Top 5 Money Lessons I Learned by Age 40

Take some notes from a financial planner who has seen a lot and had a fair amount of time to reflect on what brings his clients happiness and success.

A man studies his laptop at his kitchen table.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Editor’s note: This is part one of two parts, with part one including Lessons 1-2. Part two, with Lessons 3-5, is More Money Lessons I Learned by Age 40.

As a financial planner, I think about money more than most people. I think about my personal life, the financial decisions I make every single day, the lives of the clients I have guided over the last 20 years, and the ones I continue to guide to this day. At 40, I have learned a lot about money and a little about life.

In case the title didn’t make this clear, I turned 40 a few weeks ago. Forty is one of those funny ages that causes you to stop for a moment to reflect on where you have been and where you want to go. In my career as a CFP® Professional, I am an educator, coach and guide for my clients, so I naturally think about lessons to share with those around me in the hopes that they can learn (at least) one thing that will help them improve the quality of their lives.

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Lesson #1 - It All Starts With Your Mindset

“Whether you think you can, or whether you think you cannot, you are right.”

Henry Ford

Our money is not the problem; it’s our mindset. When we make a decision, we think – emphasis on think – that we are being logical and rational. But it’s often our subconscious mind that’s in charge. We are shaped by our attitudes, beliefs, values and experiences that have accumulated throughout our lives. That subconscious programming is what drives our emotions and is responsible for 90% or more of the decisions we make every day.

Money is often an incredibly emotional topic. When we dive deeper, we find that our subconscious mind has likely coded some unhealthy thoughts into the way we think about things, money frequently being at the top of that list. Because of this, even just the thought of money can trigger an emotional response in most people. Therefore, it’s no surprise that it’s America’s No. 1 cause of stress and anxiety.

Most of what drives our financial decisions is established in our subconscious minds by age 7. So it’s no wonder we experience feelings of shame, guilt, disappointment, embarrassment and resentment (the list goes on and on). The psychology of money, the study of how we think and feel and how they drive our actions and behaviors, has grown rapidly in recent years. To me, it’s the missing link between the decisions we want to make with money and the actions we actually take.

The good news is that if we are open to exploring our money mindset, we can change that subconscious programming and take proactive steps to develop healthier financial beliefs, behaviors and patterns.

If you want to master the role that money plays in your life, start with mastering your mindset.

Lesson #2 - Define the Game You Want to Play

“If you've been playing poker for half an hour and you still don't know who the patsy is, you're the patsy.”

Warren Buffett

What do I mean by the game? Simply put, your game is the life that you want to live, both personally and professionally. It’s who you want to become, what you want to achieve, what you want to contribute, and what you want to experience. Your game is different from mine, as it should be. Many people never define their game, and, as a result, they end up playing someone else’s, and they never seem to understand why they can’t get ahead. If you play someone else's game, you rarely, if ever, win. Why? Because you’re the patsy.

Define the game you want to play, and then get to work creating your edge.

For me, I decided my professional edge was going to be in financial planning. I dedicated the first 10 years of my career to being world-class at my craft. After 10 years, I had an edge, and that edge allowed me to join a small team that founded Facet in 2016 (which was just ranked #46 on the Inc. 5000 Fastest-Growing Companies in America list). It may one day help me build the kind of wealth that can create financial freedom for my family. My game is financial planning. My edge is my education, experience and expertise, which cannot be matched.

As a financial adviser, I talk to a lot of people about their money. The most successful people I know aren’t crypto millionaires. They weren’t following Reddit and messing around with GameStop or AMC stock; they aren’t day traders or “experts” in trading options or currencies because they took a two-hour class online. They are masters of their game and their craft. They have an edge that they built over years (not days like social media platforms seem to suggest). Developing your edge is a lot like compound interest. The return feels small at first, but with consistency and focus, your personal growth starts to explode in the years ahead.

Stop playing someone else’s game. Instead, define the game you want to play (the life you want, the values that will drive your decisions, what brings you true joy) and find your edge to make it possible. If you don't, you will play someone else’s game and by someone else’s rules.

Stay tuned for part two, including Lessons 3-5, next month.

-        Brent Weiss, CFP, CHFC, Co-Founder, Facet Wealth

Facet Wealth, Inc. is an SEC registered investment adviser headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland. This is not an offer to sell securities or the solicitation of an offer to purchase securities. This is not investment, financial, legal or tax advice. Past performance is not a guarantee of future performance.


This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.

Brent Weiss, CFP®, ChFC®
Co-Founder and Head of Financial Wellness, Facet

Brent Weiss is co-founder and Head of Financial Wellness at Facet. His belief that financial wellness is essential to living well and that all people deserve access to the kind of financial advice that can lead to an enriched life has been the driving force behind the firm's mission and vision. He is dedicated to enabling greater access to innovative, next-generation planning solutions and technology that can improve the quality of life for all people.