money worship

Understanding the Money Worshiper

This is part two of a series on the categories of money scripts, the 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.

One of the driving beliefs in the Money Worship category is “Things would get better if I had more money.” This is a common money script, one that I know very well. Several decades ago, I figured if I could pay off my 750-square-foot home, which I bought for around $20,000, and have $10,000 in the bank, I would be set. When I reached that goal, it wasn’t enough. And through the years, the goal kept moving.

Another common money script with Money Worship is, “More money is going to make me happier.” That is true, but it’s contextual. Research has found that more money does indeed make people happier—up to a point that is currently around $75,000 a year. Once people reach a point of being able to provide comfortably for themselves and their families, more money does not bring more happiness in the same way it does in those lower income brackets.

Money Worship tends to correlate with being younger, being single, having less education, and having lower income. It has been found to predict that someone has a higher chance of having compulsive buying disorder, workaholism, financial dependency, and financial enabling. Many of these behaviors are associated with another common money script in the Worship category, “Money would solve all my problems.”

I want to point out that, back when many of my money and life decisions were driven by a belief that more money would equate to more happiness, I would have absolutely told you, “Money cannot buy happiness.” I was that unaware of the disconnect between my unconscious beliefs and the way I was living my life. So I know first-hand that becoming aware that you carry Money Worship scripts is not necessarily easy or obvious. Reaching that awareness is probably half of the journey toward change.

If you do fall into the category of Money Worship, what are some things you could do that might be helpful? Here are some tips, based on suggestions from Dr. Brad Klontz:

One is to practice giving—not necessarily just money, but also time. It is important for Money Worshippers to realize and experience the joy of giving to someone else. Start with baby steps that focus on healthy giving rather than enabling or giving out of guilt or obligation.

A second is to learn to avoid buyer’s remorse by putting time between the impulse to buy something and throwing down the credit card. Practice pausing before you purchase. The strategies below can help you do this.

Learn to become more aware of your emotions. A lot of our money behaviors that don’t serve us well are attempts to resist feeling difficult emotions, to soothe or medicate those uncomfortable feelings. One strategy to develop this awareness is building a meditation practice into your life. Another one is journaling—writing freely in a stream-of-consciousness way without filtering or judging, with no intention of ever sharing what you write with anyone else.

Another strategy to help you pause before you purchase is to ask yourself, “What’s my intention behind purchasing this? Is it a necessity, a treat, a reward, a gift?” Also ask, “How does this purchase fit with my values and goals? Does it support what’s really important to me?” Depending on the answers to these questions, you might make the purchase, or you might not.

Another tip is to make time for doing things you love with the people you love. This doesn’t have to mean making huge changes all at once. If you’re a workaholic, for example, don’t suddenly schedule two weeks off; start with two hours. Take those baby steps.

All these ideas are ways to help you begin to switch from focusing on the money or the inanimate object, to focusing on the people and relationships in your life that will provide real fulfillment and satisfaction. They can be helpful in getting a handle on Money Worship. The key is starting to get some flexibility around your money scripts in that area, so the rigidity around them is not subconsciously driving every decision that you make around money.

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

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