I’ve recently been reading Bari Tessler’s book, ‘The Art of Money: A life-changing guide to financial happiness’. I find Tessler’s approach to finance fascinating, as she is not a financial advisor, but a psychologist. So instead of focusing on the actual physical components of learning to earn, save, borrow and spend money effectively, she focuses on the effects our psychological relationship and attitude with money has on our financial success. She calls this your ‘Money story’.
Having always been fascinated with how our psychological condition effects our every day life, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this book and the things I’ve been learning about myself along the way. At the end of each chapter, there is an exercise based on the topic of that chapter, the basic formula of many self-improvement books. One of these exercises is the ‘Money Story Visualization’. This is a guided self-analysis of what your relationship with money is like; first in the present, then in the past. This allows you to identify patterns of behaviour towards money and your financial situation, so that you can become present in your relationship with money and take steps towards improving and maturing that relationship to encourage financial success.
Tessler stresses the individual nature of each person’s money story, and their definition of financial success. For some people, financial success is luxurious wealth, while for others it may be reaching a savings goal or finally being debt free. I feel that this exercise is extremely useful, especially for young adults like myself whose ‘grown-up’ money story is only just beginning. Therefore, I thought it might be useful to share my responses to her visualisation exercise, to show how our past experiences with money, even on a subconscious level, can affect our relationship with money. I have been working on my relationship with money and my savings goals for some time before reading this book. And many of the things I’ve mentioned I have previously recognized and addressed. So, in my analysis section, I have only mentioned the realizations that are new to me. If you want to know more about the money goals Adam and I have set for ourselves, read here.
Bari Tessler’s ‘Money Story Visualisation’
I have written my responses for this blog post and because my thoughts are my coherent when written down. However, it’s not mandatory to write them down. You could simply visualize and remember.
Step 1: Describe your current relationship with money. E.g. How do you feel about earning, spending, saving, giving, borrowing, loaning and receiving money? How do these activities make you feel? Are there any beliefs or patterns attached to how you feel about these areas of money?
My response: At times, I find it difficult to reconcile my need to earn money with my desire to study and move forward with my life. There are nice things that I want now that I know I could have if I worked more. If Adam worked more. But I also know that without sacrificing the hours that we do now to study (Adam is studying to be a teacher), that our earning potential is limited. That our financial needs no may be met, but our future ones certainly wouldn’t. And my need to save money sometimes feels undermined by my want to spend it.
Those things aside, I feel that because I’m aware of my weaknesses and avoid temptation as best I can, my relationship with money is better off. I also feel that the open dialogue Adam and I have around money, and our ability to discuss it without arguing is a sign that we are in a good place in our present money relationship.
Step 2: Visualize your money past. Picture your childhood, your home and your surroundings. What did you learn about money here? What beliefs did you receive? Do you recall anyone who had more, or less, money than you? How did that make you feel? What were your parents respective money roles? What did this teach you about money; from things they said and things they unconsciously said through their actions. Have you echoed those roles or rebelled against them? Did you receive money messages from your religion, culture or lineage?
My response: I remember being relatively wealthy around the time I was in early primary school. Our house was nicely renovated, and I had a beautiful bedroom with matching furniture. We had nice cars and lots of toys. My friends also had nice things, and I never remember feeling I had things other kids did or didn’t.
When we moved away from Brisbane into a rural area, things become less clear. Our new house wasn’t ready yet and we lived with my Grandmother, and as I grew I remember noticing more about my new friends. Most of them came from generational farming families. I don’t think they had less money than my parents, they were simply more frugal. However, at the time, I didn’t really wonder. I didn’t really think about money at all really, it had just always been there.
When I left school was when I really started to notice something was up. One of my friends had enough money saved up at 17 to buy a decent second had car without borrowing money. My parents had given me a newer car and I was expected to pay the expensive loan repayments, on a loan with an ambiguous end date. I didn’t know saving to buy a second-hand car had ever been an option; my parents had only ever had brand new cars in my memory. I began to understand that much of the money my parents ‘had’, was borrowed.
Step 3: Connect the dots between past and present. How are you keeping the past alive in your current relationship with money? Have you repeated the past, rebelled against it, or struck out on you own?
My response: I can see looking back, that each time I have come close to some form of financial success, such as reaching a savings goal, I have self-sabotaged in some way. Whether by spending the money or making mistakes that cost me money. And the goal that was almost in reach had suddenly slipped away.
I have unconsciously been repeating that pattern now even with Adam, convincing myself and him that we ‘need’ things that require us to dip into our savings to buy. However, I have rebelled against my parents’ tendency to live off credit. And now that I see what I’m doing, I’m sure Adam and I will build a better financial future together.
Would you like to share your responses? Want to talk more about how this is useful (or not useful!) to you? Leave me a comment or message my Facebook! I love to hear from you!