One of the most important and long-term relationships you will have in life is your relationship to your finances. Your beliefs about money influence how you save, how you spend, choices you make about where and how you work and live, and how you show that you value the people in your life. Additionally, if you are in a leadership position in your company, your relationship to finances greatly affects the people you work with every day, as your employees, co-workers and subordinates follow your lead when it comes to business decisions, about how money is used.
Many of us have studied money management or financial planning or economics in school, or for a job, and we may know a lot about how money works, and find that we are still having trouble with how we use our money.
We have lots of ideas about money, and many of them aren’t true. “Money is the root of all evil”, “Money can’t buy you happiness”, “The best things in life are free”, “You have to have money to make money”, “We can’t afford that”, “There’s never enough to go around”, “If I win, everyone else loses”, “I’m broke”, “ I can have anything that I want!”, “Someday when I win the lottery…”, “Things aren’t as bad as they seem”, and many more. These thoughts run through our heads and then out of our mouths and influence how we act, often unconsciously. Some have shown themselves to be true, so we build a pattern of behavior around them. Other times we hear them repeated so often that we start to believe them without examining them or where they came from. They gain a mythical status that can’t be questioned, even if there’s plenty of evidence pointing in other directions.
We may find ourselves spending money to make ourselves feel better when we’re having a bad day or not spending money on things we need because we need to buckle down on the expenses right now. Or we buy things far above our price range in order to keep up appearances. We buy on credit cards because we just know things will get better soon and we’ll be able to pay it off in the future, or we want it now instead of waiting until we can afford it. We don’t plan our bills out well, and find that we are paying service fees because the money isn’t available when the bill is due. These are usually not rational decisions, but are dictated by our beliefs and emotions. And many of us do this despite the education we have or the amount of money we are making or what we would advise others to do. When we are feeling stressed or tired, we fall back on old patterns of behavior because they are soothing and known and help us remember a time when things were simpler or simply less stressful than they are now.
So, what do we do about it? Habits and patterns were learned, so they can be unlearned. And money attitudes and beliefs are definitely habits. The more energy we put into anything, the more it grows. If we are putting energy into old patterns that don’t work for us anymore, they will continue to grow until they seem insurmountable – but they aren’t. The first step in making a change is recognizing what it is you are doing that actually needs to change. Listen to how you talk about money, especially when you are paying bills or making a budget in your business or personal finances. Then change how you talk about it. For instance, as you’re paying bills, can you make a statement about how grateful you are that you have the money to pay for all those bills – the electricity you use and the water you drink and the clothes you wear? Now what other money talk can you change?