5 Money Fantasies That Make You Sound Financially Stupid

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“If only I could win the lottery,” you say as you face a stack of bills on the kitchen table. Suddenly, you’re making a mental list of all the things you’d do with a million dollars.

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.

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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.”

  • Engchik

    Thank God i don’t say any of these things!!! well, ok, maybe i’m slightly guilty of saying i’m writing the next bestseller…but i write so much and have a decent following that is just a personal goal. If money is attached to it, then great!

  • http://theWardrobeCode.com Nicole Longstreath

    Fantastic advice! The easy part is dreaming up the big idea – not many get past that. But not many actually intend to get past it either.

  • Marie

    Great advice. I like the Action Items that accompany the money fantasies. I have heard people say all of these, and even thought a couple (very fleetingly!) myself. Much better to focus on taking the steps you can each day than to indulge in this thinking.

  • Jaedwards4

    Well THIS was convicting!!! My husband and I have different ideas of managing our money and I have been dreaming of winning the lottery to “solve” or unresolved differences in this subject matter. And actually thinking about it now, I am thinking that winning the lottery would probably just make matters worse! While I would be trying to pay off our debt, he’d pull up in a new Jag!

  • Goldberry

    I guess these dreams are even more attractive when one can’t find a good job and saving isn’t an option.  Good luck to everyone else out there who is looking for work!