Updated: Jan 11
I know you've heard it everywhere: you have to change your money mindset first, to build wealth. While I agree with this, I also recognize there are many more factors to consider for elevation (access to information, social capital, career, income, debt, etc). Still, with the economy on shaky ground and financial security feeling increasingly out of reach, it's more important that we, millennials, be mindful of how we think about money.
Use journal prompts to jumpstart your money journaling sessions
Journaling, in general, is one of the most cost effective self-care activities. My frugal self loved to journal before I even knew what self-care was. I still have my old journals all the way back to high school! Whether it be about my normal day-to-day, writing down positive affirmations and personal finance goals, or planning out my year, I've found that journaling has always helped me feel more confident and quieted down my running thoughts so that I could focus on what's important at the present time. Visiting Barnes and Nobles was a favorite pastime and I have at least 3 journals as gifts from loved ones. I've personally used the Passion Planner to track my progress throughout the year. And the SelfJournal is a great project/habits oriented journal where I'm able to take notes and self reflect.
Journaling about money and your money mindset will bring you closer to reaching financial awareness and help you understand your money story. If you don't already have a journaling practice, these are journal prompts to help elevate your money mindset.
Quick List of Journaling Prompts for Your Money Mindset
1. What does having money mean to me 2. What makes me angry about money 3. What money advice would I tell my younger self? 4. What does financial freedom look and feel like to me? 5. What feelings of guilt or shame do i have when it comes to money? 6. What limiting beliefs do I have about money? 7. Am I jealous about anyone's lifestyle or situation? What would need to change for me not to be jealous anymore? 8. How Much Money Do I need to feel financially secure? 9. What are my financial goals for this year and in 5 years? 10. What habit am I willing to give up, to make space for a new habit that will grow my net worth? 11. What kind of lifestyle do I want, if I don't already have it?
Journal prompts to help uncover your money story:
What does having money mean to me?
Begin here. This question may seem simple but it’s an essential one to ask yourself. Are you chasing after money for security and stability or is it simply a means to an end? When I was in High School, I used to love finding ways of making more money for clubs (maybe I should've chosen a career in campaigning!) One of our club counselors asked me why I want to make more money, for what purpose. I couldn't answer her right away, because all I knew was that I wanted us to have more. I never thought about what it meant for us.
Whatever your answers is, this will affect how you approach budgeting, spending money, saving, and investing. Understanding what your relationship with money looks like will help you make conscious choices for your present and the future. If you grew up without money, having money may mean everything. If you grew up comfortably but not rich, having money may feel like security. If you grew up wealthy, having money may feel like keeping you in your current lifestyle. It looks different for everyone, and like I always say, personal finance is personal. So this answer, like all these answers, are for you alone.
What makes me angry about money?
Is there anything about money that you absolutely hate? Does it stress you out and you hate that stress? Do you feel like you would've been further ahead in life if only you had a bit more money. Were you given advice that later on turned out to be the worst money advice (example: go to XYZ school, get into an insane amount of debt, get a good paying job)? That's cool, get it out!
I used to get very angry when I thought about the things my mother didn't know to teach me about money. I felt like a woman who moved to another country to build an entirely new life had to know more about navigating finances. But I realized that even as an adult, you're constantly figuring things out. And I now thank my mom and family so much for figuring out how to make a good life for me. Reflecting on what you were taught as a child about earning and spending habits can give insight into your current views. It’s also helpful to look back at key moments when your relationship with money shifted — maybe it was when you got your first job or had to pay rent for the first time.
What money advice would I tell my younger self?
There are so many things I would've told myself. Like, start saving an emergency fund, even 5% of every paycheck. Don't let your account keep going into overdraft (PNC Bank got SO much money from me that way). Find a way to purchase a condo to live in and then turn it into a rental property. The list goes on. But I would also tell myself to go on the trips I felt like I couldn't afford and read a personal finance book in college, not only the required books. Similarly, there are things that you know that you didn't even know existed when you were younger. What kind of financial goals would you set for you to focus on? This is a sort of love letter to yourself, so be honest, but be kind.
What does financial freedom look and feel like to me?
Freedom of Choice. Independence. Options. Financial abundance. Dream life. Dream vacation. Money flowing. These are just a few ideas of what financial freedom means to me.
In this prompt, you'll want to list out what it would mean for you in monetary terms, but also in what your day-to-day would look like. Many have studied and devised levels of wealth and while there is no unanimously accepted levels/stages of financial independence, I've found this infographic to be a good guide:
Journaling prompts for money blocks:
What feelings of guilt or shame do i have when it comes to money?
While I can't tell you what to do, I'm still going to tell you that forgiving yourself will remove one of your money blocks. You have a relationship with money and unfortunately, you may have done some things in the past that you're not proud of. Whether you were terrible at handling money or you were in an extremely hard financial situation, you might not have known the right or wrong way to go about managing your finances. It's natural to feel guilty, but I imagine that you would've done better if you had known better. Choose to forgive yourself.
What limiting beliefs do I have about money?
Most of us have big dreams. And a lot of us have big fears. Books and articles will spout that most millionaires are "self-made" millionaires. Personally, I know very few people who have gained success completely on their own (we are not islands) but considering that they may have not received an inheritance, then most are self-made. No shade, but if publications can consider Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Kylie Jenner "self-made", I know we're not using the same definition.
Still, because many of us who are on this financially free journey didn't grow up with direct access to or an example of uber successful people, some may find it difficult to truly see the full potential of who and what we could become. Or maybe you didn't choose a very lucrative career field and you now feel your income is capped. This is the space to write down your fears. Because then, you can see the opportunities that you have. That's not to say that just because you believe it, things will be easy, but I'm a firm believer that you have to also search for the opportunities when you see roadblocks.
Am I jealous about anyone's lifestyle or situation? What would need to change for me not to be jealous anymore?
Don't spend too much time on this, because you don't want to focus on the negative, but you should realize if you're envying someone's lifestyle or what appears to be their lifestyle. Comparison is the thief of joy. It doesn't help or serve you. If you must, shift your envy to motivation. Let that person Note, envy is different from motivation. If you see someone that motivates you, keep that energy because it will guide you in getting closer to a better financial life.
Journal prompts for financial freedom:
How Much Money Do I need to feel financially secure?
If you're still living paycheck to paycheck, your first step is to budget so that you live below your means. THEN, you can start calculating what would make you feel financially secure. It might look like, all your necessary and flexible expenses being paid comfortably, having an emergency fund, investing in your 401K and Roth IRA AND brokerage account, and going on several trips a year [these are my own FYI].
What are my financial goals for this year and in 5 years?
You've started the New Year with some goals, intentions, or resolutions . It's true. You wouldn't be trying to change your mindset if you didn't have financial goals. If you've only thought about it and spoken it, now's the time to write them down and be clear about them. If you want more money, be clear about that, if you want to create more streams of income, scribble it down. If you want to be financially free, you have to be bold about what you want. This is not "the secret", but I do believe your words are a powerful tool, because if anything else, at least you've declared what you want.
What habit am I willing to give up, to make space for a new habit that will grow my net worth?
Let's say you have 16 hours in the day (with 8 hours of sleep), how do you manage that time? Do you get up and get ready [with kids], go to work, come from work or closer your laptop, maybe workout, cook or go out to eat, play with you kids, get them ready for bed or go out to a social event? When you have new goals, you also will have to establish a new habit because something and some activity will have to change in your life. Instead of watching your favorite show, you work on your side hustle. Instead of going out shopping, you spend that 1.5 hrs studying for the new certification you want. To gain a new habit, you probably will have to give up one. Dig deep and if you want to, head over to a "habits of wealthy people" post and get some inspiration.
What kind of lifestyle do I want, if I don't already have it?
Do you want to travel more? Do you want more time with your family and friends? Do you want to climb the corporate ladder or spend most of your time hiking? Do you want to learn something new, maybe even go back to school? Or do you want to follow entrepreneurship goals that you've dreamed about for as long as you can remember? This is your life and with better understanding, you can create it any way you want.
Too often we forget that personal finance is PERSONAL. We're all juggling our daily lives while trying to have financial security, with the goal of financial freedom. It's scary to speak your deep desires out loud, and even harder to go after them. But if you can visually see what you want, trust, it will become clearer in how to get there.
As always, stay extraordinary.