Have you ever been told by, say, an Instagram influencer that the only barricade between you and endless financial wealth was your supposed negative mindset? Have you, too, been urged that if you would only sign up for said influencer's course today, you'd be able to tap into cosmic wisdom, "take the leap," and never have to worry about finances again? Don't fall for the trap, folks. Sure, cultivating wealth does take a fair amount of critical thinking, but there's (obviously) much more to it than that.
Some Insta-famous so-called money coaches (of course, not all) promise big changes—and fast. Who wouldn't be attracted to quitting their day job and following an off-the-beaten-path means to financial success and freedom?
But let's take a step back towards reality. According to National Women's Law Center analysis, 2.4 million U.S. women were obligated to quit the labor force from 2020-2021. So a quick-fix financial course catches the light a bit differently for those seeking actual, necessary financial refuge. It certainly sounds attractive, but what can a mindset actually achieve?
There's nothing wrong with wanting to learn more about our relationships to money—and seeking out an (accredited) financial advisor is a stellar first step to doing so. But knowing what to realistically expect is important too, so let's iron out a few terms and find out exactly what a wealth mindset is—and how to get there in reality.
Wealth Mindset (or 'Abundant Thinking') vs. Scarcity Mindset
What is a wealth mindset?
Wealth mindset—or abundant thinking—is less about what we have and more about what we believe is available to us.
Kristen Euretig, CFP, founder and CEO of Brooklyn Plans, LLC, explains wealth mindset as the idea that the universe is plentiful and our potential is unlimited. "It involves defeating self-limiting beliefs that come up around money or life goals in general to break past self-imposed barriers to a better way of living," says Euretig.
What is scarcity mindset?
Julie Prince, founder and CEO of Prince Financial Services, explains that "scarcity mindset, as it relates to personal finance, is the idea that a deal is only going to be around for a limited amount of time or an item is only going to be available at a certain price for a short time. Think Black Friday sales or an online retail shop notifying you there's only two of an item left in your size. This is oftentimes used as a sales tactic to make you think this is the only chance you have to buy their product at this super-discounted price."
Myths About Wealth Mindset
Myth 1: You're not enough without it.
Definitely false. A portion of life coaches actually exploit the fears woven into scarcity mindset as a marketing technique to sell their wealth mindset courses. By making people believe their course material is a "now or never" type of situation, it heightens the feeling that they aren't enough without it.
Coach Ali Bowman explains that when you create "certainty" and "urgency," you're often telling people what's wrong with their life—and that's not what abundant thinking is supposed to highlight. "There's a lot of nuance in people using wealth/money to attract clients when really the work is on self-love, happiness and confidence. The general thing I hear [in coaching circles] is if it gets the transformation, say what it takes to get them through the door. Be careful of this type of marketing...it is feeding on your fear," explains Bowman.
Myth 2: What you see is what you get.
Not always. Euretig says a major issue with influencer/coaching culture around this topic is a lack of transparency. Sometimes influencers don't, at all, live the lifestyles they promote on social media.
"I had the opportunity to peek behind the curtain of an influencer who produced this type of content and was deep in debt without a clear plan to address it," says Euretig. "There is a difference between a mindset and a disassociation with a financial reality. Improving your financial standing is hard work—emotionally, and otherwise. It requires diligence and technical know-how as well. A mindset is important for sure, but so are knowledge, skills and concrete actions."
Myth 3: Huge financial changes will take place in months.
For most people, this isn't true. The margins of wealth shared by several coaches on Instagram are frequently exaggerated and fail to acknowledge certain privileges they hold. Jocellyn Harvey, writer and former coach, says it can be misleading when coaches promise so much so quickly in their courses. She stresses that a coach shouldn't really promise anything, and that one of the most unrealistic marketing points that some "guarantee" is timing.
"'Within six months you can ____,'" Harvey says as an example, explaining that while "it's not 100 percent impossible to double or triple your income" that quickly, "it doesn't happen for many people. I think that can leave clients feeling frustrated when they follow up the steps and life stays the same. These claims don't take into consideration all a person has done and been through before to get to where they are now."
Practical Ways to Use Wealth Mindset
Heal the foundation.
When used wisely, wealth mindset is an effective tool for healing our relationship to money and can help us shift out of scarcity mindset. For many of us, money is linked to stress and fear, which can stand in the way of ever truly feeling free in a financial sense.
"Achieving your long-term financial goals, whatever those might be, starts with shifting your mindset on money," Prince says. "While it's not the only step you'll need to take, it is one in the right direction."
Save with gratitude and spend with intention.
Harvey suggests creating a vision board with photos of what you actually want. Leave the photos alone for a few days, or even weeks. Take a breath and check in with how you feel. She explains that sometimes, you may find you don't want the item you pined for after letting it sit awhile. You may discover that you're truly happy with what you have already. In this instance, saving is a byproduct of gratitude—not fear.
Other times, you may find, after a waiting period, that you actually do want the item. Instead of making an impulsive purchase, Harvey explains that you have tapped into something more purposeful here: intentional spending. "When we spend for the sake of spending, it becomes a slippery slope which doesn't actually serve our emotional or financial wellbeing," says Harvey. Intention and gratitude are great ways to practice wealth mindset.
Rephrase and reframe thought patterns.
Instead of saying, "I can't afford this," Harvey recommends asking, "How can I afford this?" Sometimes we actually can't afford things, plain and simple. But shifting the language you use and the beliefs you hold about money can help open your mind to what is possible.
Bowman suggests finding a perspective that will help untangle your worth from your finances by repeating powerful affirmations such as:
"A number in my bank account is not reflective of my worth."
"I am resourceful and I create money when I need it."
"I might not have that much money now, but that could change at any moment."
Wealth Mindset for the Long Haul
A Lifetime Process
Achieving financial wellness is not a one-off deal. It's something you have to work on and build into your life until it becomes a habit. Harvey clarifies that once you have a good foundation financially, you can make note of your progress.
"But don't think after one money mindset, or wealth mindset, course that you'll never have issues again," Harvey urges. "I believe this type of thinking is what keeps people in course after course because they think they're doing something wrong, when that really isn't the case."
Every Path Is Unique
Prince believes there are multiple paths to making financial improvements. "Given everyone's financial picture looks a little different, there isn't one hard or fast rule on how to achieve financial wellness," Prince explains. "However, for someone looking to improve their financial health, implementing habits like not spending more than you earn, setting up an emergency savings fund, paying off debt and saving for retirement are all good places to start. Keep in mind that achieving these habits and goals take time and can't be done overnight. It's important to be patient with yourself if you're just getting started."
Confrontation Is Empowerment
When financial issues seem overwhelming, it can be difficult to confront them head-on. For many, this can feel like a shameful experience. Kristen Euretig reassures anyone in this situation that a lot of people struggle with fear and shame when confronting their finances, and dealing with them is really the best confidence-booster of all.
Wealth mindset acknowledges that there's more than enough in the universe. When used properly, with a credentialed advisor, it can be an empowering tool that can heal financial wounds and set the foundation for new financial patterns. In the end, it's about self-love and worthiness. It's an idea—not magic. Wealth mindset can't replace action. It can't replace the task of making smart financial choices within an imbalanced system—or confronting any number of financial crises.
As much as social media wants to stretch this reality, remember that a "wealth mindset" can only get you so far. What you do with that idea is ultimately up to both how much privilege you have access to and how much action you're willing to take.