What’s the money story you grew up with?
Did your parents give you a positive money education experience that has helped you prepare for and manage your finances today? Did you have excellent role models for money management growing up? Are you all set up with a real plan for combining and managing your finances as a couple? For most of us, the answer is an enthusiastic “no” – especially those about to start a new life together. You’re so caught up in planning the wedding that you forget about planning your marriage.
Our first exposure to money happens when we are very young, at a time when our beliefs surrounding money take root. Even in the most loving and well-functioning families we can inherit beliefs and habits about money that do not serve us well as adults. Have you ever thought about your money story?
Take a moment to do a little exercise for me. Close your eyes and picture yourself as a child of perhaps 6 or 7. Your parents are in the room and they are talking about money. How do they look? Are they stressed, arguing, sad, or depressed? Or were they on the same page with a vision for their future that they both agreed to and followed in most cases? Did they seem to have peace of mind with their money? Think about the relationship your parents had with money and your earliest money memories.
The money story I grew up with was always being told there was never enough of it. I often heard “we can’t afford it” or “we don’t have the money for that.” My mother was very frugal and was great at budgeting. Because of that we went on lots of trips and we even had an in-ground swimming pool.
However, a very powerful money memory for me came when I was 6 years old. I came across my mother’s purse one day and it was full of cash. After always being told we didn’t have enough money and couldn’t afford things, it seemed that my mother had been lying to me all this time because here was a big pile of money. Of course I know now that my mother had actually just cashed my father’s pay check to pay the bills, but at the time I didn’t understand that. I felt betrayed and angry. So I took a few bills—one of each kind! Suddenly I felt rich and powerful. It was an awesome feeling.
I hopped on my bike and rode to the corner store and bought at least $5 worth of penny candy, some chips, pop, chocolate bars, etc. Maybe $10 in all and in the 70s that was a lot. I had this huge bag of candy and I felt like a queen. But then reality hit when I arrived home. I got into big trouble and my mother threatened to call the police on me. I had felt it was only my fair share that she had been withholding from me. I know the lesson she wanted to teach me was not to steal but the story I learned was that money was for everyone but me and I didn’t deserve it.
How has your money story manifested in your life?
Now look around and notice how your money story is showing up in your life. For me it showed up in my marriage—we would get money and lose it over and over again. I could see the abundance out there but I could never really bring it into my life in a big way. It wasn’t until I began to be proactive and transformed my old beliefs that things started to really improve for me. How do the lessons you were first taught about money continue to show up for you? Debt? Feast and famine cycles? Avoidance?
In the next post, I’ll walk you through healing your money story but in the meantime, I urge you to think about it and then look at how many different ways it’s repeating and showing up again and again in your life, relationships, and finances.