Do you remember how your parents talked about money when you were a kid? Did your mum or dad teach you to save your money? To donate to charity? How did they view wealth?
If you’re struggling with money problems as an adult, the answers to these questions could help you discover precisely why.
According to Brad Klontz, a financial psychologist, author, and cofounder of financial-consulting firm Your Mental Wealth, the two biggest money problems the average American deals with are spending too much and saving too little.
Through extensive research, Klontz has discovered that the catalyst for these financial problems, and others, is not our own capabilities, but rather our “money scripts” or “unconscious beliefs we have about money that drive all of our behaviour,” he told Business Insider.
These beliefs are based on our parents’ attitudes and behaviours with money and can range from money worship, or the belief that more money will make you happier, to money avoidance, or the belief that rich people are greedy and money corrupts.
After conducting nearly a dozen studies with thousands of people, Klontz concluded “that these beliefs are associated with [corresponding] financial outcomes, like lower income, lower net worth, bad financial behaviours” and are, in effect, the smoking gun.
So, Klontz says, “the most effective strategy to change a financial life that is off course is to start by looking at what these beliefs are and what you were taught from your parents, from your culture, from your neighbourhood, and how these beliefs have impacted your life.”
Klontz suggests starting with a few questions like:
• What are three things your mother taught you about money?
• What are three things your father taught you about money?
• What’s your earliest money memory?
• What’s your most painful money experience?
“[People] often trace the family story backward and sometimes if you still don’t understand, then you go home and interview some family members, and start asking them, ‘What is your biggest financial fear? What did grandma and grandpa teach you about money?'”
Once we identify our money scripts and how they’re related to our financial problems, we can begin to disassemble our “erroneous” beliefs about money, Klontz said, and reform our attitudes and behaviours.
“Very often when I’m talking to people … they’re like ‘Oh yeah, I have all this fear about money, I never really thought about it but my mum always told me you can’t trust people with money, and as I think about it, this thing happened in her life …'” Klontz said.
“All the sudden the light bulb will pop on for people as they realise that they’re just the next actor in this very often multi-generational pattern that’s been passed down,” he said.
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