You know how by the end of January all the gyms start to empty of all those fresh-faced eager members who joined in the first few weeks of the year.
It’s not that those wonderful well meaning folks are the worst…. it’s just that change is freaking hard. After all the excitement of the new year fades (usually around January 10th), the following few weeks of the month take all of your stick-to-it discipline to plow through. And just when you’re celebrating the conquering of January, February hits like a hammer.
Changing habits and patterns is hard.
And not because it’s hard to get to the gym, or make time to make better meals, or come up with a budget.
In fact, I don’t think it has much to do with the actual ‘thing’ you’re trying to change at all.
It’s mostly all in your head.
That doesn’t mean that it’s any less real (for confirmation of this please refer to the great wizard Dumbledore’s last words to the significantly less great Harry Potter).
We’re all walking around with tons of set patterns that we picked up years ago and that, since then, we haven’t ever really given a second thought to.
Understanding those patterns is a really important part of trying to change them.
So, what money habits are floating around in your head?
Finding someone to blame:
When I was first learning about Personal Finance I strolled over to the money section of my local big-box-book store and was overwhelmed by choices. I dealt with this by choosing a book with a ridiculous name. Bruce Sellery in his book Moolala (FOR THE WIN!!!) starts out by talking about this very thing, your money mental state.
He encourages taking a look at your first memories of money. Which means taking a look at how you grew up.
I took his invitation as permission to blame my parents for all of my poor financial habits (which may not have been his intent).
Now have I got you interested? It’s always nice to have someone to blame, isn’t it?
What can you blame them for? Well… go past the things you’re currently piling on them: big nose, weird thighs, massive communication issues, inability to trust another human being (whoa… maybe we’ll revisit that one later), and look at how you formed your first concepts of money.
Was it plentiful? Scarce? Used as a reward? Maybe people with money were demonized, or exalted..?
For me money was not a thing we really talked about at all. I grew up on a farm. There were good years and there were bad years, but that went over my head as a kid. That was partly due to the fact that I had my head way up in the clouds most of my childhood, more concerned with finding a stick that looked exactly like the ‘rod of power’ that I envisioned would help me defeat the villain of the day than with how the mortgage got paid. But it was also due to the fact that money was never something that was discussed.
I am, of course, very grateful to my parents for allowing me to have a ‘worry free’ childhood (there’s plenty of worry to be had when your ‘rod of power’ is burnt as firewood… thanks, MOM). But on the other hand, even though I’m sure it wasn’t their intention, it gave me the idea that money shouldn’t be talked about.
So I didn’t talk about it. There was a shame surrounding it somehow, and so I didn’t learn about it. Because I didn’t know anything, I just started to avoid the entire subject… and so, when the old artist standby came along (artists just aren’t good with money), I embraced it
Adults are different than kids (FACT)
Whatever your first ideas of money were, I’m sure they served you when you were young.
They weren’t wrong for you then.
Kids are incredible, but they also don’t know a lot. Seriously… they can’t even drive.
So maybe some of the mental pathways you built up at that time… aren’t exactly helpful in your adult life.
I think Bruce Sellery is bang on in starting his book with that idea… that before you can change anything you’ve got to figure out where you are right now. You can’t change something, unless you know what you’re changing.
Breaking the silence about money was hard for me at first. I really thought I was the only one struggling with this, that I was the only one who somehow managed to get into his mid 20s before learning anything about money.
And now I know that’s not true, and you can’t shut me up…
But that’s a problem for another day.
So what were your first money experiences? Are you still carrying them around? Are they still useful to you?
Want to start getting control of your money? How can I help?
Financial Planner/Opera Singer
Money never came naturally to me. In fact… I was a bit of a disaster. I remember (very clearly) what it feels like to be ‘financially out of control’.
And honestly, I still get stressed about money… that doesn’t stop… the difference is that now I have the tools to deal with that stress.
And those tools are what’s made it possible for me to build a life full of the things I want: art, creativity, travel, family and more.