Ryan Harris together with a football team staff.

6 Key Factors That Create a Successful Money Mindset

Money is exciting. It makes us emotional. If I were to tell you right now that you just won a million dollars, you would experience a range of emotions. It would be the same if you lost a job or a sale. 

Money places us in an irrational mode of thinking. Just consider any of the big purchases you made in your 20s. Rarely were these rational purchases. In my 20s, I bought a dual disc DJ set with speakers and a woofer.

But it is critical to form a mindset so that when you do encounter money, you have clear guidelines that will help you make the most of it. 

Related: Why We Need to be Financially Literate


The first factor for a successful money mindset is to figure out the goal for your money. 

Every play in the NFL stars with a goal. Every single offensive play in the NFL has a goal to either get a first down or score a touchdown. 

What is your money goal? What is your first-down goal? What is your touchdown goal? What is your season goal? What is your career goal with your money? What is your goal for it 10 years from now? Your goal may be to pay your bills. If that’s the only goal you have for your money, it will not go much further than that. 

Why are you making money? What do you want to do with it? 

These are all great things to ask yourself. 


Once you have goals for your money, being able to speak those goals is another crucial factor in your money mindset. 

I recently invited one of my good friends to go out for cigars. 

“No,” he answered, “I am trying to retire at 45.”

It was a great response. 

Social science provides us with plenty of evidence that if we give people a simple reason, we will rarely get pushback. That cigar might have cost my friend $15. And the chicken wings we bought to go with it might have cost $8. My friend saved $23, and I understood why. 

How often do we speak our money goals in our conversations? 

One goal I often voiced was that I wanted to be rich when I was 50. 

Then, when someone would ask, “Ryan, why don’t you buy this? Why don’t we go do that?” the answer was, “No thanks. I want to be rich when I am 50.”

When you speak your goals, you give yourself space to achieve them. I am not yet 50, but I know I want to be rich by then. Speaking that goal allows me to continue to chase it without the pressure of having to achieve the goal every day. 


I recently bought a motorcycle. I could not be happier about it. But the purpose of that motorcycle was to allow me to get out on my own for 20 to 30 minutes on any given day. I wanted to experience the ordinary in an unordinary way and to provide myself with a break as a speaker, broadcaster, husband and father of three. 

What is the purpose of your purchases? Great question, and yet one we rarely ask. I want my purchases to help me build a retirement. I want my purchases to save me money.  A colleague of mine wanted their home purchase to be the start of an inheritance for their children.  

I had a teammate once who said, “Hey man, I just want to blow money fast,” after a popular hip-hop song at the time. 

If the purpose of your purchases is to blow money — excellent, you will accomplish it. 

And what else can you accomplish with your money?

When you start thinking about the purpose behind what you buy, you rarely make purchases that do not bring value. Instead, you make purchases that will help you achieve the goals you set for your money. 


I will never forget opening my year-end statement from the Kansas City Chiefs and finding out that I had spent over $13,000 on game tickets! I love my family, like anyone else. But in addition to those tickets, there was food, activities, even flights. 

Learning the many ways to say ‘no’ took me years.

The following year I said to my family, “Hey, instead of attending every game, let’s pick a game or two that we want to attend. Then if we go to the playoffs, we will handle it on a game-by-game basis.”

How many times have you spent money to go somewhere or do something that you did not want to do? $100 to go to that concert, or $50 to drive to this event? How many times do you spend money going places you do not want to be? 

The year after I told my family we were going to cut back on tickets to games, I spent $10,000 less on tickets. That was $10,000 I essentially made just by having a short, focused conversation with my family and having all of us be more tactical in the purchase of game tickets. 

Another way to look at it is this: Everything you do not spend is an opportunity to double your money. If you say ‘no’ to going to a concert you are not thrilled about, you might save $160. But you actually saved $320 because not only did you not spend that original $160, you still have it to spend. 

That’s some football math for ya.

You have essentially doubled the impact of that cash with two simple letters: N-O. 

Related: Are You a Saver or a Spender?


Save money. Detox from debt. Own what you buy.

When it comes to money, you create the definition of value.



One of the toughest things about being in an NFL locker room is that you have some guys making $20 million and the other 90% of the team who are not. Something like 65% of the team is making $2 million. In that locker room, there will always be that one player who has a lot of jewelry and another player who is continually trying to keep up. 

It is hard to avoid trying to keep up with what you see wealthier people than you do. It has been my experience in the NFL that players will often project what they will earn rather than what they do earn. How many of us do the same thing? 

We have record credit card debt in America right now. Much of that is because we are projecting what we will earn rather than what we currently earn. 


We often have difficulty having honest conversations about money. No one wants to be honest about the effects of money, whether that is how much they are leveraged or how much in debt they are. They would rather talk about their new car, the trip they just took or a new piece of jewelry. 

A friend of mine, going through a significant life change, decided to downsize drastically and cut 75% of his costs. 

When we talked, he said, “I think I am most upset about are all the things I told myself I needed.”

Who wants to talk about the lies they tell themselves when it comes to money? 

But we need to talk about these things, especially our mistakes. It is the way we and others learn. 

When I was first drafted, overnight, I made more than anyone in my family ever had. Who could I talk to about that? Who could I talk to without sounding like I was gloating? 

Our willingness to talk about our mistakes and be honest about our money mindset can lead to meaningful conversations. It can lead to real and lasting change. 

If you are reading this and think you need to change your money mindset, you are not alone. I was there early in my career. I reacted to the money I made and did not plan for what I wanted to do with it. 

Start thinking about it. Consider these key elements as a framework for building a successful money mindset. Become functional rather than reactive and emotional when it comes to money. 

Your ability to live within your means, have goals for your money and purpose behind your purchases along with your ability to say no (even to yourself) and speaking those money goals will help you achieve a successful money mindset.  

That successful money mindset will allow you to master the emotions and excitement that come with making money and reaching your goals!