It happens to the best of us–and I’m as guilty as the next person. I say this with love: We sound like idiots.
Brett Graff is an economist–formerly with the U.S. government, and currently writing a column for The Miami Herald–who is a much nicer person than I am. She doesn’t think you’re an idiot, but she does think that wishing and fantasizing aren’t necessarily the best use of your time.
“The wrong dreams can be downright destructive,” says Graff. “While you’re sitting on the sofa dreaming of the millions falling into your lap, someone else is out there implementing your idea.”
Worse, this magical thinking lulls you into a sense of complacency–and the illusion that positive thinking can pay the bills. “You end up spending without saving, and racking up debt while shackled to your day job,” she says. “You’re creating your own biggest hurdle to making those very dreams come true.”
Moving forward is all about your mindset. And about not being, well, stupid.
So here are the five things that my friends know better than to say around me when it comes to finances–and some advice on how to avoid saying them yourself:
1. “I’ll do that when I win the lottery.”
Your chances of winning the jackpot are 1 in 175,711,536 or .000000005%. For comparison, your chances of being struck by lightning are 1 in 10,000 or .01%. Do you think that you’re going to get struck by lightning? No. But it’s a lot more likely than winning the lottery.
What You Should Act On Instead: Who needs the lottery when you have a savings goal? Admittedly, it isn’t as glamorous as a check that won’t fit through your front door. But a comfy savings goal has its own appeal: You get to anticipate the trip/house/car of your dreams (and we all know the anticipation is the best part) as you get closer–and you get the satisfaction of knowing, once you have said trip/house/car, that you did it all yourself.
2. “I’m going to write the next ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’”
I say this as a writer who’s had books published, who writes every day and who has friends who’ve had their novels optioned by movie studios and still have to worry about the mortgage. Sure. It could happen. But that’s not the wisest plan nor is it the most likely scenario. If I had a dollar for every time that someone at a party told me that they’d have a bestseller if they just had the time or a ghostwriter …
My point is that there are people who have made a mint self-publishing fan fiction, monetizing their blogs and creating Etsy shops. But unless you’re willing to devote as much time to those things as you would to a full-time job, they’re not going to pan out. So before you use this as your get-out-of-debtor’s-prison-free card, make sure you understand what it really means.
What You Should Act On Instead: Act like you’re already the woman in your fantasies. “Aspiring writers think about writing,” says Graff. “Writers write. Act as though it is your job and, rest assured, one day it will be.”