The 4 money scripts
In my previous article I introduced the concept of flashpoints and money scripts and how they drive our economic behaviours. I also shared with you my personal flashpoints and the money script I have adopted over the years.
In this article I’d like to now introduce the 4 money scripts. “Money Script” is a term coined by Brad Klontz, a thought leader in the world of financial therapy. Basically, money scripts are your unconscious beliefs about money, often rooted in childhood, that affect your adult behaviour’s and perspectives.
Since learning about money scripts, I feel duty bound to question to help my clients (and non-clients) to uncover their own money script and, where necessary, to challenge these beliefs. That’s because not all our money scripts serve us well. In fact, most of them don’t.
That’s because these ‘scripts’ are usually only partial truths about money (and about those that have it, or don’t). Yet we adopt them as absolute truths in our minds, and so we feel justified in making the decisions we do, even if the facts say it doesn’t make sense. Another issue with money scripts is, because we believe them to be absolute truths, they are really hard to change.
This is why a lot of wealthy individuals find it hard to spend their money. Getting them to agree that some things in life are more valuable than their bank statement is easy, but then moving them to a point of action so they can enjoy them is much harder. It’s akin to removing the safety net from a trapeze artist. They know exactly how to perform their tricks with ease, but when you take away the net, they can freeze.
Another reason is that many people that have achieved financial success have done so because they are savers and have always lived below their means. Now, in their golden years, changing a 40-year habit can be a difficult and uncomfortable task.
So, let’s look at these 4 money scripts and how they impact our financial behaviours and outcomes: –
Money avoidance beliefs suggest a belief that money is bad. It says the following things: –
“Rich people are greedy”.
“People get rich by taking advantage of others”.
“Good people shouldn’t care about money”.
“Money corrupts people”.
Now, whilst you can always find examples of people that represent the above statements, it doesn’t mean that they are absolute truths.
Money Avoiders may also believe that they do not deserve money and/or feel guilty about the money they have. Many believe that that there is virtue in living with less money.
Studies have found that Money Avoidance can be associated with trying to not think about money, ignoring financial statements, overspending, enabling others financially, and having difficulty managing a budget. Occupational choice is related to Money Avoidance also. For example, individuals in the helping professions, such as mental health providers, tend to score higher than those in other professions, such as business or financial advising.
The money avoidance ‘script’ can often be found within groups of people that have lower incomes and lower net worth. This script is often found in young people too.
Money avoidance can lead to an entire host of self-destructive financial behaviours.
The challenge for people with money avoidance is that, if they start to climb the socio-economic ladder, they can often self-sabotage their financial future because they do not want to be one of the people that represent the above characteristics. They also don’t want to become marginalised and separated from their social circle if they have the same beliefs.
This can lead them to waste the money so they can step back into their financial comfort zone.
Money avoidance is not a script you want to carry if you want to build a secure financial future.
The Money Focused believe that the key to happiness and the solution to their problems is to have more money. At the same time, they believe that one can never have enough money, and find that the pursuit of money never quite satisfies them.
Money Focus beliefs say the following things: –
“Money is power”.
Money is freedom”.
“More money will make me happier”.
Things would be better if I had more money”.
Whilst studies have shown that money can make you happier, there is evidence that this joy has a limit. Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel prize winning economist, concluded a study in 2010 that a high income can improve the evaluation of life but not emotional well- being, In fact, his study showed that the money = happiness connection actually levels out at around £75,000 per year.
The concern with money focus is that this belief can put you on the money seeking treadmill in your desire to just acquire more ‘stuff’ that you think will make you happy, but ultimately won’t. Money focus can lead to high credit card debt and other money disorders. It’s what makes people spend large amounts of money on clothing that have a certain label, even though the quality and material is no better than other clothing without the trendy label. Marketers and success gurus have an easy time with people that have a money focus.
Money focus, just like money avoidance, tends to more common in young, single, less educated people. It’s also more common in the lower income and lower net worth socio-economic groups.
You may think I’m being a little harsh on the younger, less well-off groups here but the good news with money avoidance and money focus is that we do tend to change as we get older, and so these scripts can lose their grip as we mature.
Money Status seekers tend to link their self-worth with their net worth. They may prioritize outward displays of wealth, and as a result can be at risk of overspending. Many believe that if they live a virtuous life, the universe will take care of their financial needs. They may have grown up in lower socioeconomic environments and/or a household that prioritized the financial aspects of social standing. In its extreme, Money Status is associated with overspending, excessive gambling, being financially dependent on others, and hiding expenditures from one’s partner or spouse.
Money Status beliefs say the following things: –
“Your self-worth = your net worth”
“I won’t buy anything unless it’s the best”.
“If something is not considered the best it’s not worth buying”.
“If someone asked me how much money I make I will probably tell them I earn more than I actually do”.
What’s concerning about the money status belief is that, again, this is what the younger generation are being exposed to, especially on social media. They’re seeing people leaning on Lamborghini’s, holding stacks of cash, and being told ‘this is how rich people spend their money.’
Admittedly, there’s nothing wrong with spending your heard earned money on things you enjoy (within reason) but the truth is, most self-made millionaires that stay wealthy are quite frugal.
Flexing your financial assets to impress people is also a waste of time. When you see someone that has your dream car, your dream home, or maybe that dream outfit, you don’t actually ever think about them. You only think ‘I would like to own that’ so you just end up imagining yourself holding the steering wheel or diving into the swimming pool….and if you ended up achieving it to impress others guess what? They’re not thinking of you…they’re imagining themselves in your position….and so the empty cycle continues.
Again, research has shown that money status is more common in people that are young, single, and less educated. It’s also common in people that have lower income and have backgrounds of lower financial status. Money worship can also lead to similair money disorders that money avoidance and money focus develop.
The Money Vigilant are alert, watchful, and concerned about their financial health. They believe it’s important to save for the future. They believe in the connection between hard work and financial reward. Those with higher Money Vigilance scores have higher levels of financial health. The Money Vigilant are less likely to buy on credit. They also tend to be somewhat anxious about their financial futures, inspiring them to save. While they are likely to be discrete about their financial status with others, they are less likely to keep financial secrets from their partners.
Money Vigilance beliefs say the following things: –
“Money should be saved not spent”.
“If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it”.
“I would be a nervous wreck if I didn’t have money saved for an emergency”.
“If someone asked me how much money I make, I would probably tell them I earn less than I actually do”.
Money vigilance tends to be found in people that have a higher net worth, higher income, no revolving credit, and better financial health.
While Money Vigilance encourages saving and frugality, it can also lead to excessive wariness or anxiety that can prevent one from enjoying the benefits and sense of security that money can provide. These are the Ebenezer Scrooges of the world that struggle to enjoy their wealth. Often, they grew up not having much and so the belief that money = security means they carry on in life behaving that they still don’t have any money. Sadly, this can restrict their enjoyment in life. The idea of spending money can push them outside of their comfort zone and, the further we get out of our comfort zone, the more anxiety and discomfort we start to feel.
This is the area I find myself working in with many clients that have achieved financial success. My aim. as their adviser, is not just to make sure their investments are performing well, and their taxes are minimised. Its genuinely to help clients get the ‘best life they can with the money they’ve got’ – which is why this is the subtitle of the book I wrote in 2013, and I still live by these values now.
Your money is simply a tool to be used and exchanged for things that give more value to your life.
I want my clients to have more ‘can you remember when’ memories than they have ‘if only we would have done that’ memories.
Its helping them to understand what and who is really important to them so they can direct their resources towards these experiences. And the older we get, the more important this is. When you’re young and poor, you believe more money will solve all your problems. When you’re old and rich, you’d rather have more time!
So now we’ve covered the 4 money scripts, I’d like you to invite you to take your money script quiz to see which of the beliefs you have developed.
The quiz is free, and you will receive a downloadable report of your results together with a breakdown of which thought patterns may be working for you and against you. It will also contain some handy tips of how you can improve your money beliefs.
If, after taking the test, you feel you would like to discuss the results then I’m happy to have a brief chat to see if I can help you further.
All you need to do is email me at email@example.com and put in the subject line ‘can I have a money script quiz please’.….see you on the other side.