What does money mean to you?
If you had to choose one word to describe what money means to you, what would that word be? Survival, security, love, power, independence, or something else? Whatever word you identified is the result of years of experiences, beginning in your childhood. These experiences have shaped your money personality and how you handle finances in your relationships. Let’s take a closer look.
PEELING BACK THE ONION
As women, it is especially important to understand how we arrived at our current money personality because 90% of us will eventually be solely in charge of our household finances, if we aren’t already. This is why it’s important to remind ourselves that a man should not be our financial plan (as my favorite bumper sticker says, www.WIFE.org). 80% of married men die married but 80% of married women die single. Therefore, recognizing where our money mindset came from can help us make sense of and move forward with healthier financial decisions as women now and in our likely to be single future.
A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE
So, let’s begin with our childhood. What are your first memories of money? Perhaps you have a story in your past of an experience that stayed with you to this day. In a Financial Wellness for Women class I was offering, I remember one woman sharing a memory about a May Day Dance in grade school. All the girls wore a new dress and new shoes to the dance but her mother had told her they could only afford to get the new dress, not the shoes, so she would have to wear the shoes she had. Unfortunately, the way the dance worked, all the girls put one of their shoes in the center of the circle and a boy would pick a shoe and then dance with the girl who was wearing the matching shoe. Her shoe was the last one to be selected and the boy picked it up like he was dangling a dead rat from his fingertips. She was mortified and scarred for life with feelings of not being good enough, feeling poor, and believing she was less than others.
Whether you have memories or not, you also absorbed messages about money during your childhood in what I call the “sponge” years. From birth to age 6 or 7, our relationship “thermostat” is set. The environment you grew up in, the words and conversations you heard, the spoke or unspoken “rules” all had an influence on your thermostat regarding relationships with money, food, and people. Which is also why your siblings may not have experienced the same messages. You may have had different family circumstances when you were each at impressionable ages. You may have lived in a different home, parents may have had different employment, or you may have spent more time around different people, so your relationship thermostat absorbed differently.
During our formative years, our brain has no ability to filter so it just soaks it all in. There is no physiological ability to identify, label or decide that something felt, witnessed, or experienced was good, bad, dysfunctional or healthy. So as a child, whatever your money experience was, it felt “normal” to you. Until we think back and recognize the facts and memories from our childhood, we don’t often realize what an impact childhood had, through no control or fault of our own, on our money personality.
OLDER AND WISER
As we get older and become involved in one-on-one relationships, we usually gravitate to one of three types of couples when it comes to finances. See which category you fit into or perhaps have experienced in past relationships.
- Driver and Passenger Couple: only one member of the couple, the Driver, knows about and takes care of all financial decisions. The Passenger, on the other hand, is often glad to be totally unaware or at least not have to be bothered with the money side of life. My parents definitely fit into this category.
- Joined at the Hip Couple: Both members of the couple talk about and make all the financial decisions together. But only one of them implements those decisions. I know several couples that meet this category definition and maybe you do too.
- Divide and Conquer Couple: Similar to the Joined at the Hip Couple, both members talk about and decide financial things together. But then they split the duties, so each one takes care of acting on half of the financial responsibilities. My husband and I have evolved to this type of couple.
I have talked with women who have been in more than one category and even some who have been in all three over the years! Whichever category you are in (singles are Drivers, without a Passenger), it is helpful to acknowledge your current situation. Then you can either take action to change it or plan accordingly for the way it is now. Which category do you think is the least common? Which do you think fares the best emotionally and financially when one spouse is gone? The Divide and Conquer Couple is the answer to both questions.
My wish for all women, no matter which category you find yourself in, is that you become comfortable with your finances by thinking of money as just one of your many tools in life. 85% of all purchase decisions (for services or products) are influenced by women so we already have more power than we realize. It is true that our childhood and life-long relationships have shaped our money mindset but if we can remove the emotion from as many financial decisions as possible, that will help us make wiser choices.
The best way to begin thinking about and using money as a non-emotional tool is to take an inventory of what we have in our personal money toolbox. We don’t get emotionally attached to our other tools like our cosmetics, work gadgets, or hobby related tools. But money is a tool with lots of past history in our lives so it is harder to separate the emotion. Getting financially organized removes the emotion, shows you what you have for resources, and is the best first step that also serves as the foundation for making smart money decisions going forward.
I share many free tools and resources to help you get your financial house in order. Let me help you declutter your finances now with a free hands-on virtual workshop that provides a template to itemize your money toolbox inventory. During my workshop: Are You Expecting Your Man to be Your Financial Plan?, you will create a comprehensive net worth statement that doubles as an estate planning checklist for you and your family/personal representative/successor trustee. Reduce your financial stress and join me today!
What childhood memories do you have around money? Who came to your mind as you read about the three types of couples? Have you had to overcome any money messages from your earlier life?
LET’S HAVE A DISCUSSION!
This article was first published at 60 and Me – a community that helps women over 60 live happy, healthy and financially secure lives.