2014 resolution: Making Peace with Money

There is a saying that those who can’t do, teach.  I have been teaching financial life skills classes now for over 2 years, but if you asked I would tell you that I “don’t DO money-it’s not my thing.”  I cringe at the thought of “being on a budget” and the word investment portfolio usually leads to confusion and panic. As a small business owner, my relationship with money has become unavoidable. The blissful days of direct deposit and an automatic 401k are over.  Now I am consumed with things like accounting, taxes, profit margin, and asking people to PAY ME! Money has bitch slapped me in the face and I can no longer ignore its reality.

As a therapist, I am all about insight, self awareness, and healing relationships.  It occurred to me that I have an unhealthy relationship with money that I needed to look at.  At the same time, it also occurred to me that many of us struggle with money.  Not necessarily with the basic financial skills, but with the deeper, darker issues.  Look for example at how many Americans are in debt, living well beyond their means.  What is driving us to spend what we don’t have?  Then there is the fact that financial matters have been identified as a significant source of stress for individuals and families. Sadly we rarely discuss the psychological issues related to money that cause people to feel depressed and anixous .   So what’s behind all this turmoil? As it turns out there are some very real forces, mostly unrealized that dictate our (good or bad) relationship with money.  I stumbled across the research of doctors Brad and Ted Klontz and was intrigued by what they found. 

After conducting multiple studies, the Klontz brothers determined that many of us follow a money belief pattern also known as a “money script”.  Each person’s script is somewhat different, made up of our upbringing, values, thoughts, feelings and emotions about money. And it gets even better. Money scripts tend to follow one of four “types” which correlate with income and net worth.  They also can help us gain insight into questions like: “why did I think I had to have those shoes? “ or “why is it so hard to ask for a raise at work?”  The four major scripts are money avoidance, money status, money worship and money vigilance.  To learn more about each, check out this site:

http://www.fpanet.org/journal/HowClientsMoneyScriptsPredictTheirBehaviors/

Reading this was where I had my aha moment-I am a money avoider!  Could this explain my rocky relationship with money?  I thought about my upbringing, living with two parents who were financially conservative.  I also thought about the social mores of my profession as a helper: don’t openly talk about money; don’t be greedy; don’t expect to get wealthy.  I thought about the tendency for mental health professionals to undervalue their services, and observed how I felt guilt when discussing money with clients.  I noticed how I often experience anxiety around taking financial risks-even when they could be beneficial to me.  I acknowledged ways in which I have financially sabotaged.  Creating awareness and being real with myself was eye-opening.  For once I had a greater understanding of what was getting in my way.  This information has helped me identify the values that I have blindly ascribed to and now I can acknowledge  the challenge ahead.  Now it is not just about my financial actions, but my thinking too.  So on that note 2014 will be the year that I begin to “do” money.

** If you are interested in learning more about this, join me for a workshop to explore your relationship with money for a more “financially healthy 2014”  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/improve-your-financial-wellness-workshop-tickets-9857698642