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There are a lot of money "shoulds". You should contribute more to retirement, you should have a bigger emergency fund,etc. Reading all of it can be overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. Focusing on the power of starting small and doing one thing can have amazing results. Click through to read.

I don’t have a fear of heights (within reason) but I still don’t look down. Although, heights aren’t the issue here. The issue is my compulsive obsession with scrimping and loading up on money knowledge at every chance.

I used to have a big problem with constantly checking my retirement accounts, savings accounts, and other accounts. I would check them several times a week, daily, and whenever I had downtime. It was a bad habit brewing stronger every day.

My handy dandy smartphone didn’t make it any easier.

Reaching for my phone was simple, though. With mobile apps for banking stuff and lifestyle, checking up on my money and figuring out more ways to get better became dangerously easy. I started to question and micro-manage everything.

Why is the rate of return so low on this?! Should I sell it off? 

Maybe I should invest in some new funds. *obsessively researches for the next half hour* 

Let’s see if I can save a few bucks doing it this way vs. the other way. 

The obsessive checking happened when I was watching TV, trying to do blog work, or even errands. The ridiculousness went into overdrive when the money reading turned into recurring subconscious money thoughts and one too many dreams about me and my FIRE ambitions.

The most memorable dream included visiting Antartica in a penguin costume immediately after retiring at age 40. Weird…although something I wouldn’t rule out. 🙂

It seemed harmless at first. Reading personal finance info and checking my accounts several times a week gave me a feel good “responsible” vibe. It became second nature and that wasn’t a good thing.

When I signed up with Wealthfront for my Roth IRA, I downloaded their mobile app to stay up to date with my investments. Even though Wealthfront is a robo-advisor and handles the managing of my portfolio, I would periodically check in via the app. It felt like a good way to not be too passive about my investing.

Well…I checked the app constantly. Every night, curled up in my bed, with my body patiently waiting to fall asleep, I would open up it to monitor what had happened. In my mind, some big stock market crash would have come out of nowhere in the timespan of the 12 hours since I had last checked.

Without even realizing it, I had developed this apocalyptic mindset. I would question different sorts of small purchases and how my investing account was doing. My hand developed an automatic movement of reaching for my phone, check things to ensure all was good. My money scarcity mindset came back to me. I needlessly questioned everything and started to consume more and more information. It became exhausting.

As I like to think of it, I was spending too much time looking down.

Personal finance, to me at least, is about keeping your eyes up, focusing on the things right in front of you, fixing them, and moving on to the next. Doing small actions one at a time towards bigger goals. There’s a lot of information down below you. A lot of money “shoulds”.

These money “shoulds” feel immediately necessary when you read about them. I should build up a 10k, 15k, 20k, etc emergency fund, I should be checking my brokerage account a lot, I should be doing this, that, and so on. Sometimes we like to focus on way too many things when getting started with just one is the better case.

Emotion reveals itself in damaging ways. Not in the stereotypical hysterical crying, eat all the ice cream, type of way (Although if you do, I would make sure it’s Ben & Jerry’s, gotta have the good kind of ice cream at least).

Checking my accounts constantly wasn’t doing any good. It grew my sense of worry about whether I was doing everything right. It prompted me to seek out way more information than I needed.

Insecurity and comparison syndrome set in. Being “good” at personal finance felt like some elusive clique that would take forever to reach. Rather than just focusing on the one piece of information I needed to get going, I wanted to fix and monitor everything in one big swoop.

The habit has been mostly remedied.  The former compulsive tendency looked a lot like what happens when you go to WebMD to find answers for your sickness. You type in your symptoms and suddenly you think you’re going to die by next Tuesday.

There’s a lot of information, good information, down below but I’m learning to not always look down. Big changes result from small actions. Small actions happen when you keep your head up and plug away, slowly but surely.

Little by little I’m building up my savings, learning more and growing more. As long as I’m making progress, I feel good.

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Colin // RebelwithaPlan

Colin Ashby is the writer behind Rebel with a Plan, a website dedicated to people who choose to rebel against the norm of living in debt and feeling financially unenlightened. He believes everyone has an eccentric quality to embrace and that lattes are sometimes a necessity (despite what the personal finance community tells you).

Latest posts by Colin // RebelwithaPlan (see all)

16 Comments on Don’t Look Down!

  1. Alyssa
    October 24, 2016 at 4:18 pm (3 years ago)

    I can 100% relate to this piece. This is my favorite line by far: “Personal finance, to me at least, is about keeping your eyes up, focusing on the things right in front of you, fixing them, and moving on to the next.”

    I’m still learning how to control myself when it comes to checking my bank accounts. I used to look minimum 4 times a day. Now I’m down to one. I completely avoid looking at my investments though, because otherwise I’ll go absolutely crazy.

    Reply
    • Colin // RebelwithaPlan
      October 25, 2016 at 12:51 am (3 years ago)

      There was an article on Rockstar Finance a while back about a person who just checked their accounts twice a month or so. They would set aside only a few times per month to check the accounts and assess and stuff. I need to develop that willpower, haha.

      Reply
  2. Graham Bell
    October 24, 2016 at 9:35 pm (3 years ago)

    Great post Colin!
    I definitely agree that there’s no point in looking backwards. You can only look to the future. Also, glad to see you’re one of the bloggers utilizing Snapchat. I added you and need to get my snapchat ID listed on my blog like yours is. Until then feel free to add me (ID: reversethecrush). Looking forward to keeping up with your blog!

    Reply
    • Colin // RebelwithaPlan
      October 25, 2016 at 12:53 am (3 years ago)

      Thanks for telling me! I’ve been letting it fall to the side recently and need to get back on it. Will be adding you back!

      Reply
  3. smcmillian89
    October 25, 2016 at 2:28 am (3 years ago)

    My problem is that at times I feel like I spend too much. Starting next month I’m going with a set in stone budget and try to start saving up for my future.

    Reply
    • Colin // RebelwithaPlan
      October 26, 2016 at 6:48 am (3 years ago)

      Good job! Although it’s important to remember to not beat yourself up too much if you go out of budget. I love Afford Anything’s Anti-budget and Half Banked’s one minute budget systems!

      Reply
  4. Amber Masters
    October 25, 2016 at 4:34 pm (3 years ago)

    This is just what I needed today! We have $600k in student loan debt. I find myself CONSTANTLY checking our accounts, seeing what interest has accrued. It does not build me up. It does not help me pay off our loans faster. It is looking down, instead of up. Thanks for the reminder 🙂

    Reply
    • Colin // RebelwithaPlan
      October 26, 2016 at 6:49 am (3 years ago)

      ahhh, you made my day, thanks! I try to only let myself check on my student loans once a month to see how much interest has accrued. It’s a bad addiction!

      Reply
  5. Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies
    October 28, 2016 at 1:03 am (3 years ago)

    Ha. I don’t even know where to start. There was a point not to long ago that the only way I could keep myself from looking at my Vanguard account 87 times a day was to have my husband change the password and not tell me. Tracking is so powerful, but it is so easy to be consumed by numbers.

    Reply
    • Colin // RebelwithaPlan
      November 4, 2016 at 5:22 am (3 years ago)

      hahahaha, that’s funny! As pf bloggers, I think we have a tendency to get even more consumed by the #’s than others.

      Reply
  6. Tonya
    November 3, 2016 at 7:02 pm (3 years ago)

    lol I still check Personal Capital about every other day. Like you said, it makes me feel kind of financially responsible and it just serves as a reminder to me to stay on track….although yes it can become a bit obsessive!

    Reply
    • Colin // RebelwithaPlan
      November 4, 2016 at 5:21 am (3 years ago)

      I still have yet to even get on the personal capital train…I’m terrible, haha.

      Reply
  7. Matt Spillar
    November 3, 2016 at 9:47 pm (3 years ago)

    Hey Colin, congrats on the Rockstar Finance feature!! Enjoyed this post a lot man, great work! I do the same thing, checking my accounts way too many times per day to make sure everything is going smoothly. The problem with that is that the whole point of automating our finances is to have the freedom to just set them up and have peace of mind to forget about constantly monitoring them! This is a great reminder to just trust the process and stay patient, learning one thing at a time.

    Reply
  8. Sarah @tortoise_happy
    November 5, 2016 at 3:53 pm (3 years ago)

    There’s a time and a place for looking down. When you’re early in your journey of getting your financial act together, it’s a good to have a grip on exactly what is where. Of course, that can quickly become a habit and stop being helpful. Love the comparison to WebMD. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve self diagnosed a terminal illness!

    Reply
  9. Kurt
    November 6, 2016 at 4:47 pm (3 years ago)

    I think you’re right on, very helpful. If all the time we’re tempted to spend in self-scrutiny were instead devoted to creativity, future-think, and personal growth, I think financial security would take care of itself!

    Reply

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