The advertising industry would call that a win for advertising.
How would you describe your parent's relationship with their money?
(Yes I went there.)
Many of our own personal beliefs about money matters have their roots in what our parents said or did, or the messages we interpreted as a child (with a child's limited perception) from the surrounding adults.
- Attitudes towards money are usually learned in childhood, sometimes passed down from one generation to another and at best, partial truths or at worst 'old wives tales' that somehow pretend to be good advice for our lives.
These early formed ideas have a habit of continuing and being reinforced throughout adulthood until we stop and ask ourselves, 'Why do I keep on doing this?'
The reason might be an unbalanced belief about money from your childhood, we call a moneyism.
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.
The 4 moneyism behaviours are;
In this article we'll look at the money mindset we'll call the Idolise moneyism and why this unbalanced money belief reduces our rational behaviour towards our financial matters.
Teaching your child to pursue money without character, will cripple them.
So how does this happen?
Some things learnt in childhood need to stay in childhood; but when they don't, we’re all at risk of developing a moneyism in our adult relationship to adult money.
- Not having enough money or not having enough financial education doesn't automatically create a disorganised money behaviour in a child.
- Moneyisms take hold because of poor or inappropriate learning about the meaning of money as a child and our unconsciously continuing to use this childish approach to a now adult situation.
If this belief was originally formed during a traumatic personal or family event, these attitudes become rather resistant to change.
Recognising the Idolise moneyism
For people who’ve grown up believing money is what really brings happiness, they risk getting stuck holding an overly simplistic belief like;
'Life would just get be better if I had more money because money brings power, happiness and desirability'.
The silent frustration that drives people with his money mindset is usually
‘... and you can never have enough money'
so their endless pursuit of more money never really satisfies them.
Regardless of this unease, the Idolise moneyism mindset sounds like:
- "If I just get more money I'll be happier"
- "If we can get more money as a couple, our problems will just sort themselves out"
- "There’s never going to be enough money so spending it while you have it takes the edge off the frustration of not having enough."
Did you see the irony in that last statement? If you did great, if you missed it, go re-read that last paragraph again.
Why is this a problem?
The higher someone scores on the Idolise moneyism scale the more likely they'll be to;
- have a lower net worth
- at risk of compulsive buying
- at risk of compulsive gambling
- hoard possessions to display wealth and reinforce their belief about it
- habitually put work commitments (the opportunity to make money) before family opportunities
- spend compulsively to buy happiness or soothe themselves for having to work so hard to make money
- carry significant levels of credit card debt from month to month with no real strategy other than living above their means
- lend or gift money to people, even when they cannot afford to do so
- focusing on amassing the money for spending not for saving or investing.
If they do invest, their idolised approach to money often contaminates their patience and ability to grow and compound wealth over time so they fall prey to the next best (and fastest) thing. This money mindset is an easy prey for money tricksters and Ponzi schemes.
What’s the end result?
The sad reality is the expected wealth payout they chase, usually never arrives.
You could say there’s a hole in the proverbial bucket because their skills at managing and growing wealth are simply not developed.
- Idolisers are at constant risk of compulsive buying in an attempt to achieve and display happiness.
Sadly they seem to miss that happiness comes from connecting with people, our close connections and immersions in shared adventures, pastimes and helping others.
Tony’s father was a blue-collar worker who finally made it to middle management and really enjoyed the recognition it provided.
With management level responsibility, came extra hours at work so he announced his new order of priorities as;
- First - his job
- Second - his wife
- Third - then his family
Tony's parents never spoke about money with their children and never told him or his younger brother what their financial position was.
- His parents just continued to amass possessions and collectables, (and display cabinets) were known for their lavish gifts and complained there was never enough money to live ‘the good life’.
- Their approach to money secrecy meant Tony and his brother never learnt how to measure his own income and expenditure and still to this day he doesn't know his now elderly parent's financial position.
Tony is now a 33 year old professional who rents an inner-city apartment with his girlfriend of 7 months. A good looking young man employed in sales, keeping up his appearance for work, was important to him - but Tony found ways to take a fashion statement to a new level.
So this is what success looked like
We met for coffee one weekend and he’d smiled and giggled as he took pride in telling me he was 'wearing a belt that cost $300' his 'designer thongs’ were purchased for $250 and he even fained an embarrassed smile that his designer tee shirt could 'keep a small family in groceries for a week!'
It started to feel like his possessions were akin to his possessing a secret handshake that other such stylish people would know, recognise and appreciate too.
Sadly for Tony, I didn't appear to be as impressed as I should have been, so he asked me ‘when I was going to update my house?’
So what was happening in Tony's financial life?
Tony had run up significant credit card debts on high profile spending days that were unsustainable. He’d tried to gamble his way out of the debts but luck was against him.
As arguments with his girlfriend erupted over not having enough money for regular weekend brunches with friends, he decided to take over her spiralling credit cards debts (and a personal car loan) into his own name, so she could at least update her car and ‘stop complaining’.
She’d been finding it hard not to spend more than she earned for the past few months now so to help make ends meet she’d begun stealing about $300 - $400 per week from her employer’s cash register to help her out.
But this caused other problems as ‘she wasn’t earning enough anyways’ and would now be forced to find a new job before the end of the financial year when the stocktake would show up the loss.
While Tony would work all hours of the night for a few extra bucks, he’d have to park his car a few blocks from home each night and then walk the rest.
Initially, he would say it was because parking was non-existent in their street but in reality, it was to hide the car from the eyes of the hire purchase repossession service who were trying to get it back as he'd fallen behind again in the repayments.
Where is he now?
A month after our coffee meeting, as Tony's financial and romantic world collapsed around him, he asked me for a recommendation to a Bankruptcy Trustee.
He’d decided to declare bankruptcy in an effort to avoid his debts - (but not until he’d gone out and purchased a new car first).
I suggested now might be a good time to pause and look at what might be driving his money behaviours but he said he just needed to get some money under his belt first because there was a new girl at the office who ...
What could he have done differently?
Transforming a dysfunctional relationship (with money) can't happen until you first identify the underlying moneyisms at work in your life, where they came from and why they exert so much control over your money decisions.
The Idolise money mindset is a hard taskmaster
The idolise mindset promises the key to happiness and the solution to problems ‘is to have more money’.
- In reality, people with this money mindset are more likely to have a lower net worth and a heightened risk of compulsively spending in an attempt to achieve happiness.
- They feel driven to put work ahead of family and friends and give away or loan money, even though they can’t afford to do it.
Their insatiable experience is ‘there is never really ever enough’ so even the pursuit of more money never quite satisfies them - their spending simple staves off facing the reality of this sadness.
I believe, authentic happiness only comes from our close connections, emersion in passionate pursuits, and helping others.
If we're not mindful about our money matters, our unexamined childhood unbalanced beliefs about our money matters usually sabotage our opportunities.
What you can do now
Let's stop and look at how we manage our money matters, how we think about our savings and spending beliefs and commit to improving our conversation skills about money with our partner and the significant friends and influences in our life.
Sure you’ll need to increase your financial knowledge about these issues if you want to become more life confident, but I think you’ll need more courage than you’ll need financial knowledge.
This is because it takes effort and commitment to change many of our learned behaviours from childhood that may still be making decisions for us today as adults.