What is Money Baggage?

Each of us carries around money baggage. This baggage is crammed full of the experiences, ideas, and beliefs about money that we had as children. It is stuffed to the brim with the attitudes about money our parents and other adults in our lives had and what they taught us through their actions or words.

Everyone has money baggage. Everyone. I don’t care how rich or poor, what race or nationality, whether spiritual or not. Everyone in your family has money baggage. All your friends carry some. Everyone you work with does too. As we’ll discuss later, even Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz had money baggage.

Our money baggage is a decision about money that we formed in childhood. It is based on something we experienced, were told, heard, or observed. Early on, something happened to us. We were taught something about money, or we heard adults talking about it, or found out it was something you don’t talk about, or we saw something that led us to make a conclusion about it that we treated as fact. And we did it without awareness, without realizing we were doing it. We considered it true and we made our lives conform to it without question.

You might, for example, believe that you have to work hard to make money. That you aren’t supposed to talk about money. That it is wrong to have too much. That you can never have enough because you can lose it at any time. You might believe deep down that you don’t deserve money, or that money is bad or that you’re not supposed to spend it on yourself.

These ideas about money are ingrained in us. We accept them as truth, the way the world is. And to the extent these beliefs go unexamined, they are responsible for affecting every decision we have ever made about money. They affect the job we have, the savings we do or don’t have, the way we spend money, what we spend it on, and whom we spend it with.

If you unconsciously believe deep down that you don’t really deserve money, that you aren’t good enough to enjoy abundance, guess what? That may be the reason you don’t get the raise you want, or never win that lucrative contract, or are always struggling to make ends meet. Or perhaps you acquire plenty of money but something always comes up and it is gone before you know what happened, either by spending it or giving it away. Deep down you are telling yourself that you don’t deserve it, and the universe is simply listening to that deeper voice and giving you precisely what you believe.

If you were taught that women aren’t good with money, that may be the reason you married a man who would provide for you and handle all the financial details in your life. If you believe that money is bad, maybe it makes sense that you don’t have enough, or can’t hold onto it, or attract situations that require more money than you expected to spend. If you saw a relative using money to control the family, maybe you vowed to become financially independent, never relying on anyone else—and perhaps you carry that independence over to parts of your life you never intended, and find yourself unable to maintain a long-term intimate relationship.

Our money baggage takes root deep in our subconscious. It is so deeply underground that we do not question it; we don’t even know it is there. In my workshops, some people will cross their arms and tell me emphatically that they don’t have money baggage or that they can’t identify it. But for those who keep working and do the exercises, their money baggage eventually appears. It is always there.

From listening to hundreds of people’s stories, I have identified the seven most common money baggage themes (some people may have more than one of these):

  1. I don’t deserve money.
  2. There will never be enough.
  3. Money is bad.
  4. I have to work hard to make money.
  5. I can’t depend on anyone else.
  6. Money equals security.
  7. Money determines my self-worth.

Because money affects everything in our lives, our money baggage affects our finances, our relationships, the house we live in, the job we have, and even our health. In later blog posts we’ll see specifically how and why.

As you read the stories in subsequent posts, begin to reflect upon your own earliest memories about money. In those memories you will find a blueprint of your current life and the specific struggles you have around money. What shaped your childhood? What conclusions and decisions did you make about money that are still silently driving your life today?

As you reflect on these matters, your money baggage may become obvious to you. But if you are like most people, it won’t be so readily apparent; you will need to dig a little for it. Whenever it comes to you, write it down; give it words; claim it as your own. This important act of claiming your money baggage is the first step toward living a life consistent with your highest beliefs about money and finding your soul’s true calling.

Next week I’ll provide advice on discovering your own money baggage.

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