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5 negative thoughts you're having about money and how to flip the script

Ramit Sethi, author of "I Will Teach You To Be Rich," gives advice on how to turn negative "internal scripts" about money into positive, productive thoughts.
How to let go of your negative ideas about money
Most of us grew up with “invisible scripts” around money, which are beliefs absorbed through childhood that are so deeply embedded, they are invisible to us.Ran Zheng / For TODAY
/ Source: TMRW

What’s the first thought you have when you think of money? Maybe it’s something like, “It’d be awesome to have more!” But when you really pause to think about money, do negative thoughts or feelings start rolling in? Maybe you grew up hearing your parents say, “We don’t talk about money in this family,” or “We’re not like those people.”

Ramit Sethi, author of the New York Times bestselling personal finance book, “I Will Teach You to Be Rich,” says most of us grew up with “invisible scripts,” which are beliefs absorbed through childhood that are so deeply embedded, they are invisible to us.

If someone is self-sabotaging their income (for example, not negotiating a salary), Sethi says he always helps them dig in to find out why. “And the answer is almost always they have a deep invisible script that they have never connected to their current behavior,” he explained to TMRW.

“In short, you are doing yourself a horrible disservice if you let these childhood scripts affect you 30 or 40 years later in your career,” he added.

Changing your negative thoughts can actually allow more money to come in. Below, see five common negative thoughts or feelings about money that you might be experiencing, and find out how to flip the script and take action.

“Negotiating for a higher salary is too scary.”

Negotiating for a higher salary feels too scary
If it feels scary to ask for more money, just remember that employers actually expect you to negotiate. Getty Images

Does the thought of asking an employer for more money give you anxiety? Sethi, who runs a “Find Your Dream Job” course, said negotiating for a salary feels scary because we’re not taught how to do it. “In fact, we’re taught the opposite,” he said. “In American culture, we’re taught that negotiating is bad, that it’s adversarial and that it makes you look cheap. So it’s no surprise that people grow up and they take the first job offer they’re given and do it over and over again for their entire careers.”

But if you negotiate a single raise early on in your career, that can turn into hundreds of thousands of dollars if properly invested.

Flip the script: Know that employers not only expect you to negotiate, but it also makes you look more confident and competent, Sethi said. “Negotiating your salary can be seen as positive since that’s what all the other top performers are doing.”

His advice is to practice and do your research beforehand. And don’t wait until the offer to start talking about salary. “Let them know in the first interaction (cover letter or interview, for example) that you’re looking for fair compensation — reiterate that,” he said. “At negotiation time, pull out your data and say, ‘According to my research on the market, here’s a fair range.’”

“Wanting more money feels greedy.”

There are many negative stereotypes about having lots of money, which can produce an icky or gross feeling when you want to ask for more. This could be something that’s holding you back from asking for a raise, for example.

Take a character like Richie Rich who has tons of money. He acts completely irresponsible with it. It’s no wonder you don’t want to be seen like that, right?

Flip the script: Look for a positive money role model in your life — someone who is generous and confident with their wealth — and look to adopt some of those values for yourself, Sethi said. Imagine what charities you’d give your money to or what vacations you would take your parents on. “There’s a phrase people use, ‘Money changes people,'” Sethi said. “Yeah, it does change people. It should. It allows me to be more generous, more adventurous and more spontaneous. Rather than worry about what we’re getting into, let’s welcome it.”

“I’m in too much debt to ever be wealthy.”

Debt can feel overwhelming, but changing your mindset and creating a plan can help you get out of it.Guido Mieth / Getty Images

Do you know the exact month and year that your debt will be paid off? Sethi said he asks this question to people with debt, and 98% of them say they have no idea. “When you hear people say, ‘I’ll never be out of debt,’ I understand the hopelessness and that it can feel overwhelming to have $10,000 or $400,000 of debt,” he said. But there is hope.

Flip the script: Create a debt payment plan, Sethi advises. “You’ll know the month, date and year your debt will be paid off, and you’ll know that adding a little extra money to that debt can shorten your debt by years,” Sethi said. “Set up the habits so that when that debt is paid off, you can shift into the growth mode, which means spending more on the things you love and protecting yourself.”

“It’s too hard to save money.”

OK, you’ve heard it a million times: “Give up that daily latte to save money!” If you listen to all the personal finance experts telling you the things you can’t have or can't do, it’s no wonder it sounds so joyless and hard to save.

Flip the script: Ask yourself, “What is my rich life?” advised Sethi. In other words: What would you do if you had more money? Let’s say you’d like to travel. Picture the most magical place you’d like to go. What seat are you sitting in on the plane? What hotel are you staying in? Who are you going to take? It'll inspire you to save toward a specific goal.

“You can see people’s eyes light up because they’ve never thought of this,” Sethi said. “I encourage people to spend more, and suddenly they look at money differently — they’re looking at compound interest and investing.”

“I don’t even know where to start.”

Feeling overwhelmed with coming up with a finance plan is totally normal. But have you done anything to work toward your goals? That’s the real question. “With anything in life, the solution is not to put our head in the sand and ignore the problem,” Sethi said. “In personal finance, the longer we delay, we experience almost an exponential loss in potential earnings.”

Flip the script: Take control of your money, Sethi said. “This stuff is not intuitive. You have to learn it.” The first step he suggests is to pick up and read a good personal finance book. “Don’t delegate it to someone else — this is your rich life.”