Money is an emotive subject that can induce both positive and negative feelings in all of us. Commonly, we attribute specific emotions to our wealth; feelings of safety, control and autonomy to name but a few. But how do we develop these relationships with money, and how do these relationships effect how we behave towards our finances?
Charity support service, Relate, believe that our relationships with money are formed in early life. They say that we develop these ideas from observations of people we spend time with growing up, primarily our parents or caregivers. These observations contribute to our relationships with money in adulthood and our attitudes around earning, spending and managing it.
Like any relationship, the key to nurturing it is to understand it properly. The most popular way of looking at this relationship is to view it as a “three-dimensional” relationship, with each dimension being a spectrum. At the end of each spectrum, people can display potentially harmful behaviours, while the middle is a more stable region.
1. How We Earn Money. At the extreme left of the spectrum, there are those who have no desire to earn money, these types of people are suspicious of the impact money has on individuals and would rather society shared common goods. At the other end, there will be those of us who have an insatiable appetite to acquire wealth and for them, no amount of money is enough.
2. How We Spend Money. At one end of the spectrum, we have people who are characteristically frugal. They tend to not like parting with their money and are likely to be the type of people to experience buyer's guilt. Conversely, there are over spenders. These people are likely to spend money they don’t have, not take notice of a budget and are likely to get into debt.
3. How We Manage Money. On the one hand, there are people who micromanage their finances, they are people who religiously keep tabs on everything they spend. They are likely to know where every single penny of their pay check goes. On the other hand, there are people whose money management can only be described as chaotic. These are the type of people who allow their insurances to run over year after year, despite there perhaps being better deals elsewhere.
Looking at your relationship with money in this way helps to simplify how, by displaying too many 'end of spectrum' characteristics, you can easily develop harmful behaviours. These behaviours can in turn make us feel apprehensive about the notion of money, and how we earn, spend and manage it. It is important to be able to identify these behaviours in ourselves, and see if there is anything that we can do to improve our relationships with money.
A common misconception is that financial worries are reserved for if we have a lack of money. The truth is, money taps into a number of different emotions and values, meaning that anyone has the capacity to worry about it. Financial wellbeing is an integral part of a person’s overall wellbeing and it is important to keep our relationships with money nurtured, like we would any relationship. Once we can grasp this, we will be well on our way to falling in love with our finances.
So what are some things we can do today to help ourselves achieve a more stable place on each spectrum?
Firstly, it is important to understand our own relationships with money. Ask yourself where you sit upon each spectrum. Can you identify any 'end of spectrum' characteristics in your own behaviour towards earning, spending and managing?
Once you have done this, you need to be honest with yourself and consider whether these behaviours are helping or hindering you in achieving your financial goals, or rather, your financial happiness.
Lastly, with this in mind, never forget about your happiness. Question whether the behaviours that you believe are required to achieve your financial goals are healthy for your overall wellbeing. This is key to ensuring that your relationship with money grows into a positive one, and you are able to fall in love with your finances.