Our Money Baggage Is Formed In Childhood

Money baggage is the decision about money that we made when we were children. Early on, something happened to us or we were taught something about money or we saw something that led us to make a conclusion about it. We took this conclusion to be fact.

Throughout our lives we have taken actions consistent with this decision about money and these actions have shaped our lives. These actions, though arising from a false belief, influence our current attitudes and relationships with money.

From our early experiences, our money baggage might be:

Money is scarce; we can’t afford it.
I don’t deserve it.
Rich people are mean.
Money is not something to be talked about.
Girls are not good with money.
I shouldn’t spend money on myself.
It’s not okay to want things.
Save for a rainy day.
Get a good paying job.
If I am an artist, I’ll be poor.
Be responsible.
Money is power.

The message may not have been verbal, but we got the message just the same. From our observations and experiences, we formed conclusions about money that have run our lives ever since.

Everyone you know has money baggage. As I mentioned in the Introduction, even Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz has some. Let’s take a look at what conclusions Dorothy might have made about work and money.

As you know, Dorothy lived on a farm in Kansas with her dog Toto, and she found people around her too busy to deal with her. The story opens with Dorothy running onto the farm excitedly to tell Auntie Em about mean old Miss Gulch hitting Toto for running in her garden after her cat. But Auntie Em and Uncle Henry are too busy to listen and can’t be interrupted: the incubator has conked out and they have to count the chicks and get them into another pen. Dorothy urgently tries to convey the importance of what’s happened, saying that Miss Gulch has threatened to get the sheriff, but Auntie Em, preoccupied with her work, finally just tells Dorothy to be helpful and stay out of trouble.

This scene alone is enough to conclude that Dorothy might be getting the message that chickens (work and money) are more important than she is. This idea is reinforced later when she falls into the hog pen and hits her head. She is pulled out and is being tended to by the farmhands when Auntie Em comes over and threatens to fire them for “all this jabberwocky.” When they try to tell her about Dorothy getting hurt, Aunt Em will have nothing to do with it. She hustles them back to work because work is more important.

If we assume Dorothy grew up around this attitude and behavior over the years, it’s also safe to assume she might have ended up with some definite ideas about how much higher work ranks in the family than she does.

Few of us grew up on farms, but we might recognize the issue. How many of us learned early on that work and money took time away from the family? That work always came first. Being children, we took everything personally. If we did not get the attention, time, or love we wanted, it must have been because there was something else more important than us. Or we may have decided that there was something wrong with us. Or that we did not deserve love or attention. Whatever conclusion we made, we made it deeply; it formed the basis of our life.

Dorothy’s story goes on to illustrate another money baggage lesson that might have also informed her view of the world. When mean Miss Gulch storms into the farmhouse, she carries in her hand an order from the sheriff to take Toto away. Dorothy sees her aunt and uncle buckle under, and to her horror, they hand Toto over to Miss Gulch. But not before Auntie Em gives Miss Gulch a talking to, outlining her despicable qualities and noting that she only got that order from the sheriff because she owns half the county.

So what might Dorothy learn about the world seeing this? Miss Gulch may be the only rich person Dorothy ever knew. From her child’s point of view it would appear that money meant power and that rich people were mean. If you had money, you could even get the sheriff to take your dog away. How might something like this affect Dorothy later in life?

As we will see as we discover how money baggage works, someone who believes that money makes a person mean might end up creating a life where he or she becomes an honest, hardworking person but never allows himself or herself to have much money, for fear of becoming a bad person.

What exactly is money baggage? It is the set of beliefs you gained in childhood about money, which now operate subconsciously as automatic behaviors and attitudes in your life. And these behaviors and attitudes dictate all of your decisions about money. We create innocent but mistaken ideas about money and these ideas end up coloring our existence for as long as we let them.

To be continued next week… Part 2 of How Money Baggage Is Formed In Childhood.

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