“Your self-worth equals your net worth”
Money Status is the focus of this third post in a series about money scripts, those unconscious beliefs we have around money that touch every financial decision we make. Many of us tend to have predominant money scripts that fit into one of four categories: Money Avoidance, Money Worship, Money Status, and Money Vigilance.
In the Money Status category, basically the overriding money script is “My net worth equals my self-worth.” Variations of that include, “People are only as successful as the amount of money they earn,” and its flip side, “If I don’t have a lot of money I’m not worth much.”
Another type of Money Status script is, “If something is not considered the best, it’s not worth buying.” These are the folks that want to buy certain designer brands. The type of car they drive matters to them. The label or the brand of wine they drink matters. It doesn’t necessarily need to be the best; it needs to be considered the best. The facts are less important than the perception. Our society really underscores the money scripts in this category, often equating financial status and social standing.
Many of those with Money Status are younger, typically single, often with lower education levels and lower than average incomes. They are more likely to have grown up in a lower socioeconomic class, which makes a lot of sense as a motivation toward status. They may tend toward behaviors like compulsive buying, gambling, financial dependency, and keeping money secrets.
Interestingly, despite the Money Status category as a whole ranking lower in income, large numbers of those in the top tiers of wealth also tend to score high in Money Status scripts. This suggests that the perceived connection between self-worth and net worth can motivate people to reach those high levels of wealth.
Speaking as someone who, decades ago, had one of the very first cell phones in Rapid City, South Dakota, it’s certainly not my intent to shame people for wanting things that have status or are the latest and greatest. I know Money Vigilance is my top category; and I think Money Status is my second.
It’s normal to want success and to be attracted to the latest and greatest things. Having these desires is not shameful or wrong whatsoever. It’s when these money scripts are left unexamined, when we don’t realize that they are driving our behavior, that they can lead to detrimental financial outcomes.
What’s important for financial health is raising your awareness. To come to understand that you are not your net worth; that number does not define your value and being as a person. Net worth is a part of your financial assets and your financial reality, not a part of who you are at your core.
Separating these can be very difficult. I have struggled with this throughout my life. Internalizing the truth that “my self-worth is not my net worth” takes time, focus, and a lot of interior work. It requires learning to slow down and to become more aware of the emotions associated with your Money Status scripts.
One of the most useful tools for this is to establish a meditation practice. Meditation may not seem to have anything to do with money, but it is crucial for gaining the inner awareness of the emotions that shape your behavior around money.
Then you can start taking this practice into the process of spending money, increasing your awareness in the moment to the emotions around a purchase. Why are you buying this? Do you feel excited, fearful, hopeful? Might this purchase be soothing difficult emotions like sadness or guilt? Pausing to consider your emotions just might be enough to help you get out of the habitual rush of buying.
These tips are obviously only a very basic starting point for the more complicated interior work that supports financial and emotional wellness. One of the fundamental purposes of that work is to reframe how you define success, including financial success. High earnings or net worth do not equal financial success. Without health, without people that you love in your life, without fulfillment and clarity of purpose, money alone cannot create a life worth living.
Check out The Financial Therapy Podcast by Rick Kahler concerning this topic.