Every year well meaning marketing departments regularly produce material designed to educate people about the practical ‘hows to's’ of financial management, but little discussion occurs about the ‘behavioural why's’ that make it all possible.
A financial plan simply comprised of ‘Hows’ is little value to a person unaware of their ‘Whys’.
Consciously or not, how we feel about money usually helps define our relationships with money and lays the foundations of all our financial behavior. So knowing why we feel the way we do, matters.
In my first article in this series, I looked at how people with unbalanced money relationships, usually gravitate to 1 of 4 mains corners that often unconsciously control much of their behaviours in money matters.
- Where do mindsets start?
- Can an unrecognised mindset be holding your money hostage?
- Nobody wants to stay stuck in a rut
- Raise your hand if you’re in denial
- Examining the moneyism called Money Avoidance
- Linking shame to a belief creates problems
- What can Money Avoidance look like?
- How Avoidance moneyism mindsets affect investors behaviours
- Case Study
- Coming to grips with life's unbalanced realities
Many of our behaviours are unconsciously formed in childhood and ignored in adulthood until a crisis forces us to pause and consider the question,
‘Why do I feel this way about this financial issue?’
The real risk is we never get the chance to stop and think if our relationship with money is working for us, or against us. These thoughts often drive our decision making about incomes, credit card debts and even home ownership and investing.
The majority of people's money beliefs begin in childhood so much of your financial life is probably driven by beliefs you may not even aware of.
These ingrained ideas are what we call moneyisms; an unbalanced and excessive pattern of relating to money usually associated with a misunderstanding, or perhaps a traumatic childhood event or inter-generational attitude, (often outdated, a half-truth or simply wrong) - passed onto a child before they have the capacity to consider if it's safe to believe.
In this article, we’ll consider just one of the 4 major moneyisms we like to call money Avoidance.
We all know the basics:
The basics of financial good health are simple: spend less than you make and save or invest the difference.
Let's stop and think if something else is at work here:
Since we know what to do, why don't we do it? It doesn't make sense to keep repeating the same crazy things over and over again, but the majority of us do and it usually leads us astray.
The good news is our self-defeating actions do make sense. Actually, they make perfect sense once you understand the context in which they were first developed.
The reality is all our decisions and actions about money (and inaction's) make perfect sense, when viewed through our often unbalanced childhood approach to the adult topic of managing money.
Moneyisms are problematic financial behaviors we engage in to avoid emotional pain. Usually, an unbalanced belief with matching unconscious behaviours, this form of financial denial is an attempt to cope by simply not thinking about money and financial difficulties.
- Interestingly, a lack of money or low levels of financial knowledge doesn't automatically indicate the presence of this a moneyism.
Money avoidance is an attitude triggered by something else.
It seems counter-intuitive that people might actually strive to avoid money. The avoidant moneyism keeps people in perpetual consumer debt and is particularly aggressive for people experiencing Unexpected Wealth Syndrome (you can read more about this in our September eGuide coming soon).
A faulty belief
Money avoiders have grown up believing either money is bad (and so are the people with it) or they personally do not deserve to have money.
Receiving an increase in their income can cause anxiety and trigger external and internal fears that may sound like, ‘people will think I'm bad if I have more then them’ and ‘this proves I’m bad so I need to pay reparations to reverse the process’.
This shame based unbalanced money mindset is commonly seen in the conflicted children of deeply religious parents, clergy, children of missionaries or counselors.
This unreconciled obsession with avoiding money but wanting it is often managed through bouts of compulsive buying and spending on their family or friends who have less.
Ultimately these now adult children are left ill-equipped to manage their own financial lives into retirement and continually open to being exploited by their family and community members.
The money avoidance mindset comes in other forms too, such as the belief money is dirty, unenlightened, unspiritual or a sign of corruption and greed (and even the willful destruction of the environment). Money avoiders often cite, ‘money is the root of all evil,’ to help contextualise their avoidance moneyism and cloaked with an air of piety what amounts to their abdication of personal responsibility for their own money matters.
This often misquoted biblical text is correctly cited ‘the love of money is the root of all evil’ - but the distinction is lost to the money avoider mindset.
- Enabling - compulsively giving money to others even though they can't afford it.
- Having trouble denying requests from friends or family for money and carelessly sacrificing their own financial well being for the sake of others - and then secretly feeling taken advantage of financially.
- Avoiding looking at bank statements and just looking at the ‘available credit limit’ instead.
- Compulsive spending behaviours in an attempt to medicate themselves from looking at their own financial position.
- Often consistently behind in their tax returns.
- Perpetually carrying large revolving credit card debts and only ever making minimum repayments with no long-term plan to reduce the underlying debt.
- Will happily look for an opportunity to pay others bill, to help another feel better but may have a personal visceral reaction should someone else seek to pay one of their bills or give them an unexpected expensive gift.
Money avoiders, in an attempt to reverse their perceived financial inequality with their family or friends, often feel they must be the family piggy bank and end up being enablers of others poor financial behaviours.
Taken to the extreme, it can lay the foundations for pre-elder abuse expectations later.
Whilst it's important to honour a persons desire to help others, the problem is long term you cannot pour from a broken cup.
When left unexamined, this Avoidance moneyism mindset has consequences for the secular community as it affects how people measure and manage financial losses in their own investments and business ventures.
- The reasons for a large share trade that’s lost might be explained away as ‘its only a paper loss’,
- A business losing a key client might passively say, ‘Someone else will come along’ rather than proactively seeking new methods and updating their systems and manufacturing methods.
- Opportunities may deliberately be avoided and major risks left unmanaged because, ‘after all, I’m only just a small business’
Financial avoidance is a defense mechanism to help reduce anxiety and stress and a way of ridding oneself of responsibility for money.
Faith was the eldest of 4 children from a deeply religious family whose identity was drawn from their religious beliefs. They lived frugally and ‘personally sacrificed to save the world.’ Not surprisingly, for their adult children who later didn’t share their parent's intensity of belief, there was a price to pay - and that usually came in the form of takeing vicarious financial responsibility for the family and its costs.
This brought with it an internal conflict because ‘having more money could fix their financial problems’ and help improve their emotional stability but the risk of looking greedy stifled any ambition to change the status quo.
Faith worked hard to put herself through university and gained a business degree with honours and quickly became financially successful in her career.
Ashamed of success
Embarrassed of her financial success, she began overspending and compulsively buying and sacrificing her own financial health for the sake of those who ‘really served the world’. This became the way of reconciling her income and still maintaining her childhood belief ‘money is bad and wealthier people, therefore, must be bad too’.
This money avoidance mindset becomes more intense when her parents declared her increased levels of income as evidence of divine provision, implying an obligation upon her to be the family's financial backup and then the discretionary piggy bank, rather than the hard earned income of a family member.
Faith began to regularly suffer mood swings between extremes of guilt over having more money than her family and needing to plan for her own financial future. Rather than consider why she felt the way she did about money, she’d lose herself in a boult of compulsive spending on her parents and would even pay a year's electricity bill for them just, ‘so I don't have to deal with the phones calls for help every quarter’.
The end result
When Faith turned 40 her partner commenced divorce proceedings citing ongoing money problems. During the court's financial settlement, Faith had to face the reality she was avoiding money. She’d spent a lot of time (and most of her money) sabotaging her own success and opportunities by either perpetually giving money away or taking on the financial responsibilities of extended family and friends in an attempt to ensure she had as little of it as possible.
We all have to take ownership of the financial things we can change and those we cannot, and teach our children how to recognise and understand the difference.
Time changes all things
Thankfully a person with the Avoidant moneyism mindset is usually confronted by the financial realities of life and changes their mindset with age, but still with the pain of missed opportunities and the awareness of the hard work ahead to prepare for their own retirement.
To the money avoiders holding onto the statement, “I don't not deserve a lot of money when there are people starving in the world,’ we’d say, while a noble platitude, if you don't think deeper about this statement today, you’ risk never being financially independent and passing that same mindset down to the children in your life.
The money Avoidance mindset is an expensive obsession.