Money Matters: Why is Money an Emotionally Charged Topic?

    Michelle Cornish May 3, 2021

    Today’s post is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I find it interesting that, like many taboo topics, discussions about money can get heated rather quickly. The topic of money can be very emotionally charged.

    When explaining money to my kids, I tell them it’s just paper and metal we exchange for the things we need and want. People may think my description of money is disrespectful and that we need to treat money as the precious commodity it is. For me, this is where the problems start.

    After spending far too much time thinking about money, I wanted to get to the heart of the matter: Why did thinking or talking about money make me feel so emotional? And when I say emotional, I don’t mean I was overwhelmed with happiness. I felt a range of things, but none of them were happy: anger, sadness, despair.

    Given that I know I’m not the only person to feel this way, I started researching why money makes me feel like this, so I could turn those feelings around. To my great shock, there wasn’t a lot of information about our emotional connection to money. Perhaps I’m the only one that feels this way, or maybe I was entering the wrong key terms into the search bar, but I refused to let the subject drop.

    As much as I wanted to bring you a well-researched article with helpful tips for breaking the emotional connection to money, I really didn’t find much. What you’ll find below are my musings, based on my experiences over the years. I hope they help you on your journey with your personal finances.

    Impressions About Money Start Early 

    Many things in life start when we’re very young, and often we don’t know where our first impressions about money came from. More often than not, it’s from what we experience while we’re kids. If you saw your parents fight about money every day, you’ve likely associated money with stress and anger, and you’re not going to want to talk about money with your own partner.

    The things people say to you when you’re young usually stick around for a long time. I remember when I was in high school, first investigating what I might like to do with my life when someone told me, “You’ll never make any money doing that.” From then on, I based every career decision on whether I thought I could make money. It wasn’t until after I turned forty I started basing my career decisions on how much enjoyment they would bring me.

    No matter what your current impressions about money are, you can always change them. You’ll find more information on that in the affirmation and journaling sections below.

    Money is Highly Valued in Our Society

    Another thing that stuck with me from high school was the idea that I could only make a lot of money if I went to university and got a degree. All of my friends knew exactly what they wanted to do with their life and where they wanted to go to school. I had no clue.

    Since I’m not in high school anymore and my kids are still in elementary school, I’m not sure if there is still this same kind of pressure to go to university after high school, choose a career right away, and start making money. I hope not. The world has changed so much even in the last year. There are many different paths available for supporting yourself financially these days. 

    Even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, working from home was becoming more and more popular. Entrepreneurship has always been a viable option to make a living, but when I was young, it wasn’t something that was encouraged by my teachers or my parents. This is slowly changing too, with more and more people starting their own businesses.

    Money Comes with Many Labels 

    Most things in life come with labels. That’s how we make sense of the world. Sometimes, though, labels don’t serve us. When it comes to money, the problem I see with labels is naming certain financial behaviors as good or bad. 

    For example, most of the advice around retirement is that you should save for retirement when you’re young. This is considered a good thing. If you don’t have savings when it comes time to retire, you’re labelled as bad at managing your personal finances.

    Personal finance gurus will tell you not to carry a credit card balance. If you do carry a balance, this tends to get labelled as another bad financial decision. The problem with labelling behavior as good or bad when it comes to money is that if you use these labels often enough, you will start to view yourself as a good or bad person. 

    This just isn’t fair to yourself.

    Would you scold a child for emptying their piggy bank to buy themselves a treat without leaving some money behind for a rainy day? Granted, as adults, it’s not that we haven’t saved for retirement because we’ve been spoiling ourselves, and more likely that we’ve been too busy trying to make ends meet.  

    Affirmations 

    Don’t get me wrong. Emotions are good. They help you process things that happen in life. But when they interfere with your prosperity, it’s time to do some work. Once you recognize the negative emotions you’ve attached to money, you can start changing your outlook.

    Here are some affirmations to help you get started.

    • Money is a tool to help me on my journey.
    • My emotions bring me great self-awareness.
    • I master my emotions around money by changing my thoughts.

    These affirmations work best when said often. If you find yourself feeling bad about a money-related issue, try reciting an affirmation to yourself then watch how it will turn your thoughts around.

    Journal Prompts

    What emotions come up for you when you think about money or your personal financial situation?

    The aim of this prompt is to get you thinking about your feelings around money without judging yourself. It’s okay to feel whatever you feel. Remember, your journal is a safe place, so write without editing yourself.  

    Do you like the way you feel when you think about money?

    This journal prompt is where you judge your feelings toward money. If money makes you feel good, that’s great, but if it doesn’t, it’s time to turn your thoughts around. Journaling about your feelings is a great way to get them out of your head so you can think more clearly.

    Why does money make you emotional?

    Sometimes the why is the most difficult question to answer. If you’re not sure, just write the first thing that comes to mind. For impressions that were created when we were young, it can be hard to remember exactly what got us thinking in a certain way.

    When you try to answer this question, you might only have an inkling of an answer, and that’s okay. You might be surprised at what you discover as you continue to write in your journal.

    Thinking or talking about money doesn’t have to be emotionally charged. You can turn your thoughts around and use affirmations to achieve your goals. Money is simply another tool on your journey through life. How you choose to use that tool is up to you.

    *****

    From Mari:

    Please comment below on how this Money Matters column has helped you.

    Also,  leave your suggestions for future topics you'd like to see discussed.

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    Author bio: Michelle Cornish is the author of Prosperity Planner: Manage Your Personal Finances and Get Out of Debt, an undated planner where she shares more about her personal financial journey and her TREE Method for keeping her personal finances in check. 


     

     

     

     

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