Money Emotions

I struggle to admit how much of my life has been guided by emotions around money. Some of my earliest memories are of having less – less than my cousins, less than my neighbors, less than my classmates. I acquired shame around what I had and where I lived and, frankly, made it my mission to have more. I wasn’t sure how much, but it was always more than I had. I’d hardly be the first lawyer to admit they went to law school for the money, but in retrospect, I wish I’d been more aware of my motivations.

Mindfulness around money, as it turns out, is hard for a lot of us. Money is connected to our survival, our identity, and our self-worth. Money talk can conjure confidence, shame, joy, guilt, excitement, anxiety, anger, hope and sadness. We also inherit our parents’ and grandparents’ relationships with money; for some of us, deep trauma is part of that legacy. Race, gender, ability, education, even sexual orientation have enormous impacts on our access to money and therefore safety. Even the most advantageously situated are effected: we are witnessing the first generation – millennials – to be worse off than their parents. Moreover, serial financial crises, a global pandemic, unprecedented debt, and rising inflation make it all but impossible to feel grounded when it comes to money. 

Add to that the ignorance that pervades the average American experience: most of us were never taught personal finance. The most I remember receiving in my quite average public-school education was instruction on how to fill out a Burger King employment application. I recall watching my parents balance their checkbooks, but neither showed me how to do it. And now, there are no checkbooks – technology has changed and complicated personal finance to a degree that was unimaginable to our parents. The variety of financial instruments and investment options has expanded so dramatically in the last 40 years that you need either an advanced degree or a financial professional to navigate even the most rudimentary retirement planning.

So if you’re thinking financial planning is the last thing you want to do, welcome to the club. Some people thrive off it; others – most of us – would rather visit the dentist. (No offense to dentists.) Money, however, cannot be avoided, and much like teeth, ignoring it usually leads to problems bigger than ones you started with. But where to begin?

Psychologist Bari Tessler, author of The Art of Money, suggests reframing our view of money – from a source of stress to a self-care practice. Doing that, she proposes, requires confronting the unconscious patterns that we play out with our money, patterns we picked up from our families of origin, lineage and culture. She calls this “money healing” and breaks it down into two phases. 

First, Tessler prescribes mindfully tending to the emotions and bodily sensations that arise when we interact with money – spending it, saving it, giving it, borrowing it. Taking a pause to notice what is happening in the body and mind during these interactions shines a light on the money stories we tell ourselves. Gently acknowledging and caring for our reactions – positive and negative – makes it easier to be honest and therefore easier to rewrite our stories.

Second, Tessler recommends investigating your unique past for the origins of your money story. What did you learn from your family about money? Do your patterns look like those of your parents? Your grandparents? Are there cultural traumas or class biases in your money story? Are there big successes or failures in your past that still color your view today? Giving yourself the space and compassion to explore questions like these opens the door to mindfully sculpting your money future.

The Financial Health Institute identifies a non-virtuous cycle linking money, stress, and poor health. In the modern world, financial health is an essential component of physical, mental and social wellbeing. Caring for your money story is self-care: it can relieve stress and increase your capacity for total wellbeing. 

Jane Legal can help you with uncovering your money story and mindfully working with your money emotions. Schedule a free 15-minute discovery call at this link to learn more about our Family Wealth Planning process.

This article is a service of Jane Legal PC. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a free Family Wealth Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been and make all the best choices for your chosen family. Begin the process by scheduling a 15-minute discovery call today.

This material was created for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as ERISA, tax, legal, or investment advice. If you are seeking legal advice specific to your needs, such services should be obtained separately from this educational material.

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