Overcoming Your Money Story

“We grew up poor, we got food from the food bank.” Adam said softly, looking down at the table.

“My parents fought constantly about money!” Tammy said hesitantly.

“My father was out of work a lot, but that didn’t stop him from buying things he liked. Of course, the bill collectors were always calling,” Sam confessed.

“My mother loved clothes shopping; it was her passion. I don’t think we could afford it. I remember the lights being turned off,” Joan admitted.

“We grew up with enough money, it seems, but it was not a topic of conversation. My parents never talked about money in front of us, like it was a deep, dark secret,” Pam explained.

These stories are real. They happen to people—normal people—maybe you, maybe your spouse or neighbor.  We all have money stories. Some are sad, hard, tragic and filled with conflict while others are supportive, happy and balanced.  The fact is, YOU DON’T GET TO CHOOSE YOUR MONEY STORY.

Your money story is foundational to how you think about money, how you react to money and how you communicate about money.  For those who grew up where conflict was a central theme, any conversation dealing with money begins with a stomachache. I can tell you that from personal experience.  For those who grew up in the dark around money, dealing with the mysteries of money in adulthood is likely to be a struggle.

The pathway to freeing yourself from the shackles attached during your youth is made up of a series of steps.  Before we discuss some possible steps, a word of caution: If you feel debilitated by your money life, consider working with a therapist who can help provide good, solid counseling to help you build a stronger foundation. There’s nothing to feel shame about. You didn’t create your money story—it was provided by the adults in your life during your childhood.

The distance between damaged money messages and a more balanced, enlightened and positive outlook can be mapped in the following 7 steps:

  1. Write down your money story. What did you learn about money from your parents?
  2. How did those stories impact your beliefs about money?
  3. Do your current beliefs support your values?
  4. What would you do differently if you could rewrite your money story?
  5. How would a new money story support your happiness?
  6. What would support you in building a new money story for you and your family?
  7. Create a money story you’d want your children to hear and learn.

Undoing unintentional damage from the past is not quick work, nor is it especially easy. You have been carrying the same story with you for quite a while, and it has become your “normal.”  But what happens when you find out that your normal is hurting your chances for financial security and peace of mind?  It’s like finding out that your drinking water is tainted with poison; a quick change is in order. The same goes for carrying around a set of beliefs that lead to money misery, blame, shame, and probably a direct path to the next generation.

You can make the shifts necessary to alter the course on which you were placed. It requires desire, awareness, efforts and support.  There are better money stories to carry and pass on to the next generation.

“My parents taught us to save wisely, spend wisely and make financial decisions that are aligned with our highest values. We learned that having balance is important, and we are able to talk about our decisions without judgment, guilt or shame!” Patty shared happily. 

Which story would you choose?