money vigilant

Understanding the Money Vigilant

“Money should be saved not spent”

Money Vigilance is the last of the four categories of money scripts. The money vigilant carry a lot of awareness and discretion around money. Some common Money Vigilance scripts are, “You shouldn’t tell people how much money you have or make,” “Money should be saved, not spent,” and “Always have money saved for an emergency.”

Money Vigilance scripts tend to protect against some of the more disordered and problematic behaviors. Those with dominant money scripts in this category show less potential to have compulsive buying disorder, gambling disorder, financial enabling, or financial denial. This makes sense; if you are particularly aware of money dangers, you’re less likely to be drawn into risky or overspending behaviors.

What is a more likely problem with Money Vigilance is financial infidelity, keeping secrets that you would be ashamed to have a partner know about. This makes sense, as well, since secrecy is one of this central money scripts of this category.

Those with Money Vigilance scripts tend to be frugal and have a lower likelihood of having credit card debt. Sounds great, right? This must be the “good” category of money scripts that helps you keep more money in your pockets and save for the future. On the surface, it can appear that Money Vigilants don’t have issues around money, because they generally have money, have savings, and know how to live within their means.

It’s not that simple. The emotion most strongly associated with Money Vigilance is anxiety. Sometimes owing any debt can cause so much anxiety that a person will avoid even “smart debt” like a home mortgage or an investment in a business. This anxiety can prevent someone from taking even modest financial risks that would help them build wealth.

Issues with a Money Vigilant

Money Vigilance also can get in the way of building relationships, enjoying leisure time, sleeping well, being free from anxiety, or doing fun things. The word “play” is not in the vocabulary of many in this category. I can say this with confidence, because this is my dominant money scripts category. Years ago, when I first started working with money and emotions, even thinking about taking a day off made me fearful and anxious. If I wasn’t working, what would I do?

Financial comfort and financial security are critically important to those with Money Vigilance. Of course, what defines financial security, what would be “enough,” is usually a moving target. So attaining financial goals, like a certain income or amount of money in the bank, does not ease the anxiety. 

It’s not a wonderful thing to live your life consumed by anxiety; it can be bad for both your physical and emotional health. If your dominant money scripts fit into the Money Vigilance category (you can find out here), taking a look at your anxiety is important.

As with any money issues, the first step toward change is to explore and discover the money scripts, and the trauma and stories behind them, that are at the root of the anxiety.

As you do this, you might try asking yourself some questions and taking a few baby steps toward changing your behavior.

  • Do you spend more than an hour a week watching over your financial situation? Set up reminders (anything from a timer on your phone to sticky notes on your computer) to reduce that time. It might help to remind yourself that research shows those who check their portfolios less often actually have higher returns.
  • Have you saved for a vacation or a purchase you intend to get to “someday?” Really look at the numbers; you may discover you could easily afford it today.
  • Do you routinely deny yourself small things you could easily afford? Practice splurging in little ways. I’m not talking about buying a new car, but getting new sheets or buying raspberries out of season or going to coffee with a friend.
  • Are your Money Vigilant scripts getting in the way of hobbies, activities, or especially relationships?
  • Does worry over money keep you up at night?

If you answer yes to any of these, and the idea of doing something different only increases your anxiety, it’s probably a good idea to make an appointment with a financial therapist. That’s easy enough to say. As I know first-hand, it’s really difficult to do. I also know it’s possible, as Money Vigilants, to learn to find balance in our lives so we can enjoy what we have worked so hard to build.

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

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