money health weekly


Why You Should Address the Underlying Cause


"If you want better results, then forget about setting goals. Focus on your system instead."

-James Clear


I'm confident, and even a bit arrogant, as I step onto the court. I have a squash match today against Luke. Luke is 70 years old, and I've been preparing. I've been working on my speed because I've noticed the better players can place the ball in parts of the court that are a struggle for me to get to. Working on my speed will get me to the ball faster and keep me in the point. Being too slow to get to the ball seems to be one of my bigger weaknesses. I've also been working on my stamina because matches can be quite long. It wasn't uncommon for me to do well in the first two games of a five-game match because I still had energy, but fall apart because I ran out of juice. Working on my stamina will help me keep up my speed for a longer.

To win a squash match, you have to be the first player to win 3 games; it's a best-of-five competition. The first game against Luke isn't even close; Luke destroyed me. The next three games are very close, with me winning two of them. We are tied two games to two going into the 5th. I like my chances. After all, I have been working on my stamina and speed, and Luke is 70.

Luke tears me apart in the fifth game. I walk off the court, drenched in sweat, barely able to breathe. I just got beat by a 70-year-old man. It finally occurs that my lack of speed and lack of stamina are symptoms of a much bigger disease. That disease is lacking fundamentals. Luke is a near-perfect fundamental player.

Me being too slow and running out of energy were not my problems. These were symptoms of a much bigger problem: I need to work on my fundamentals. Trying to address the symptom and ignoring the disease is like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound.

Many of our financial concerns are similar. We're trying to address the outcomes without addressing the underlying reason for getting those outcomes. Spending some time to look beneath our outcomes it's time well spent.

without fixing the underlying cause of financial stress, you'll get the same outcomes

Money Is Stressful

Money is stressful. You probably already knew that, though. What you may not have known, though, is that other people feel stress when it comes to money, as well. Money is stressful because it touches every area of our lives, and good money skills don't come naturally. Also, since money is taboo in our culture, we don't talk about it. So we never get to hear about other people's financial worries.

Money is a top source of stress for people. Many people rate money as the number one source of stress. In addition, money is a leading source of conflict in relationships.

Add on top of all of this the fact that many people believe personal finance to be simply a math problem, and you get a situation where people struggle with money. When we struggle with money, it's very easy to look at the outcomes we don't like. We can always try techniques and strategies that will fix our outcomes.

The problem is that if we work on fixing the outcomes without addressing the underlying cause, we're likely to end up in the same place we were before.

money is the top source of stress for most people

Addressing Symptoms Is a Short-Term Fix

If you find yourself overspending habitually, it is tempting to try implementing a budget. That's what a budget is for, right? It might even work for a while.

If you find yourself avoiding your financial situation, you might think that the secret to making better financial decisions is to force yourself to look at your financials. It sounds simple.

If you don't like talking about money, the seemingly obvious answer is to schedule time on your calendar to talk about money.

These solutions seem easy because they address the outcome, or the symptom. But if we only fix the symptom, the same issues will keep happening. We can take painkillers to get our headaches to go away, but if we have headaches every day, there's something deeper that we need to address.