As we approach 14 February, the world around us is awash in red hearts and messages of love. While you’re either planning a special day with your loved one or doing your best to avoid all the silliness, there is probably one relationship you are not thinking about: your relationship with money.
What relationship with money? I hear you ask. And that’s exactly it. We don’t think about our money as a relationship partner. But what if we did? What would that tell us about the state of our finances?
Imagine treating your money like you would someone you’re madly in love with. What would you do? And what would you do differently if you treated money like a quick fling? Or if you neglected it because you are too busy? Imagine bringing your new love home for the first time and the place is a mess. Would he/she come back? Do you do the same to money?
Our relationships with money are rooted in the past. Ask yourself these 4 questions and see where it leads:
- What is your very first money memory? Maybe you were sent to the shop to buy something. Or received your first pocket money. Maybe you overheard your parents discuss your family’s financial situation. Or maybe the adults in your life were arguing about money.
- How did you feel in that moment? Were you excited about being trusted with money? Or were you afraid that you would make a mistake? The argument probably made you feel unsafe while overhearing a calm, rational discussion might have evoked emotions of confidence and trust.
- What beliefs about money were formed in that moment? Maybe you were left convinced that money is dangerous, and should best be left to adults to handle and think about. Or hearing your parents agonise about not being able to pay the bills to let you believe that there is never enough money. If your first conscious money encounter left you dazed and confused, you might have formed the belief that money is complicated and that you would never be clever enough to understand it. Or maybe you were lucky and came to believe that money was a wonderful tool that made things possible.
- How does your first money belief continue to impact your life today? This is the big one. If you remain convinced that money is dangerous or complicated, chances are that you are not even trying to understand and get on top of your personal finances. If you still believe that there is never enough money, you are likely to live your life from a scarcity point of view – always focusing on what you don’t have, instead of being grateful for all you do have.
We are socialised to believe that our money problems will be over if we earn a bigger salary, or marry a rich person or once the kids are out of school. That is not true.
How often do we hear about a famous soccer player, for instance, who earned millions of rands while he was playing, but has nothing left a few years later and has to ask friends for handouts? We also hear about people who win the lottery or inherit pots of money, but soon after they are struggling again. Even people we know who earn big salaries often complain that they don’t have money.
On the other side of the coin, there are people who manage to save, despite earning a domestic worker’s salary.
How does that work?
The secret is in your relationship with money. If you believe money is bad (for whatever reason), you will not take care of the money you receive. You will get rid of it quickly. It will be like a quick fling.
If you believe that you don’t deserve to have money, you might find it difficult to demand proper compensation for the work you do and to accept opportunities to receive more money. Like a person who allows his or her partner to be disrespectful.
If you believe money is difficult and for adults only, you will expect other people to look after your money for you, instead of you learning about ways to manage money better so that you can grow your assets. You will treat money like it’s the parent and you’re the child.
It is important to realise that most of the time we are not aware of our money beliefs, and we do not think about money in relationship terms. That is why it is a useful exercise to set some time aside and answer the 4 questions above.
Once you understand your money beliefs, you can start changing your relationship with money for the better. And it will happily be your Valentine.