Getting To The Bottom Of Your Relationship With Money

If you’ve made your way through Financially Fit Bootcamp, you’ve got the stepping stones to Financial Freedom pat down. Pay Yourself First, Live On What Remains, Protect Yourself and Invest in Freedom. While you’re knowledgeable, whip-smart and resourceful, you may be struggling with the first step.

The cause? Possibly a psychological basis. Yup, you guessed correctly. Our perceptions and early experiences shape our behaviors with our finances. In turn, those experiences can affect our relationship with money. As notable financial psychologists Brad Klontz and Ted Klontz, co-founders of the Financial Psychological Institute, explain:

“Chronic self-defeating and self-destructive financial behaviors aren’t driven by our rational, thinking minds. The truth is, they stem from psychological forces that lie outside our conscious awareness and their roots run deep into our past. A critical element to overcoming your money disorders is getting honest about your relationship with money.”

We call bullshit on those who believe our shortcomings with money stem from laziness. Before you make a decision about what’s causing your difficulties, evaluate your approach to money. Then you can work toward a solution.

What’s Your Money Script?

As Dr. Brad Klontz explains in Psych Central, our financial relationship originates from childhood. This is when we develop what’s called “money scripts” or our beliefs about money. These may be subconscious beliefs molded by either parental attitudes, our direct experiences with money or family stories.

Such crippling beliefs may include “having tons of money will solve all my problems,” “I’ll never have enough to start saving” or “I grew up poor and will remain destitute.” As you may imagine, these myths are getting in the way of building the Growth Engine of our Freedom Generator. Let’s dig deeper into how exactly these scripts, or narratives, are formed:

#1 Family History

To understand why you may be struggling with Living Joyfully Within Your Means, having enough of a Cash Surplus, reducing your debt and Paying Yourself First, look at how your parents dealt with their finances.

For instance, maybe your father was a spendthrift who wanted to appear rich. But secretly, he dug a deep debt grave and relied on credit cards to pay family bills. Or your mother grew up poor and learned to live with a scarcity money mindset. As a result, she didn’t allow herself to enjoy life. Depending on how you grew up, you may find yourself falling into a vicious debt cycle or have trouble embracing an abundance mentality.

#2 Family Stories

Besides our parents’ attitudes toward money, your money script may be formed by family stories. My parents, who were both immigrants from Vietnam, saw money as a scarce resource. Any extra money needed to go toward helping family members who were less fortunate. As an adult, I struggle with enjoying the money I earn. I feel a deep obligation toward using it intentionally. I oftentimes feel as if surplus should go toward charity or helping others.

Okay, so maybe this isn’t the worst money problem to have. But growing up with this sort of family story can create an imbalance in the five buckets of your Freedom Generator. For instance, having too much in your Charity Bucket, and not enough in your Growth Engine or Lifestyle Assets Bucket. By understanding how my parents felt about money, I gained insight into my own behavior toward money.

#3 Your Early Experiences With Money

Your early memories and childhood experiences play a large part in your money habits. For example, perhaps your parents were frugal to the core. Because you felt deprived, you may overcompensate with splurging as an adult.

Or maybe any windfall of cash your parents got would go toward a costly, unexpected car repair. So as an adult, you may feel this urgency to spend any “extra cash” that comes your way. When in fact you should be putting it into your Pay Yourself First account. As you can see, these early memories and experiences affect how you behave toward your money.

#4 Look At Self-Sabotaging Behaviors and Beliefs

Paulette Perhach, who coined the term “f**k off fund,” candidly talks about her complex relationship with money. For instance, in her “f**k off/f**k it cycle” post, she’ll explain how her actions with money lead to self-sabotage. And ultimately the cycle reveals a lack of self-respect.

We all exhibit self-sabotaging behaviors and beliefs. Maybe you don’t believe you deserve to earn more, and thus consistently ask for less pay than what you’re worth. Or perhaps you don’t believe your financial goals are important. As a result, you have trouble communicating your money needs in relationships.

Your money mindset may also be playing a large role as to why you’re not Paying Yourself First. Perhaps you’re banking on a windfall of cash or are stuck in scarcity mindset mode. Whatever the reason, your first experiences contribute to these destructive behaviors.

Take First Steps

Nobody said examining the psychology behind your relationship with money was going to be easy. You’ll need to confront painful memories and get honest with yourself. But recognizing you have an unhealthy relationship with money is a major first step. Oftentimes it’s far easier to just lie to ourselves, and our beliefs and habits remain unchanged.

To get unstuck, spend some time on introspection. Journal about your early experiences with money. Think about how your parents’ attitudes and beliefs they held influenced yours. Last, take a close look at your current money mindsets that may be creating a roadblock in your journey toward Financial Freedom.

If your relationship with money has reached a point where you could use outside help, consider talking to a therapist. In fact, there are financial therapists who specialize in money-related issues. To find a qualified professional, you can check the database of the Financial Therapy Association.

Do some crucial soul-searching and analysis, and you’ll gain a deeper understanding of your relationship with money. In turn, you’ll make personal breakthroughs that can improve the way you feel, behave and approach your finances. And in no time, you’ll be well on your way to Financial Freedom.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of

image credit: Bigstock/Wayhome Studio

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