Yes, You Can Rewrite Your Money Messages!

For most of us, our money behaviors are hereditary – that is, we often model our own behaviors after one or both of our parents’ money behaviors. Or we were so affected by our parents’ negative money behaviors, we spend our lives trying to do the exact opposite.

When I was growing up, I rarely heard my parents talk about money, and they always reminded me that “it’s not polite to talk about religion, politics, or money.” But I still got a lot of (conflicting) money messages. My father’s favorite line was “money doesn’t grow on trees.” While my mother was quite frugal, her money message to her children was “when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.” Looking back over my life, both of these messages have shown up with me and my siblings.

Read the following and think about what it’s really saying:


No wonder money problems are one of the primary drivers of conflict in relationships! 

We need to learn about money – to be informed – and we need to learn to talk about money.

However, the conversation needs to shift from how to become richer, to what it means to live an enriching life. 

My own life experience has taught me that being true to, and at peace with, myself is where to start. Happiness in relationships and success in my vocation have come as a natural outcome.

The voice in your head that keeps repeating a negative money story can be very damaging and can keep you stuck in money behaviors that don’t help you move towards a more enriching life. Do any of the following money messages resonate with you?

1) My family is bad with money, so I am too. This goes directly to what we are discussing above.  Money behaviors can be changed. The first step is self-awareness of your own money behaviors, and what you would like to change.

2) I don’t like what investing represents – it seems like companies are out to just make money, and often at the expense of the environment or sound employee policies. 

I was speaking with a local business owner a few months ago who has a big focus on sustainability. He said he really struggles with this – knowing he needs to invest, but not feeling like he has good options. 

Investing in the stock market is, for most people, one of the best options available to meet their long-term financial goals.  However, it can be difficult to square one’s personal values with the investment options available, knowing that what we invest in can support or detract from what we believe to be important social and environmental issues

Fortunately, there is a movement afoot in the industry to offer investors more sustainable ways to invest. For example, tools are now available that allow us to filter all of our investments through an Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) lens, helping us make more intentional choices for investing client assets.

Taking steps to be intentional about how you invest your hard-earned money can be a big motivator for those who are interested in seeking to make the world a bit better.

3) I don’t understand the stock market, so it’s better to just not look at my investments. We hear this all the time. People tend to only look at their investments when the stock market is going down, if they ever look at all. 

One of our core objectives is to help investors understand the importance of being informed about: a) what they’re invested in; and b) what kind of strategies are being used to manage risk/manage losses in their accounts.

You don’t need to “know it all” – that’s the advisor’s job. But, we do want you to understand the potential impact of not applying risk mitigation strategies on your ability to meet your goals.

For example, we have clients in their late fifties whose previous advisors had them 100% invested in equities. They were already living on a fixed income and couldn’t have afforded to lose 50% of their assets. (By way of background, the S&P 500 Index was down over 50% from 10/2007 – 3/2009). Our first order of business was to implement a couple of risk mitigation strategies, with the goal of losing less the next time we enter a down market.

4) There is no way I will be able to pay for my child’s college tuition. As daunting as the cost of college may be, ignoring this goal until the last minute won’t do you any favors. A good approach is to start early, not only in saving but also discussing the goals at hand – both with your child about what path is best for them, and with your partner about how much of the financial burden you want to cover.

Funding a 529 plan as soon as your child is born will go a long way in helping defray the cost of college. Additionally, there are various options and resources that can help, including financial aid, grants, and student loans. Check with your employer to see if they have any scholarship money available for children of employees, or ask family for contributions to your child’s 529 in lieu of gifts at high school graduation time.

5) I’ll always be in debt. Our culture is one of quantity – that “more is better” – as opposed to focusing on quality. This has resulted in bigger homes (accompanied by bigger mortgages) and higher credit card balances. Take a moment to analyze your credit card statement – every purchase will tell you what you value. 

There are strategies for getting out of debt, such as setting up automatic payments on your credit cards, and using only one credit card rather than multiple cards. It’s good motivation to think about how any money you use to pay down high-interest debt is like getting an automatic return on your money by not having to pay interest (and often, interest on the interest).

6) Retirement is too far away to think about. Most people only begin to think about retirement around the age of 40. If you start as early as possible, even if it’s only saving $50 per paycheck, you can make major headway with the power of compounding – making money on your money.

There are simple strategies for building your retirement assets, such as setting up an automatic contribution to a retirement plan – and if your company offers a match, at least contribute up to the match.

If you said “that’s me” for any of the above, you are not alone. As financial planners and investment managers, we are in a unique position of seeing these money messages in action on a daily basis – and hopefully supporting our clients in being both more intentional and more informed about their life and money choices.

Be intentional. Be informed.