Don’t think about it, just give me your first reaction when you read, “How do you feel about money?” Feel is the important word!
Do you feel scared, remorseful, angry, sad, or hurt? Or perhaps you feel elated, joyful, proud, appreciative, or giving? At a given point in time, you may have felt each one of those. What is behind our feelings about money and, as a result, how do those feelings affect us and the choices we make? Our feelings about money were developed very early in our lives.
You may have been brought up in a family where there was never enough money. It was a struggle to put food on the table, buy clothes and shoes, pay for rent or the mortgage, and keep the electricity on. Even if this was not your situation, maybe your family lived paycheck to paycheck or they were reliant on income from a fluctuating source – the price for crops or the demand for construction, for example.
Imagine how it felt or how it would make you feel about money. Your feelings in this case might be derived from scarcity or insecurity. You might feel scared or sad. If the scarcity was derived from choices made by someone in your family, you might feel angry or hurt.
On the other hand, you may have been brought up in a family who could not only pay for necessities, but you had plenty of spending money for things you wanted. How fun was that! Your family could afford many extras like trips, nice cars, a big house, the latest fashion in clothes, and lots of toys, toys, toys.
How did you feel? Maybe you appreciated your lifestyle or maybe you did not think about it at all. It was normal for you and your friends. Your feelings about money were grounded in security and abundance. You may have been content, appreciative, or wishful for even more.
My family was in neither of the above categories. We had enough to cover our needs and some of our wants. My parents’ priorities were tithing – to give to others in dire need – and saving – to pay off the mortgage and for education for their children.
After our needs were covered and money was put aside for saving, there was usually some left to buy a new dress now and then or to go out to eat occasionally or on a family vacation every few years.
We all started our adult lives with perceptions and feelings about money from our childhood, but what happened then?
As adults, we make decisions for ourselves. Sometimes we carry the same childhood feelings about money with us and sometimes we make a conscious or unconscious decision to change.
For example, if you grew up in a family with security and abundance, it is more likely that you pursued a college degree and continued the cycle of security and abundance with your own family. If you grew up in a family that placed a high value on philanthropy, it is likely that you continued to place a high value on giving to others.
How about those who grew up in scarcity and insecurity? Or perhaps your choices as an adult placed you in that position? If you chose to become a nurse, a teacher, or a musician, for example, it is likely that you and your family faced difficult money decisions. Overcoming the insecurity and scarcity might have meant the need for two incomes or two jobs or cutting out all but the necessities of living.
There are also situations beyond our control that change our feelings about money. Perhaps you or someone in your household was laid off from their job or you or your business went through a bankruptcy.
Divorce can dramatically change money situations and feelings about money. I was “downsized” out of a job in the banking industry during a merger and know that my family went from a feeling of money comfort to money carefulness. Likewise, when I divorced.
I grew up with a desire to have a lifestyle that only covered my needs, but also allowed me more wants than in my childhood.
My former husband and I raised our two boys in comfort. We had two incomes from well-paying jobs (other than the brief time I mentioned above), we built a nice home, owned two cars, took great vacations, and had plenty of money to cover not only our needs but also many, many wants.
We were blessed! We gave to others but because we came from families that were good savers, we also saved. I am thankful and believe that my sons are appreciative and proud of the life that we were able to provide them.
As we start a new year, it is a good time to think about your feelings about money. Do you need to change your perceptions and make some changes? Especially if you and your spouse or partner came from different childhood experiences, it is important to talk about them.
Not only will it raise your consciousness, but it may also give you the opportunity to make better decisions about money going forward.
Thanks, and happy new year!
How did you feel about money growing up? How has that impacted your life? Have you made any conscious decisions to change your feelings about money? How did that work out?