In money coaching we talk a lot about our ‘relationship with money’. But what does this actually mean? If you’d asked me this question a few years ago I would have had no idea what you meant. Money is ….. well, money. What are you talking about?
The Macmillan dictionary defines relationship as:
‘The way in which two or more people or things are connected with or involve each other’
So, our relationship with money is about the connection that we have with money. And when you have a relationship with someone (or something), that connection is emotional. Thinking about that person makes you feel things, and some of those feelings may also be about yourself. Healthy relationships makes us feel good, unhealthy relationships makes us feel bad. And it’s worth pointing out that we don’t choose those feelings. They just come up. Nobody chooses to be anxious or guilty or ashamed. These feelings are the emotional equivalents of physical pain, and they are telling you that there is something there that needs your attention.
When we talk about our relationship with money we are talking about how money makes us feel – anxious, happy, excited, confused – and how it makes us feel about ourselves – competent, ashamed, guilty, regretful, trapped. It simply isn’t a question of numbers; money has an emotional side that trips us up. And it isn’t just about money; at the heart of our relationship with everything is how we feel about ourselves. So, our relationship with money has these three components:
How we feel about ourselves
How we feel about money
How we feel about money and ourselves
People who have a healthy relationship with money feel good about themselves – I am competent; I have confidence in my knowledge and decision making processes – I take ownership of my outcomes. My self-worth does not depend on my net-worth or my possessions. I am enough.
They feel good about money – money is a tool to achieve wellbeing, it’s not the work of the devil, the root of all evil or something we don’t talk about. It’s not this unknown or confusing thing that I don’t understand.
They feel good about money and themselves – money or thinking about money doesn’t make me feel anxious, ashamed or guilty. I am comfortable engaging with the financial system. I am the kind of person who manages their finances well.
Having a healthy relationship with money is the key to financial wellbeing because it is at the heart of behaviours like budgeting, saving, and making your money grow. It’s really hard to have a positive relationship with someone or something that makes you feel bad about yourself. It’s difficult to budget if thinking about money makes you feel like a failure. But we can’t just ignore this stuff or hide from it – we live in a world where our future wellbeing is increasingly dependent on our ability to make considered, long-term decisions that almost always involve short-term sacrifice. And in order to do this we need to have conscious, positive engagement with our finances; we need to have a healthy relationship with money.
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