Karen Tang, CFP®: Certified Financial Planner in Singapore

Let’s Talk About Your Money Mindset – It Matters More Than You Think!

Let's Talk About Your Money Mindset

What is your personal relationship with money like? 

Your immediate response would probably be “Do I have a relationship with money?” 

Well, you are not the only one that reacted this way when I asked my clients and coachees. This is not a trick question. This is probably a question that you had never been asked before or even encountered in your adult working life. Well, I must confess that though I had worked in a global bank for close to 10 years before becoming a financial advisor, I had never heard of this term before. 

Can we actually have a relationship with something that is inanimate? Why even think of money forming a relationship with us? Why is it important to improve our relationship with money? 

Like all relationships in life, your relationship with your money is not easy or perfect. Money, whether we love it, hate it, or are indifferent to it, plays a significant role in our lives. It influences our decisions, our opportunities, and even our sense of security and happiness. 

Yet, many of us carry around deeply ingrained money scripts. But all is not lost – with awareness, ongoing effort and commitment, you can strengthen your bond with money. You can improve your financial well-being, achieve your money goals and build a strong future.

Well, what are money scripts?

Money scripts are unconscious beliefs and attitudes about money that individuals develop over time, often influenced by their upbringing, experiences, and cultural context. These scripts shape how people perceive and interact with money, influencing their financial decisions and ultimately, the financial outcomes.

These beliefs, whether positive or negative, can significantly impact an individual’s financial well-being. An example of a positive money script is the belief in the importance of saving diligently for the future. On the other hand, a negative money script can be seen when a person equates self-worth with money or possessions. 

Understanding one’s money scripts is, therefore, crucial for improving financial literacy and making more informed financial choices.

Understanding money scripts

Money scripts are often formed in the childhood years, influenced by our family’s attitudes towards money, cultural norms, and personal experiences. They manifest in various forms, yet they typically align with four fundamental categories:

Money Avoidance

One of the most misquoted verses in the Bible says that “the love of money is the root of all evil.” People who fall into the Money Avoidance category would probably agree with the more popular and also incorrect version of this verse: “Money is the root of all evil.”
Common beliefs in this category include viewing wealthy individuals as inherently greedy and equating poverty with purity. Additionally, they might prioritise giving over receiving.

Money Worship

As you might have guessed, Money Worship is the opposite of Money Avoidance. People in this category pursue money as a stabilising force in their lives, believing it will fill the void or provide the security they need. This often leads to overspending in material possessions. They hold on to the mistaken belief that more stuff equals more happiness.
Common beliefs in this category include “money is power”, “money is freedom” and “If I just buy X, I will finally be happy.”

Money Status

Whereas someone in the Money Worship category is using money as a way of “self-medicating,” those in the Money Status category directly connect their own sense of self-worth to their net worth. They believe that having more stuff than someone else makes them better. They measure their value against others based on their accumulation of wealth and possessions.

Common beliefs in this category include “If I don’t buy the latest gadgets, I’ll be left behind.” and “Wealthy people are happier.”.

Money Vigilance

This last category is the healthiest of the four, although it can also be taken to an extreme. Basically, people in the Money Vigilance category frequently evaluate their own spending and saving to ensure they are making wise decisions. Sounds good, right? But we all know that this person will deny himself or herself life’s pleasures and experiences due to an overemphasis on frugality and saving. They prioritise financial prudence, shunning credit purchases and finding greater satisfaction in saving than spending.

Common beliefs in this category include “Never pay for anything with credit.” and “Nothing I buy will ever feel as good as saving my money will.”.

Hacking money mindsets

Transforming your relationship with money starts with identifying and challenging these ingrained scripts. Here’s how to begin:

  1. Awareness: Start by reflecting on your beliefs about money. What messages did you receive about finances growing up? How do these beliefs impact your financial decisions now?
  2. Question Assumptions: Challenge the validity of your money scripts. Are they based on facts or fears? Replace limiting beliefs with empowering ones. For instance, replace “I’ll never be good with money” with “I’m capable of learning and improving my financial skills.”
  3. Mindfulness: Practise being present with your finances. Pay attention to your spending habits, emotions around money, and the impact of financial decisions on your life goals.
  4. Financial Education: Invest time in learning about personal finance. Understand budgeting, investing, debt management, and other essential concepts to make informed decisions.

Improving money management

Once you have hacked your money mindset, focus on practical strategies to improve money management:

  1. Budgeting: Create a realistic budget that aligns with your financial goals and values. Track your expenses and adjust your budget as needed.
  2. Saving and Investing: Prioritise saving for emergencies, retirement, and future goals. Start small if necessary and gradually increase your savings rate. Consider automating your savings and investments to stay consistent.
  3. Debt Management: Develop a plan to pay off high-interest debt systematically. Explore consolidation or refinancing options to lower interest rates.
  4. Seek Support: Don’t hesitate to seek professional help if needed. Financial advisors, counsellors, or support groups can provide guidance and accountability on your financial journey.

Women and the unique challenges they face

Women often face unique challenges when it comes to money scripts. Societal norms and expectations may influence women to adopt money scripts that prioritise caretaking roles over financial independence. 

Additionally, gender pay gaps and career interruptions, such as taking time off for caregiving responsibilities, can contribute to feelings of financial insecurity and dependence. Cultural attitudes toward women and money may also shape their beliefs about worthiness and capability in financial matters. Overcoming these challenges requires awareness of ingrained beliefs, advocating for equal opportunities, and empowering women to take control of their financial futures through education and support.

Sharing a real life example

Ms. A, a professional working in the healthcare field, had always been taught that managing finances was primarily the responsibility of men. Growing up, she observed her father taking the lead on financial decisions while her mother played a supporting role, a minor one at that. 

Despite excelling in her career, Ms. A struggled with feelings of inadequacy and anxiety when it came to managing her own finances. She often deferred important financial decisions to her husband, feeling unsure and uncomfortable discussing money matters. 

Then one day, after a gathering with her girlfriends who are successful individuals and financially independent as well, Ms. A decided to take the ‘radical’ step to get out of the situation. She found me through my website and we connected.  

At the first coaching session, Ms. A felt almost too embarrassed to describe her relationship with money. She knew she was exposing her vulnerability and weaknesses but at the same time, she needed professional guidance. In my conversations with women, I also learned that it is not uncommon that husbands tend to dismiss the opinions of their wives’ when it comes to financial matters. You would think that a highly educated person should be knowledgeable and in control of her personal finances but this is not always the case, as I realise in my 18 years of practice. 

After a series of coaching sessions with me, Ms. A began to confront her beliefs about women and money. She became interested in improving her level of financial literacy and started to read up on the subject. I am glad I was able to create a step-by-step action plan for her, and handhold her throughout this ‘discovery’ journey. 

She was committed to change and gradually took more control over her finances. Her husband was pleasantly surprised by her transformation. I am happy that he is supportive because money conversations with one’s spouse can often end up negatively.

I have many more stories that I wish I could share with you in this article. They have inspired me to keep on helping and empowering women to take charge of their finances.

Living a richer, more fulfilled life

Ultimately, the goal of improving your relationship with money is to enhance your overall quality of life. Here are some ways to live more abundantly:

  1. Focus on Values: Align your spending with what brings you joy and fulfilment. Invest in experiences, relationships, and activities that enrich your life rather than material possessions.
  2. Practice Gratitude: Cultivate gratitude for what you have, rather than focusing on what you lack. Appreciate the abundance in your life, whether it is love, health, or simple pleasures.
  3. Give Back: Generosity can bring immense satisfaction and purpose. Consider donating to causes you care about or volunteering your time and skills to make a positive impact in your community.
  4. Embrace Balance: Strive for a balanced approach to money. Avoid extremes of overspending or excessive frugality. Find a middle ground that allows you to enjoy life while also planning for the future.

By hacking your money scripts, improving money management skills, and embracing a holistic approach to wealth, you can cultivate a healthier and more fulfilling relationship with money, one that supports your goals and enhances your overall well-being.

If you need support in your financial planning journey, feel free to connect with me at +65 62528500 or complete this consultation form.

To your financial best!

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