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Most of us strive and struggle to reach our goals. What we often forget is that accomplishing them is only half the battle. You also have to feel like you’ve accomplished them. And these two steps can be further apart than you might imagine.

Couples therapists caution that we are often overly focused on the negative in relationships, which means we underestimate the strength of our bonds. Professors warn that many highly successful professionals make themselves miserable by always chasing one more accolade.

And one author went viral when she coined the term “productivity dysphoria” to describe the yawning gap between how much she gets done and how satisfied she feels with her output.

In short, our actual achievements and our sense of our accomplishment often don’t line up. And according to one finance professor, that’s as true for our finances as it is for relationships, productivity, and success.

Are you good with money? Your bank balance can’t tell you.

You’d think it would be relatively easy to gauge how well you’re doing financially. Bank balances and credit card statements offer clear and objective measurements, after all. But when it comes to money, we start from wildly different places and have wildly different goals. Your bank account is more of a reflection of luck and circumstances than your level of financial literacy.

Plus, as Bomikazi Zeka of Australia’s University of Canberra pointed out on The Conversation recently, these are exceptionally trying times to achieve financial stability. “Every day, you’re making complex financial decisions (some of which carry huge ramifications) and there are more financial products and services available than ever before. Navigating this minefield can be overwhelming,” she writes.

So how do you know you’re actually doing OK when it comes to managing your money and planning for your financial future? Zeka offers a list of telltale signs, including:

1. You track your cashflow.

Our incomes and expenses may vary enormously, but whatever these numbers look like, nearly everyone should aim to be cash flow positive.

“By tracking your cashflow on a regular basis, you’re ensuring your expenses don’t exceed your income. In other words, you make sure you’re earning more than you spend,” writes Zeka. She adds that you’ll know you’re on the right track when “you have a surplus or a buffer.”

2. You distinguish between good debt and bad. 

Some people have a horror of any debt at all. Others are prone to using credit to finance their lifestyle with little regard for their financial futures. Neither approach is a sign you’ve got your financial house in order. Those who are actually good with money understand debt can be good or bad and know how to tell the difference.

“Knowing how to make debt work for you is a skill and a sign of good financial knowledge,” says Zeka. She explains: “Good debt is debt used to improve your long-term financial position or net worth, such as a home loan. Bad debt tends to be consumption-driven and doesn’t have lasting value. Examples include payday loans or retail accounts.”

3. You diversify.  

From Silicon Valley Bank to FTX, recent collapses and scandals have underlined the dangers of putting all your financial eggs in one basket. Those with a good grasp on their finances understand these risks and refuse to rely on just one basket.

“One of the key concepts of financial literacy is understanding the importance of diversification,” says Zeka. “By having your money spread across various places (such as a savings account, property, the share market, superannuation, and so on), you’ve reduced the concentration of risk. This helps protect your wealth in tough economic times.”

4. You know your own weaknesses. 

No matter how sensible and informed you are about financial matters, you still have a weakness. Our attitudes toward money have deep roots in our pasts, and emotions creep into everyone’s financial decision making. If you understand your personal patterns and blind spots, you’re in a much better position to guard against them.

“Perhaps you buy unnecessary stuff when you feel sad. Or maybe you panic when faced with tough financial choices and make quick decisions just to make the problem go away. Neglecting to reflect on patterns of behavior can lead to serious and possibly irreversible financial mistakes,” cautions Zeka.

5. You have financial goals. 

One person may want to retire by 45. Another may just be hoping to pay off their student loans by then. We don’t all need to have anything like the same goals, but if you want to be in the driver’s seat when it comes to your finances, you need to have some kind of goal.

“Financially literate people plan for their finances. This involves setting goals for either earnings, savings, investments, and debt management or putting measures in place to protect wealth (via, for example, insurance to protect your wealth against loss),” Zeka says. But goals alone aren’t enough. To be truly financially savvy, you need “to have a system and habits in place to achieve them,” she adds.

You can read more about Zeka’s signs of true financial literacy in her full article. The details are useful, but the overarching message is as simple as it is powerful: Whether or not you’re good with money isn’t measured by how much of it you have but by your realism, thoughtfulness, self-knowledge, and foresight.

If you know how much money comes in and out every month and have goals and reasonable plans to meet them, you’re probably much better with money than you sometimes feel.

By Jessica Stillman