Have you ever wished for a knight in shining armour? Financial Fairytale Syndrome can keep you stuck and prevent you from achieving true financial independence. It is one of the key blocks to shifting your money mindset, and taking responsibility for your own future. You may be working hard to achieve your goals, but deep down you are hoping for a rescue. You keep one eye out for quick and easy solutions. You hope to win the lottery. You hope to marry someone wealthy who will take care of you. You want your financial advisor to make fantastic decisions that will make you rich. But these are all fantasies that make you vulnerable to other people’s whims.
Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either of these will run out – Mary Schmich, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist
Essentially, Financial Fairytale Syndrome (or FFS for short) will leave you feeling powerless to change any aspect of your financial life, because deep down you are hoping that someone or something else will solve all your problems.
Businesses do this too
In a former life, I worked with companies on the brink (or beyond) of collapse. I would be part of the painful restructuring to try to salvage the business. Even in business jargon there is the concept of the ‘white knight’. This is an investor that comes along and pumps in enoughmoney to keep the company afloat. But they rarely appear – and often want total control.
And yet, within every firm was some sort of story or idea which circulated about what was going to help them ‘turn the corner’. Perhaps it was an angel investor that they were hoping would inject money without requiring any control. Or maybe it was the fantasy that the market would just realise what a good product they had, and the customers would flood in. Sometimes entire companies would put their faith in a single agent or person – so much so that they were vulnerable to gross frauds which would have been uncovered with some routine checks.
It amazed me how detached from reality and stuck all of these managers and professionals were – and how disastrous it was for entire companies. I rarely came across a manager who wilfully wanted to f*ck their company up – but I saw many who did, despite their best intentions.
FFS shields us from pain
FFS is all about avoiding responsibility and the hurt of hard work and facing reality. We unfortunately get hit with a wallop of shame when we realise that we could have done more, sooner. But we didn’t. Many people who lose themselves in FFS are mentally exhausted from fighting the wrong enemy. You can’t change things that are out of your control – and yet that is what we worry about and exhaust ourselves trying to deal with.
If we suddenly realise that we do have the power to turn our situation around – we will be met with a wave of self-recrimination and regret that we had not thought to do so sooner. It can be painful to realise how many opportunities you have overlooked, and how much time you have wasted, because you were waiting for a fantasy to arrive.
So, what now?
We all suffer from this in one way or another. I have a fairly long list of my own financial fairytales which changes from time to time. When I was a salaried worker, the ‘pay rise from nowhere’ was my favourite fantasy to get lost in. When I get frustrated that things aren’t going my way financially, I sit down and have a good think about whether or not I am spending too much time in fantasy land.
When we talk about our shame, and what causes it, it can’t survive. When we admit to our financial fantasies, they not longer have as much control over us. Sit down with a trusted friend, loved one or colleague and talk about your own financial fantasies. Saying it out loud can help you let it go.
Change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset
In her excellent book about mindset, Dr Carol Dweck recommends looking at each mistake you may have made as an opportunity to learn. Go back through one or two key items and ask yourself, What can I learn from this? What steps can I take to be responsible for myself? Tell yourself that you know this isn’t going to be easy but you promise to be kind to yourself. Start to welcome the signals of hard work in changing your behaviour.
Find a coach
I will always say that a coach is the best person to work with for these difficult conversations. A good coach will meet you on your level and listen without judgement. A coach, as opposed to an advisor, will help you find your own solutions and help you change your behaviour.
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 You may have already twigged that FFS is also an acronym for ‘for fuck’s sake’ – as in ‘FFS, get your act together!’.
 Or you could write a blog about it. Works for me!