Let’s get REAL. Money is emotional. The decisions you make right now around money are driven in part by emotional needs, whether you realize it or not. I see it every day with my clients as I teach them to let their goals guide their decisions, rather than let their emotions fuel their need to compete, keep up or feel good about themselves.
However, my greatest lessons around emotions and money come from someone I love and care about very deeply — my Mother. Today, I am going to share some of those experiences with you. Please know that I am not doing this without my Mom’s knowledge. She not only fully approved of my sharing her story with my readers but encouraged me to do so, in hopes that it would help others understand their emotional responses to money. While her experience is uniquely her own, it is also a story many of you may be familiar with yourself.
My Mom is smart, brilliant, in fact, as she tests out at genius levels. She worked her whole life in top level positions with major companies. She is beautiful and kind. She also had a father who was not kind to her, belittled her feelings and never loved her the way she needed him to love her. So what does this have to do with money? Everything.
My parents were divorced when I was eight years old. My mother had several relationships and subsequent marriages afterwards. She told me that she was “looking for a man to love her” since she had such a large hole in her heart from her father. She ended up in several marriages that not only broke her heart but also her piggy bank.
Source: Analysis of U.S. Census data by Wider Opportunities for Women
Once in a relationship, she would give away her financial power. She didn’t understand sound financial principles and felt she could “earn” love by entrusting her husband to manage her hard-earned money and take care of her. Unfortunately, the opposite happened. Her trust was destroyed by gambling problems and huge credit card debt.
Source: Financial Behavior & Attitudes: Marriage and Money Stats, Financial Infidelity, Financial Planning
It is hard as a daughter and a financial advisor to stand by and witness this, feeling powerless to stop this vicious cycle. My Mom commanded top salaries and certainly had it within her means to create financial freedom for herself, yet it remained outside her grasp. Her emotions and wounds from her childhood deeply affected how she handled money decisions and kept her from the life she deserved.
When my Mom “woke up” to the patterns she had created in her life, she was terrified. She worried about how she would make it financially and was nervous to discuss it. She judged herself so harshly that she was afraid to even come to me for help and guidance.
It has been a long road, but my Mom eventually trusted me with the whole ugly truth. More importantly, she was honest with herself about why she did not take responsibility for herself financially. I started to work with her to educate her on how to handle her own money and make good decisions. I will never forget the day she looked at me and said “I get it! It is not that hard.” We laughed together and I knew my Mom was going to be okay.
We talk every week and many of our conversations focus on money and emotional responses to it. I am so proud of what my Mom has accomplished. She now makes good money decisions and owns her financial life. My mom is REAL; she acknowledges her shortcomings and worked so hard to break negative patterns in her life. Together, hand in hand, we have walked through some dark days and emerged stronger. I have learned so much from her willingness to be vulnerable with me.
To honor the beautiful, strong women of our past and future in celebration of Women’s History Month, I’m going to get Financially Real with women. From our emotional responses to past experiences to gender expectations, women of all ages too often give away their financial power, much to their (and their partner’s) detriment. We’ll take a closer look at some common mistakes women make with their money and steps they can take to own their financial lives.
And men — don’t tune out. You have mothers, sisters, wives and daughters who need this information too. Truth be told, we all need this information because every one of us — male or female — need to own our financial lives.
A final note on my Mom — last year she married the love of her life. He loves her dearly and sees her for the beautiful person she is. They are building a beautiful life together on equal terms.
What drives your emotions around money? Are these emotions helping you achieve what is most important to you or pulling you further away from your dreams?
Our bad money decisions have stemmed from actions we took when we were emotional. We simply can't make important money decisions when we are in pain, sad, depressed, feeling insecure or too excited. It's a surer bet the decision will be a poor one when made under those conditions.