Overcoming Financial Imposter Syndrome

You’ve probably heard of imposter syndrome — the psychological phenomenon in which an individual doubts their talents and qualifications, believe they only succeeded due to luck, and fear that they will be exposed as a “fraud.”

But do you know what financial imposter syndrome is? It’s when you finally start making a living wage, but you still feel poor and old habits remain. “If you’ve spent most of your career not earning much, then it’s more familiar to you than being financially stable,” New York Times writer Eric Ravenscraft writes. “Making enough money doesn’t feel real yet, and you’re afraid it will all go away.”

This anxiety can prevent you from taking care of yourself even though you can afford to — you put off expensive dental work, avoid getting your car fixed, or buy cheaper but not as healthy food.

It’s smart to keep living within your means; you don’t want to fall into the trap of “lifestyle inflation,” where you spend more money because you earn more money. But financial imposter syndrome can greatly affect your mental health, and it’s a problem you shouldn’t ignore.

Here are some tips on how to get over financial imposter syndrome.

1. Give yourself permission to spend money.

When you’ve struggled with paying your bills for so long, it can be hard to justify buying something you simply want and that would “only” bring you joy and improve your life. As New York Times writer Eric Ravenscraft writes, “If you manage to get a better paying job and improve your financial situation, no one automatically comes along to teach you what you can do with your new paycheck.” Try to make a conscious effort to break out of old thinking patterns; allow yourself to spend money on things from time to time that bring you joy.

2. Talk about it.

Voicing out loud what you’re going through — with a therapist, a financial advisor, a friend, or mentor — can help you see the financial facts of the situation versus your perception. The Humphreys Group regularly hosts Conversation Circles where we talk about the emotional aspect of money; consider coming to one of our events!

3. Create a script for times when you feel financial imposter syndrome creeping in.

When you feel old insecurities and unfounded worries coming in (e.g. “I can’t buy that — that’s something that ‘other people’ do,” “I’m selfish for spending money on better clothes/food/etc.,” or “It’s just luck that I got this job; I don’t deserve this money.”), have a mantra/script to remind yourself that you deserve financial success and that you worked hard to get where you are now.

Managing the Emotional Side of Money

At The Humphreys Group, we know that wealth management is best delivered with equal doses of expertise (the technical number crunching) and empathy (emotional intelligence). We know that addressing the non-numerical aspects of money results in better financial outcomes for our clients. If you’re interested in talking to us more about financial imposter syndrome, reach out to our team today.

Diane Bourdo, CFP®
Diane Bourdo, CFP®

Diane Bourdo is the President of The Humphreys Group. Diane has dedicated her life’s work to helping women make smart financial decisions. For nearly 30 years, she has developed investment management and financial planning strategies that allow her clients to create lives that reflect their values. Diane was named an InvestmentNews 2020 Women to Watch and has been recognized in Forbes, SF Chronicle, NY Times and more for her work and writing.

Diane Bourdo, CFP®
Diane Bourdo, CFP®

Diane Bourdo is the President of The Humphreys Group. Diane has dedicated her life’s work to helping women make smart financial decisions. For nearly 30 years, she has developed investment management and financial planning strategies that allow her clients to create lives that reflect their values. Diane was named an InvestmentNews 2020 Women to Watch and has been recognized in Forbes, SF Chronicle, NY Times and more for her work and writing.

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