When I was in high school, I created a family tree for history class. Some of you have probably completed similar projects, drawing Sharpie lines between people, figuring out connections, and bringing complicated relationships together on one page. As I talked to my relatives about the assignment, stories about quirky family members invariably came up in conversation. I learned about a great-grandmother who lived to be 100 and ate an ice cream sundae every afternoon. There are tales of a distant great-uncle who said he was a doctor but was actually a bit of a con artist. One of my favorites is a romantic story about my (5x) great-grandfather who immigrated to the US because his family did not approve of his wife.
As a financial planner, I see that our family trees contain stories about money as well. There is a term coined by therapist Brad Klontz called “Money Scripts.” These are unconscious beliefs about money, often rooted in experiences in childhood, that affect adult behaviors and perspectives. I have a friend in the Midwest whose grandparents built wealth through real estate, so owning something “tangible” such as real estate brings him a sense of security. Other acquaintances of mine grew up in poverty, and they feel anxiety surrounding money because they want a different experience for their children. Still other people I know hold onto a certain stock because it’s inherited from a beloved relative who believed in the company.
Our collective stories are endless, and they certainly come up in our client meetings. Usually, we view financial decisions as objective, but emotions and history often play a role in our decision-making. So I want to ask you: What’s your money story, and how does it impact the way you view your finances? Here are a few questions to consider:
- Did your family or friends talk about money when you were growing up?
- When you were a child, how did the people around you act with money?
- What are some values around money you learned as a child?
- Can you identify any habits around spending or saving that your family had?
- What feelings do talk of finances evoke in you?
You may be surprised at the insight you’ll gain from answering some of these questions. Just like any behavior, money scripts can be unlearned, and gaining a greater understanding of your own money script can help you with limiting beliefs that may be holding you back from achieving true financial freedom.
Written by Libby Boehne, CFP®
Image credit: Micheile Henderson via unsplash