Victim Mentality and Why Your Finances Suck

Recently a bunch of friends got together and the term victim mentality came up. Victim mentality is a tendency to blame external or uncontrollable factors, instead of focusing on internal or controllable factors for things that go wrong. Among other negatives, victim mentality is detrimental for your financial health.

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What’s So Bad About Victim Mentality?

Victim mentality stops you from finding a solution to your problems. When you blame external or uncontrollable factors, you put yourself in a mindset that there is nothing you can do to eliminate or reduce the problem. It just becomes a status quo — a monkey that stays or your back forever.

Here’s a story of a couple that I know. They got married out of high school, had several kids together, and live in poverty for the past two decades. To them, there was nothing they could’ve done to improve their finances. They felt that was the hand they were dealt. Looking from outside in, there are many things they could’ve done to improve their situation.

  • The wife could have gone back to work instead of being a stay at home mom, and not really anything productive with her time (unlike some of the other SAHMs that I know).
  • They could’ve practiced better family planning instead of having one kid after another.
  • They could’ve pursued higher education or alternative income streams instead of staying at home doing nothing (the wife), or toiling away in minimum wage paying jobs (the husband).

Note: Just to clarify, I am not saying that all SAHMs do noting (I know quite a few great ones), but in this case, this lady in the story really didn’t do much.

The example above may be a little extreme, but it does a good job of demonstrating my point — victim mentality is detrimental for your financial health.

Are you facing a problem right now? What are you doing about it?

About the Author

By , on Aug 5, 2008
Pinyo
Pinyo is the owner of Moolanomy Personal Finance. He is a licensed Realtor specializing in residential homes in the Northern Virginia area. Over the past 20 years, Pinyo has enjoyed a diverse career as an investor, entrepreneur, business executive, educator, and financial literacy author.

Leave Your Comment (25 Comments)

  1. David Sneen says:

    Poooor me!!! I lost… We have all heard that story a million times. Sometimes it is justified. There are some people who are physically or mentally incapacitated to the degree that they cannot produce anything of value. But, for every one like that, there are a dozen whiners. The victim mentality crushes those who believe it.

    With a very few exceptions, the following is true, “Whatever your situation is, you can improve it.” The cream will rise to the top.

  2. Brian says:

    It’s really easy to fall into the victim mentality and think it’s someone else’s fault. I can’t remember where I read it but a book said Why do employers pay such low wages? Because people will work for them. We have to raise the bar and realize that there is almost always a way to make more money.

    I’ve often worked jobs that I enjoyed regardless of the money but I had other forms of income coming in and one day, I realized that I can enjoy a job that pays more just as much.

    To Grumpy, I’d like to know the majors of the grads who make $8 an hour. But then again, I know someone with an accounting degree who works in a call center.

  3. Maha says:

    Just found your site at smart spending. I totally agree with you and most of your commentators. There’s always a way. My mom married a foreigner and lived overseas off and on for 15 of her 25 year marriage. She had 5 kids, spread out over 17 years. While overseas, she worked as a secretary. When she divorced at 46 years old, she came back to the States with her two youngest children (11 and 6 at the time – I was the 6-year old). She had $2000 and some clothes to her name. She had no where to live, no job, no possessions of substantial value. She literally had to start over. Within two weeks, she’d found a place to live, bought a car and started an in home child care business. While we certainly didn’t grow up in the riches, we weren’t in poverty either. Every year, she made an improvement in our living situation, until we lived in an area that was relatively safe and had good educational opportunities. She’d never owned a credit card either. So when I hear people’s “woe is me” stories, I think about my mom. Anyone can improve their situation if they try. It’s a matter of desire. It’s not easy, but it can be done.

  4. Pinyo says:

    @Grumpy – Oh, what joyful profundity! How would an older worker in a dead-end minimum-wage job “fix it” without money?

    If my 65 years old mom who has only 4th grade education and can barely speak English was able to find her way out of the sweat shop district and into a prestigious designer company, I think anything is possible.

  5. erik says:

    this is a great post. The victim mentality is what much of America is being taught, instead of the robust entrepreneurial spirit that drove this country to one of the largest economies in the world.

  6. Christine says:

    There is ALWAYS a way out. If you really are willing to believe it, you will find a way.

  7. grumpy says:

    According to a Business Week cover story (3/31/04), an estimated 9 percent of college grads earn $8 or less per hour.

    And (the article didn’t mention this) as you work longer at the bottom of the economy, your prospects for a better job decline over time.

    The last time my resume got me an interview was about five years after I graduated.

  8. Pinyo says:

    @MoneyBlogga — Wow, that’s quite a past. I am glad you are moving forward and I hope your blog will be more successful so that you can be a role model to others.

    @Tom — If he’s happy and he’s not complaining or burdening others, I think it’s totally fine.

    @Grumpy — It’s all about your decision and attitude. I don’t think there’s too many college grads that work minimum wage. You are obviously computer literate and there’s always demand for someone who can (1) communicate effectively and (2) knows how to use computer. Perhaps you are not looking in the right places.

    Regarding the distillation of time and energy, I think that’s completely wrong way to think. It’s the value that you bring which matters. You will earn minimum wage if all you do is throwing time and energy into it.

    @Emily — Great point. I should have said something about contentment because it’s not always about money. For the couple above, they fight about money all the time.

    @Christine — Agreed.

    @Step3 — That’s a right. If you don’t see a way out, ask someone for help.

  9. Step3 says:

    If you can’t see a way out, ask someone for a different perspective.

  10. grumpy says:

    It doesn’t matter whose fault you think it is if you don’t see any way to fix it.

  11. Pete says:

    I know quite a few people that get into this “its’ not my fault” mentality, when most of the time – it is!

    If you constantly spend 110% of your income, you will be in debt – and it is not the credit card company’s fault!

  12. hank says:

    It’s a strange situation when you think who falls into it too – It always seems to happen to folks that have had a financial downfall. It actually reminds me of the kid that would lose at a game and blame the equipment. YOU can change the “equipment” to improve what you need to get done in the end.

  13. Brad says:

    I have seen this victim mentality in a few of my closest friends. It’s terrible because you want so badly to help them get out of it but there is really nothing you can do to help them.

  14. Emily says:

    My original comment was in response to the post, not any commentators. I am not judging anyone. We all have different circumstances and choose to view and handle them differently. The post is about victim mentality and how it holds people back. I was agreeing while also pointing out that not all people who don’t make a lot of money feel that way, just as another commentator did.

  15. Christine says:

    I think we can talk about the attitude in a general sense, but we have to be oh so careful about judging others’ circumstances. Unless you walk in their shoes, you can never know what it is they have to deal with.

  16. grumpy says:

    Oh, what joyful profundity! How would an older worker in a dead-end minimum-wage job “fix it” without money?

  17. Emily says:

    It comes down to attitude. There are plenty of people out there that aren’t in minimum wage jobs but are miserable. There are a lot of families that are living much like the one you described (mine included) but are content with the joy it brings. It doesn’t always have to be about having more money. The problem comes in when you complain about it. If you’re unhappy – fix it. Period. No matter your financial status.

  18. grumpy says:

    I pursued higher education and all it got me was a lot of debt!

    And toiling away at a minimum wage job is preferable to NOT toiling away at a minimum wage job. If money is just a distillation of time and energy, why do minimum wage jobs tend to require a lot more energy and time than better-paying jobs?

    So this couple has a problem. What can they do NOW about it?

  19. Tom says:

    I completely agree with you. There is plenty more that they could do, and I believe that there are many Americans that do the same thing you described above. However, I asked my brother in law (who is in close to the same position) last Christmas about why he doesn’t pick up another job or go back to school? He was simply happy about where he was and what he was doing. How could I argue with that? He seems to be very happy. It really put everything into perspective for me. Great article!

  20. MoneyBlogga says:

    I allowed my abusive childhood to dictate my life path for far longer than I should have. This resulted in dumb and dumber financial and life choices which I greatly regret. Luckily, I can be a determined little devil when I need to be and so I am determined to live the second half of my life in stability and happiness. Over the past year, I have made significant strides towards sorting out my financial mess by (a) confronting my abuser and (b) taking full responsibility for my situation from here on in. It is a daily journey of recording my thoughts on my blog which I find keeps me accountable and relieves me of much negative tension. It’s working thus far.

  21. Pinyo says:

    @David — Glad to see your here. Yeah, I clarified my statement about SAHM. That’s what I meant, she fell into the routine of just looking after the kids, not really doing any household chores, and let things be.

  22. David Hicks says:

    Bang-on! (With the possible exception about the stay-at-home mom, but I take it that you mean she resigned herself to not looking very far into options.)

    Our finances are absolutely a mirror of our mentality (somewhat conscious, but mostly subconscious). Money is just a distillation of time + energy, so your beliefs, emotions, reflexes and habits pretty much get summarized in your money situation. And building a bigger financial band-aid won’t help: witness, lottery winners.

    Please pardon the plug, but this is EXACTLY why I wrote my book, “Healing Your Financial Soul – An interactive guide to restoring your relationship with money”: to help people change their finances from the inside out. (FYI: it’s geared toward people in church culture, ’cause we’re even more conflicted than most.)

  23. Pinyo says:

    @Jenna – In this case, she really did do nothing. I remember the husband did most of the chores around the house!

  24. Jenna says:

    Whoooo ouch Pinyo! LOL. Be very careful saying that stay at home moms do “nothing!” You are going to piss of a large segment of the population. That being said, she could certainly have earned income while she was at home.

    In fact, I stay home and earn more than I did when I was out in the workplace. So, better than most people I know you can live the dream (and this is the dream of many women) and still be able to earn enough of an income to put food on the table, gas in the car, and money in the savings account.

    It takes persistence, and a heck of a lot of work, excellent time management.You know what I mean. It takes the opposite of the victim mentality.

    I see this in the comments of pf blogs all the time – people complaining about how they can’t change their circumstances – and why can’t the blogger just fix it for them, or tell them what to do?

    We are each responsible for our own problems – and the solutions. If we want to change enough, nothing will stand in our way!

  25. Jeff says:

    Pinyo – I agree with you completely. The victim mentality is a one-way ticket to poverty. I refuse to go there.

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