4 qualities of people who are good with money that anyone can adopt, according to personal-finance professionals

  • The Money Council, a group of financial professionals from a variety of organizations and backgrounds, convened to discuss how mindset affects finances and what it means to be good with money.
  • They've found that people who are good with money are generally goal-driven, value-driven, accountable, and efficient.
  • This article is part of a series focused on millennial financial empowerment called Master Your Money.

Someone who is good with money doesn't have a certain number in their bank account or net worth on their balance sheet. Rather, they have identifiable qualities that reflect their ability to meet their needs, plan for the future, and still enjoy life today. 

For Business Insider's yearlong Master Your Money series, a group of personal-finance experts called the Money Council convened to discuss how to develop and maintain good money habits, transform negative mindsets, and budget for an ever-changing financial situation. 

Here are some of the qualities they say are common in people who are good with money.

1. Goal-driven

Balancing today and tomorrow (and many years down the line) can be tough. But people who are good with money know how important planning for the future is.

Kristi Rodriguez, the vice president of thought leadership at Nationwide Financial, said she takes time at the beginning of the year to reflect on the past and plan ahead, posing questions like "What are the most important things in my life right now?" "If money was no object, what would I want to do right now?" And "How do I envision myself now and when I finish working?" 

Establishing a well-defined goal — whether it's buying a house with a 20% down payment or retiring early with $1 million in the bank — and breaking it down into smaller milestones can do wonders for escaping an "all or nothing" mindset many people find themselves trapped in, she said.

"If we get more in that mindset of just making it easier, particularly for millennials, to understand the allocations of their savings and how that moves toward a particular goal, it will take them out of that mindset of lack and into more of that abundance," Rodriguez said.

Eric Roberge, a certified financial planner and the founder of Beyond Your Hammock, added: "When you start to see your balance growing, whether it's in a savings account or investment account or both, you get excited. And the more excited you get, the more you want to do it. And then it becomes kind of fun to save money."

Rod Griffin, the senior director of consumer education and advocacy at Experian, said that accumulating assets without a goal in mind — "the 'I want to buy stuff' approach" — isn't a sign of financial progress or productivity.

"If you're just buying stuff," Griffin said, "you'll never be good with money."

2. Value-driven

If your goals set the path for spending and saving your money, your values are the framework that keeps you on track from day-to-day.

Alison Hutchinson, a managing director at Brown Brothers Harriman, said that identifying what's most important to you financially and generally in life can help automate your decision-making.

You might value quality time with family and friends, staying out of debt, financial independence, travel luxuries, or any number of things. The key is making sure those values are not in opposition to your goals. For example, if you value comfort over cost and spring for a business-class ticket on most flights but have a goal to retire early on an average salary, you might need to recalibrate. 

To ensure that saving and investing for the future are priorities, you need to first think about what's most important to you when it comes to spending and then be creative about managing your expenses to make room for it, said Sandi Bragar, a certified financial planner and a partner and managing director in planning strategy and research at Aspiriant.

3. Accountable 

There's a great deal of honesty involved in managing your money effectively. 

"Clients that I see have the most success when working with me and just being able to maintain financial success long term are really individuals and couples that are taking accountability for their financial situation," said Katie Oelker, a financial coach.

"They're ready to stop blaming other people or other situations for their financial situation, and they really take the time to dive into what they have coming in, where their money is going, what they're spending their money on," Oelker said.

That doesn't mean you can never make mistakes. But getting bogged down by your mistakes and attaching an identity to them — like claiming you're an overspender because you have a tendency to fill up a cart on an unplanned trip to Target — isn't holding yourself accountable. 

The more productive approach is to understand why you have those tendencies and set boundaries to avoid repeating them.

"I think the first step of anything, whether it's to reprogram your self-narrative or even just to thrive financially, is just to maintain that perspective — it's so critical," said Sunny Israni, a certified financial analyst and the founder and CEO of Clasp. 

You can gain perspective by examining your strengths and your challenges within yourself and in your environment, Israni said.

4. Efficient

Some people love to live in the spreadsheet when it comes to their finances, and that's OK, but most of us don't. People who are good with money know how to use automation to make their lives easier, whether it's setting up autopay for their monthly bills or asking their human-resources department to deposit a cut of their paycheck into a separate savings account. 

"I think just taking some of the manual processes out of it, like bill paying and those kinds of things, can be a good way to save a lot of time," Oelker said. "But there has to be a little bit of planning in terms of setting up those systems."

Joseph Edmondson, a certified financial planner with Equitable Advisors, said that putting savings and investing on autopilot removes not only effort but emotion, which can pose a huge threat to long-term performance. He said 401(k) retirement accounts are often the biggest asset on his millennial clients' balance sheet because the contributions are automatic and happen on a set schedule, regardless of market movements.

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