I was asked to blog about our relationship to money. It’s probably one of the most challenging and angst-producing issues in our lives. Whether we are rich or poor, this issue is poorly understood and handled by most of us.
The reason is that nobody teaches us how to relate to money. Instead, we learn about it by observing and unconsciously modeling our parents. Without explicit instruction and discussion there is no conscious understanding, only unconscious imprinting in our brains. Our behaviors around money become linked to survival and driven by our emotional (reactive) selves, not our conscious, creative selves.
This explains why some people can be really stingy when they don’t need to be; and why some people spend when they don’t have the money.
To better understand your relationship to money, take a look at where your patterns came from. You can start by looking at your parents’ behaviors surrounding money. Were they people who hoarded money, always saving, never spending? Did they avoid the subject altogether, procrastinating on bills and not balancing their checkbooks? Did they look down on the idea of earning a lot of money, feeling virtuous about working hard for little financial reward? Or were they constantly living beyond their means, running up debts?
Now ask yourself how this compares to your attitudes and behaviors toward money? It doesn’t mean that you will have the same relationship they did, it could be the total opposite. But in either case, the same or opposite, your relationship to money came from your identifying with them or rebelling against them.
Once you understand what your patterns and behaviors are you can begin to intercept your emotional reactions and develop more constructive and objective responses to your day to day relationship with money. If you have a tendency to spend more than you have, then you would need to exercise discipline and learn how to control your spending. If you tend to hoard then you will need to begin to splurge a little. You will also need to watch out for your tendency to avoid dealing with the issue, e.g. thinking about it, paying bills on time, learning how to manage it, etc.
Rewiring your relationship to money requires the same kind of commitment and drive as it takes rewiring any challenging issue in your life. You have to first understand the counterproductive role money plays in your life. You then have to want to create a new, healthier relationship to money. Finally you have to commit and follow through with the above suggestions.
Money is a great tool when you are the master of it. It is a horrible master if you allow it to control you.