Growing your money should be a simple process: Save money by either earning more than you spend, or spending less than you earn. Once enough is saved up to handle emergencies and any expected large purchases, start investing the rest. Invest long enough, and you will reap the rewards of compound interest, taking your money growth to exponential heights. The process itself is not complicated. What can make growing your money challenging is dealing with the demands and challenges of life along the way and staying committed to the process. Sticking with your financials plans is made even more difficult when we think that we should have a certain amount of luxury by a certain time or because we’ve out in a certain amount of hard work or grew up a certain way. We may feel entitled to get what we don’t yet have but feel we should have. It’s this sense of entitlement that has caused many to get sidetracked off the course towards financial stability (including me!). So, let’s talk about it.
What is Entitlement?
Entitlement is the sense that we have a right to have something; a feeling that we deserve to have something. Entitlement in itself is not bad. Our founding fathers certainly didn’t think so: The Declaration of Independence states that “…all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” We are entitled to have freedom to live a good life! That’s not a bad concept. The danger comes in how we handle the responsibility of freedom, and, within the context of this post, how we handle our sense of entitlement when dealing with our finances.
Where does our sense of entitlement come from?
Our environment and experiences are the biggest influences on our sense of entitlement. Interestingly, someone from two opposite environments or sets of experiences can come to the same sense of entitlement. A person who grew up in an upper-middle class environment where finances were rarely discussed and received everything that they ever asked for growing up could feel entitled to buy anything that they want, whenever they want to, regardless of whether or not they have the cash to do so (after all, how to handle finances was never discussed). A person who grew up in a poor neighborhood where finances were also rarely discussed (except for possibly being told that there is no money to do X, Y, and Z) and rarely received what they asked for growing up could also feel entitled to buy anything that they want, whenever they want to, regardless of whether or not they have the cash to do so. Why? Because this person may have felt deprived during their childhood, and now feels that they have they right to pursue the financial “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” that they did not experience while growing up, at all costs.
The struggle of entitlement
The struggle is real no matter what side of the tracks you come from, and it can be amplified by the experiences of others and marketing of “the good life” that we encounter almost every day. Your best friend just purchased their dream car. You have worked hard for years. Why shouldn’t you get to get that dream car too? Your cousin just took their dream vacation. You have never taken a real vacation in your life. Why shouldn’t you get to take a vacation like that too? Feeling this sense of entitlement is not the core issue or inherently wrong. It’s how you handle it that is the issue. If you want that dream car, is now the right time to get it? If you will be taking on a loan, does this loan fit within your overall financial goals or will it throw them off track? Have you saved up enough money to take that dream vacation without going into debt? Will taking your dream vacation wreck your financial goals? Whether or not you buy that hypothetical car or take that hypothetical vacation is not the issue. If you have the money and your decision fits within your financial goals, go for it! But if you’re finding yourself giving into what you feel entitled to have at the expense of your financial goals, progress, or downright stability, think twice about what’s influencing your desires and decisions. A sense of entitlement is a major reason why people get into too much consumer debt, attempting get things that they feel they should have but cannot truly afford.
Dealing with entitlement
Dealing with a sense of entitlement is not easy. The first step in dealing with it is understanding where our desires may be coming from. The second step is placing those desires alongside our current financial situation and financial goals to see if we can truly afford to get what we desire to have. The third step, if we cannot afford what we feel we should have, is making a commitment to stick with our financial plan. A sense of entitlement is a major reason why people get into too much consumer debt, attempting get things that they feel they should have but cannot truly afford. Don’t allow yourself to be thrown off track by what you feel you should have if you are not in a position to afford it and continue with your financial goals.