Money Psychology

5 ways to clear financial obstacles

Obstacles are like wild animals. They are cowards but they will bluff you if they can. If they see you are afraid of them… they are liable to spring upon you; but if you look them squarely in the eye, they will slink out of sight.

~ Orison Swett Marden

Financial ObstaclesDo you have financial goals that you just haven’t been able to achieve? Maybe you’ve always wanted to set up a budget, but you just haven’t found the time. Maybe you want to learn more about investing or economics, but you just don’t know where to start. Before you know it years pass by, you’re no closer to your goals and you’re left wondering why.

All of us face different financial obstacles. Some of us have a hard time figuring out how to earn more income. Others have plenty of income, but struggle to save it for the future. No matter what financial obstacles I’ve ever faced, I usually find the causes for them – and the keys to hurdling them – in the mirror.

Mirror, mirror . . .

If you’re anything like me, you have a few nagging concerns that flare up once in a while. You acknowledge that something has to be done about them, but somehow nothing ever happens. Why?

Financial concerns can sometimes take a back seat to the everyday problems that crop up. I need to plan and prepare meals for my family every day, but there’s no immediate pressure to figure out the best investment or retirement strategy for the future. After all, retirement is decades away, and dinner is hours away. And by the time dinner has been planned, prepared, and put away, there are plenty of other tasks to occupy my time. So it’s easy to put off financial planning.

It’s even easier to repeat the pattern above over and over until years pass without any progress toward my financial goals. I can see that the problem here is me. If I want these patterns of behavior to change, I have to change them.

I’m no expert at listening to the mirror on the wall, but I’ve gotten a little better at it over the years and I’ve found that facing obstacles head-on is the only way to overcome them. Half-hearted efforts always yield half-hearted results. An honest, realistic appraisal of your goals and your efforts to achieve them is critical to your success.

5 steps to hurdling financial obstacles

The following 5 steps can provide a framework for how to overcome the financial inertia that besets all of us from time to time. But it’s important to realize that, like any good athlete, we need to make sure that we’ve got the basics covered first: You can’t jump all those hurdles and win the race if you haven’t taken care of your basic health needs first.

It’s the same with your financial health. Take a look at Your Financial Hierarchy of Needs and figure out which part of the pyramid you need to focus on before you try to clear all of your financial hurdles. You can follow these 5 steps for each hurdle and hopefully, they will eventually become second nature.

1. Name it

This may sound too simple or obvious, but I’ve often found that I’m a lot less successful when I skip the most fundamental aspects of problem-solving. When you name your obstacle, you provide a focal point for your efforts. Try to be specific, yet fairly general with your name. You may want to name your obstacle “budgeting”, but it may help you focus better if you call it “designing a useful budget spreadsheet” or “sticking to my budget.”

2. Source it

The next step is to identify the source of your obstacle. Do you need more information to clear your obstacle, or is it more a matter of motivation and consistency? Maybe it’s a little of both. Either way, identifying the root of your problem allows you to focus your actions on where they’ll be most effective.

3. Size it up

This is where you can go into a little more detail on your obstacle analysis. You’ve named it and estimated some of its sources and now you need to decide just how big that hurdle is. Do you need to break it down into smaller pieces in order to clear it effectively, or can you get over it in one big jump? If you’ve never designed a budget before, you definitely want to break the process into smaller steps like researching different types of budgets, tracking your spending, and monitoring your progress.

4. Face it

This is where the running shoe meets the track. It’s time to come up with a concrete plan of action for hurdling your obstacle. Staying with our budgeting example, you may want to set aside a specific time on a weekend to do some research or go through your bills and financial statements. Give yourself a firm but flexible deadline like the end of a month or week. Set your own pace, but make sure you have a clear end in sight.

5. Jump it

This is the best part. Once you follow through with your plan of action, you can take a long drink of water (or another beverage of your choice ;)) and savour your victory. It’s important to realize, however, that we don’t get over every hurdle on the first try. Don’t quit. Go back to the starting gate and go at it again. You may need to modify your preparation and approach, but you’ll get over that obstacle eventually.

Do you have any financial obstacles you just can’t seem to clear? How do you approach them?


  1. Rob Bennett

    The funny thing is that, once you start doing something that is really hard to get started on, it often ends up being fun. I had this happen with budgets. I put it off and put it off and put it off and then really enjoyed writing them.

    It has happened with income taxes too. I used to get every chore accomplished at tax time. I would do the laundry to avoid taxes. I would get the oil changed to avoid taxes. I would make a dental appointment to avoid taxes. Then, at some point I would break down and do the taxes and usually enjoy it to some extent.


    • 2 Cents

      I hear you Rob. While I can’t say I enjoy budgeting or doing taxes very much, there’s something satisfying about taking care of yourself and your family. 🙂

      • Andrew Hallam

        I agree with you and Rob.

        I have been putting off grading essays the whole week, but then I made a game of it. I wrote down time goals for their completion:

        1. Finish grade nine essays by noon
        2. Finish film essays by 3pm.

        And I’m actually enjoying it.

        It’s just past noon now. The Ninth grade essays are done, and now I’m on to the film pieces.

        Nice advice Kim

        • 2 Cents

          Great approach. Thanks Andrew!

  2. Wez Bailey

    I can totally relate to that post, I have been THINKING about sitting down and doing some serious financial planning, but I always manage to get something else to do, there’s always something which has to come up and I postpone my budgeting and financial plans for the next day. And at night I take the resolution that tomorrow I’m definitely doing it but then again I find another reason not to do it-this post has been an eye opener-tomorrow without a doubt I’m facing my demons!I’ll get those financial plans done once and for all…sticking to them is another challenge though!

    • 2 Cents

      One hurdle at a time! 😉 Good for you for sticking with it. I’ve been on that same merry-go-round of promising myself to put a plan together and somehow never getting around to it. Eventually, I get so frustrated with myself that I just do it – usually at an unplanned moment. Then I wonder why it took me so long!

  3. Bret @ Hope to Prosper

    2 Cents,

    This is some great advice.

    I have always believed that it’s not the problems that build character, it’s how a person deals with them.


    • 2 Cents

      Thank you Bret. I really loved your article on the year you turned 21. It’s funny how the lessons we’re taught by experience always stick with us more than verbal ones.

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