Money Happiness, Uncategorized

Why Forgiveness is Key to Money Happiness

Why Forgiveness is Key to Finding Money Happiness | www.TheHeavyPurse.comAs a Certified Financial Planner, I’ve heard every excuse under the sun for past money mistakes and listened as people rationalized or justified their overspending. I get it. Before we’re ready to accept responsibility for our choices, we tend to deflect our culpability in creating the situation. We blame credit card companies, marketers, reality tv shows promoting exaggerated lifestyles, endless social media bragging and so on for creating a culture where we feel compelled to “keep up”. While they certainly influence us (and feed into our “I deserve this” mindset), you still made the decision to spend money on whatever you now regret. They may be an accessory to your overspending, but you are the perpetrator.

I don’t say that to be cruel because I know how much it hurts to discover this, which is why we spend so much initial energy resisting the idea that it is our fault. It is a hard reality to face. Many times, when this realization finally hits home, you become weighed down with guilt. You go into emotional overload, feeling everything from shame to anger to embarrassment to despair. Confronting problems is never easy, but for many, it becomes even harder when the problems are of their own making.

Financial Guilt Keeps You in Prison

When I meet with people marinating in their guilt, they tend to fall into two categories:

  1. Stuck in their guilt and are unable to move forward. They feel helpless and uncertain, which just makes them feel even worse. They are uncomfortable seeking help because they are embarrassed.
  2. Panicking over their situation so they try everything without a real plan in place. They want to fix their financial situation now and follow every piece of advice they hear, regardless of whether it is from someone qualified, relevant to their situation or conflicts with other actions they are taking.
  3. Let’s take a moment and get Financially Real, so we can move past guilt.

    Reclaiming Control Over Finances Frees You

    First, let’s be very clear: You should feel proud that you are reclaiming your money power, not ashamed or guilty. Yes, you likely had a few eye-opening moments when you realized how some of your past decisions weren’t your best choices. This is normal; it’s why hindsight is always 20/20. More importantly, it’s good that you recognize where you’ve made mistakes before and can now identify patterns.

    Everyone Makes Mistakes

    Second, I’ve never meet anyone who hasn’t made a money mistake, myself included. We are human beings. We are emotional; we make mistakes. We also have the power to fix our mistakes and move forward, which is what you should focus on. Don’t waste time dreaming about a time machine to help you undo your past mistakes, instead direct your energy towards changing your future.

    Forgive Yourself for You Have Sinned Financially

    Guilt is a potent emotion. It can be a powerful, warning signal for those times when we are out of alignment with our values. At the same time, it can also be a destructive emotion, draining all of your energy and faith in yourself to right your financial situation. For money happiness to be realized, you must forgive yourself.

    You Bought into Common Debt Myths

    A common thread I find with people getting out of debt is the belief that your debt has made you bad or unworthy. This is a myth. Debt does not make you a bad person. You likely bought into some common debt myths, like everyone has credit card debt and you should keep up with the Joneses. You followed the herd, assuming you were doing the right thing. Ignorance was bliss until you discovered the truth, but debt will only become your life’s story if you allow it, so please don’t.

    You Weren’t Financially Literate

    It’s an unfortunate reality, but few kids leave home financially literate. They haven’t been taught how to make confident financial decisions, nor do they know what a true healthy relationship with money looks like. They learn by trial and mostly error, just as their parents likely did too. This is why I advocate so strongly that we need to end the money taboo cycle in our homes and believe that teaching kids how to think about money and make value-based decisions is one of the most loving gifts you can give them.

    But … You’re Still Not Off the Hook

    You made some normal mistakes that many of your fellow peers have made or are still making. This makes you human. It does not eliminate the fact that you made those decisions or excuse you from taking responsibility. You should absolutely forgive yourself for making money mistakes, but you do need to own them first.

    Financial Redemption is at Hand

    The good news is that by accepting responsibility for your decisions, good and bad, puts you back in control. Now you can move forward to financial redemption. You’ll no longer be imprisoned by your mistakes and finally be able to let them go, once and for all.

    You’re Making Positive, Powerful Changes

    Because guilt is such a strong emotion, you have to consciously shift your mindset when you find yourself in that endless loop of guilt and recrimination. Your subconscious may be sending your brain constant reminders of your past money failures, so you must pay attention to your thoughts and retrain or redirect them to your new truth.

    Remind yourself of the changes you have already made, starting with the fact that you owned your mistakes, that you are now making value-based decisions that support your family goals and that you are becoming financially literate. Don’t minimize the powerful changes you made and continue to make. Be proud of them. Review your progress consistently and acknowledge your success.

    The road to financial redemption will have its share of speed bumps and not everything will go your way. But don’t let a few hiccups throw you off your game either. Have an emergency fund, so when things break or fall apart, you don’t too.

    You’re a Financial Role Model to Others

    It’s not an easy task to right your financial foundation. Some will choose to quit instead. They likely haven’t truly made the commitment to get Financially Real or are still stuck beating themselves up, so any problems just reaffirm their lack of faith in themselves. But you — you dug deep and kept moving forward, even when life got complicated and messy. You didn’t give up. You’re demonstrating good financial behaviors to your kids and everyone else around you and empowering them to do the same. You’re proving that financially literacy is the secret ingredient to creating the life we truly want for ourselves, without guilt or debt. You are helping change lives.

    Let Go of Your Past Money Mistakes

    Forgiveness isn’t always easy. Sometimes it is downright hard, but it is necessary, especially if you want to achieve financial happiness, which is something everyone wants. Because even if you have financial freedom but haven’t forgiven yourself for your past money sins, you are still caught in the old cycle and not truly free or happy. It’s time to take an honest assessment of your past mistakes, identify patterns to be mindful of ongoing and let go of your money skeletons. Once that weight is off your shoulders, you’ll be surprised by how much lighter you feel and how nimble you become on your journey to money happiness.


    Leave a Comment


    1. Monday, September 14th, 2015
      Great post, Shannon! I really appreciate tying in personal growth with finances because I don't think you can have good financial health without being in a good place personally. For me, I am trying to focus on my law school debt as a gift in the sense that it's given me the opportunity to become a writer, blogger, and financial planner. I'm using it for good. This helps because I don't necessarily view it as a mistake, but sometimes I have feelings of regret.
      • Shannon Ryan
        Thursday, September 17th, 2015
        I'm glad you're using your school debt to motivate you and seeing the opportunities it has brought you. While it's certainly understandable that you would rather not have the debt, it has led to this moment where you're becoming the woman you were meant to be and she is great! You're going to be a great planner who will help many parents save for their children's college education and college graduates manage their student debt after graduation.
    2. Monday, September 14th, 2015
      I agree with you - forgiving yourself is really powerful. I think it's easy to stay on a dead end road, too, if you let your past mistakes define you.
      • Shannon Ryan
        Thursday, September 17th, 2015
        It's so true, Holly. Stopping bad money behaviors is great, but it's really hard to get ahead when you're still beating yourself up for making them.
    3. Monday, September 14th, 2015
      To dwell in money mistakes is a waste of time, as is staying in a negative money mindset. The best way out of it is to take action…ANY action (cutting spending, earning side income, etc) to move in the right direction. I think people think they have to go big right away, when just a tiny step is better than nothing.
      • Shannon Ryan
        Thursday, September 17th, 2015
        I agree, Tonya. A lot of people try to go big and it doesn't quite work out, so they think they failed and want to give-up. A small step in the right direction is all you need to get started.
    4. Monday, September 14th, 2015
      Excellent post Shannon, I could not agree more! I know that I tend to like to dwell on mistakes I've made, but that gets you nowhere. I think there's time and a reason to analyze why you made the mistake but then it's time to move and use the lessons learned to drive you to succeed.
      • Shannon Ryan
        Thursday, September 17th, 2015
        Thanks, John! You definitely need to take the time to analyze past mistakes to recognize patterns and why you made the choices you did, but then you absolutely need to move on. Or dare I say - let it go. :) I know how much you love Frozen!
    5. Monday, September 14th, 2015
      I always tell clients that I don't care how they got where they are financially, I care about where they want to go. Like you, I see guilt imprison too many people unnecessarily. We all do make mistakes, but the great thing is that most financial mistakes can be fixed with a change in behavior and it's hard work, but anyone can change, they just have to put their mind to it.
      • Shannon Ryan
        Thursday, September 17th, 2015
        Exactly! The past is the past - let's focus on where you want to go and what we need to do to get you there. It may take time and hard work to fix some of your past mistakes, but as we know and see in our clients, it is worth the effort.
    6. Monday, September 14th, 2015
      Financial guilt is a hard thing to deal with. When I was in the throes of my bad emotional shopping habits back when I was in college, the guilt would continually perpetuate more emotional spending. It was a bad cycle. Glad that part of my life is in the rearview mirror :)
      • Shannon Ryan
        Thursday, September 17th, 2015
        It is a very vicious cycle, Mackenzie. Money is so emotional and very few people realize it. I'm glad you've broken the cycle and put it behind you. Better days are ahead, my friend!
    7. Monday, September 14th, 2015
      This is a really positive message in a sea of boasting. I say boasting because I've found people LOVE to boast about their increased income, savings, retirement, debt paydown, etc. It makes people who are already (financially) vulnerable feel even worse. Instead people who have found success in finances should focus entirely on helping others. Sorry if this is a bit of rant, but people need to stop bragging about success and start helping others succeed (and never in a way that makes it seem like they are "better" than the others because of their financial situation!).
      • Shannon Ryan
        Thursday, September 17th, 2015
        Agreed, DC. People should feel proud of their achievements and use it to empower others to do the same, not make them feel worse. We often talk about the dangers of playing "keep up" from the perspective of people overspending to play keep with others. But some people boast about their success in getting out debt, etc in a way that makes others working towards financial freedom feel inadequate, as though they aren't keeping up, which is just as bad.
    8. Tuesday, September 15th, 2015
      Hi Shannon.

      I know how hard it is to forgive ourselves after making terrible money choices. The one thing that would sadden me was when we were turned down for credit. I would start to think "if only we made better decisions with our money, we wouldn't have gotten in debt in the first place and our credit wouldn't have been affected". It played like a CD on repeat.

      Now those thoughts don't even cross my mind. Thankfully we've managed to pay down our past debt and our latest relationship with money is putting our daughter through college, which is debt we gladly accept. :)

      Great post Shannon! Hope all is well. :)

      • Shannon Ryan
        Thursday, September 17th, 2015
        It's amazing how negative thoughts and energy can just run on a permanent loop in our minds and weigh us down. I'm so glad you and your husband were able to push beyond old mistakes and move forward. I know you've been working really hard with your kids to help them good money choices as they leave home, which makes so proud of you!
    9. Tuesday, September 15th, 2015
      With any bad situation, whether it's money, health, family issues, etc, you really can't move forward until you forgive yourself. I still get mad at the years we wasted being in debt, but it serves no purpose. It's better to see people look at what is possible rather than dwell on things that can't be changed.
      • Shannon Ryan
        Thursday, September 17th, 2015
        I see a lot of people who spend so much energy being mad at themselves for their past money sins and have no energy left afterwards to really do anything about it. I get it; I really do. It can be hard to let go and forgive ourselves, but we must. Like you said, dwelling on past mistakes doesn't make them go away and slows down your efforts to fix them.
    10. Wednesday, September 16th, 2015
      Hi, Shannon

      Like anything in life, guilt is the element can hold that person in stuck position of debt for life.Until you are without that guilt feeling, you will not have clear vision how to improve the financial situation.
      Glad you list out some ways to help others to remove the guilt feeling about their debt.
      Nice post.
      - Stella
      • Shannon Ryan
        Thursday, September 17th, 2015
        Thanks, Stella! You are right that guilt can block your ability to figure out how to improve your financial situation when all you can see are the mistakes.
    11. Thursday, September 17th, 2015
      Guilt isn't the only feeling that comes into play's also embarrassment. Embarrassed that you've let things degenerate to this point, and that you've made the decisions that brought you to this place. Getting over that embarrassment and in order to face the problem is also necessary!
      • Shannon Ryan
        Thursday, September 17th, 2015
        Absolutely, Travis. People are embarrassed by their money skeletons and worry about being judged harshly, especially those who feel they should have known better, even if they didn't when they made their mistakes.
    12. Saturday, September 19th, 2015
      I forgave myself for gambling for years, which put me in great debt a few years back. This part of my life made me willingly change my behavior and habits so that I can back on track financially. I think forgiveness and acceptance are keys in moving forward and getting the life I dream about.
    13. Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015
      I like this concept. I think we all know deep down that we are the only person responsible for our financial decisions. I've definitely made some mistakes with the best of them, but I've also learned the most from those mistakes. Expensive mistakes . . . more like, expensive lessons. The only thing worse than making a major expensive mistake is to dwell on the negative and not take anything positive from it. As much as it hurts, you need to look at the situation in the face and dissect what went wrong so that you never repeat that mistake again.

      • Shannon Ryan
        Thursday, September 24th, 2015
        You got the right attitude! I look at my "mistakes" as lessons too. Sometimes they are costly lessons, which admittedly I like less, but there is always a lesson to learn and then move on.
    14. Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015
      Hello Shannon

      Great post,today i read this twice, and accepted to change my mind set, and start to think positive, and start to clear my debt step by step, for more better future me.

      Thank you very very much

      • Shannon Ryan
        Thursday, September 24th, 2015
        You're very welcome! Thinking positive and forgiving yourself is a great place to start. Take it step-by-step and you'll get rid of your debt and live that better future you want for yourself.
    15. Sunday, October 4th, 2015
      I'm a little behind on blog reading, but it was for the best because I needed to hear this post right now. I had a terrible month in September and although part of it was due to car repairs and my washing machine breaking down, part of it was also that I didn't keep a close eye on my finances. That's my own fault!
      • Shannon Ryan
        Sunday, October 4th, 2015
        I'm glad my post was here to help you, Kayla. Bad months happen and things break unexpectedly but I also know you've come a long way from where you started too. And your ability to take stock and make smart choices will get you back on track, my friend.
    16. Ronald Elliott
      Thursday, December 12th, 2019
      I enjoyed your article very much, however I would like a plan to get myself out of debt. I have been doing well but it just never seems to come down even though I am putting a lot into my debts. I have credit card and line of credit debts. I realize that I need to be patient when ridding myself of it.

      Do you have an article that addresses this?
    17. Alexandre Negredo
      Sunday, March 21st, 2021
      Great post! You inspired me to write my new book about this post.
      Thank you so much!
  • Meet Shannon

    "As a Certified Financial Planner, it is my passion to help individuals and families build a healthy relationship with money. I look forward to helping you raise financially confident kids.” - Shannon Ryan