What are some of your earliest memories involving money? Without getting into the intricacies of my business (pun intended), I’d say my money memories from childhood were okay. On TV decimal numbers would glide across the bottom of the screen before school because my dad would watch the stock market channel in the mornings. There was something both comforting and foreign about it, and even now that dichotomy hasn’t much changed. There was always some tension and chaos the night our taxes were getting done. On Christmas morning, sometimes a present from Santa would still have the price sticker on it, and I remember feeling a little distraught that Santa seemed to be paying for toys out of pocket. How much was he spending on children around the world? Should I have known that some of the toys I asked for weren’t able to be made? My parents were very careful not to have it be obvious to me if or when there were money problems just as their parents had done for them. I feel very fortunate to have lived in that bliss. I knew they worked hard, and I knew my needs were always met.
Something I hadn’t considered is that many of our money behaviors, like other behaviors and attachment styles, stem from what we learn at an early age. We learn money scripts from all sorts of situations. I save money in weird places like my father which can be attributed to finding my grandmother’s purse in her oven one day. Some families establish systems with earning allowances, and some families demonstrate giving by letting the child drop a dollar in a charity box or for a street performer. There are families who are very open with their children when they are financially struggling. Some adolescents join the workforce to support their college funds or to begin supporting themselves, maybe even contributing to their family. Too many children learn the strain on the family when food can’t be put on the table or when they have to understand why their parent is never home. One look at a peer’s neighborhood and suddenly you can question differences in living. Prior to the Kardashian’s, Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie taught us you don’t have to do much of anything to have or maintain wealth, just be seen. Of course, we’re fed by the media how we should worship money, that money is power, is happiness, is everything. We see the types of people who have it and what lavish lifestyles they lead. But you don’t need me to tell you this—it’s everywhere! And if money isn’t on your mind all the time, we’re taught that we’re not committed enough to success, “laziness” won’t amount to anything, and that someone with more money is going to hold you down with a greater gap between you. One of those might be true. Getting ahead seems to be more and more of an illusion as an investment in higher education is increasingly more difficult to pay back with the job you might be guaranteed after graduation. The thing is, in most cases, despite what we learn, it’s not our faults we can’t climb the ladder. Sure, some have been able to build generations of stability through their hard work, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all method. I see a lot of us burnt out and willing to take any gimmicky “quick” tip or lottery ticket just for a little break. I’ve been hearing of more success stories that have come from mindset changes to abundance or reflection on personal psychology of money. They are by no means the timely solutions often advertised, but just another aspect of life that can benefit from self-awareness.
It sounds worthy of an eye-roll, but shifting your focus to what is abundant in your life rather than what you don’t have is a great way to improve your relationship with money and your overall wellbeing. Notice what is all around you, not just materials but maybe love is very abundant in your life. Gratitude studies in the Positive Psychology fields have been hugely important and have shown to be surprisingly helpful for people to improve people’s levels of happiness. It’s a long-term practice that can have long-term effects. Additionally, if we treat money like any other relationship we have, it’s possible like when working on other relationships, that we’ll get “better” at it. This is why I opened with a prompt to reflect on your early money memories. When we understand how we learned to deal with money, we can better understand our current behaviors with it. I’m by no means a financial guru, nor am I a picture of wealth, but I know a little something about psychology and am a firm believer it can be applied to just about anything. Money can impact some of our other relationships too which is why some behavior reflection can help build greater understanding for both personal and interpersonal management.
Have you ever been out with friends and everybody has different ideas about handling the bill? Someone has exact change, someone needs to be spotted (again), someone is in the bathroom, etc. It’s hard to split it equally because one person didn’t drink alcohol and another claims she didn’t eat as much of the appetizer. Did Amanda get extra chicken on her salad just because she knew the bill would be split? Why should we pay for her up-charge of $9?! But poor Marsha over there just lost her job and wasn’t even sure if she should’ve come out. This gets awkward, frustrating, and messy. I’ve been at my share of these dinners among various personalities and various learned money behaviors. I’ve seen relationships ruined over money. Families aren’t on speaking terms because of inheritance settlements. Although, I also happen to have a few friends who go out or travel with me where it just sort of smoothly sorts out on its own. Though these sorts of situations is why money is an uncomfortable topic of conversation for people. Money can be deeply personal, cause embarrassment, and be a source of judgment. Some of us feel vulnerable when talking about money because of the amount of stress it causes us. Other times, people feel guilty for what they have. In some instances people hate money so much they choose not to have it around at all. They spend it to avoid it. Spending is a form of addiction. So often because no one really wants to talk about it, it remains the elephant in the room. Like with anything else, acknowledging the quality of feelings that surface with money and the impulses that come from them, is a great way to start.
How important is money to you? Do you feel like you have a choice in how much you value it? How willing are you to share it? What do you buy and why? There is no wrong answer to any of these questions! It’s just the beginning of your money makeover. If you like this page, please share it!