How to Become a Financial Optimist

UPDATED: May 22, 2024
PUBLISHED: March 17, 2020

Being an optimist pays, both mentally and financially. According to recent research, optimists practice healthier financial habits than pessimists—although nearly two-thirds of optimists have started building an emergency fund, less than half of pessimists have done the same.

Optimists are also more likely to enjoy greater career gains, with a higher likelihood of making more money. On top of that, optimists report feeling significantly less stressed about their finances. But how do you cultivate financial optimism when managing stressful realities?

Related: How to Change Your Beliefs About Money

Financial optimism isn’t about ignoring challenges. It’s about believing you have the ability to face those challenges head on and improve your finances in spite of them.

Here’s how you can start cultivating optimism in your own financial life.

Adopt a growth mindset.

Instead of thinking about your financial circumstances as fixed conditions you can’t change, think instead about the actions you can take to improve your financial health. Every moment offers an opportunity to choose new and better financial behaviors.

Even if your financial reality looks like a lot of debt, for example, you can still start practicing positive financial behaviors like reviewing your statements and spending each week.

Celebrate small wins.

Although reviewing your statements and spending each week might not solve all of your financial struggles overnight, it’s important to recognize these positive financial habits and celebrate the small wins they enable.

Even if it’s as simple as paying your credit card bill on time each month or socking away $5 in a savings account each week, small wins can help propel you to big wins over time, which gets your brain to start focusing on progress rather than perfection.

Think of setbacks as being temporary.

Cultivating financial optimism requires you to acknowledge that setbacks are temporary. This can be particularly challenging in the face of major blows like losing your job.

Challenges that feel insurmountable in the moment will start to feel more manageable when you consider them temporary blips—especially when you pair them with the celebration of small wins along the way.

Surround yourself with optimists.

If you’ve committed to practicing an optimistic financial outlook and your immediate social circle does not share that same commitment, it’s going to be substantially more difficult for you to follow through.

This doesn’t mean you have to abandon your friends and family members who succumb to financial pessimism. It just means that as you grow, you should start making a conscious effort to surround yourself with people who understand and support the financially optimistic path you’re on.

Related: Do Your Financial Goals Spark Joy?

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2020 issue of SUCCESS magazine.
Photo by Dasha Pats/

Stefanie O’Connell is a financial expert, Gen Y advocate, speaker and author of the book, The Broke and Beautiful Life.