Have you ever experienced buyer’s remorse after making an extravagant purchase? Have you ever felt sick to your stomach when an unexpected expense comes up? Or maybe you’ve let fear of failure keep you from investing or even creating a budget. If any of these situations are familiar to you, you know that there’s more to money than the number in your bank account.
Just as emotions impact our relationships, our work, and our health, they also play a significant role in our financial lives. Psychologists refer to these emotions and beliefs we hold about money as “money scripts.” (1)
The Root Cause Of Our Financial Behavior
No matter how hard we try to make rational and well-thought-out financial decisions, we often struggle to be consistent in this area. This is most likely due to the emotional and psychological baggage we carry relating to our money, otherwise known as our money scripts. Before you beat yourself up about this, understand that these scripts start forming at a very young age.
Even if we aren’t aware of it, we spend our childhood watching our parents handle money, both positively and negatively. Over time our brains are unconsciously trained to respond in similar ways. If your parents were confident and wise investors, you will likely face investing with confidence. If your parents scrimped and saved and constantly fought over expenses, you may have strong feelings of guilt when making large purchases.
The seeds of money scripts are planted in childhood and grow to influence your financial behavior as an adult. For this reason, it is incredibly important to talk to your kids about money and model healthy financial behaviors. It is also vital for you to take the time to explore and understand your money scripts and how they influence your financial behavior.
The Negative Side Of Money Scripts
While some money scripts are beneficial to financial health, others, like money avoidance, money status, and money worship, can be detrimental. Unhealthy emotions and belief patterns can lead to all kinds of financial problems, such as financial infidelity, compulsive buying, pathological gambling, and financial dependence. Certain money scripts have been tied to lower levels of net worth, lower income, and higher amounts of revolving credit.
Those may sound extreme, but have you ever let panic during down markets or overconfidence when they rally veer you from your long-term investing plan? Have you ever been unable to make a decision because you were paralyzed with worry and anxiety about the future? Have you ever put off something you know is important out of embarrassment or discomfort? Have you ever wreaked havoc on your budget for the momentary high of acquiring something you really wanted? All of these responses point back to your money script.
Money Scripts Aren’t Permanent
We often think that if we had more money, we wouldn't have any problems. But we have money problems because of how we approach money, not because we don’t have enough. This is good news! We might not be able to drastically increase our income, but we can learn to control our attitudes and perceptions. Our money scripts may be ingrained from childhood, but they are not permanent. With a focused and concerted effort, they can be changed.
Do you know what the biggest indicator of success is? Emotional intelligence, or self-awareness and self-management. (2) Before you can take charge of your money scripts, you first have to identify them. One way to do this is to be aware of your emotional responses to common financial situations. How do the following things make you feel?
- Earning money
- Buying things
- Saving for the future
- Budgeting and tracking expenses
- Making financial decisions
- Volatile markets
- Healthy markets
- Meeting with a financial professional
- Thinking about your financial future
Anything that elicits strong emotions warrants further reflection. Obviously negative emotions are not the only ones that can harm your financial life. Some positive emotions, like optimism and self-confidence, can bring about negative results if left unchecked.
How To Manage Emotional Money Decisions
Learning to control your emotions is the key to changing your money scripts and developing healthier money habits. You can also build habits into your life that can help protect you financially, such as taking advantage of automatic saving and investing through your bank or employer’s retirement plan. You can schedule regular family budget meetings and enlist a friend or loved one for accountability. You can learn how you respond to emotional triggers and mandate a “cooling off” period for yourself before making any decisions.
Finally, you need to be willing to forgive yourself when you make mistakes. Leave the past in the past and move forward with the new knowledge you have gained. With discipline, self-reflection, and the help of those around you, you can reverse the money scripts that have plagued you and change the financial path for your future!
Enlist A Financial Partner
An important resource to utilize on your journey of taking control of your finances is your financial professional, someone who can look at your situation from the outside in and help you navigate your finances without the emotional attachment you bring to the table. At Vision Wealth Advisors, our goal is to help you optimize your finances. Our top priorities are to understand your values and goals and get to know your needs and concerns so we can create a personalized strategy that will fit your situation and address your money scripts. If you want the help of a professional to guide you through your financial life and overcome your money scripts, schedule a no-obligation financial review by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling my office at (570) 524-0120.
Justin Buttrick is a financial advisor and the founder of Vision Wealth Advisors, an independent financial services firm. With more than 10 years of experience and the Accredited Asset Management Specialist℠ (AAMS®) credential, he uses his knowledge to help his clients make smarter financial decisions. Learn more about Justin by connecting with him on LinkedIn or emailing email@example.com.