grandmother reading to grandson
Money beliefs and values come originally from the events and shared experiences that happened in our childhood - good, bad or otherwise. So how do we manage this?

How we think about our money dictates so many of our responses to it - and most of them are subconscious and invisible.

Now, this is not some pretend self-help article about 'positive thinking with positively no actual doing' where you're told to sit and 'think yourself rich'.

If that worked, the tax department wouldn't need to get people to pay their taxes; you could just 'think about' it for them instead.

Read in this article

The uncomfortable truth is: You can think about money all you like but if it doesn't change your attitudes and your actions and you don't get up and work to create or earn it, you'll have nothing but an insight about why your own belief about money, isn't working.

It all starts in your mind

Our biggest challenge is to change our own money beliefs when they're not working for us.

They can be minor beliefs or they can be more major ones - what we call Moneyisms (and you can read about those here) - but regardless they all influence our behaviours toward money matters.

  • If you believe people can learn to master their money better, how would that affect how your think about it; compared to the lazy limiting belief that says, 'easy come easy go?'

Understand why we think like we do - so we can change how we think like we do

It starts when you're young

Money beliefs and values come originally from the events and shared experiences that happened in our childhood - good, bad or otherwise.

We attach meaning to key financial events in our childhood (and we interpret them through a child's limited and powerless viewpoint).

Unless we become aware of that attachment effect and challenge those beliefs, we're destined to replay them out again and again throughout our lives, and the lives of our children.

How to stop it when you're older

Many people can get a good idea of the meaning they've attached to childhood financial events, by looking at their past family timeline as it relates to money.

  • Money is the great revealer - it simply reveals what's already going on in your head.
  • That's why lottery winners are statistically destined to lose it all in 3 years; the new money just reveals what was (or wasn't) already going in their heads.

Without learning new skills to deal with new situations, it's 'get back on that roundabout time' again.

You might even say it's Groundhog Day again.

You have to get your head right before you can get your money right

It continues until you change it

What was your very first memory of money matters?

  • Who was there?
  • What were they up to?
  • What was the dominant emotion that was attached to that event?
  • What meaning did you give to money at that event?

Rate each of these experiences between 1 to 10, from sad or stressful through to happy and hopeful; continue along your family timeline of a dozen key memorable events and see how you're tracking.

Look for the pattern.

Does that experience still attach to you and your beliefs about money matters today?

  • Remember, the significance of these events are personal, how you interpreted them and how you reacted to them.
  • They can't be compared with an artificial norm or imposed adult standards of childish or sensible.
  • These simply are the experiences we had as a child and we processed and relate to, as a child.

You can read about my own childhood struggle with the Rules About Strawberries in the fridge, later.

Once you've considered a dozen or so of these memories, go back and put an emotion to them - was that sad and stressful or happy and hopeful - or somewhere in between.

How do you answer this basic money question?

'My life experience to date about money is, money for me means .....

Now you have a clearer starting point to begin thinking more about, 'how much has my childhood experiences about money set the pace for my current attitudes about money matters'.

Where do you start to make it better?

Some of our clients who've done this exercise have discovered how their childhood experiences have laid the foundations (often not stable ones) for many of their now adult behaviors towards money today.

The good news is, now they understand the connection, they're well on their way to improving their relating to Adult Money Matters.

Examples of how people's young experiences with money matters shaped their adult attitudes.

'Only money made me feel safe, so perhaps some of my hoarding tendencies have stemmed from that. I've been too afraid to invest so I've kept most of my money in the bank but because my parents never trusted banks, I've also hidden some in my home.  This means I often feel unsafe leaving the house because I had money hidden there and I'd worry about if I was burgled I'd lose it. 

Life used to feels like a constant struggle or fight'.

'The first thing to go at home when money was tight was the house insurance. We just hoped nothing bad happened.  When it stormed we all felt anxious,  'what would happen if the roof was damaged by hail' because I knew the family didn't have house insurance.  Bushfire season would send mum into a panic. 

Life used to feel like it could all be ripped away and you can lose it all to chance'.

'Keeping up with the Jones was nothing compared to my parents keeping up with the relations. My earliest memory of money was the constant bragging you'd hear about fashion and cars and who looked better and who didn't at family get-togethers.  We didn't have much but it went into impressing the relations like an Olympic Sport. The family parties had more food than you'd need to feed an army, but for the month afterward, we lived on bread, eggs, and pasta. I remember the parties felt like they kept us hungry. Today I get Uber eats delivered more than a few times a week, I suppose maybe I'm unconsciously compensating. Interesting what you learn about yourself when you stop and think about it.

Life used to feel like either a feast or a famine'.

'I grew up with a single Mum and I remember she always had a side job where she used what she did at work fulltime, to make some extra money on the side. So from an early age, I learned to buy and sell stuff on eBay and looked for ways to 'add value' as she said and find odd jobs.  I always made my own pocket money and mowed neighbours lawns and washed cars at the local soccer ground when a game was played. Today I've always kept an eye out of opportunities and I seem to find them.

Life feels good'.

'My folks always saw their accountant once a year and then their financial adviser and dragged us kids along, like it was an extended parenting lesson. I was bored outta my head mostly, but I learned if you need to learn something fast, you get professional advice. This has been a really useful lesson as now I naturally seem to be the go-to-person when friends need a second opinion on money or legal stuff.

Life feels workable and positive.  It's just something you learn to manage I suppose'.

Getting ahead in your financial life means learning about why you think the way you do about your money matters.

We all need to work on getting our heads right before we can get our money right.  So how did you go answering the money matters question above?

If you've found this article helpful, you might like to read our Moneyisms series.


author pic drew browneDrew Browne is a specialty Financial Risk Advisor working with Small Business Owners & their Families, Dual Income Professional Couples, and diverse families. He's an award-winning writer, speaker, financial adviser and business strategy mentor. His business Sapience Financial Group is committed to using business solutions for good in the community. In 2015 he was certified as a B Corp., and in 2017 was recognised in the inaugural Australian National Businesses of Tomorrow Awards. Today he advises Small Business Owners and their families, on how to protect themselves, from their businesses.  He writes for successful Small Business Owners and Industry publications. You can read his Modern Small Business Leadership Blog here. You can connect with him on LinkedIn Any information provided is general advice only and we have not considered your personal circumstances. Before making any decision on the basis of this advice you should consider if the advice is appropriate for you based on your particular circumstance.

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