When it comes to personal finances, Kiwis can tend to dwell on the negatives. They might have the ability and income to get ahead but the negative voice in their head tells them not to take risks, that it's impossible or only the rich can succeed.

Sometimes the thought patterns are etched into our caveman brain and overrule the logic required for complex financial decision-making.

These negative thoughts make us our own worst enemy in the 21st century.


Back in the days before civilised society we humans had to be very risk averse. We stockpiled food for colder seasons. Everything could go wrong and that voice still tells us to take no chances or we'll starve to death in the winter.

We also go looking for evidence that supports our negativity. The markets are about to collapse. Shares are bad. And when we miss out on the biggest bull run in history we find ways to justify our actions.

Some people are dealt a very bad hand in life. There is no doubt about that. Being born to privilege helps, of course. White privilege, male privilege, and many other social privileges boost some Kiwis' financial capability.

But some people, no matter how bad their start in life or situation, can rise above the same disability or misfortune that may hold others back.

The first step in overcoming the negative voice is to acknowledge that you have this issue in the first place.

Then, when negative thoughts appear, write them down. Look for a pattern.

Imagine what the positive thought would be or pose a question that will open up the equation.

"It's impossible to buy a house" could be replaced with "I will buy a house", "what can I learn from people who have bought houses recently?" or "what steps do I need to take to buy a house?" The answers can become affirmations you repeat to yourself when you feel the negative voice creeping in.


If you find yourself slipping back down the destructive rabbit hole then look for ladders to get out. It could be anything from affirmations to therapy.

I've met people who use pictures or screensavers as visual clues to remind them constantly of whatever it is they dream of doing.

Of course, simply putting a picture of a Ferrari on the inside of your toilet door doesn't mean you're miraculously going to own one. But it helps you focus on what you want to achieve.

The inner voice might also be telling you you're useless, you'll never get a job, you always make mistakes. These voices can be even more difficult to tackle and require professional help to overcome, they are not readily remedied by a column or book.

The "buy me now" voice is also a big one when it comes to personal finances. It's linked directly to our spending triggers formed way back as our brains were evolving for fight or flight.

I just happened to be reading a post on this on one of my regular personal finance forums the YNAB (You Need a Budget) Fans Facebook group earlier this week. The poster, an American, couldn't stop herself buying stuff at Target, which is a bit like an oversized Kmart or The Warehouse.

People had useful tips - one "Not going to Target has stopped my expenditures from Target." Click and collect without entering the main store worked for one person.

One commenter added "buy me" things to a wish list or cart online then ignored it for a period of time. Another did all her buying decisions in the space of one hour, just once a month.

An altogether more existential suggestion was: "Immerse yourself in science, philosophy, and nature writing, and you'll rid yourself of such materialistic urges."

Obviously a strict budget and financial helps too.

And where there is positive talk, there are solutions.