As a child, you absorbed lessons through experiences, often at the periphery of what you witnessed or overheard. The problem is, none of us could decipher whether those lessons would be helpful, supportive or destructive—they are just what we consider normal.
You might have seen your friends embark on elaborate family vacations or watched other parents drop their kids off in broken down rusted cars. From these impressions, you begin to judge who is rich and who is not.
Depending on what messages you heard growing up from your parents, you might feel more or less favorable about each person. If you grew up believing that rich people are selfish and take advantage of others, then the friend who went off on the elaborate vacation has already earned a demerit in your eyes.
Take for example a kid growing up in a house where money was discussed openly versus one where money was never discussed, or even worse, the source of conflict. The former will feel more at ease around money and money issues than the child who grew up in money silence or conflict. Our attitude is struck early and often through the messages we hear and see.
You bring your money mindset into adulthood. When you grow up with lack, regardless of your current wealth or success, you will likely feel less comfort with your wealth than someone who grew up with greater money comfort.
Determining your money mindset is important. It is a key component of understanding—leading you to knowing that you’re heading in the right direction or that you might need to do some work to re-think your beliefs and your habits.
Take Larry, who grew up in a fairly affluent community. Larry’s father, Tom, was in sales, but never experienced any significant financial success. He struggled to keep his family in their home—even though it was barely furnished they lived in the right zip code to give his children the “advantage” of a better neighborhood. What Tom didn’t realize is that his children felt their lack relative to their peers, leaving them feeling less than their classmates.
While Larry came from a loving and close family, he was keenly aware of relative wealth and developed a mindset that he was less worthy—which led to difficulty socializing with those who he perceived as having more. In his adult life, he over-compensated by achieving significant wealth, buying and furnishing the best house in his neighborhood and making sure that his success was obvious.
Larry was certainly a financial success story, but the fuel for his decisions was born from insecurity rather than celebration. He didn’t enjoy his success—it was instead a chore to constantly prove that he could work harder and provide to move beyond what caused him pain.
Wondering about your money mindset? Here are a few clues to get you started:
1. Does money cause you discomfort?
2. Are you satisfied with your life?
3. How do you view yourself? Are you successful, struggling?
4. What are your earliest memories around money?
5. Are you able to comfortably talk about money?
6. What sentence best describes how you feel about wealth?
7. Did you consider yourself rich or poor growing up?
8. Was money a source of conflict growing up?
9. Does money play a central theme in your thinking?
10. How would you rate your level of stress around money?
Consider your answers. If they indicate stress or discomfort, your money mindset might not be supportive of living a satisfying money life. If your answers indicate comfort and ease, you’re probably on a pretty good track.
You—and you alone—own your money mindset. You get to decide whether you want to change, modify or fortify it. Are you ready to feel more at ease with your money?
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