Are You A Financial Fatalist?

Financial Fatalist

Raise your hand if you’re a financial fatalist? Many more people are fatalists than care to admit; others probably don’t know they are one. The one miracle remedy to stop fatalism in its tracks is a simple mindset change.

What is a Fatalist?

Merriam-Webster defines fatalism as:

a doctrine that events are fixed in advance so that human beings are powerless to change them; also a belief in or attitude determined by this doctrine fatalism that regards social problems as simply inevitable

No human is perfect so we will make mistakes–even some that will take a lifetime to fix–but our mistakes don’t have to dictate our future.

Here are a few statements that a financial fatalist might believe:

  • Debt’s a Normal Part of Life
  • I’ll Just Declare Bankruptcy When I Can No Longer Afford My Monthly Bills
  • My Parents Were Poor So I Will Be Too
  • “Let Us Eat and Drink, For Tomorrow We Die”
  • The Government Will Forgive My Debt
  • The Neighbors Just Got a New Car So Let’s Get One Too (I wonder if they got 0% for 84 months too)

Do any of these statements resonate with you?

There’s a little fatalism in all us whether we admit it or not. That doesn’t mean we need to let it become our identity.

How We Conquer Financial Fatalism

My wife and I both hate debt, but in different ways. In my 20s, I was definitely more debt-happy than she was. After all, I had $50,000 in student loans and a $27,500 car loan, even after seeing others in the Great Recession wreck their credit because they borrowed way too much money in the years leading up to the 2007-2008 credit crunch.

My wife earned her college degree debt-free and has never borrowed money to buy a car.

On a positive note, neither of us have ever missed a credit card payment and we’re on track to pay our mortgage off 10 years early (hopefully sooner). After that, we hope to never borrow money ever again.

Admittedly, changing our mindset to financially thrive with a modest income was easy compared to others that spend a dollar like it’s going out of style and need accountability partners.

So let’s see how we minimize our inner financial fatalist.

Invest in Yourself

You must mentally tell yourself “I can” before you can physically change your financial habits. My wife and I read a book together every night, including some of my favorite personal finance books. We like learning from others so we don’t reinvent the wheel or repeat the same mistakes as them.

I’ll be honest, I’m a big Dave Ramsey fan. It’s one of the most basic and straightforward plans to get out of debt and we’ve followed his baby steps (mostly). If you want to let out your debt free scream one day–start following Dave’s advice ASAP.

Make a Budget and Watch Our Spending

Every month my wife and I go over how much we spent. That means printing out the credit card bill and writing a reason for every expense, plus looking at our other online bank statements.

Depending on if we have any notable changes in our income (we both earn a variable income) or expenses, we make a new household budget. We’re at the point now where we just shift $50 from one category to the other, but we usually have a ballpark idea of how much we spend.

I recommend that you use one of these programs to track your money:

Find out which one works best for you and go for it!

Pay Your Bills On Time

One thing both of our parents always told us to do was pay our bill before the due date and in full.

I like to take things one step further by paying the bill as soon as I get it. Yes, I get a little paranoid sometimes thinking I’m going to miss the due date.

Thankfully, most companies send text message reminders 10 days before a bill is due if you have to wait until payday to pay the bill. Using your bank’s autopay is also really convenient.

By keeping a budget and tracking your spending using the apps above, it should be a lot harder to miss a bill payment ever again because you know where every dollar is going.

Don’t Borrow Money

Never borrow money to buy a car, home gym system, cell phone, boat, etc. Two expenses that you can justify borrowing money for are to buy a house and a business loan because we need a place to live and sometimes buy equipment or learn skills to boost our income.

I guess you can also throw college into the mix as “good debt,” but the higher education system is in need of major financial reform and the mountain of student loan debt on most new graduates is going to have some serious repercussions. All I have to say is don’t knock community colleges and vocational school too soon.

My wife and I try to never pay retail for anything. Craigslist is our best friend. It saved us thousands of dollars while we built our house and we always check there first, then eBay, and finally we shop with Ebates when we must buy new.

Get an Emergency Fund

A 2016 Federal Reserve finds that 46% of Americans couldn’t afford a $400 expense without going into debt. Our own government leaders aren’t exactly role models on this issue either which (to me) makes this study ironic but by making a plan and paying your bills on time, you will have more money at the end of each month than when you left your finances in the hand of fate.

Make a plan to keep three months of living expenses in a separate bank account to cover those $400 expenses that will eventually come. Or, you can be like me and put 12 months of money in the bank so you can quit your job!

Invest for Passive Income

Like everybody, I like to work smarter instead of harder. I like it even better when my money does the same so I can work less while I’m young and also so I can eventually retire.

For many people, the solution to how to earn passive income is investing in stocks and ETFs. Even if you don’t know the difference between a stock and bond, you can still get started.

The easiest way to start investing is with one of the following brokerages:

  • Betterment (100% hands-off investing–$1 gets you started)
  • M1 Finance (100% free to trade stocks and ETFs–good for casual DIY investors)
  • Vanguard (A legendary full-service brokerage if you want a long-standing company)

While you should invest in stocks, real estate, or anything that earns passive income as early as possible in life to earn the most interest, you need to get your debts and emergency fund built up first.

Stop Being a Fatalist

As you can see, it’s easier than you think to stop putting your future in the hands of others. Sure, you’ll still make financial mistakes but you won’t make as many of them. Just like you get pay raises and promotions at work by improving, grab the bull by the horns and start deciding where you can make immediate changes in your life today!

What’s your most memorable moment as a financial fatalist?





About the Author

I'm a personal freelance writer.

10 Comments on "Are You A Financial Fatalist?"

  1. Oh my gosh, Josh – I’ve never heard this term before but I absolutely used to be a financial fatalist. I was raised with the belief that either you were rich or you were poor, and it was all a luck of the draw thing. This caused such a financial mess for us. We were convinced that we had to get the stuff we needed (and wanted) via debt because we never had cash (we spent it all without a budget or a plan).

    We learned the truth back in 2013 and our net worth is increasing every single month. SO glad to finally know the truth: that I can be in control of my money situation if I choose to!

    • I guess you can say I coined the phrase, I heard the word fatalist somewhere else (non-financial) and this blog post idea popped into my head.

      Like you, I grew up thinking that unless you were an athlete, brainy, or married rich, you were whatever social class (poor, rich, middle) you were born in. That’s really the farthest thing from the truth and really you need to throw the social class stigma out the window. Being debt-free and not wasting your money on useless stuff is more important than how much you make each month.

  2. You raise a good point about the way people think about themselves and the situations they were raised in. I think its important to know that you can be whatever and wherever you want to be, it isn’t predefined and with hard work and belief you can get to your goals. I think most people don’t realise this and end up failing.

  3. Both Mr. Groovy and I were financial fatalists. We always felt like we were one step away from a disaster and thought we’d never get ahead. We didn’t feel differently until we made a plan to leave NY. It wasn’t until we relocated that I learned how often money worries had kept him awake at night.

  4. Show me the way
    To the next whisky bar
    Oh, don’t ask why
    Oh, don’t ask why

    For if we don’t find
    The next whisky bar
    I tell you we must die
    I tell you we must die
    I tell you, I tell you
    I tell you we must die

    That’s the financial fatalism that used to play in my head before I met Mrs. Groovy. But thankfully, she helped me subdue that noxious curse. Great freakin’ post, my friend.

    • Thank you Mr. G and I totally forgot about this song from The Doors. I haven’t been listening to that genre much these days–too many podcasts and audiobooks instead.

  5. It seems a lot of people are fatalistic about their futures and it’s really unfortunate because it results in so much wasted potential. Too many people blame their circumstances on others, their upbringing, the government, etc., and just resign themselves that they’re stuck with the cards they’ve been dealt.

    Many people from very tough backgrounds have overcome enormous odds and achieved incredible success in this country. Ben Carson and Chris Gardner (the guy depicted in the movie “The Pursuit of Happyness”) are two names that come to mind.

    If you want to be successful, there’s probably no better place to achieve it in the world than America, but you have to take responsibility for your life and put in the hard work to make it happen. Many people, unfortunately, just choose to drift with the current instead.

    • It’s extremely easy to blame someobdy else and keep living life. Great examples of including Ben and Chris. I get my daily motivation from our local radio host who has a similar rags-to-riches story and was driven to do something in the community. Every day I’m blown away with his optimism and drive.

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