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8 Myths That Can Harm Our Financial Lives
I grew up on a farm in Nebraska. My family had always worked hard for their money, and as a result, I always equated working hard with making money, with no idea that my beliefs could not have been further from truth. As I educated myself on human behavior and financial strategies, I learned that it’s actually the people who make their money work hard for them, rather than the people who work hard for their money, who end up with more of it.
Much like our views about many things — people, relationships, food, and health to name a few — our beliefs came from our parents, our teachers, and other adults in our lives. And it goes back even further, beyond them, back to the circumstances through which they lived, or what they learned from their parents, what their parents learned from their parents, and so on. These beliefs are ingrained, and because they’re usually subconscious, the cycles are continuous — until someone breaks them. You can break the cycle. Beliefs about money are many and varied, but in my research, I’ve discovered that there are a few that predominate.
- Money is scarce. Several of us have parents or grandparents who lived through the Great Depression, an era that rooted an entire generation in a scarcity mindset. These people passed onto their children the idea that money was in short supply and that when it did surface, spending had to be limited and saving was imperative. If any of the following ever crossed your mind—“A penny saved is a penny earned,” “Don’t dip into savings,” or “We can’t afford it” — then you have this perspective and rainy days loom ominously. Money doesn’t grow on trees. These threats create a fearful relationship with money.
- Money is evil, dirty, or bad. Several of us have parents or grandparents who believe that the road to bad places is lined with green. They’ve only ever seen the drawbacks of the rat race, the downside of the money chase, and the audacity and indulgence of those with too much money. Some even believe that wealthy people are bad people. Novels and films often highlight the idea that it’s the crooked ones who make the money. The meek shall inherit the earth. Such prophecies create a hands-off relationship with money.
- Money comes monthly. The most common way to make a living is to be employed, either with a company or as a skilled professional, with a weekly wage or an annual salary. Historically, this provided the safe, sure thing required by heads of households. Yet, that level of risk was usually balanced with an equal level of reward — low and low. For most, even those who do very well, working for a company or as a skilled professional is a constrained opportunity. Except for the outrageous exceptions, the average CEO of the average company making six figures a year will still experience only a small increase in salary during his or her lifetime. Slow and steady wins the race. Such fables create a cautious relationship to money.
- Money is not for me. Some people feel that they don’t deserve to be wealthy or that there is only so much of the millionaire pie to go around. Creating wealth and financial freedom is available to everyone. It is our right to be wealthy, and my hope is that people take their space and know they deserve it. By making money, you are not taking it from someone else; this isn’t Bonnie and Clyde Go to the Bank. By making money, you create a greater capacity to contribute, and it’s your duty to do this. Better them than me. Such adages create a defeated relationship to money.
- Money is a man thing. There was a time that men made and managed the household money. That time was not so long ago, and some of you may have grown up with such conditioning. Though there are gender tendencies, for example, men tend to carry more money in their pocket than women and are more likely to invest than women, the reasons behind this are not genetic; they are realities falsely fabricated from years of conditioning. Women and men need to understand that money knows no gender. One of my programs that really resonates with up and coming wealth builders is “Wealth Diva: A Man Is Not a Plan.” This is a must-do seminar for every man and woman, and the daughters and sons they love. Let him bring home the bacon. Such perceptions create an apathetic relationship to money.
- Money is good medicine. For some people, retail therapy goes a long way; there’s no difficulty a new blouse can’t cure. At the moment, we live in a culture of consumerism, and many of us use money to fill the unsatisfying holes in our lives. Some people grew up with a sense of entitlement about money, assuming their parents or a trust fund would always pay for everything, and in the process, they became careless about what they had. This is a vicious and unproductive cycle. The new car gets old, the closet fills up with clothes, and the toys pile up in the playroom. This is notto say there aren’t wonderful things to buy and spend our money on; after all, money should be fun. But as with overeating, too much spending on the wrong things can get any of us feeling sluggish and sad. Shop till you drop. Such bombarding messages create a disrespectful or nonchalant relationship to money.
- Money is always a menace. For too many of us, money was always a problem. Bills were a hassle, keeping up with the Joneses was exhausting, entrepreneurs were considered nuts, and one’s station in life was, well, stationary. And getting rich would be worse. Money can be such a burden, not to mention all that paperwork and responsibility. These views of money create a perspective that money is actually a problem, not a solution. It’s hard enough just to survive, let alone thrive. Such pessimism creates a negative relationship to money.
- Money talk is taboo. Many of us have been brought up to believe that conversations about money are in bad taste. Money and financial success, and failures, are considered personal subjects that shouldn’t be discussed and certainly shouldn’t be taught. Few of us asked our parents how much money they made, and even now, there are people who don’t know their spouse’s salaries. The results have unintended consequences and have created a world where very few people are having real conversations about money and finances, the very conversations they need to learn and succeed. These things are not discussed in polite society, dear. Such a scolding creates an ignorant relationship to money.
In each of these examples, it’s clear that unless your parents made a conscious choice to think and act differently, they conditioned you to have the same mindset as them. If you make a decision to break this cycle, you will have the opportunity to teach your children to have more productive beliefs about, and a more profitable relationship to,money. As you come to understand the beliefs you hold, you will work to change them. Through the action steps in this process, and with the help of mentors and respected friends, you will change your behavior. By sharing your desire for new beliefs and asking your mentors and respected friends to help you spot the subconscious limitations you may be putting on yourself, you will teach your brain to follow your behavior. Begin now by restating your beliefs. For example, if you’ve discovered that you hold any of the above examples as beliefs, you will
- Change “money is scarce” to “money is abundant” and support a courageous relationship to money.
- Change “money is evil, dirty, or bad” to “money is good and acceptable” and create a hands-on relationship to money.
- Change “money comes monthly” to “money comes from a range of sources” and create an opportunistic relationship to money.
- Change “money is not for me” to “who better than me for money to come to” and create an empowered relationship to money.
- Change “money is a man thing” to “I can and will know about and understand money,” and create a thoughtful relationship to money.
- Change “money is good medicine” to “money is a tool to help make my life better” and create a respectful and concerned relationship to money.
- Change “money is a menace” to “money is a solution” and create a positive relationship to money.
- Change “money talk is taboo” to “money talk is vital” and create a knowledgeable relationship to money.
You can see how much better it is to be courageous, hands-on, opportunistic, empowered, thoughtful, respectful and concerned, positive, and knowledgeable than to be fearful, hands-off, cautious, defeated, apathetic, disrespectful and nonchalant, negative, and ignorant. The choice is yours and it looks like you’re well on your way. You’ve already taken a huge step by deciding to actually take the first step. By making the decision to start right now, you have created the opportunity to raise your financial consciousness and change your life.