Think money is about finances? Think again. The experts will kindly point out that your relationship with money – throughout your lifetime and quite likely beyond the grave – is driven by emotion.
Says huffingtonpost freelance writer Deevra Norling, “Sometimes our feelings toward money are so strong that we start to hate money because we believe that it is the cause of all of our problems. Hate is a strong emotion.”
Hate is a strong emotion. But who hasn’t felt hatred from time to time toward this inanimate object that appears to control our society and the manner in which we can function within it? Sometimes, when my kids’ are struggling with the green stuff, or right now as I install a new furnace, well and drainage then the dishwasher goes on the fritz, I dream of a world without money. Because, after all, does having bags of it make you a better person? I slip into John Lennon Imagine mode:
“Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can. No need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man. Imagine all the people, sharing all the world . . .”
Oh. Imagine . . .
But that’s not the world we live in. Consequently, it’s probably a good idea to assess your emotional responses to the big green monster, huh? So that you can tame it? Hell. Why not turn money into your big green friend?
“Money is just money,” says financial guru Suze Orman. “. . .always remember that money has no power of its own. The feelings you have about money are the feelings you have about yourself, because what is your money? Your money is a physical manifestation of you.”
Orman’s signature sign-off advice is right on the money. Ha. “People first, then money, then things.” Makes sense, right? Because if you tend to put things before people and money that’s how you wind up with huge credit card debt which makes absolutely no sense when it comes to sound financial planning.
But where does a sound financial plan come from? Oddly, our schools don’t teach it. What about our parents? My dad was a bank manager, and a good one, but we didn’t sit at the kitchen table crunching numbers. I just knew not to ask for money because my parents, raised in the depression, gave me the impression there wasn’t any. From talking to my friends, it seems my generation gave our kids the opposite impression. I’d like to say I’ve imparted financial wisdom to my children, but what we have is an eclectic bag of financial tidbits: go to work Monday to Friday, spend less than you make, life insurance is good, real estate (except in Vancouver because you can’t afford it yet!) is generally good, credit card debt is stupid, giving money (if you can) for charitable causes is good, get out quickly on bad business decisions, invest wisely and choose life experience over material things. Which is why my kids would be more inclined to go to a live music event than to the mall to shop.
If our relationship with money is unhealthy, or unbalanced, the household budget often ends up being something that controls us, rather than the other way around. How does one reverse this?
Perhaps, as previously mentioned, a good starting point is to examine any negative feelings you have about money. If it’s fear, the suggestion is to voice it out loud, then take action. If it’s powerlessness, the suggestion is to take a portion, invest and learn the language. Often there is regret surrounding money, the coulda-shoulda-woulda syndrome. For instance, you coulda-shoulda-woulda started investing in an RRSP (Canada) or a 401K (U.S.) years ago. Molly Triffin has a great article on lifehacker.com called “How Emotions Drive Bad Financial Decisions (and How to Take Control)”. She examines eight “money-sabotaging” emotions, such as anxiety, jealousy and regret, and how to reframe them into opportunities for handling money better. With regards to regret, she says, “So forgive yourself for the mistake – then focus on strategies that’ll steer you clear of the same missteps (and subsequent regret) in the future.”
I think eradicating negative feelings about money is a crucial step to financial security and intelligence. Getting back to huffpost writer Norling, she says, “The problem is how we approach money, how we think about money and how we handle money. People who constantly think negatively about money, tend to be plagued by money problems their whole life. People who believe that money is something within their control, are the ones who become more successful and ultimately increase their money.”
Of course, as educated as one can be about money, events outside of our control can affect it – major interest rate fluctuations, a divorce, a death – and as one gets older he or she looks back and sees how money exhibits qualities of expansion and contraction over a lifetime. Says Norling, “The key is to find peace and contentment with or without lots of money.” I tend to think of the game of Monopoly when life is dealing me bad cards, saying “no” all the time. It’s interesting that when I stay positive, something happens – like a month of easier household bills, or an unexpected refund cheque – and the books turn around.
I’ll leave you with this beautiful quote from “Getting Emotional About Money”, by Danielle LaPorte: “I tend to think of money in the same way I regard time. It’s a form of energy. It comes and goes according to my intentions. The clearer my intentions, the more the money flows.”