Creating a Clearer Money Mindset in a Crisis (COVID-19)

Creating a Clearer Money Mindset in a Crisis (COVID-19)

It’s crunch time. We’re in a crisis, and many of us feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation. We’re worried about our health, our jobs, our families, and our money. The impact of a loss or reduction in income, and the unstable financial climate, can be a particular source of anxiety.

How can we best navigate our way through this? Time and again, it has been proven that a clear mindset creates more positive outcomes in our lives, including our financial lives. So, let’s take a step back from the edge and talk about how to create a clearer money mindset in a crisis.

The following seven-step process can help you address and improve your money mindset and choose some concrete actions that will give you a head start.

Step 1: It’s brain dump time

When we’re in the middle of something as significant as this, it’s important to get out of our own heads. The best way to start this is by doing a brain dump. So, grab some paper and a pen and go for it. Jot down everything that is cluttering your brain—whatever comes to mind. There is no right and wrong here, just free wheel it.

Acknowledging some of your thoughts may be stressful, and some of it will just be noise. Some thoughts will be focused on your health, money, family, friends, activities, trivia…it doesn’t matter. The point is that getting everything down on paper helps create space in your brain and acknowledges where you’re at, right now.

You might even make this a daily exercise for a little while, to help create a sense of calm and clear some space in your mind to acknowledge life’s positives. This is no small moment that we find ourselves in, and it’s crucial to take care of your mental health.

Step 2: Your current money thoughts

Now, narrow your focus to your thoughts around money. Pull out any reflections about money from what you just wrote and add to it. What else are you thinking about money right now? What are your hopes, obligations, worries, fears? This list is a reflection of your current money mindset. As you do this, keep in mind that your mindset can and does change, and with some conscious input you can adapt your mindset and increase your strength and clarity.

Step 3: Your current relationship with money

Our relationship with money changes as we experience life. Each of us has developed automatic thoughts and behaviours around money without even realising it. Until you spend some quality time consciously thinking and developing your money mindset and the relationship you want to have with money, you’re effectively running on auto-pilot. You’re not necessarily heading in the right direction, but drifting along on your journey with money, without a map or compass. For better or for worse.

Crisis events like COVID-19 trigger our unconscious thinking, emotions and automatic behaviours. You can see evidence of this when people buy a room full of toilet paper, or a year’s supply of pasta and rice. They’re not thinking about their actions. They’re reacting, and often just following group behaviour, because that can create a feeling of control or safety.

The harsh reality is that operating on auto-pilot can often result in digging a much deeper hole for yourself.

Taking control

Our fears, emotions and thoughts around money absolutely affect how we spend.

Believe it or not, you have a choice right now to consciously develop a relationship with money that will work for you now and into the future. The alternative is to develop or continue a stressful money relationship without even realising it.

Why is it important?

A consciously developed money relationship enables you to more easily learn, and make grounded, tactical money decisions and actions with less stress. This, in turn, helps create balance.

First, let’s acknowledge your current relationship with money (don’t worry, we’ll work on moving you forward in a moment). For now, review and reflect on the notes you took in Step 2, and write down a summary of your current relationship with money.

Step 4: Your money before COVID-19

The current circumstances are a ‘curve ball’ event that no one expected. The world is suddenly different, so it can helpful to reflect a little on our thoughts and behaviour prior to COVID-19. Take a moment to respond to the following:

  • Review steps 2 and 3 and circle what was true for you prior to COVID-19. Write these points down in a new list.
  • Think back before COVID-19. Did you live from pay to pay? Were you a saver or did you use your credit card? Were you saving for a big purchase (e.g. a home, investment, starting your own business, your next holiday), Were you able speak calmly with your partner about money, or did you argue? Did you generally find money stressful or confusing? Add these thoughts to your new list.

Remember, it is important to acknowledge the good and bad aspects of our thoughts and behaviour around money. And it’s vital to do this without judgement, blame or criticism of yourself or others. Just acknowledge it.

We still have the ability to choose, so let’s start thinking about our choices now.

Step 5: Jolted into change

Some of us have always gone from one financial crisis to another, and COVID-19 may just be another, harsher crisis event. Or maybe the personal impact of the pandemic is jolting you into change. Perhaps this crisis has got you thinking that, when it comes to money, there must be a better way forward for you.

For others, things might have been feeling stable until COVID-19 sent you off course. Now, you find yourself scrambling a little (or a lot) to manage financially.

I think it’s fair to say that most of us at least lost our way for a moment when the pandemic accelerated (and some of us are still feeling like a rabbit in the headlights). The reality is that none of us have experienced a crisis like this before. However hard it feels, this experience will very likely have highlighted where improvements could be made, and where you might be able to do things differently when it comes to your budget, and your mindset around money.

Now that change has been thrust upon you—what would you like to see evolve from this experience? Take some time to review your responses to Step 4, and create a list of ideas, mindset changes, actions and outcomes you would like to see come out of this experience. Some of your notes will highlight specific actions you can take now to make changes. Some will be longer-term, and others will be ideas you’ll need assistance to put into action.

Step 6: Your new money relationship

Your relationship with money evolves with your life experiences—good and bad. The conscious effort you’re putting in now to create a clear money mindset in a crisis will strengthen your control and build your ability to make more grounded financial decisions throughout your life. It will also make it easier to take the necessary actions to create positive change now and in the future.

Imagine that you had a relationship with money in which you were calm and confident, felt empowered, in control and flexible, and could have open and constructive conversations about money. Imagine having a balanced money mindset that makes it easier to make decisions, to ask for help, to talk to others, and to take action in tough times. How would that feel?

Reflect on your responses to Step 5, and distil this down to your mindset, thoughts and emotions around money. Take a moment to write down the relationship with money that would be important for you to have right now.

I encourage you to keep this somewhere prominent, to remind yourself of this ideal money relationship. Perhaps stick a note on your computer monitor, or a set a reminder in your diary.

Step 7: What is important about your new relationship with money?

Finally, take a moment to think about the people in your life and community and what you want to achieve within these relationships and within your life. With this in mind, write down what matters most to you in developing your new relationship with money. It might be the ability to have great experiences with your partner, creating security for your family, or contributing to your local community. Whatever it is, write it down. It will help to remind you how important and powerful a clear money mindset and positive relationship with money can be.

Extra guidance

As you work through these steps, you’ll find that your mindset will become clearer, and you will hopefully discover some actions you can take to start making positive changes.

Now more than ever before, it is important to be aware of all the things we can do to help ourselves and others. The following resources offer information and tips that you may also find helpful: