Today, women have more money—some have much more—and though there is no denying that we are undergoing an important shift in real time in many of the workplaces across the country, marching to the drumbeat of Time’s Up and #MeToo, many of us are finally also fighting for and sometimes achieving the power to go along with it.
Given women’s relatively recent surge in income, it is imperative we remain in touch with the influence our financial standing can have on us. In the excerpt below from Chapter 2, Your Money Story (and How It Affects You to This Day), I touch on the unique relationship we have with money and how to ensure that your deeply held beliefs do not dictate your financial destiny.
Yes, You Have a Money Story
When you consider the powerful influences over your financial life—if you’ve ever done that before now— maybe you tick off the books you read, television shows you watched, college you attended, neighborhood you grew up in. Those are all real and potentially made an impact on you. But the most powerful force in your financial life to this day is quite possibly something you’ve never really considered, something about which you’re not really quite aware.
Some experts call it your money story. Others call it your money script. Essentially, it’s the impact your childhood had on your core memories of money.
But your money story does not comprise the things your parents or the people who raised you tried to teach you. Your money story is not the save/spend/give jars your well- intentioned parents lined up on your dresser when you were seven and they decided to teach you fiscal responsibility. It’s not the first trip to the bank, where you met the teller and got a Dum Dum lollipop (butterscotch, please). It’s not even the grandparent who introduced you to the stock market by suggesting that you follow the ups and downs of Walmart together. Those are lessons. They are memories. They are tales you might tell—and even attempt to repeat—with your own kids.
Your money story starts earlier, around age 3 or 4. It crept into you as you watched, listened, absorbed. Every day. It was the fact that there was, or wasn’t, tension in the air on payday, at holidays, at bonus time. In the looks your parents shot each other when one wasn’t pleased with the way the other handled something. In the shingles that were painted the minute they started to show signs of wear, or the ones that chipped away until neighbors started to whisper. A child’s first view of how something is handled typically becomes, in their minds, the way something should be handled. (Although sometimes it flips and becomes the way something should not be handled, but we’ll get to that in a moment.)
Think about your view of romantic relationships, suggests Ryan McPherson, a financial planner. Whatever it is has absolutely everything to do with the type of marriage or relationship you experienced your parents having when you were a young child. It’s the same with money. “When you’re young, you think your parents know everything, so the way they handle or mishandle money is tremendously impactful on how you believe money should be handled,” he says. But it’s not just their handling of it, it’s how you experience their handling of it. But your story has as much—if not more—to do with you than it does with the people who raised you. Children believe the universe revolves around them and that everything happens because of something they did or thought or said. Think about all those children of divorce who were sure that it happened because they misbehaved. The result is that two children who grew up in the same environment can wind up with wildly different scripts.
Financial advisor Ellen Rogin recalls giving a workshop where a mother attended with two daughters. Rogin asked the participants to share what their earliest memories with money were, and one daughter said: “My mom always spent money we didn’t have and I knew that and now I’m a really good saver.” But the other followed up with: “We never worried about money then, so I don’t worry about it now.” Same family. Different take.
But no matter what your environment was like, chances are pretty good that your parents didn’t talk much about money on a regular basis. That made what you witnessed (or thought you witnessed) your truth even if it wasn’t quite your reality.
And for peeks at other financial lives to give you perspective? There likely weren’t many—if there were any at all. As Brad Klontz, a financial therapist, points out: “You can go to a friend’s house and watch how their parents interact as a couple. But you really can’t get a sense of how these people are managing money or what their relationship with money is like.” Why? Because chances are they weren’t talking about it in front of their own kids—so they certainly weren’t going to put it on display in front of you. That made it particularly hard to fact- check your beliefs in real time.
What did you do with this all- important story once you’d built it? You locked it away in a place deep inside you and built your entire relationship with money around it—without giving it the opportunity to be questioned, or challenged, or explored. It never saw the light of day. You may not even have been aware of it.
Excerpted from the book Women With Money by Jean Chatzky. Copyright © 2019 by Jean Chatzky. Reprinted with permission of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.
"Women With Money" Will Be Available Nationwide, Tuesday, March 26
If you enjoyed the excerpt above, you might like to read the entire book. "Women With Money" will be available nationwide on Tuesday, March 26.
The opinions and forecasts expressed are those of the author and individuals quoted and should not be construed as a recommendation or as complete.