Emotional Competence

Fear or Joy: How Do You View Money?

How Do You View Money? With Joy or Fear? | www.TheHeavyPurse.comWhen my father told me money was emotional, I was initially surprised because I had never really thought about it in that manner until then. But it made sense. My emotions definitely influenced how I used and handled money, even though I was only thirteen years old. The memories of lean times and unspoken money fears still lingered years later. My father told me money was a gift and should be used joyfully, but I didn’t always feel much joy when I spent money. Instead I spent a bit fearfully, not allowing myself to buy things I wanted (and could afford) because I worried about not have enough money in the future.

Now some of you may think that is being practical and conscientious, which are good things, especially in a teenager! And I agree that being practical and conscientious with how you use your money is important. However, those weren’t the reasons why I didn’t buy things I wanted and could afford, it was because I was driven by fear.

The Best Money Teacher: Fear versus Happiness

Fear can be an appropriate teacher. We tell our kids to not touch a hot stove because they could burn themselves badly. Young children tend to be naturally-trusting, so we warn them about stranger danger. Fear certainly serves a purpose, but is it a good teacher when it comes to money? Let’s take a closer look.

Fear Breeds More Fear and Indecision

The biggest—and most obvious—danger of using fear to teach kids good money habits is that it scares them. Of course, that was your intent, but young kids are very literal. You want your kids to make good decisions with how they use their money, but you don’t want them to actually become fearful of money. This puts fear in control of their money, rather than themselves. Some will second-guess their money decisions to the point where they cannot make a choice out of the fear of making a mistake that will haunt them forever. I have meet people who have diligently saved to buy a home or to go on a nice vacation or even retire, but when it comes time to buy their dream home, book their vacation or quit their job, they cannot do it. They are too scared.

Teach Kids to Respect, Not Fear, Money

The better choice is to help your kids develop a healthy amount of respect for money, rather than fear it. They do need to understand there are consequences to poor money decisions, which is why you’re teaching them about money now. You want to help them avoid making those mistakes and give them the skills and knowledge to overcome any money mistakes that they do make. Because the reality is that they will make some.

As I have shared previously, this is why it is so important to allow kids to make money mistakes now, when the stakes are generally quite low. My father let me make mistakes, just as I let Lauren and Taylor do the same. And it’s not easy. It’s very hard to watch your children decide to use their money on something you know they will regret. But I would much rather wipe away tears when it’s a $50 mistake today, than when it’s a $5000 future mistake.

Thankfully, kids are resilient and fast learners. The girls know from firsthand experience the high cost of money mistakes, which helps them slow down and really weigh their choices. And best of all, now their final decisions are not driven by fear, as mine once were, but by knowing what makes their hearts the happiest and honoring their goals.

I Chose Joyful

There are plenty of scary statistics that highlight our precarious financial situation. We cannot deny they exist, but we also don’t need to succumb to the negativity or fear-mongering and instill fear-based money beliefs in our children. I am well aware of what is at stake, but it’s been my experience that fear more often paralyzes people than motivates. This, of course, is not universal, but when it comes to my girls I don’t want fear to be their baseline as to how they make decisions. A life dictated by fear is not the life I want for Lauren and Taylor.

The catch-22 is that often times fear is what motivates people to change their financial behavior and to start talking to their kids about money. They don’t want their kids to repeat their mistakes or to wind-up behind their peers because they are not money savvy. This is generally good news because we want people to take control of their finances and to break the money taboo cycle. The bad news is because they are so fearful, their lessons tend to be fear-based, and it is the overriding emotion their children pick up. Kids see money as scary and a bad decision could ruin their lives. Even if fear influenced your decision to make positive changes, you need to recognize this and be extra mindful that you don’t make it the centerpiece of what you teach and believe ongoing.

My father helped me find the joy in money and understand the consequences of my choices, good and bad. I found the joy in making good decisions that honored my goals and values. I also learned the pain of bad decisions and also the ability to overcome and thrive afterwards. This empowered me to take control of my finances and make financially confident decisions. Now it’s my turn to pass on my father’s message of joyful spending with my daughters and you. Money is a gift. Treat it with respect and use it on what matters most and fear will never enter into the equation.

Shannon

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Comments

  1. Monday, May 5th, 2014
    It's a lot easier for us to chose joyful now that our $109,000 of credit card debt is gone, and we're in a much better place financially. It's also much easier to chose joyful when you know that your bills are paid, and you have an emergency fund in place to handle those unexpected things that roll along from time to time. :)
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, May 5th, 2014
      I bet it much, much easier to choose joyful now that your debt is history! :) It is easier to chose joyful when you have your financial situation in control and just another reason to do so if you're not already there.
  2. Monday, May 5th, 2014
    I think my parent's opinions of money, specifically the fear of not having enough or the simple statement "we can't afford that" had an impact on my own view of money. Perhaps that's one reason I want to wait as long as possible to have kids - I don't want any stress I have about finances to rub off on them! Granted that's something I'll have to get over as there likely will never be a "perfect" time financially to have kids.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, May 5th, 2014
      I'm sure your parent's opinions and actions around money had quite a bit of influence on you, DC. As you know I'm not a big fan of "we can't afford it" because most parents forget the most important - "why". I understand waiting to have kids until you're ready - we weren't in any rush either! As you noted, there probably is never the "perfect" time to have kids but there is the right time for you and Victoria. :)
  3. Monday, May 5th, 2014
    Fear is one of the biggest emotions that holds us back from making wise and appropriate decisions. It's also one of the tactics the financial news media uses to drive ratings, imo. They sensationalize the ups and downs of the market and that gets us all worked up. Next thing we know, we are making decisions to buy or sell based solely on the fear of losing our money in a dip or missing the upside of a rally. Those aren't good reasons to be investing but our fear drives us to anyway.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, May 5th, 2014
      It is a popular tactic by the media - bad or scary news is what catches people's attention. Fear definitely influences our decisions and it's truly unfortunate when we base it on information that may not be accurate or pertain to our situation, especially when it comes to investing.
  4. Monday, May 5th, 2014
    I love this post, Shannon! I agree that it's not helpful to fear money. We need to educate ourselves and use it to empower ourselves. I'm trying to teach my children to respect money and the work it takes to earn it.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, May 5th, 2014
      Thanks, Holly! Education plays a huge role. Knowledge helps reduce fear and keeps our imaginations from going overboard. Love that you're teaching your kids to respect money and understand you have to work to earn money, such important lessons!
  5. Monday, May 5th, 2014
    Another awesome post, Shannon. Love what you said about fear breeding more fear. That was SO true with us for so many years. What a mess and what a waste of time, money and emotion. People give money much more power than it deserves.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, May 5th, 2014
      Thanks, Laurie! It really does breed more fear. We let our imaginations run wild and they conjure up all kinds of crazy scenarios. It is a waste of time, energy and emotion, although in the moment it seems so much scarier to face reality. People do give so much of their power away and I'm glad you've reclaimed your power!
  6. Kathy
    Monday, May 5th, 2014
    My mom grew up during the depression and every money decision she made was influenced by that experience. I think she feared money and in later years, even though she had plenty, she really didn't feel secure and actually hated even dealing with financial decisions. I also think that somehow she felt that in a Biblical sense, having a lot of money was a sin. So she basically ignored the fact that she had a lot.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, May 5th, 2014
      I think that is a common mindset from those who grew up during the depression. They remember how tough it was and that fear really kept them from enjoying their money, even responsibly. It's finding that place where we can truly enjoy our money and use it joyfully while still making sure we have a solid financial foundation that is the sweet spot.
  7. Monday, May 5th, 2014
    Great post Shannon! I know when I was mired in debt, I was fearful of money. I was fearful of running out of it, making mistakes, etc. One of the big things that helped me turn around was to not be fearful, but view it as a gift and to be joyful with it. In terms of kids, especially younger ones, they're so impressionable and will take on the belief you're teaching them about. We'd rather work to empower them and view it as a gift as it will have a much better chance of helping them manage it as they get older.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, May 5th, 2014
      Thanks, John! Yes, debt can definitely make people more fearful about money since they already are in a precarious situation. It is being able to turn that mindset around and see money as a gift. The joy you can create when you use it wisely. Kids are incredibly impressionable and it's so good that your kids see you and Nicole treat money with respect and joy. Feeling empowered to make good financial decisions and able to enjoy your money is a place where I want the girls to be too.
  8. Monday, May 5th, 2014
    I think it is SO important to let your kids make money mistakes so that they don't have such a fear of it going forward. It's kind of like going on a roller coaster to get rid of your fear of roller coasters. You can't fear the known as much as the unknown. As you know, I am a big fan of letting my son make money mistakes and it is painful to sit back and watch them unfold, but it is equally satisfying to watch him learn and grow from the experience as well.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, May 5th, 2014
      It is painful to watch because you know you can prevent their pain but I don't want to take away the opportunity to learn and grow from their mistakes either. Right now the mistakes are small, although big to them, which make them great learning experiences. And it is so great to see them catch themselves the next time and not repeat their mistakes.
  9. Monday, May 5th, 2014
    This is right in line with something I just wrote about the goal of personal finance being to create "more" of what you want rather than focusing on cutting everything out. The real trick is to realize that money is an opportunity to live a life you love.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, May 5th, 2014
      Absolutely, Matt! So many people focus on what they can't have when they should instead focus on what they truly want and working on achieving and enjoying it. It's so much easier to say no to all those other things without feeling deprived when you have your eye on the prize. Money is the gift that allows you live the life you want.
  10. Monday, May 5th, 2014
    I smiled when I read the title of this post, Shannon! You're spot-on describing fear, here. I think it's so important to have these conversations with kids so they really understand what motivates their decisions with respect to money. Obstacles to wealth, including fear, are crucial to identify (and the earlier the better).
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, May 5th, 2014
      Thanks, Natalie! :) There is so much fear around money and it's sad. It prevents people from making good decisions and enjoying their money properly. The more we talk to our kids about money, the better.
  11. Monday, May 5th, 2014
    Great post Shannon. I think many parents often think scaring kids about making money mistakes, but respect for money is much better than fear of money. I'll admit that I do have a bit of a fear of making money mistakes which does often make me indecisive. I think it's great that you let your girls make mistakes while they're young. I truly believe that while it's tough to see them making mistakes, it's much better for them to make them while they are young. It's best for them to learn by experience rather than by a lecturing parent.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, May 5th, 2014
      Thanks, Andrew! Yes, I agree. Some parents think scaring kids about money will lead to go money decisions. And it absolutely might but even if they do, they still may not understand how they can use their money as a gift to create joy for themselves and others. A fear-based life doesn't sound very happy to me. It is definitely hard to watch the girls make a money mistake but it is better for them to learn from experience, rather than listening to me explain what could have happened. It just doesn't carry the same weight. The good thing is they catch on very quickly and don't like repeating their mistakes!
  12. Monday, May 5th, 2014
    It's so true. Money is a very emotional concept. I've struggled for years to be okay with spending money out of fear that no day I won't have any. This has always been an irrational fear as I've always had a good job. However, I think years of overspending and paying off debt made me so afraid to spend. Now that I'm almost debt free and can actually choose how to spend the money I earn, I can help my son have a good emotional relationship with money.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, May 5th, 2014
      When people get out from under their debt, there is definitely a period when they have learn how to trust themselves again. They worry about going back into debt or making a mistake. This is all normal and a natural response. The trick is to recognize everything you've accomplished, how far you have come and to know that you are not perfect AND will still make the occasional money mistake. You are human, after all. :) The good news is that you will recognize your mistake almost immediately and have the confidence to quickly make a course correction. And I definitely encourage you to help your son build a healthy relationship with money. It will be a great experience for the both of you!
  13. Monday, May 5th, 2014
    I love money. I found a dime on the ground today and I was giddy. I always repeat my mantra when stuff like that happens, "I'm a money magnet".
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, May 5th, 2014
      You are a "money magnet" Stefanie! I love money too because I love how I can use it to create joy for myself and loved ones. :)
  14. Monday, May 5th, 2014
    I think you hit the nail on the head when you said they should respect money. Fear will keeping you from making decision, or perhaps even investing, as that can go up and down, but it's still a good place to put your money. But a healthy respect is a nice balance between a tiny, tiny bit of fear and joy.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, May 5th, 2014
      Thanks, Tonya! Fear can really paralyze people and prevent them from being able to even make a decision. Healthy respect is definitely what I aim for when I make my choices. :)
  15. Monday, May 5th, 2014
    This post really resonated with me, Shannon. I fit the description you gave of fear almost to a T. Rationally, I have enough saved up, but I am so afraid to part with money. I've been debating on buying a laptop for two years and finally pulled the trigger the other day. It's ridiculous, and I wish I could learn to be more joyful with my money. This is definitely from growing up, watching my parents struggle, and being told we couldn't afford anything except the bare minimum. I know I'll never let myself get to the point they were at, but it's hard to separate those memories from where I am now.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, May 5th, 2014
      Those memories really do linger and influence how we handle our money. It's not easy to let go of them. But I know you can find the joy in money E.M. Sometimes spending money to create joy for others and seeing how good it feels can help free you to do the same for yourself without that old anxiety.
  16. Monday, May 5th, 2014
    Fear and money can sometimes intertwine and it's up to us as parents to instill the right views about money. Spot on, Shannon!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, May 5th, 2014
      Fear and money often intertwine, many times without us even realizing it. It is important that we instill the right views about money in our kids and make a conscious effort to help respect, not fear, money.
  17. Monday, May 5th, 2014
    Great Post Shannon! It hit close to home. Watching my parents deal with money had a lasting impact on me. My relationship with money has been one driven by fear. I started my blog to try to build a better relationship with money. By paying off my debt, building a solid emergency fund and spending on my priorities, I hope to move the needle from fear into Joy!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Monday, May 5th, 2014
      Many people's relationship is based on fear and many don't even realize how fear influences their decisions. It's great that you started a blog to build a healthy relationship with money. The PF community if very supportive and I have no doubt that you can move that dial from fear to joy! :) Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Kate.
  18. Monday, May 5th, 2014
    I like when you said that you'd rather make them a $50 mistake now than a $5000 later down the line - so very true, especially since $50 probably feels like $5000 at that age! I was just thinking about this with my own motivations with saving - for some reason, I was more motivated to pay down debt rather than now save (at least to the extent that I made repayments), and thought that perhaps I should think of saving as 'debt' to myself. In some sense I suppose it's fear based, but in another it kind of lights a fire under my bum. I'll have to think about this more and turn it into a more joyful process. Because I agree - fear is no way to live. Thanks for making me think today, Shannon!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Wednesday, May 7th, 2014
      Exactly! A $50 mistake feels huge to them now, but compared to mistakes we can make as adults, it's pretty small. :) Sometimes fear is what motivates us and there is nothing wrong with that. But I would definitely encourage you to think about saving for your big goals in a joyful manner, rather than out of fear, which has a different kind of energy that you may not want to put towards something that is intended to bring you joy. Always happy to help make you think! :)
  19. Tuesday, May 6th, 2014
    Great post Shannon. I know I still experience fear way more often than joy when it comes to money. Hopefully after my debts are paid off I can share more money and bless others which would be sharing the joy of money. Thanks for sharing this with us.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Wednesday, May 7th, 2014
      It definitely takes some time for that fear to dissipate, but as you continue to work towards your financial freedom and make good money decisions, your confidence will come back and you'll be able to spend joyfully again.
  20. Wednesday, May 7th, 2014
    Honestly, when I was young my parents didn't introduce me about money, as far as I remember my father always taught me how important education is. And now that I have a seven year old daughter, I slowly introduce her about money, I want to teach her but in a fun way.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Wednesday, May 7th, 2014
      I'm glad you plan to teach your daughter about money. It's definitely important to do so and it can be a lot of fun for both of you too. :)
  21. Thursday, May 8th, 2014
    I, too, choose joy! I know many people who choose fear when it comes to money. Not only is it completely unproductive to have those feelings, it also trains you to STOP thinking about your money decisions altogether which will most likely lead to a much more destructive financial situation.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Friday, May 9th, 2014
      Yea, Lisa! I'm glad you choose joy too! Fear is unproductive and really paralyzes people. It's too easy to slip into denial and put your head in the sand, pretending that problems don't exist. I understand why people do this, but dealing with the problems and moving forward is truly freeing. It's no fun when fear is your baseline.
  22. Friday, May 9th, 2014
    My parents were great savers, and they even spent chunks now and again on things they valued, but overall, money seemed to be all-encompassing and something that they never have enough of. Then they wonder why my sisters and I are so money-minded...

    My view on money is that I want enough of it to have options. I want options in my golden years and I want options now. So we save for our future with 2 Roth IRA's and some stocks, and we save some for shorter term options. We also spend on what we like right now. I argue that it is possible to stretch your money to do it all - live now, save for your future, and fit in a ton of fun stuff along the way. You can get there by figuring out what you can sacrifice and what you can't.

    For example, we don't mind having roommates, so a couple of our friends live with us. But if that isn't an option for someone, then what is? A hobby job, less eating out, no pets? It's just a game of give and take where you win when you find the right personal balance.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Friday, May 9th, 2014
      "I argue that it is possible to stretch your money to do it all – live now, save for your future, and fit in a ton of fun stuff along the way. You can get there by figuring out what you can sacrifice and what you can’t." I absolutely agree, Crystal. So many people think they can't enjoy life now - they save it for when they retire or get out of debt. And certainly if you are working towards financial freedom, you have limited funds available for the "extras" but that does not mean you can't enjoy life - you just have to be smarter about it. Like you said, it's about figuring out what matters most to YOU and working towards it.
Shannon Ryan SHANNON RYAN, CFP®
  • Meet Shannon

    "As a Certified Financial Planner, it is my passion to help individuals and families build a healthy relationship with money. I look forward to helping you raise financially confident kids.” - Shannon Ryan
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