What Does Money Mean to You?

Nothing has a broader and more far-reaching influence on our lives than money. It represents security and survival, prestige and power, elegance, energy, and control. It represents the potential to realize our dreams and be more helpful to others. It contains some of our greatest fears: the fear of being without, of being powerless, of not being worthy or accepted.

Money is a presence that follows us through every day of our lives. Yet our relationship to it, built upon faulty ideas, misinformation, and fears, has developed haphazardly. We don’t talk about it in any meaningful way—like with sex, we make jokes about it to avoid dealing with it.

Our relationship with money arises from the choices we make— yet we make many of these choices automatically. We often respond from a subliminal level.

We need to raise our awareness regarding the choices we make with money. Do our choices about money generate more frustration or more satisfaction in our lives? Do our choices give us more time or less? Do they make us feel like we are stuck on a treadmill, or do they open up possibilities only dreamed of?

Where did we get our preconceived notions on how to spend money? How did we buy into this mandate that requires us to pay for four years of college for our kids—a $74,000 to $175,000 investment—even when it might not be in their best interest to go to college at all? Where did we get the idea that a bigger house is always better, or that a home is a good investment? Who told us we have to suffer through forty years of working at jobs that gradually kill us, so we can begin to live the life we want when we are sixty-five?

Most of us first learned about money from our parents—not by talking about it in any meaningful way, but by observing. But our parents may not have been the best role models in the management and spending of money. After all, they probably learned about money by observing their parents.

Then we spent from twelve to sixteen years of our lives in school with little or no mention of how to manage money effectively.

Now, we are bombarded by advertising that encourages us to consume more. Peer pressure influences us as we compare what we have to what others have, and try to keep up with them.

Yet somehow, we’re expected to know how to maneuver our way through a complex and economically driven world, fraught with temptations of pricey goods, expensive lifestyle habits, and credit cards. And if we get in over our heads, with whom do we talk about it? Our friends? Our coworkers? I doubt it. We’re sure they have it handled, and we’re too worried about what they’ll think of us.

Money should be a tool for positive growth and possibility in our lives. It should allow us to lead more fulfilling lives and give us the opportunity to help others more. However, for most people, it does not do these things. It causes anxiety and strain instead. This stress can take many forms, from worrying about how much to buy for our kids, to spending too freely on them but not feeling good about it. It can manifest itself as a growing belief that no matter how hard we work, we’ll never get ahead. Money stress can grow into anxiety about funding a realistic plan for retirement, which may even lead some people to not fund a plan at all. It can negatively influence marriage and family, spawning defensiveness or resentment about not getting “what we deserve.” Just imagine how our personal effectiveness, health, and sense of well-being could be enhanced if we weren’t worrying about money!

In the blogs to come, I am going to ask you to take a look at your life. I’ll ask you to pay attention to the attitudes and automatic beliefs you have about money, and how you use it.

I want you to challenge the assumptions that keep you working at your current job. I want you to reconsider your plan to fund entirely your kids’ college expenses. We will look at whether an expensive car is really worth the cost, and we’ll reconsider the heart of the American Dream: that you should own a home.

I am not your typical financial planner—I want you to think again. By the time we’re done, you will see new money choices and you will have left behind your old money myths.

I’ll see you next week!

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