vacation with your spouse and never saving up enough money for it – these are both good examples of this symptom.

Somebody Save Me!!

If you’re nodding your head furiously, there’s a good chance you recognize some of these in yourself or those around you. It’s not a lost cause, just the first step!

While a detailed analysis might involve the help of a good psychologist, I’ve prepared a few tips to get you started if you’re trying to help someone get out of financial denial. Each situation will be unique and rely on the strength of your relationship and how well you know and respond to the person in question.

Consider the following:

  • If you’re not close, find someone who has a well-established relationship with your target (target being the person in denial).
  • Try to understand your target’s point of view and base your comments from that perspective.
  • Point out the potential consequences of doing nothing.
  • Ask your target to approach your opinions with an open mind and no commitments.
  • Never, ever accuse your target or use ‘you’ statements – it almost guarantees defensiveness.
  • Help your target see things from a different perspective.
  • Seek the help of a trusted or verified source, like an adviser or magazine.
  • Help your target develop an alternative financial plan. Walk them through it step by step.
  • Show your target how their denial is affecting their loved ones.
  • Don’t get frustrated – you can only make your target aware; they have to change their own behavior.
  • If you can, pick a day where they are feeling optimistic about their finances (like after a big tax refund).

Conclusions

Focusing on the future effect of your actions and on solid financial principles is the key to overcoming denial and moving forward.

If you’re in way over your head, please get some professional help. More often than not, the underlying issues are too personal and too in-depth to solve in a blog post.

What I can do is make you more aware of what to look for and spark a sense of acceptance within. Best of luck!

This article was written and produced by Fiscal Fizzle, a blog on all matters financial. see more.

Callum Connects

Agnes Yee, Legal & Compliance Recruiter of Space Executive

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Agnes Yee started Space Executive in Singapore, which is a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies.

What’s your story?
After graduation, I joined a design media company as a Business Development Executive, during the era when ‘reading a magazine online’ was unheard of. I believe that laid the foundation for being unfazed by rejections.

I fell into recruitment pre-GFC and rode the highs and lows in the early years. A decade later, I decided to set up my own recruitment company, partly because I could. I’m acutely aware of the face that being an Asian female in Singapore is sometimes a privilege, and that many women in the world are living a very different existence.
Thereafter, we joined Space Executive as part of a merger. I am currently the Partner of Space Executive, a recruitment company focused specialist disciplines, including Legal, Finance, Digital, Sales and Marketing and Change. We also run Space Ventures, a venture capital business, which invests in seed and pre-series A businesses.

What excites you most about your industry?
On a daily basis, we’re influencing how one spends a third of their day. It is interesting how the Internet has transformed the industry, and I’m excited to see how we can harness technology to bring us to the next phase of this business.

The VC is an extension of applying our skills and experience in reading people. We very much invest in the people as much as the idea. Being a native Singaporean, it’s been exhilarating watching Southeast Asia becoming a hotbed of ideas; and young entrepreneurs simply daring to dream.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m a born and bred Singaporean. I love that I speak both English and Mandarin, grew up playing with Indian friends and eating Malay food.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore for the low barriers of entry to set up a business, but has to be China (and Hong Kong) for their hunger and constant innovation.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
青春不要留白 which translates to ‘Don’t waste your youth.’

Who inspires you?
Anyone who has gone against the grain.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
It wasn’t recent but reading the article on https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/12/the-tail-end.html never fails to blow my mind how little time we have left. Charting our lives in weeks, and realising I only have enough time left to enjoy 60 Christmas turkeys, read 300 books (all if I’m lucky); and mostly, I’m left with the last 5% of the time that I spend in-person with my parents.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I’m cognisant that every decision I made in life has brought me to where I am today, and I wouldn’t change one thing. But I’d really like to have had more time to travel.

How do you unwind?
Exercise and wine.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Trekking any mountain in Asia. It brings us back to the most basic. To overcome elements of nature and our own mind.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Start with Why, Simon Sinek

Shameless plug for your business:
Space Executive started in Singapore, a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies. We assist organisations in accessing a targeted and specialised, and often times transient talent pool.

Out of Singapore, we have recruited across 14 countries; and have embarked on our global expansion plans with offices in Hong Kong and London this year, and US, Japan and Europe in the following years.

Space Ventures provides funding, management and financial guidance to young businesses with original ideas. We have invested in peer to peer lending platforms, credit scoring, social media education, and other start-ups spanning diverse industries. We are always interested in hearing more about new ideas.

How can people connect with you?
https://www.linkedin.com/in/agnesyee/

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Chrystie Dao-Szabo, Founder of iPayMy

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Chrystie Dao-Szabo founded iPaymy for Business – a secure and easy to use
platform enabling SMEs to pay rent, salaries, invoices, and even corporate tax using the credit cards they already have in their wallet today.

What’s your story?
I’m Chrystie Dao-Szabo, and I’ve worked as an international banker for over 22 years. During that time, I travelled through Asia, Australia and Europe, and everywhere I saw how my clients struggled with managing their finances and keeping cash around.

I wanted to use my experience to help them, but I also knew the solution they needed didn’t exist yet. This pushed me to give up on my secure career, and instead look into the innovative world of FinTech for an answer.

This is how I founded iPaymy – at its launch, a platform to help consumers pay their monthly expenses using their credit cards. We’ve grown a lot since, and today, iPaymy for Business is a platform that allows business owners to use their credit cards to pay for rent, salaries, invoices and taxes, freeing up their cash for business-critical operations.

What excites you most about your industry?
What excites me most about FinTech is it’s culture of constant disruption, thanks to cool and innovative products and services coming out every day.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Vietnam, grew up in Australia and worked in Asia, Europe and Australia. Being raised by traditional Vietnamese parents meant that deep down I was still an Asian at heart, so I have a strong connection with the region.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore of course. It’s easy to do business, English is the main language, and the infrastructures like public transportation are great. Also, the government supports local innovation in multiple ways, like giving grants for SMEs and FinTechs.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Keep giving, and one day you will receive.

Who inspires you?
My parents. My father had a successful business in Vietnam just before the fall of Saigon in 1975. After the war, my father was sent to a re-education camp for three years, which meant my mum had to bring up two young kids – a 3-year-old, me and my 4-year old brother on her own.

In 1980, we all fled Vietnam on a boat and arrived in Sydney, Australia via refugee camps in Indonesia and Singapore. There, my parents had to start over with nothing to their names and only AUD 50 given to them by the Australian government.
They went on to build several businesses in Australia!

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The number of young and smart people who have carved out successful careers by founding their own startups (or joining really cool ones). When I was starting out my career, doing any of these was not a viable option; it was either working for an accounting firm, an insurance company or a bank.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
If I were starting out my career now, I would choose the path of joining a startup as you get to learn so much about running a business and how to assemble a winning team.

How do you unwind?
I like travelling to a beach or a resort destination and just relaxing by the pool or beach. I also like to unwind after work with a glass of champagne or wine, and a bowl of truffle fries.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Thailand. I love the people and the spicy Thai food.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The E-Myth. It’s a book series that dismantles common myths about entrepreneurship in different industries.

Shameless plug for your business:
With iPaymy for Business, SMEs can pay rent, salaries, invoices, and even corporate tax using the credit cards they already have in their wallet today. SMEs love iPaymy because it works like a credit card, but pays like cash.

iPaymy’s secure and easy to use platform reliably delivers payments to vendors while freeing up cash and providing access to interest free credit. Forget the delays and aggravations that come with traditional SME financing options. Schedule recurring payments, manage invoices, set payment reminders, and monitor payment status all from one dashboard.

It’s never been easier for SMEs to meet monthly payment obligations while keeping cash available to fuel growth, bridge receivable gaps, and make immediate investment in the supplies, services, and expertise needed to drive a growing business forward.

How can people connect with you?
You can find me on LinkedIn or contact me by email.
My LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chrystiedaoszabo/
My email: [email protected]

Twitter handle?
https://twitter.com/ceedeees

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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