You’re Going to Stop Making Excuses About Your Money

Catie Hogan
April 12, 2024

I can’t be the only one who enters each new year gung ho for a personal resolution only to completely drop the ambition by the end of the month. In fact, I know I’m not the only one who does this. One year, I vowed to go to the gym at least four times per week. By the second week of January I was already coming up with excuses to stay in bed and skip the workout. Another year, I promised myself I’d read at least 50 books. I think I could count on one hand the number of books I actually read that year. New Year's resolutions are nearly impossible to stick with unless you have total commitment and a deep understanding and acceptance of why you’re committing to this goal. Well time marches on and now we’re well into 2024, so if you’re reading this, there’s a very high likelihood that you too have dropped your New Year’s resolution.

In fact, eighty percent of New Year's resolutions, including the always popular goal of improving one’s finances, often falter by just the second Friday of January. Whether you’re trying to spend less, save more, pay down debt, or invest – the initial enthusiasm of January 1st diminishes quickly until the majority of us find ourselves back in the clutches of the status quo.

Sustaining change is not a new problem. It’s not just resolutions made in January either. People set goals and fail constantly throughout the year. There’s a disappointing sentence if I’ve ever heard one! It is our flawed human nature at fault. We are built for “akrasia”, to find the path of least resistance, and to always remain where we are most physically and mentally comfortable. It is literally biological.

Don’t give up your dream now though because there is hope for us weak humans after all. Artificial intelligence can correct the worst of our instincts and habits and keep humans from, well, being too human. By leveraging AI in personal finance, individuals can eliminate common excuses, self-sabotage, and overcome the obstacles preventing lasting change in their financial lives. AI can help us become the best versions of ourselves even when it comes to managing money.

The Cycle of Financial Resolutions and Excuses

The new year often brings increased traffic to financial advisors, planners, and coaches. This pattern mimics what we see in the fitness industry as well. A lot of excited folks, eager to make changes in their life in the early part of the year. This is followed by a decline in interest as we enter the spring, then summer. In the graph below, we see Google searches spike in the early months of the year and wane in the summer months. As our motivation falls, our reasons and excuses increase. A lot of legitimate factors contribute to this trend, including work commitments, unexpected events, feelings of overwhelm or shame, and other avoidance tendencies. 

Line graph showing interest over time from financial planning
Google Trends: "Financial Planning"

Excuses become a shield against the discomfort of facing financial challenges, and individuals find themselves trapped in repetitive cycles of inaction. As a former advisor and current coach, the most common excuses I hear revolve around perceived lack of knowledge, busyness, shame and guilt, and many highly ingrained money scripts they’ve been repeating for years.

Money Scripts and Excuses

The excuses we articulate are often deeper manifestations of ingrained money scripts that have been cultivated since childhood. Phrases like "I'm bad at money" or "I'll never be rich" are not just fleeting negative thoughts but deeply rooted beliefs that hinder financial success. These scripts act as a convenient alternative to taking action and further sabotage individuals' chances of achieving financial well-being.

In my financial coaching practice, I often work with folks who struggle to make financial progress because they bury themselves so deeply in their money scripts. One woman in particular, had a deeply held belief that she would never be able to pay off her six-figures in student loan debt, so she used that as an excuse to justify impulsive purchases that further sunk her in the hole of debt. Once I helped her identify her money scripts and then the root cause of them (mostly a financially unstable childhood), we were then able to track when her need to make impulsive purchases appeared. By recognizing the impulsivity, we put obstacles in the way to stop it (disconnecting cards from phone, deleting Amazon app, etc.) We were also able to put together a debt repayment plan that would have her out of student loan debt in 15 years and on her way to a comfortable retirement. While her money scripts still occasionally seep into financial actions, we’ve made significant progress toward reframing her relationship with money. 

Another client had such a deep attachment to his scarcity mindset, he panicked at the thought of dipping into savings for any reason at all. He also continued to work at a job he hated for far too long because he couldn’t imagine giving up the significant pay. His money mindset prevented him from doing what he truly wanted - travel, buying gifts for his wife, and feeling secure in any sense of the word.

A myriad of reasons contribute to the creation and reinforcement of excuses in personal finance. Trauma, environmental influences, stories absorbed over years, lack of financial literacy, and the concept of akrasia are some of the key factors. Addressing these underlying issues is crucial to breaking the cycle of excuses and fostering a mindset conducive to positive financial change.

The Role of AI in Eliminating Excuses

In the face of these challenges, artificial intelligence emerges as a powerful ally to eradicate excuses and facilitate effective money management. The concept of "activation energy" required to set up a financial system often hinders individuals from taking the necessary steps. AI tools can alleviate this burden by guiding users through the initial setup and providing ongoing support, essentially holding their hand throughout the process. 

AI for personal finance offers a range of solutions to counter common excuses. Let’s have a look at the most common reasons and how AI will help:

Automation - AI prevents self-sabotage by reducing friction on tedious financial decisions. This forces the user to do the right thing and eliminates many opportunities for the user to make financial mistakes. Automation applies to bill paying, debt repayment, savings and investing. This ensures consistent contributions without relying on personal discipline. “Will power” ebbs and flows due to human nature and by automating our savings and investing we no longer rely on flawed will power. Automation also helps individuals avoid late fees and stay on top of financial obligations with very limited effort on the human’s part.

Smart spending coach - Through AI, users will have access to “smart spending coaches” 24/7/365. The AI will analyze the user’s connected finances to provide personalized advice to develop better spending habits. The AI will be able to help the user make more informed spending decisions in real time. People will no longer wonder if they can “afford” a purchase, they will have an accurate answer instantaneously.

Personalized guidance - In addition to coaching users on spending, AI will offer tailored recommendations based on real-life financial situations. This can involve debt management, investing, saving, cash flow management, insurance recommendations, estate planning, tax planning, and more. The only way to receive this level of comprehensive advice currently is through extremely cost-prohibitive financial planners.

Accessibility - Unlike traditional financial advisors and planners, AI is always available on our devices, allowing users to manage finances at their convenience and also at their own pace. From my experience, one major obstacle of working with an advisor is feeling like you’re drinking out of a fire hose. It can be quite overwhelming to get your finances in order, especially if you’re moving at the advisors’ pace and not your own. AI can provide the necessary motivation and next steps without overwhelming the user.

Professional advice at a low cost - AI tools can provide customized guidance without the hefty fees associated with human financial advisors. The average cost for financial planning ranges between $2,000-$7,500 per year and those who manage assets often charge upwards of 1% of said assets annually. AI tools can be provided for low cost subscriptions, saving users thousands of dollars each year.


The Ideal Scenario: A Case Study

As a financial advisor and now a financial coach, I’ve seen the benefits of integrating AI into one’s finances firsthand. I always take a very hands on approach which I believe garners the best results. However, my services are minimally scalable and very time consuming. AI, on the other hand, is infinitely more scalable and can replicate the tasks I perform for my clients including identifying opportunities for them to save, invest, and pay off debt. Also, AI will recognize sudden changes in income and expenses and then make appropriate recommendations based on these anomalous movements. When I complete these tasks as a human, it is extremely time-intensive and thus comes at a high price.

For my clients battling debt, we’ll first carve out a bit of extra money from their monthly budget to throw at a particular debt, and then we’ll automate that amount to be paid to the debt on top of the regular minimum payments. This automation prevents them from self-sabotage or spending the money elsewhere. It also ensures they pay off the debts faster than they would otherwise. Slowly, the clients adjust to life without that additional money to spend sitting in their bank account. As their debt amounts decrease the clients often are motivated to increase the amount of each automated payment. The consistency of the automation helps to reframe their relationship with money overall. AI can easily replicate this process and assist the user in implementing it without much friction in the process. This is again applicable in the savings and investing realm as well. As automations are created and clients learn to live “without” this money, they are floored when they periodically check in on their balances to see even in a short period of time, they’ve made significant progress. This leads to greater motivation and willingness to part with more money now for the sake of building their balance sheet for the future. AI embodies the idea that motivation will follow action.

We are finally in a world where those with financial struggles, valid or invalid excuses, and problematic money behaviors can deploy AI-powered money management to break free from toxic cycles and stories. Folks hesitant to work with AI will see their peers gaining previously unseen levels of financial independence or will reach a breaking point themselves and give it a try. An AI assistant can be used to set up automations, track spending, improve savings rates, and develop healthier financial habits. The AI will customize all of these actions to the specific needs and goals of the user.

The low barrier to entry and simplicity of setting up automations make it easy for anyone to adopt and sustain positive financial practices. By outsourcing decision-making to artificial intelligence, users will gradually witness improvements in their financial situation, proving that AI can be a valuable ally in overcoming excuses and achieving lasting change.

Conclusion

As we navigate the challenges of personal finance, it is essential to recognize the persistent excuses that hinder progress. Artificial intelligence emerges as a revolutionary force capable of addressing these excuses head-on. By automating financial tasks, providing personalized guidance, and simplifying the process, AI enables individuals to overcome barriers and create lasting positive changes in their lives. Embracing AI for personal finance represents a paradigm shift that empowers individuals to break free from the cycle of excuses and embark on a journey toward financial well-being.

Citations