Money Baggage: It's not what you think. It's not living paycheck to paycheck. It's not your mounting credit card debt. And it's not even your empty savings account. Those and all the other negative things about your money life have nothing to do with the real money baggage you've been carrying all your life. They're only clues for unloading the baggage that keeps you from moving forward with your finances.
If you're like most people, you'll profess to yourself (or your best friend) "I can't seem to get it together," "I'm so irresponsible," or simply "I'm just bad with money!" You secretly wish you could understand money like all the people living the good life that you see in magazines, on TV and on the internet. Everyone but you seems to know exactly how to manage their money by doing those two simple things — save more and spend less. Why can't you?
Why? Because you're only looking at the mechanics of money — the transactions — or what you do with your money. You're trying to solve your money problems by doing more or less of the same things and hoping for a different outcome. Sure, you may be able to spend less or save more — for a short time. Unfortunately, before you know it, you find yourself back in the same old place.
Einstein said, "You can't solve a problem with the same thinking that created it." Same thinking dooms you to ride the hamster wheel of frustration and failure. You know this to be true with relationships or dieting or exercise. And although we like to think of money management as a concrete set of rules — it's exactly the same with money. Relationships and money are all about the baggage you carry. And it's the baggage you carry that gets in the way of finding real happiness — whether it's with love or money.
So how do you move beyond the mechanics, the transactional side of money, to find real solutions? You explore the relational side of money, or who you are with money, instead of focusing only on what you do with money. Who you are with money is where you'll find what's keeping you stuck. Who you are with money is where you unpack your money baggage to uncover your true money beliefs and values. Who you are with money is where you find the real you — the one with your own money style for finding financial freedom.
Here are five suggestions to help drop the money baggage that's keeping you stuck:
1. Take a look at your family history. What did you learn about money from mom and dad, grandma and grandpa and the adults around you? As a child, you picked up hidden messages from watching and listening. Unfortunately, no one helped you sort it out because talking about money, just like sex, was taboo! So you made your own interpretation of what was going on, added your own spin (along with a pledge to do things the same — or not) and made it your gospel truth. What baggage did you pick up that impacts how you handle money today? Now's the time to scrutinize it and decide what to drop and what to keep.
2. Develop money awareness. Uncover the subtle money messages that influence your spending and saving patterns. Every day in every way your money decisions are influenced by places, people and things you don't even notice. Advertising is one place for sure, but news, politics and pop-culture are also hotbeds for hidden money messages that keep you on the hamster wheel of consumerism. But much more harmful than that are all the messages that influence what you think is right and wrong about money, like who should have it, who deserves it and how much is enough. Cultivate real money awareness and see who's been making your money decisions.
3. De-stress your life. Stress isn't your friend when it comes to making good money decisions. Marketing professionals know this and use it every day to their advantage and your detriment. Stress keeps you working from the "lizard" part of your brain making quick fight, flight or freeze decisions based on survival. Problem is, money isn't a life or death matter although you’re led to think it is (see above). But dealing with money when you're relaxed lets you use your Einstein brain where you can make carefully thought out decisions that support your overall life. De-stress how you deal with money and beat them at their own game.
4. Work with your money style, not against it. Money management is not a one size fits all. We all have our own style based on what's important to us and what makes us feel safe and secure. Trying to manage money from someone else's set of rules based on what works for them, just doesn't work. Pay attention to what you do best with money (we all have something) and work from your strengths not your deficits. Feeling good about yourself is where you'll find the motivation to make changes that last. (You'll find my simple quiz for uncovering Your Money Style as part of The Money Dynamic program at www.themoneydynamic.com.)
5. Create a new money mantra. Instead of "I can't seem to get it together," "I'm so irresponsible" or "I'm bad with money!" find a new affirmation without the negative baggage. One with positive language based on your money values not your parents. One filled with your own money message not the worlds. And one that frees you from stress by grounding you in your own unique money style. How about this one? Money is the means to support what I value most in life.
These five steps change the way you think about money and give you tools for forging a new life with money. A life that is based on your strengths not your weaknesses, built from your values not others’ and one that filters the messages that keep you stuck. Now you can leave the past behind and find your own unique financial freedom.
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