Today we will explore your history with money. It’s important to review your experiences and exposure to money throughout your life. This includes looking at family finances when you were a child, community exposure, and later life exposure and choices. Your history with money will help you to find your current money meaning.
Let’s look at past experiences that can influence how you see money. Take a minute to think back on your childhood. Did you have all your needs met? Were you able to meet your needs but not wants? Or could you get some wants, but not all?
What was it like when you were a teenager? Did you have to work? What were you financially responsible for? Did you have a car? Who paid for it? Did you have a car payment? What about car insurance?
When you were a young adult, what was that like for you? Did you attend college or trade school?
Did you feel like you were scraping by? Or did you have family members you could ask for help? Did family members ask you for help? Did you pay all your bills on time? Were you using a credit card to make sure everything was covered on time? What kind of housing did you have? Any roommates? What kind of foods were you making? Did you dine out frequently? Or did you cook at home? Were these necessities or choices?
And at the present, do you feel like you have enough money to ensure a healthy, happy life? Are you able to cover your needs? If you have kids, can you provide them with the opportunities and resources you want for them? Are you debt-free? Or are you on a path to financial freedom? Do you feel overwhelmed by your financial stress?
I know that’s a lot of questions to answer, but it will definitely help you get a better understanding of what money means to you.
Where did you learn this?
Our parents are the primary people we learn almost all of our beliefs from. Money meaning is no exception. Most of our beliefs are demonstrated by actions instead of words, so think about what they did with money. Think about how your parents talked about, used, and treated money.
Did your parents talk about their financial struggles? Did they blame you for any financial strain?
Outside of parents, family is another big influence on learned beliefs. My grandparents did well financially but never really talked about it. My husband’s grandmother also did well financially but spent money on status symbols (cars, houses, vacations, etc.).
What did your family members do with money? What spending habits did you see?
Think about the friends you had growing up and now. Odds are, you probably have an idea of how they see money. Think about the things you do together. Common things could be dining out regularly, going to movies, going to bars, going shopping, going to the park, staying in and watch a movie, or focusing on just talking.
Do you friends have similar financial backgrounds? Do they practice different money management techniques than you? Are they financial stable or budget-conscious? Or do you find they try to talk you out of your financial choices?
The media gives us ideas of what our world could or should look like. And children are very impressionable. Average family finances don’t make for a good TV show about children’s antics, so pay attention to the unrealistic sets and experiences next time you watch a show focused on kids or teens.
Have you ever noticed the living conditions and arrangements of families on Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel? I used to feel so bad watching these families with 5 kids that lived in enormous, beautiful, clean homes that could easily (but begrudgingly) pay for damages from some stupid antic, or have really awesome electronics that no average family would have or need. I’m talking iCarly’s studio (and loft apartment), Good Luck Charlie’s 3 story house (with 5 kids, no less!), the huge house in Victorious (with 2 kids in private school in LA and only 1 known working parent). Seriously, if you watched any of that growing up, it also probably warped your view of the world.
put it together
Take time to explore how each group has influenced your view of money. Remember, these exercises are about exploring and understanding yourself, not judging yourself or placing blame on others. Once you have an idea of history with money, you can explore more of how this impacts your daily life.
conversation with money
Now let’s get real. If you could sit down and have a heart-to-heart talk with money, what would you say? How would you describe your relationship?
Teenager me would have said something like this:
Dear money, I hate your stinking guts. You make me vomit. You are scum between my toes. Love, Michelle
Just kidding. It’d probably be more like this:
I hate you and what you represent. I’m so jealous of the other kids at school. They have reliable cars, don’t have to worry about car repairs or paying for them, work jobs because they want to, live in nice houses in town, have really nice clothes, and get to go on really awesome vacations to places like freaking Europe. You guys are really good friends, aren’t you? You’re such a tool.
You make me feel like a loser because you taunt me. I never have enough of you. Every time I feel like I’m getting somewhere with you, something big comes up and you have to leave again (like getting new tires for the third time this year).
I never have enough of you to enjoy myself.
20’s me would have said something along these lines:
Dude! You’re finally hanging around a bit! And you aren’t running off all the time! I’m so stoked! We can finally do things! Yay! But wait. I don’t want to get bogged down by having to keep sending you away because of dumb choices. I’ve spent a lot of time in school to be able to have a better future with you.
I don’t want to make stupid mistakes I’ve seen others make with you. And I definitely don’t want to break up with you but you still represent something negative for me – control. I want to be free so we’re going to have to come up with a plan so I don’t feel powerless and out of control while we do this. You’re a tool towards a better future.
First, I’m going to send you on a mission to erase my student loans. After that, we’ll talk.
Right now, I would say:
So here we are again. We got pretty close to having everything paid off but this time a good opportunity showed up and I had to send you away. But did you see this house?! I’m really glad we’ve worked on our relationship. I’m so thankful we can cover bills without worry and still work towards goals. And I finally got over the idea that you’re evil. Just because others have more of you doesn’t mean I can’t still have you. This is an open relationship.
Now I see you as a tool to a better future, but this time I don’t have all the baggage with it.
Take a few minutes to have a mental conversation with money, or better yet, write a letter!
Knowing where you came from always helps to give you an idea of where you are now. Knowing your history with money gives you insight and information you can use in the future. Take some time to explore the ideas you learned from others, what you were exposed to as a child, the messages your family sent you about money, and how you see money.