How Fear Clouds Financial Reality

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How Fear Clouds Financial Reality

My clients are terrific. They are all unique with their own special gifts and ways of looking at the world. I learn something from each of them.  And yet, the way they feel when they first come to me is so incredibly heartbreaking….and unnecessary.

It takes incredible courage to admit that their financial situation isn’t where they’d like it to be, and to bear their souls about the inner most secrets of their financial lives. Just that alone is enough for me to want to wrap my arms around them and protect them from further hurt.

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BUT, here is what’s so interesting about the incredible anguish they experience. It is their perception of how badly off they are compared to other people. It is their belief that they are stupid, or incompetent, or bad people. They see themselves as a tree with no leaves and broken branches. I see a tree full of leaves because I see their potential, and what can be done. What is the difference?

My clients, like all other people, see the façade of others who appear so much smarter or better at managing their money. They haven’t seen thousands of savings accounts, retirement accounts, and credit cards balances, so they don’t have relativity. And frankly, where they think they are in terms of the average North American, is completely out of whack. Usually they feel they are at the bottom of money success, rather than alongside many of their peers who look financially successful but aren’t.

How Fear Clouds Reality

How do we create such anguish and heartbreaking pain hanging over us every…single…day?

  1. Selective Filters

There was an article in Investment News a couple of days ago on Anthony Bourdain. Anthony Bourdain wrote Kitchen Confidential, had two successful TV shows, and recently committed suicide.  According to Investment News, it was rumored that Anthony Bourdain, based on his income and royalties, was worth about $16 million. In reality, his estate was around $1.2 million.  His wealth was estimated based on income while his spending habits were ignored.  Wealth is not what we make, but what we keep. Since we don’t see what others save, we compare ourselves to those who appear successful.

  1. We Assume Knowledge Translates to Action

The financial services industry has been teaching for a good 30 years or more about saving for retirement. It is such common knowledge that people assume everyone is doing it. My clients feel they are the only ones who have failed miserably at saving.

When you search for “budget books” on Amazon, you get 10,000 results. I know at least two recent authors who wrote budget books because their friends told them they needed guidance. These friends never really sought help, because they would have found guidance within the 10,000 choices. We know we need spending plans, but just don’t do them.  It could be money fear, shame, or a challenge to fit it into our everyday busy lives. We assume something so common must be so easy.

  1. We Collect Information that Reinforces Our Position

Once we’ve decided we’re bad, or failing, or worse than most people, we reinforce by looking for information that fits our beliefs. We beat ourselves up more, and the fear grows within. We add the fear of deprivation on top of our fear of failure, and it grows.  It affects our self-esteem, our happiness, and often creates paralysis.

Putting Fear in Its Place

When my clients come to me, our discussion starts with hope. Often their first question is “Will I be OK?”  Their anxiety immediately steps down a level when they find out “they’re not the only ones”. We look at their financial situation and talk about possibilities. Once they know the next step, relief and a bit of control reduces fear another level.

Managing fear takes patience. It may raise its ugly head if getting out of debt will take too long. It may raise its ugly head if learning about managing everyday cash is new and frustrating. But always at the end of our work together, every client says “I don’t know why I waited so long”.  They leave proud and fearless.

Information shown is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended as investment, legal or tax planning advice. Please consult a financial adviser, attorney or tax specialist for advice specific to your financial situation. Behavioral Cents, LLC and any third parties listed, linked to or otherwise appearing in this message are separate and unaffiliated and are not responsible for each other’s products, services or policies.

Carrie Rattle is a Master Money Coach, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst & Founder of Behavioral Cents. She is a 30-year veteran executive of financial services. Behavioral Cents helps women achieve independence, freedom, and a bigger voice in the world. By building a fatter bank account, women can confidently walk away from a bad job, build a business to change the world, or live their own dreams. Behavioral Cents delivers a private, non-judgmental atmosphere with a program tailored to change your money behaviors for the better – without deprivation. Thoughts always welcome:


  • Carrie Rattle

    Carrie Rattle is a North American money behavior specialist and veteran financial executive, with multi-country experience in banking, brokerage and credit card practices. During her career, Carrie witnessed heart-breaking events where women had their freedom restricted, got into heavy debt, or had to commit fraud to get out of a terrible situation. Lacking the funds to have choices and independence destroyed their lives. Carrie built Behavioral Cents to help women write happy endings to their money stories. Financial knowledge is a start but does not always guarantee success. Understanding individual money beliefs and nurturing behavior change provides a more powerful path to truly help people align their money with their life’s dreams. Learn more at

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