How to Fend Off Financial Trolls

Note: It's a rare thing, but it happens once or twice a year: Life has reared its ugly head, and there's no fresh story for you this morning. Instead, enjoy this classic from the Get Rich Slowly archives.

Money is more about mind than it is about math — that's one of the fundamental precepts of this site. If you improve your self-esteem, if you improve your mental attitude, if you improve your knowledge, you will improve your finances. To this end, it's important to avoid negative messages about money. It's difficult to improve your mental attitude when you're besieged by financial trolls.

What are financial trolls? In a recent article, Steve Pavlina shared five wealth lessons, the last of which was: financial trolls must be shown no mercy. Pavlina writes:

A financial troll is a close cousin to the forum troll, except that financial trolls strive to sabotage your financial pursuits. These trolls can be internal or external. They're the people who make comments like, “Wealthy people are so greedy. They only care about themselves and will take advantage of anyone to make money.” Financial trolls are also the internal voices that say, “If you make too much money, people will judge you harshly for it. They'll assume that's all you care about.”

Coping with external trolls
When I started Get Rich Slowly, I wanted people to like and agree with everything I wrote. Any time I received a negative comment, I took time to exchange e-mail with the person who left it. Here's an example of an actual criticism I once received: “I would love [this site] if only the privileged would acknowledged how lucky and privileged they are and how their ‘advice' applies to only other privileged kids.” I tried to carry on a conversation with the commenter, but nothing I could say would satisfy him — in his mind I was a rich jerk and nothing could change that.

I realized that 95% of these people aren't interested in a rational exchange of ideas. They're external financial trolls. They have chips on their shoulders, they're clinging to preconceived notions, or they just want to argue. They're not worth my time. Other examples of behavior you might see in external trolls include:

  • You might have a goal, and have a plan to pursue it despite the risk involved. The troll in your life focuses on the obstacles, on the reasons you can't achieve it: “You don't know what you're doing”, “Think of all the things that might go wrong”, etc.
  • Perhaps you admire other successful people. Trolls often resent success: “Warren Buffett go rich on the back of others”, “Bill Gates is a crook”, “Rich people don't work for their money”
  • Some trolls complain all the time. They complain about their jobs, they complain about their lives, they complain that they don't have money. They complain, but they rarely take action. Complainers are poisonous.

Defeating most external trolls is straightforward. Because they're not internal, you can usually just remove yourself from the situation. Ignore the troll. Change the conversation. Leave the room. Hang up the phone. Do not argue — as Pavlina notes, any time you argue with a troll, the troll wins. Do not engage the troll.

Coping with internal trolls
Internal trolls are more insidious than their external brethren. Because they are a part of you, eradicating them takes self-discipline. Examples of internal trolls include:

  • Self-defeating thoughts and behaviors: “I can't do this — it's too difficult”, “I'm not smart enough”, “It's too much work”, “I don't deserve to have money”
  • Procrastination — “I'll start next week”, “I'll worry about this later”, I can start saving next month — this month I'll buy an XBox.”
  • Rationalization — “Buying just one pair of shoes won't blow my budget”, “I'm out with my friends — I should join the fun”, “I should reward myself for how well I've been doing lately”
  • Barriers — “I don't know how to open an IRA”, “It's too much bother to set up automatic deposits”, “Sure I could call around for lower rates, but I don't like talking on the phone”

Conquering internal trolls can be non-intuitive. Most are a product of self-doubt, which is best combated through exercise, discipline, positive social interaction, and a healthy diet. Seriously. The following can also help:

  • Talk back to yourself! It makes sense to avoid arguments with external trolls, but confronting internal trolls is an excellent tactic.
  • Set financial goals. Review them regularly.
  • Read success literature: personal finance books, self-development manuals, and biographies of successful people.
  • Educate yourself. Learn about money. I resisted investing for a long time until I learned just how easy it was to open an IRA.
  • Find a mentor, a coach, or an advisor. Learn from others.

I have much more trouble with internal trolls than I do with external trolls. They're a constant threat.

Know when to seek help
Some trolls are difficult to defeat. What do you do about a spouse who insists on sabotaging your financial security? How do you deal with your own compulsive shopping? Problems like these may require the assistance of a trained professional: an accountant, a lawyer, or a psychologist. The important thing is to deal with them. Until you defeat them, they'll only hold you back, preventing you from achieving success.

More about...Psychology

Become A Money Boss And Join 15,000 Others

Subscribe to the GRS Insider (FREE) and we’ll give you a copy of the Money Boss Manifesto (also FREE)

Yes! Sign up and get your free gift
Become A Money Boss And Join 15,000 Others
guest
34 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Dogs or Dollars
Dogs or Dollars
8 years ago

GRS Vintage! I’ll take it! A useful reminder.

I’ve got no problem with external trolls. Those I can easily dismiss and the naysayers (and whiners and complainers) they are. Everyone has an internal troll though. Mine gets grumpy from time to time, and shouts a little louder than normal. Going back to basics is a good way to shut him the heck up.

Jerome
Jerome
8 years ago

Great post!! I sooo agree with what you are saying. Especially the external trolls. For me they are the most difficult to deal with. What we found is that owning something that is very visible and clearly old and cheap, like an old car, helps in avoiding most of the discussions. If somebody accuses me of being rich I ask him if he has seen my car. A 12 year old Volkswagen is not a sign of being rich. And saves money!

Samantha
Samantha
8 years ago

I hadn’t read this yet, great article! I’ve found a great way to defeat (somewhat) the financial trolls in my life. Prove them wrong! It takes time, but its working. They said we couldn’t pay off our debt, we did! They said “everybody has a car payment”, and we said, “we don’t!” Now they are saying “There is no way you can pay off your mortgage in the next 5 years!” And we are right on track for a 2015 payoff! You don’t have to argue when the truth is on your side! Of course, these trolls will always find… Read more »

chris
chris
8 years ago

What is you are married to one of those “external” financial trolls? Talk about a downer…and I live it every day.

Rozann
Rozann
8 years ago
Reply to  chris

Oh, how I understand! I’m married to a spendthrift; the more money I free up through frugal living, the more he spends rather than paying off debt or saving. Unfortunately, choices I made long ago make it difficult, but not impossible to free myself from this situation.

Kitamu
Kitamu
8 years ago
Reply to  Rozann

Sorry about that! It must be very frustrating! Is there any way you can have a “hidden” bufferzone? In my past I lived with someone like that and I kept putting aside the change and some more from time to time in places it could not be found: terrible, I know, but it surely made those “end of the month agony” rather easier to fend off… also, I shared an app with friends in my study days and to avoid “suprises” when bills came we had one box for telephone expences where we dropped a coin every time we made… Read more »

Jessica Lurker
Jessica Lurker
8 years ago
Reply to  chris

My husband is a troll, a loveable troll, but a troll nonetheless. Things he was vehemently against when we first started talking about our money as “ours”: 1) Having a budget. 2) Saving money. 3) Tracking our spending. I created a budget anyway, and provided it to him. I had to make it easy for him to use and see value in. It had to make his life easier/better. He pays attention to it now, and uses it to determine when we’ll have money for extras and vacations and the like. I started saving money for the both of us.… Read more »

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  chris

Chris & Rozann – mileage may vary, but IMHO the best way to handle a spendthrift/financially negative partner is to keep money separate. My DH is a wonderful man but is unable to shift poor (literally) attitudes about money. Thus, not only is my checking account separate, but my savings (and credit cards) are too. He vaguely knows they exist, but no real detail (in the event I died, he’d find the info on a memory stick I always keep with my computer). If he can’t access them, he can’t spend the money. While I believe one shouldn’t hide debt… Read more »

Ellen
Ellen
8 years ago

Great article. I can’t believe the comment about “privileged kids”. Apparently whomever made it had no idea who you were!

Mary
Mary
8 years ago

An oldie but goodie!!

It’s easy for me to dismiss external voices but the internal trolls are harder. I’ve had to learn to change my self talk.

Beth
Beth
8 years ago

This article was new to me too! Great tips for avoiding negativity inside and out.

I especially like the point about remembering that most external trolls aren’t interested in an exchange of ideas. It reminded me of a tweet I read on @unmarketing about knowing when to draw the line with negative people:

“Don’t try to win over haters. You are not the jacka** whisperer!”

Words to keep in mind 😉

Dogs or Dollars
Dogs or Dollars
8 years ago
Reply to  Beth

HA! Love the Jacka** Whisperer!

Janette
Janette
8 years ago
Reply to  Beth

I like that- “not a jack a** whisperer” very good.

My trolls are somewhat internal, but external trolls got me to leave two good jobs. I hear negative so long, I just need to pack and leave. Not the best solution.

Hope your “life getting in the way” is a good thing, not a negative thing.

Beth
Beth
8 years ago
Reply to  Beth

I had to censor it otherwise I feared it might get stuck in moderation, but you get the picture 🙂 The take away for me is that sometimes you can’t change other people’s opinions of you and you have to let go.

LaTisha @YoungAdultFinances
LaTisha @YoungAdultFinances
8 years ago

“Do not engage the troll” That is most likely the best advice. Especially when the sole purpose of the troll is not to come to a reasonable agreement but to spew negativity everywhere.

Chellie Campbell
Chellie Campbell
8 years ago

Great article!

I was raised to be a “nice girl” so I spent a lot of time in my life trying to reason with the trolls. But you are correct, they don’t want discussion and their minds are not open to change. Now I just divide the world into “My People” who love me and are positive, and “Not My People” who don’t and aren’t. Then I can happily delete the “Nots” i.e., trolls, from my email lists and my life. Wow, did life ever get better when I started doing that!

S. B.
S. B.
8 years ago

I so needed to read this article today. I feel like I’ve been surrounded by negative external financial trolls all week. Thanks!

Kitamu
Kitamu
8 years ago

I would like to know whether it is ok to hide assets (small but important) to deal with possible emergencies if one live with a spendthrift and it is difficult to get the person to the negotiation table, so to speak? if there are other solutions I would like to hear abt them as being dishonest is not in my liking but what to do…

Jacq
Jacq
8 years ago

Although I agree with you for the most part – I worked for awhile as a small business lending company years ago. I’d have people come in with the most impractical, off the wall ideas that would never make money. For the most part, these were people that wanted some kind of lifestyle business that there just wasn’t a market for. So I had to be the troll. My guess is that maybe 10% of businesses ended up getting a loan and approximately 20% of those businesses actually made money over time. People who are driven and internally motivated will… Read more »

Andre
Andre
8 years ago
Reply to  Jacq

Hey Jacq, I can see where you’re coming from – and I understand. I was just like you and I guess there are no right answers. But psychologically speaking, this is interesting. The thing is, every plan – no matter how well-thought-out, can be torn down by a troll. It’s not a question of IF, but a question of WHEN and HOW. And while you may view someone’s plan as delusional, they may not agree with you. It’s called the ownership bias. Having said that, some of the world’s most successful people are labelled “delusional”. Colonel Sanders was broke yet… Read more »

Jacq
Jacq
8 years ago
Reply to  Andre

That’s the thing Andre – I tend to believe, that without some kind of *epiphany* – most people are not going to change their modus operandi overnight. It’s just not human nature. There’s something to be said for “show me”. Don’t just talk – DO something different. And no matter what, it’s part of growing up to follow the beat of your own drummer, not somebody else’s. If you’re that easily discouraged that some people saying you can’t do it is enough to stop you, you don’t belong in business – or doing a lot of other things. Follow your… Read more »

Travis
Travis
8 years ago

In his excellent book “The War of Art,” Steven Pressfield terms these internal trolls “the Resistance.” He describes many of the insidious ways these internal trolls can sabotage you, as well as strategies for tackling them. Artist or not, highly recommend checking it out.

Chett
Chett
8 years ago

J.D.,

Haven’t visited your site for sometime but I found this video today and thought of your site. You may have already discussed it here. Just sharing.

http://www.ted.com/talks/daniel_goldstein_the_battle_between_your_present_and_future_self.html

Jacob
Jacob
8 years ago

Ok the advice here is very good for some people, but there are so many people who are stuck and I dont think that they will be able to get out, this book addresses a lot of the problems of the lower class.
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America

Cindy
Cindy
8 years ago
Reply to  Jacob

I agree some people are ‘stuck,’ Jacob — but the people mentioned in the book you’re citing have often made deliberate choices that explode any other options they can take. Even the author of this book self-destructs herself, makes crappy choices…then whines about it.
A better read would be Adam Shepard’s SCRATCH BEGINNINGS:
http://www.amazon.com/Scratch-Beginnings-Search-American-Dream/dp/0979692601

And I know where the Nickel and Dimed people have been — I worked for Wal-Mart for nearly two years, when we absolutely needed the money. I’ve also waitressed and cleaned houses. Read Adam’s book, instead.

Steve Mertz
Steve Mertz
8 years ago

The comment about privileged kids writing for others really cracked me up-I remember when a core of us started personal financial blogs back in 2006.
Most weren’t “privileged” and have since done well by helping others. Thanks for the article.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  Steve Mertz

I wonder how people define “privileged” . I didn’t consider myself privileged when I was growing up — until I started working/volunteering with teenagers and realized how lucky I was to have two loving parents, a decent home and no worries about where the next meal was coming from. It was a modest life, to be sure, but I can see how some people would consider that privileged. I’m not saying that commenter is right — I certainly don’t agree with him/her! — but I can understand why someone might look at J.D.’s or other financial bloggers lives as privileged.… Read more »

Anne
Anne
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

People have a real aversion to being called privileged. I know I did. But I was. I don’t see that man as a troll. I think that is the wrong way to view such a reaction. Yes, it was negative and self defeating. But it is easier to believe that you can be successful when you’ve seen it in your life. I see this man as someone who feels there’s no advice out there for HIM. And really, there’s not all that much. It’s easier to tell people to give up fast food or a latte than to really talk… Read more »

Matt, Tao of Unfear
Matt, Tao of Unfear
8 years ago

Hope life’s ugly head isn’t causing too much trouble. I don’t come from money, but that doesn’t change what makes good financial sense. I’m not sure there’s any hope for people that don’t get that. They just want to take our their circumstances on someone else rather than rising to the challenge. The advice presented here at Get Rich Slowly has definitely helped me take advantage of my limited income, and make up for all the debt I had to accumulate to attend a nice private university despite not coming from money. Some days I regret taking on that debt,… Read more »

jack foley
jack foley
8 years ago

so true that math is less important when dealing with money..

you must get yourself around good people if you want to defeat these trolls

doug_eike
doug_eike
8 years ago

Confronting the financial demons, both internally and externally, is indeed an important part of successful investment. Anything you can do to increase your awareness of your financial situation will contribute positively to the bottom line. Thanks for the insights.

brooklynchick
brooklynchick
8 years ago

Talking to (internal) trolls is something I learned a lot about from this website:
http://www.fluentself.com/blog/stuff/not-all-monsters-like-cookies/

It may seem odd at first, but its helpful!

Katrina
Katrina
8 years ago

I have a financial troll in my life. She’s just a mere acquaintance I see once or twice a year. We share the same career, but she can never seem to accept I am able to make a living just freelancing at it. She is always looking for the “hole” in my story.

Last interaction, her “ah-ha” moment was when she discovered I had to pay for my own health insurance.

People like this are miserable and want to make you miserable, too.

Paula+@+Afford Anything
[email protected]+Afford Anything
8 years ago

Wow, I read this post at the perfect moment. I NEEDED to read this post right now. I’m so glad I found it. I have a hard time with external trolls. Generally, I take the approach that when someone criticizes you, you should listen closely because there may be truth to what they’re saying. In other words, I’m in the habit of accepting all criticism as “constructive” and really internalizing it. This worked until I started blogging. Now there are people who — for lack of a better term — are internet bullies. They call names and say all kinds… Read more »

shares