For many people, when the pandemic and shelter in place dramatically changed our personal and professional lives, their general anxieties about financial security shot to the sky. As someone who has “bag lady syndrome,” I was surprised that I didn’t crawl under my bed and assume a fetal position. The hypothetical scenario of the world coming to an end was something I imagined for years. But I didn’t hide, and I will circle back to why in a few paragraphs.
The reality is that no one can predict when the economy will rebound, and very few, if any, are suggesting anytime soon. For now, people will, understandably so, continue to be worried about their financial future.
The subject of money and anxiety is so topical that the New York Times writer, Paul Sullivan, recently wrote about people turning to financial therapists for help. He states, “financial therapists have advanced degrees in psychology or clinical social work.” He neglected to mention the few of us who, with a financial services background, empathic listening skills, and practical experience, have already unearthed the value of blending the technical and the human side of money — that doing so is an act of financial therapy in itself.
The human side of money is a relevant topic every single day.
My work with clients to identify their emotional relationship as it relates to their money and their future has confirmed my perspective that wealth is profoundly personal and carries a complex set of feelings and thoughts. By working together to uncover the client’s money stories, I can guide my clients, define objectives, navigate challenges, set goals, and help them to feel better about their financial future. For those clients in personal relationships, through learning about their own and each other’s money narratives, communications are enhanced as the recognition of differences and similarities come to light. This is especially true now, as we live in such a heightened state of vulnerability, unknown, and concern.
The participants in “Your Money Story” workshops and seminars that I conduct review their backgrounds with the lens focused on implicit and explicit messages from childhood to adulthood. Moving from past to present, the revelations of how those earlier messages manifest into beliefs, thoughts, and actions surface. With that new-found information, each cohort member can reframe their money attitudes and perceptions to create a plan that resonates with who they are.
As promised, the big reveal as to why I am still standing versus curled up under a rock is because I know my money story. I can tell you firsthand that it’s a liberating process to have gone through. I am aware of why I have bag lady syndrome because of the messages I received as a child of a refugee father, a depression-era mother, and of their failed marriage, which dramatically changed my mother’s financial situation. I appreciate that the need to understand and protect my financial resources caused me to be very risk-aware — aware being the operative word — which, in turn, caused me to ask many questions for every investment my ex-husband wanted to make. I do admit I am curious about almost everything and frequently want more information.
Knowing my money story lowered the influence my bag lady syndrome has in my life; she is now only a member of my internal committee, not the chairperson. My recognition of my triggers and fears moved me to calmly call my financial advisor and ask for a cash reserve with a longer time horizon. This move enabled me to continue to focus on what is important to me; acts of service, working with clients, being a loving partner, friend, and caretaker. This mind shift was such a dramatic departure from what she and I expected from me, that I joked with her that my measured response might have been too shocking for her. Read my money story here.
“The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.” – Muriel Rukeyser
Our money story is an emotional expression. We all have a money story that influences our beliefs and the choices we make. What we can’t recognize, we can’t change. Now is an ideal time to put your money story into perspective, to identify what is important to you as it relates to your assets, and to put your money story to work for you. It is essential that you know it to have the connectivity between your vision, values, and money.