Do you feel anxious when you sit down to check your finances? A lot of people do.
You look at your bank balance, and a sinking feeling hits the pit of your stomach. Where has all the money gone? When you check your accounts, other emotions kick in: guilt, perhaps, and even shame—especially if you tend to spend on impulse.
It’s no wonder you dread dealing with money, or even fear it.
Fear of money is a common enough phenomenon, and one that can be overcome—much more easily than you might think. No, I’m not talking about chrematophobia, an actual phobia that affects only a small number of people, but the garden variety, the kind that causes us to freeze up or even avoid considering how much we’re spending until it’s too late.
Dealing with this aversion is crucial to your financial future, no matter what your situation now. To start, I suggest exploring your relationship to money.
What is your problem with money? Do you have trouble controlling your impulses around spending it? Do you give to everyone but yourself? Do you understand that money is supposed to serve you, and not the other way around? Have you ever asked for help, from others or yourself?
What in your life is valuable to you? Try shifting your mindset toward abundance. What do you have to give? How much, for you, is enough money—I call this “enoughness”—and how can you put yourself there?
Re-write your script
So much of life happens because of the stories we tell ourselves. What stories are keeping you from using your money in ways that enrich and empower you? Try these simple exercises to understand your own money stories so you can rewrite them, break your bad habits, and start down the path of financial freedom.
- Describe your relationship to/with money. Our culture places taboos around money: we don’t talk about how much we earn, especially at work, for instance, or how much we spend—except, perhaps, to marvel over a bargain we’ve found. This unwritten rule of silence can not only rob us of opportunities to learn about money, but also discourage us from even thinking about it. Let’s break the taboo! Take a few moments to assess your own relationship with money. Do you feel comfortable talking about money, or is it a topic you avoid? Why? Understanding your personal history will help you begin to uncover some of your obstacles to effectively dealing with money.
- Define your financial role models. Were your parents good at saving, or were they constantly in debt? Prevent yourself from making the mistakes your parents did. Even if you had a good role model, there may be habits you want to avoid emulating. If you had poor role models, never fear: you do have choices, and can take action to develop the financial security you wish for.
- Ponder your money mistakes. This can be a hard thing to do, given the aforementioned feelings of guilt and shame that may arise. But we learn best from our own mistakes, and, to paraphrase the famous quote, a person who doesn’t is bound to repeat them. Why do you make the mistakes you do? Where did you learn these behaviors? Many parents admit to not teaching their children to spend wisely, such as differentiating between wants and needs. As an adult, now, you have the opportunity to teach yourself these lessons.
- Explore what money means to you. What brings you joy? What brought you joy as a child? Did any of these things involve money? Chances are, most, if not all, of them did not. Think back to those times, tapping into that innocent joy, and remember what you knew as a kid: many of the best things in life are free.
Money makes the world go around, it’s said. If you want it to turn your way, you’ve got to take the wheel. That means overcoming your fear of money so you can take control of your finances. Once you’ve examined your relationship to money, then you can start transforming it—joyously—from dreaded adversary to lifelong friend.