money scripts

Money Scripts 2.0 – Part B

This second part of “Money Scripts 2.0” focuses on the behaviors that result from our money beliefs. First, a reminder that our financial behaviors can be hurtful, problematic, and harmful—but even when they appear to make no sense, they are always logical when we understand what drives them. This includes the wounding that leaves a part of ourselves hurt and vulnerable. Then a protective part comes up with the money script, the intention being that, if we hold onto the belief and the behavior that supports it, the vulnerable part will never be hurt again. If you have a financial behavior that seems illogical, that’s because you have not yet uncovered the belief behind it.

Over the years, we’ve come up with a list of 13 harmful money behaviors. These are certainly not the only ones, but they are common ones that are problematic for many people. They are:

Financial Denial. We don’t want to look at financial reality because it’s really painful. We spin it or ignore it.

Underspending. This takes frugality to extremes, harming ourselves and others because we do not spend money we can afford to spend, even on basic self-care. Think miserliness like that of Ebenezer Scrooge.

Overspending. This is one of the most common behaviors. We spend money we cannot afford to spend, even on things and experiences we don’t need or sometimes don’t even want. It often comes down to a part of ourselves wanting to feel seen, heard, and worthy.

Compulsive Shopping/Spending. This is the “retail therapy” behavior, which is anything but a joke. Even when someone does not spend more than they can afford, shopping or spending as a way to avoid reality or avoid pain can be problematic. 

Financial Enabling. One common form of this is parents who financially support children or repeatedly bail them out of trouble, to a degree that is harmful to the parents’ financial wellbeing and/or to the children’s self-esteem and maturity. This is often driven by guilt, such as over a divorce or past mistakes. 

Financial Dependency. This can be the other side of financial enabling. It may also be dependency on government, a trust fund, or a partner.

Financial Enmeshment. This is having inappropriate money conversations with kids. An example would be a parent sharing anger or fear around finances when they really need to be talking with another adult or perhaps a therapist instead of burdening their child. 

Workaholism. This behavior sometimes is seen as a component of being successful, but it commonly is more about soothing emotional pain than it is about earning more money. 

Compulsive Gambling. This may show up as gambling through lotteries, casinos, and the like. It may also take the form of high-risk investing and speculating.

Hoarding. Hoarders have such emotional attachment to things that the thought of getting rid of them immediately triggers pain in a vulnerable part.

Vow of Poverty. This is often due to guilt and shame over the idea of having money, associated with a belief that “money is bad” or “wealth is bad.”

Squandering Sudden Wealth. Much like an unconscious vow of poverty, this is commonly associated with guilt and shame that will be eased by getting rid of the money.

Financial Secrecy/Financial Infidelity. Keeping financial secrets can damage a marriage or other relationship in much the same way as sexual infidelity. 

Why is it so hard to change financial behaviors like these? In part because it requires exploring the underlying money scripts. You may have all sorts of protective parts keeping you from admitting or finding out what that belief is. There will be shame that you can’t change the behavior or that you have a deep belief that drives the behavior. Yet these emotional parts of us are young. They don’t really care about logic; they believe what they believe. 

This is why, in financial therapy, we often ask and remind people to please suspend judging and criticizing yourself. We have these judgmental and critical parts of ourselves that will keep us from uncovering the truth of our parts’ money scripts because they are so afraid that we’re going to be shamed and or criticized for even giving voice to that belief. 

One component in rescripting our money beliefs is to see if you can separate yourself from the money script. It is not a “truth,” it is just a belief held by one inner part of you. It is not you. Your aim is to get to know the part of you holding that money script, without judgment. Your purpose is not to take that money script away or to shame that part for having it.

If you want to know more about understanding and reframing money scripts, three of my co-authored books may be useful resources. These are Facilitating Financial Health, The Financial Wisdom of Ebenezer Scrooge, and Wired for Wealth

Check out The Financial Therapy Podcast by Rick Kahler concerning this topic.

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