Americans are very good at spending money, but not so good at talking about it. Sure, people will mention being broke or having just gotten paid. But discussing hard truths about money — like the mistakes we’ve made with spending, or the distinct path we’re on to save more in the years ahead — isn’t normal social conversation.
The subject of money isn’t as forbidden as it was in say, the 1950s, thanks to an escalation of awareness around issues such as pay transparency and the gender wage gap. But it’s still not embraced as a regular part of the conversation. As a March 2020 article in the Atlantic noted, the topic of finances is taboo partly because money (or lack of it) can make us feel bad — and who wants to talk about bad stuff?
To answer that question, financial blog author Peti Morgan wants to talk about money. More specifically, she wants to talk about her money mistakes and the valuable lessons she learned as a result of those mistakes. And Morgan had quite a few money problems not too long ago.
Last updated: Aug. 13, 2021
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As the founder of the Leveraged Mama financial blog, podcaster and online business coach, Morgan discovered that the best way to tackle your financial problems is to treat them like any other problem — starting with admitting you have a problem in the first place.
A year ago, prior to embarking on her financial blogging journey, Morgan was ashamed of just how deep into debt she’d found herself. She was possibly even more ashamed to talk openly about it.
“I was worried that setting off on this journey so publicly would mean the loss of respect, pride and friends,” she said. “I knew that by sharing (about my failures), people I knew personally would find out about all the stupid things I had done with my money. I could lose respect. I could lose friends.”
But owning her problems and failures was, for Morgan, the only true way to overcome them.
“I had to stand up and declare to anyone who cared to read about me that I had failed,” she said. “I knew that I needed to be honest about how much debt I was in, and how I got into that much debt.”
Morgan has since gone public with her money blunders. Here’s a look at five failures she’s ‘fessed up to.
Failure No. 1: Concealing That You Have a Money Problem
What’s the scariest thing to do? For Morgan, it might have been admitting who she really was: someone who had not learned how to manage money. How did she avoid facing this truth? She just made more money to cover up the problem.
“I was someone who didn’t know much about how to manage money, and I hid this by earning lots,” Morgan said. “If I had earned less, it would have been more obvious that I was failing with my money management.”
Failure No. 2: Not Connecting Hard Work With Money Earned
Who of us hasn’t blown through a paycheck shortly after receiving it? Or worked our butts off for tips only to spend half of it on a cab ride home that night? It can be extremely difficult to constantly connect the dots between what we earn and what we spend. In Morgan’s case, she found herself working hard but failing to connect the hard work with the money it brought in.
“It was easier to spend on non-important things with this disconnect,” she said.
Failure No. 3: Spending Without Investing, Saving or Tracking
Hand in hand with Morgan’s failure to link income with the work it took to earn it was her failure to prioritize the money she made.
“I didn’t learn about how to track, save or invest my money,” she said. And she didn’t care to learn how to, either, saying she “didn’t prioritize the time to do this. By not tracking and managing my money well I was able to ignore how poorly my money was being used, and the level of debt I was in.”
Failure No. 4: Getting Into ‘Dumb Debt’
Another problem was that Morgan “didn’t understand how the money machine worked — how capitalism worked,” she said. “I didn’t understand my place in the hierarchy of money.”
Ignorance can only be bliss for so long, and Morgan eventually felt the painful consequences of her reckless spending in the form of interest.
“By paying interest on debt I was fueling this machine but not benefiting from it,” Morgan said. “The interest I was paying was on items that had lost value, making it dumb debt.”
Failure No. 5: Mistaking a Great Ad for a True Need
We all know that ads are designed to build interest in a product, but do we also take time to consider whether an ad might be working its magic a little too well? Morgan got in trouble by failing to assess her needs when being targeted with a seductive ad.
“I was a big sucker for marketing and I didn’t understand that it was designed to make me feel like I needed something, that what I had was never enough, and that I always needed something more,” Morgan said.
Once You Know the Failures, You Can Learn the Lessons
In admitting her failures, Morgan isn’t so much airing her dirty laundry as showing people that even the ugliest stains can be erased with time, dedication and hard work. She no longer sweats what other people think of her. She did lose some friends, but they’ve been replaced by people who respect her candor and openness. She’s also helping others get real about where they stand with money and overcome the stigma around financial failures.
“I know now that I’m making conversations about money mistakes easier for others, which is the beginning of becoming smarter with your money,” Morgan said. “Simply put, I want to show others it’s okay to fail because that’s where the lessons are.”
These are some of the golden lessons Morgan has learned from her financial failures.
Lesson No. 1: Make Money Decisions That Are Good for the Future
What defines a good money decision? Contrary to carpe diem enthusiasts who praise living in the moment and not for the future, a good money decision is one that is made with a positive future in mind.
After assessing and understanding how she failed with money, Morgan was able to make “better decisions around my spending,” she said. “I began living within my means, which was a bit of a shock to the system, but it had to happen.”
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Lesson No. 2: Learn the Ropes of Capitalism
“I read a lot about how capitalism works, how banks work, how money is made through lending, and how you’re on either one side (the person paying interest) or the other (the person receiving it),” Morgan said. “I learned how pervasive consumer debt was and how much of a handbrake it could be on your life goals.”
Lesson No. 3: Pay Attention To Your Financial Situation
Morgan keeps tabs on all her money now, which means she no longer loses track of it. She maintains investments and a savings fund, and if something looks off, she deals with it immediately.
“I reassess where I’m putting my money and I adjust as necessary,” Morgan said.
If a mistake is going to occur, it won’t be because she’s not paying attention.
Lesson No. 4: Be Careful About Spending in Response To Advertising
Once upon a debt-ridden time, Morgan was a marketer’s dream consumer. She bought stuff she wanted simply because an ad told her she wanted or needed it. Now, she says, she’s “far more critical about whether I just want or need something — and ask myself why on a deeper level — so that I can observe any influence by great marketing.”
Nothing quite kills the urge to buy something frivolous once you get philosophical about it.
Lesson No. 5: Respect the Energy Put Into Earning the Money You Spend
“After I made the connection between the hard work and the money I was spending, I learned to respect the hard work more,” Morgan said. “I also realized that paying debt was not a good use of my money and hard work.”
This lesson also came with an almost poetic epiphany about debt.
“I would rather be saving for my future, not paying for my past,” said Morgan, who now lives in a cheap rental home. She finds that her conditions are harder now than they were in her 20s and 30s, but she’s also wiser and more honest with herself.