The first step to improving your finances
No, the first step to improving your finances is not to create a budget or track your spending. Before we even delve into the logistics of getting our finances in order, let’s go a little deeper and look at what has been driving our financial decisions and behaviour. I’m writing about money stories in the very first blog post because we’ve all got some story in our minds around money that has helped to shape our current financial picture and our current mindset.
What the heck is a money story?
Whether we are aware or not, we all have scripts running in our minds that guide our behaviour in our day to day lives. Some of these scripts are stories that we tell ourselves about money, often ones we acquired when we were young. They could have come from our parents or they could be stories we invented based on some experiences we had or things we observed during our lives, and they can be the root of some of our detrimental financial behaviour.
Some money stories can lead to financially destructive behaviours and mindsets
If we have scripts running in our minds such as “money is evil”, “Rich people are snobs” or “desiring money is greedy”, as a few examples, they can lead to self-destructive financial behaviours and act as blocks to building wealth. Maybe you’re thinking “I never think these things” but let me ask you if you’ve ever done something such as:
- Felt jealousy or resentment at someone who seems to have a lot of wealth
- Worked so hard, day in and day out, but felt broke all the time
- Declined an opportunity that could have made you money or done something for free so that others would perceive you as noble.
Some destructive money behaviours
- Low self worth which can manifest as giving away money and time (when you can’t afford to do so)
My money story
I had somewhat humble beginnings in a household with two parents with wildly differing views around money. My father was much older than my mother and had lived through the Great Depression. Albeit very young at the time, he remembered those difficult years vividly. He worked very hard, often working multiple jobs at a time. He practised frugality his whole life and had side hustles before they were called side hustles. He invested in real estate, the stock market and read financial literature during his free time. Through my father, I learned to value hard work, frugality and saving and investing. One of his mottos was “it’s not how much you earn, it’s how much you save that is important”.
My mother, on the other hand, came from a more affluent family and had more given to her, though she did have the immigrant experience and worked hard when she came to Canada. She had a different relationship with money. My parents very much embodied the gender stereotype where the husband is the breadwinner and the wife is responsible for all things around the household. She did work full time but my dad paid all of the bills and she was free to spend her money on anything she desired. This may sound like a nice deal – having someone else pay all your bills – but she never learned to manage money and this came back to haunt her later in life.
In addition to this opposing view of money that my parents had, they also had a few too many experiences of family members frauding them out of large sums of money. I distinctly recall a moment when I was young and my mother said to me “It’s better not to have money so no one tries to take it away from you”. Throughout the years, she would say things such as “when you have more money, you have more problems”.
When I did the work to sit down and reflect on my past and the lessons I learned explicitly as well as implicitly, I realized that some of the money stories I picked up from my childhood were:
“You have to work hard for money” – This may result in someone having a solid work ethic but can also be a block to creating wealth without killing yourself and sacrificing your family, health, friends etc.
“Money creates problems” – This can result in someone perpetually under-earning in their careers or overspending and even giving money away, stemming for subconsciously not wanting to have money/problems. I managed to adopt all of these behaviours!
The first step to breaking free from negative financial behaviours is to figure out what stories we are telling ourselves, how they are affecting us financially and then re-write them!
- Take some time by yourself to think back to your upbringing. What kind of money lessons did you learn growing up. What experiences around money did you have that shaped your views around money. Write it all down! I did this many times and each time, I remembered something new.
- Once you can pinpoint some scripts you may have running, think about how these affect your life, career and money habits.
- Write out any negative thoughts/stories/scripts that pop into your mind. Beside each one, turn it into a positive. For example, I wrote out my script: “Money creates problems” and I turned it into “Money helps to solve problems”.
I’d love to hear some of your money stories and how they have manifested in your life. Have you re-written a money story? If so, please share how you turned a negative one into a positive one. Feel free to leave a comment or send me a message through the contact page!