We love stories, telling them and listening to them. Stories help us to understand our world and to explain things. But unhelpful stories can also be obstacles in our path, especially when they are about money.
“You can only understand money if you have gone to university.”
“Women waste money; men know how to work with money.”
“Budgeting and saving are for rich people.”
These are just some of the money stories out there. Maybe one or two of them are your stories too, or maybe you have different ones. Whatever your story, the fact is that it determines how you live your money life. Once you understand that, you can change your story – and your financial wellness path.
What is a money story?
It is simply what you believe about money and how you think, feel and behave with it.
Money stories are formed when we are children and are a mixture of what the people in our lives told us about money and how they behaved with money, and the conclusions we drew from that. For example, Ayanda’s parents bought a house when she was a child, and they struggled to afford the instalments. The story Ayanda took away from that is that buying a house makes you poor. As a result, buying a house of her own was never something she wanted to do, until she understood her money story.
Money stories “tell” us how to work with our money, silently influencing our spending and savings habits all the time. Like Ayanda, many of us have money stories that don’t serve us; in fact, they cost us. That is why it is important to understand that story so that you can change it if you need to.
How to find out what your money story is
Ask yourself these 7 questions. Take time to really think about them and write the answers down.
- What was it like financially, growing up in your family? Eg, did your parents complain about never having enough, did they fight about money or did they never speak about it?
- What are 3 things you learned about money from your mother (or a female figure in your life)?
- What are 3 things you learned about money from your father (or a male figure in your life)?
- What is your earliest money memory? Did you have negative or positive emotions at the time, and what did you tell yourself about that event or experience?
- What emotions did your family associate with money?
- What do you believe about wealthy people?
- Did your family or someone close to you experience a significant financial event, such as losing a job or inheriting a lot of money? How did you and your family navigate this event? How do you feel when you think about that time?
The money story you have is not always your fault, but it is your responsibility to write a new story that sets you free from limiting beliefs.
How to write a new money story
A new money story means we need to unlearn what we learned as children. These activities can help you do it.
- Now that you can see how your childhood beliefs about money are influencing your money habits today, what are the new habits you want to adopt instead? What do you need to learn or change to live these habits?
- What do you want your new money story to look like? How do you want to feel about money? What new thoughts about money do you need to adopt and what old ones do you need to let go?
- Write down all the things in life you are financially grateful for. For example, you have a job that pays you a salary and you have a home to live in. A new story starts with gratitude rather than focusing on what you don’t have.
- Write down your new money story. Include your thoughts, feelings, dreams and ambitions about money, as well as 3 goals you want to achieve with your new money story.
- Share your story with someone you trust and who will support you on your new journey.