Stop the bad habits, start good ones

Published 9:14 pm Thursday, June 1, 2017

By Nathan Rice

I have a confession. I’m a nail biter. I know it’s a bad habit. It’s bad for my teeth, not good for my nails, and I don’t even want to think about the germs I’m putting in my mouth.

Nevertheless, I’ve continued chomping on my nails for years. I need to stop, but habits are hard to break.

Email newsletter signup

The Oxford Dictionary defines a habit as “a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.”

We all have habits, and most of us have financial habits. Financial habits can play a big part in our overall financial well being, but they are seldom addressed, because we often don’t even realize that they exist.

Financial habits, like all other habits, are practices that were developed over time that we now do without even thinking about them. Since habits are done instinctively, we must first take a step back to examine ourselves in order to discover our own unconscious acts.

Begin by taking a look at your earnings, your investments, your savings, and your monthly checking account statement. Look for patterns in your spending and your savings.

Perhaps you’ve fallen into a savings or checking account that charges you a monthly maintenance fee, and you have continued to pay this fee, month after month, without even considering that there may be better options available. Likewise, you may be in the habit of faithfully paying a high-interest rate loan without taking the time to consider how much money refinancing that loan could save you over time.

Very often, the biggest surprise comes from an examination of your spending. Those $0.99 purchases from iTunes add up faster than most of us realize.

The next step is to determine what habits are hindering your financial goals and to take the necessary steps to correct them.

What areas in your financial records made you say, “I didn’t realize this played a role in my finances”?

Now that you know these harmful financial habits exist, you can take steps to correct them. It may be something as simple as eliminating your morning stop for coffee and a biscuit in order to save more money, or it may be something that requires a little more assistance, such as refinancing your current mortgage.

Next, be sure to replace bad financial habits with good financial habits. Creating good habits is just as important as breaking bad habits.

Let’s say you’ve saved $75 a month by refinancing high-rate loans at a lower rate. Begin the financial habit of saving by putting that $75 into a savings account each month. This breaks a bad habit of spending too much on finance charges and starts the good habit of saving.

Last, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Share your financial goals and dreams with a financial service representative to see how he or she might be able to help you reach those goals.

If your current financial service representative isn’t able or willing to help you reach your financial goals, letting that representative serve you is the first bad habit you need to break.

There are many capable financial experts in the financial industry. Find one who is able and willing to help you reach your goals.

Honest self-examination, an investment of some time, and a little expert help can go a long way toward creating and maintaining better financial health. Habits aren’t created or broken overnight. It will take some time, but it will be worth it in the end.

Nathan Rice is the Relationship Manager of the Downtown Suffolk branch of ABNB Federal Credit Union. He is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at