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Money mindsets can shape how people spend, invest and save. Yet many people don’t discover their money mindset until later in life.
One potentially sabotaging mindset is scarcity – or the fear of not having enough. This belief can come from various influences, such as growing up in a low-income household, social and cultural pressures, or from past experiences of financial hardship.
However, a money mindset is not necessarily a true reflection of reality, but rather a thought pattern that can be changed. Often, the first step in examining a money mindset is knowing the reality of your situation.
Understanding the difference between a scarcity mindset and an abundance mindset — and knowing practical ways to help change your thinking — can help you align your perception with your financial goals and values.
Scarcity versus abundance mindsets
A scarcity mindset is characterized by a belief that a person’s resources are limited and insufficient. People with a scarcity mindset tend to focus on what they lack rather than what they have, which often leads to anxiety, stress and a constant sense of not having enough. When it comes to money, a scarcity mindset may drive someone to overwork, deny themselves things they need, or feel they can’t save for their future.
On the other hand, people with an abundance mindset believe ample resources and opportunities are available, and they may focus on possibilities, growth and gratitude. This mindset can lead to increased resilience, collaboration, and a willingness to make informed decisions and take calculated risks — particularly with their finances.
Many people will fall somewhere between these two mindsets. However, shifting from a deeply ingrained scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset involves changing thought patterns and adopting a more positive and open perspective. This may have an enormous impact on your financial wellbeing.
Tips for overcoming a scarcity mindset
Track your finances: As with most financial matters, tracking your finances and creating a budget that outlines your income, expenses and savings goals is an important way to create a realistic picture of your financial situation.
Appreciate what you do have: Experts suggest taking a moment each day to reflect on what you already have — a supportive family, good health, a stable job, or even an event to look forward to. Recognizing and being grateful for the value of these things can help you rewire your brain to perceive abundance rather than scarcity.
Identify the root causes: Identifying the root cause of a scarcity mindset involves exploring the experiences that have led you to think this way. These might be related to your childhood and upbringing, social and cultural influences, limiting beliefs about yourself and your abilities, and negative self-talk about your financial situation. Uncovering the root cause of a scarcity mindset is a gradual process that requires patience, and challenging some of these root causes requires self-compassion.
Educate yourself:Empowerment comes from knowledge. Take the time to educate yourself about personal finance, investments, and money management.
Of course, life is full of unexpected twists and turns that can trigger moments of scarcity thinking. Achieving a permanent state of abundance mindset is not realistic for everyone, but it’s the pursuit of this mindset that counts. This doesn’t mean erasing moments of doubt or fear, but rather recognizing them as opportunities for growth and transformation.
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Maxine is a Canadian journalist and podcast producer covering human rights and global development. She’s contributed to Al Jazeera, UN Habitat and the SOAS blog.
This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.