Not Talking About Money: Why It’s Dangerous to Neglect the Financial Sector of Your Family

Money. This is a difficult subject for a lot of folks. I grew up in a family where it wasn’t just improper to talk about money, it was considered a personal insult to ask questions about the subject (which was the case with most topics really). When I was young, money was something that was scarce. Not to be discussed. This lead directly to me having absolutely no understanding of how money worked. This seems crazy to me now, considering my father worked dealing directly with currency. Also the amount of time my mother spent shopping, I was surrounded by all degrees of it. Water, water everywhere…

The Problem With Money Being Taboo

I recently read this article, sent to me by the only friend I talk to about finances. It’s about, as the article describes it, the “hollow middle-class” and it really hit home. They spoke about how both the rich and poor talk about money often. Though the middle class seldom breach the subject. This is true from my experience and something that left me in the dark when it came to making major financial decisions in my life.

How I’d be making a living was probably the most important decision never talked about. But also how to negotiate salary, ask for raises, ask for benefits, know my monetary value… The list goes on. All I knew was that I needed to work hard, make sacrifices and to just be thankful that someone was giving me money. Or that I had a job at all.

Not Knowing What Your Time is Worth

There was a sense of not having any value, or inherent worth in my family, regardless of how hard we worked or how well we did our jobs. No matter what we did, it was never enough. And I believe this is what was holding us back from discussing how we should be compensated for our work. If we didn’t find value in ourselves, why would someone else find it in us.

So it was with this mindset that I entered the workforce. And subsequently earned far below my capacity. I never thought of myself as having a career because careers were something that were had by responsible adults. And for all intents and purposes, I still very much felt like a child. Being thrust into the workplace under prepared and scared. Of not only not knowing what to do, but also of asking any questions. Mostly for fear of seeming like I didn’t belong and wasn’t the responsible adult I was pretending to be.

Not Having Guidance Managing my Worth

There were few mentors along the way. And I’m not sure I would have recognized them through the fear, had they presented themselves. Which also raises the question, if you’re not talking about money at home, and you’re too scared to ask questions about the subject at work, from whom or where are you supposed to learn this skill? I was raised in a world before Google. So the realm of knowledge laid squarely in the pages of books or with people who had experience. There are those who succeed even in the face of this type of adversity. But they are usually celebrated for being the exception not the majority.

So how do we find out how to talk about the value of our time and find guidance? We spend so much of our time at work, that if we’re scared to talk about compensation, or scared to take time off for fear of seeming not dedicated or replaceable, this can make for a miserable work experience. Not to mention breed a sense of resentment for feeling under appreciated.

Finding Guidance

One place I started, was with Dave Ramsey’s podcast. Dave helps people to get out of debt. Something I had a lot of and still do. With thinking my self worth was contingent on how high my credit score was and taking out student loans at the height of the lending and tuition crisis, I racked up a lot of debt. 115k to be exact.

Without any guidance, it was and is so easy to get caught up in the spending mindset. And before you know what you’ve done, you have eight open lines of credit and are up to your eyes in debt. Dave was a good resource. Not only for his pragmatic advice on money issues, but also for the sizable community he’s created. With three hours a day, and a huge library of past shows and his large community on social media, it’s easy to feel that support and get some sound advice too.

Finding Support From Friends

Finding people to talk to about money is also so important. As I said above, I have one friend who I speak with about my finances often and at all. If it wasn’t for him, I would have zero real life support. His wife works for a small investment firm. Just hearing about his path about retirement and savings has been a huge resource for me on my path. Once I realized that money is a tool, something we use to accomplish things like retirement or a better quality of life, I was then able to demystify it as something relegated to famous or hip-hop artists and start utilize it in my own life.

Not Being Defined by Our Wealth

And you are not defined by your wealth just as a carpenter or gardener aren’t defined by the tools they use. But rather the enjoyment from the buildings they build or gardens they tend to. As I said above, money is a tool and only a tool. It carries no other inherent power to define us than the power we give it.

While I was working on increasing my credit score, I really couldn’t think of another use for money but to spend it. Accruing interest, paying it back and do it all over again was the norm. It never even crossed my mind that I should have an emergency fund or save for retirement! I was living paycheck to paycheck. Completely oblivious to how close I was to economic ruin. But with no one to give me any guidance, how was I expected to know or act differently? The short answer is, I just didn’t know any better. Lessons usually taught by the familial unit.

The Places We Should be Learning Money Skills

There is merit to the idea that basic money skills should be taught in school. Asides from the semester course they may or may not still teach in home economics on how to balance a checkbook. And schools are a great place to do this. Since children have to go and it’s the staging place for the plans we make for living the rest of our lives.

But if you were someone like me, who was already checked out of school due to lack of support at home, the schools would be better off with a platoon of social workers, poised to catch those children from falling through the cracks and caring for those neglected. An updated curriculum with focus on basic life skills would be a great avenue to explore. Making sure the kids are safe and set up to succeed should be first priority.

Schools and Supporting Those With a Lack Of Support at Home

But also, that’s when it’s important to teach these life skills. When we’re still young and learning what life is all about. Learning how to care for all aspects of our well being. Money being one of the more important ones seeing how it has the capacity to do us great harm if not managed carefully. Knowing that we have the ability to care for ourselves. By taking care of our basic needs should be parenting 101. But too many of us never learn how to create and stick to a budget. Or what it looks like to plan for you’re financial future, as was the case with me. And I also recognize that it wasn’t my caregivers faults’. They weren’t given the guidance they needed to succeed either.

And if ignorance is handed down generationally, then how do we break free from the cycles of financial insecurity? I don’t exactly remember how I started on my path, be it the grace of God or whatever, I was ready and took to it with tenacity. And once I started bringing order to my financial house, I started telling everybody who would listen. I told the one friend I talk to about Dave Ramsey and he took to it too. And anytime the subject gets brought up, I try and add my two cents. For people who may not know where to look or are looking to make a change.

Talking about Money is What Really Matters

Regardless of whom you tell, it’s important to talk about money. Maybe you have a group of friends you’re close with. Bring it up while you are hanging out. Or if you have couple friends, it could be worth looking into retirement plans together. Or make a plan with your S.O. to get a consultation from a financial adviser and then talk about it over dinner. You may have a niece or a nephew, cousins or in-laws that you’re close with. Check in with them every once and awhile and see if they’re reaching their financial goals. And don’t forget to talk with your S.O. about your shared plans.

I know from experience that shared money doesn’t work without shared responsibility. Make it a date night, or schedule budget meetings. Whatever it takes, just remember to check in often about your financial goals.

And Talk Often

Whomever it is that you talk to about finance, talk about it often. Check in and bring a sense of caring and levity to it. Finances are scary enough without being afraid we’re gonna screw them up in some way. And the more awareness we can bring to understanding how to care for our financial needs, the better the odds are that we will break the cycles of financial neglect learned from our families.

I’ll be putting some resources I found to be useful when dealing with money on my community page. Mostly budgeting tools and a link to Ramsey Solutions. Also, it’s worth mentioning that you don’t have to pay for most information to help with your finances. And there are a lot of free apps and finance blogs to explore.

Spending money can seem counterproductive when attempting to reign in your finances, so do your research first before spending any money on financial products. And only if it feels right. I don’t think I spent any money on the tools I use. It helps that I have a written budget that I keep in my bullet journal.

So regardless of where you are on your financial journey, whether you’re just starting out learning how to care for your financial needs or have been involved for some time with this area of your life. Don’t forget to find and foster a place for this with your close relationships. Because in this case, spreading knowledge could be akin to spreading the wealth. Something everybody could benefit from a little more of :] Peace, and thanks for reading :]

Image credits: “Home budget. Calculating monthly expenses for rent, electricity, phone, grocery and food” by wuestenigel is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Updated: 7/28/22

Reparenting: Money, What’s its Real Purpose and How do we Avoid Collecting it to Feel Safe?

Money, another big topic (I guess I like the big issues). Amassing money is one of the most ubiquitous goals we have as humans and it’s connected to a lot of different emotional states. Safety being one and not without some wisdom. For the purposes of this article, I will be focusing on how we relate to money from the perspective of how it may make us feel safe. There are numerous reasons to want large sums of money to be sure. But if we don’t narrow it down, we’d be here for a while!

Money And Feeling Security

My views on money are not entirely in the camp of the root of all evil. For example, without money, or some form of interchangeable, fluid asset, I more than likely wouldn’t be wearing clothes. Mostly because I don’t know how to create a bolt of cloth on a loom, or really know how to grow cotton. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be cautiously skeptical of the accumulation of wealth and the power and influence that it may yield, because it is helpful at times.

Today, I want to look at how money’s correlated with our feeling fearful if we aren’t on our desired financial track. And if more is always better. In the way we have society set up now, you reach a certain age after working a specific amount of years and then hopefully you’ll have saved enough funds to comfortably live out your plans for retirement. If we don’t have enough, we could become destitute. Living hand to mouth and relying on government subsidies in low income housing. Or so I imagine this is how many of us who fear not having enough money, feels our futures will look. That is if we don’t save as much money as possible and as quickly as we’re able to.

I had a wake up call not to long ago, after I went through a divorce. I found myself with no savings, no assets and a daunting amount of debt. Mostly in the form of student loans and credit cards and all at the tender age of 34. I was pretty “normal”, as Dave Ramsey likes to put it. And yeah, I was scared for sure.

I had fears of being homeless. Begging for handouts because I felt like I had no resources to change my future for the better. And with no previous guidance and nobody to show me how to change, I felt lost. But as luck would have it, I have a father and stepmother who have been with me every step of the way since I woke up from the ways I used to live unsustainably. Without them, I don’t like to think where I would be.

Taking Charge Of My Future

And speaking of no idea, if you read my post on “being a part of someone’s solution without solving their problems”, you’ll know that I had little guidance as to how to feed myself properly, let alone balance a budget or show me how to diversify my retirement portfolio (which I’m still a little fuzzy on : )! So when my wake up call came at 34, I was over 100k in debt, I had nowhere to live because the woman I was with just kicked me out of the apartment we were sharing and had no job prospects or financial stability to speak of. This was a vulnerable place to be.

That’s when I found Dave Ramsey and his baby steps to getting out of debt. I’ll begin by saying that he’s not for everybody. He can be a bit overbearing at times. But for someone like me, who was given nothing in the way of personal boundaries or financial boundaries, he was just what I needed. What I like about his steps and the way he lays them out is: when you are so used to living with debt, so much debt that it’s difficult see your way out of it, you need the small wins of completing a step. For example, paying off a smaller bill or credit card balance. That way you begin to understand that you are the one who is in charge of getting you out of your debt. And that it’s an obtainable goal!

Setting Goals To Stay On Track, Even If You’re not used To Achieve Them

After I found Dave and his baby steps, I started to aggressively pay down my debt and set up an emergency fund. Dave suggests to have a thousand dollar emergency fund at first, until after paying down your high interest debt. His reason being, it makes no sense to go back into debt while you’re already paying hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in interest on credit cards or personal loans, if you’re able to set up a small emergency fund that can help you stay out of debt while paying off the debt you already have. And I agree. After I reach my debt repayment and 6 month emergency fund goals, I will revisit what my retirement goals are going to look like. But the biggest issue was, I had no idea where to even begin in setting and sticking to goals.

For a long time, I felt as though I were a passenger in the journey of my life. Not the one who was behind the wheel. When you’re a passenger, it’s easy to get into debt because the numbers don’t really mean anything. It’s not until you know your agency, know your power and the consequences and effect you have on your life, that you are able to understand just how badly your decisions can effect you.

But if you recognize you are the one behind the wheel, you are then able to make the decisions that keep you on the right track. Effecting your life for the better. Every choice you make in regards to your goals are what either drives you forward or sets you back. So if you decide to stop eating out to save money on your food budget, that’s a choice you’re making to stay on the right path.

And of course, it’s not easy. If it were, everyone would be financially stable. What I imagine is so difficult is, that you have to show up for yourself and your goals everyday. Especially when you don’t want to. The phrase “fake it till you make it”, exemplifies this mindset well. Because it focuses on the need to cultivate the necessary discipline in order to achieving your goals, especially if you don’t feel as though you’re able to.

The reason I feel the saying is so apt is, that it implies that we’re able to make mistakes while learning how to achieve our goals. But I also like it for the perseverance element. You keep trying, or “faking it” no matter if it looks like you know what you’re doing. The point is to keep doing until you know what you’re doing. Because that time will come.

Because it’s that motivation that will help to keep you rooted in achieving your goals. You need to find your focus of course, or as we say in the yoga community, find your drishti. Your drishti is your focus and it usually refers to a point of reference for you to focus your gaze upon while you attempt a difficult balancing pose.

Finding Your Drishti, Focusing On What Really Matters

For me, my drishti was a combination of my fear of being destitute, mixed with a longing, almost a romantic idea, that my life could be the most interesting and gratifying endeavor I could undertake. But my drishti, if left unchecked, could perpetuate my fear of not having enough rather than satiating it. Once I’ve reached my financial goals, I could take my drishti and desire further, to obtain more than I need. All under the guise of us needing to feel safe.

This type of accumulating wealth under the pretense of safety, is akin to hoarding. If you already have enough, then no matter how much more you feel you need to collect, the rest is extra, too much. If you already have enough money and you keep hording it, the question you need to be asking yourself is, “why am I still accumulating so much wealth?” Is it coming from a sense of fear based thinking? Do you feel you need to take care of those you love? Why are, or aren’t you giving your money to charities? Or helping the greater good in some way with either your time or your money?

If answered honestly, it’s the answer to these questions that will help you to understand your relationship with your money and whether you own it, or it owns you. Because there’s nothing wrong with earning high wages. Or even amassing a large sum of wealth. The issue is when it becomes your drishti and you correlate money with your safety.

When Fear Becomes Your Drishti

So how do we keep ourselves focused on living a good life, where we are in control of our money, while also knowing that it can be dangerous if we handled it from a place of fear? I should probably mention here that I don’t make boatloads of money. So I may not be the most qualified person to answer this question. But I can draw on some parallels to how we react in moments of crisis or panic in relation to our money.

When I first learned about Covid and how potentially deadly it could be, I was not one of the many who ran to the grocery store to stock up on toilet paper and bottles of water or bags of flour. But that’s not to say that I wasn’t frightened at times. Pandemics, no matter how you package them, awakens a primal fear that few are exempt from. So if I was afraid, then what allowed me to be calm in the face of all the fear based reactions that were happening around me?

I think the answer lies in my meditation practice. I know that if I react to the unknown with fear, I will more than likely make poor choices. If I take the time to sit with the fear and ask myself, “how do you (the fear) want me to be with you?” then I will usually make healthier decisions. And this is not something that is easy to do. Our fear is driven by millennia of evolution. Telling us to protect ourselves in the face of perceived dangers. But when our decisions are made from fear based thinking, panic sets in and that’s when we are prone to use violence or make other poor choices out of fear.

In the case of a pandemic, if we’re lucky, this type of fear based thinking may have lead us to purchase large amounts of pantry staples and toilet paper. But if we take that fear and focus on our money, then a six month emergency fund may not seem like enough. It may then turn into an obsession. How much money can I amass, regardless of the means I use to obtain it.

So how do we feel safe? Safe enough to not panic and collect what we may not need because we’re reacting from a place of fear based decision making? From my experience, this happens when we face our fears around money. And this is as individual as each person is unique. But there are some resources that we may all be able to rely on.

Resources For Feeling Safe

Community

Friends and family or a group of trusted people who have experienced, or are experiencing something similar to what we’re going through. Wherever you are, community can help. When you need to ask advice or maybe just need a listening ear when you’re in the middle of wrestling with your fears.

I’ve been paying off my debt for a while now. And I’m lucky that I have close friends that I can ask advice from and share resources with. One friend, who was also dealing with a large amount of credit card debt, I introduced to Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps. He was so grateful because he felt as though he had been on his own for so long with this burden. Just knowing that you’re not alone can make the difference.

The Ramsey community is also a great resource. They provide feedback on a number of budget related questions. And also offer moral support and enthusiasm for those working the steps. This is something that is definitely needed while in the middle of your debt journey and what my friend above was lacking.

Finding a Guide

Also, finding a mentor, someone who’s forged a path and knows some of the road you are about to travel can feel very supportive. They can show you how you may get stuck along the way and resources to get you back on track. Again, this is something I learned from Dave Ramsey’s podcast.

I didn’t know how to put a budget together before I was 35. This is a little embarrassing to admit, but also, no one ever showed me how. I first learned how to budget using the envelope system. Which in brief, is as it sounds: A series of envelopes, with cash allocated for each category of your budget for a one month period. When you run out of money in your envelope, you’re out until you refill the envelope next month. This can be a bit of a wake up call if you’re not used to budgeting with cash so be forewarned and be vigilant! You don’t want to run out of grocery money in the first week of the month!

Trust Yourself

Trust yourself to be the person you envision as being your best self. The person who can deal with and handle unseen situations as they arise. Follow through with the plans you’ve made that are in your own best interests and trust that you know what those (your best interests) are.

The more often you make decisions that affect you for the better, the greater the trust you build with yourself will be. And really, that’s the goal, to build a trusting relationship with yourself. To know that you are able to rely on yourself when the important decisions need to be made.

But if we’ve spent a lifetime making questionable decisions about our future and present, then we may have some work to do to build trust. I feel this happens when we show up for ourselves while making decisions and forgive ourselves for not knowing the way each time we make a decision. Also knowing that we’re not hurting ourselves intentionally with our uncertain decision making. If we can keep this in mind, then the greater the trust we cultivate with ourselves will be. And trust from my experience is definitely correlated with safety.

Working Towards a Future With More Ease

Working to build trust with yourself is a priority for a sense of safety. And we build it by making sound decisions from a calm, non-fear based place. Dealing with the fears and insecurities we have, as they come up, by talking them through with trusted friends and family or a community of like minded people who are experiencing similar situations, will help to calm these worries. Also work to reset our focus on what’s important.

The sense of wellbeing we gain by setting an intention to complete our financial goals and by following through in a calm, consistent manner is invaluable. Also by not grasping fearfully onto solutions that we feel will solve our money problems, i.e. our lack of money and the more money is better mindset. If we can get to this place while making our decisions about our money, then we will truly gain a sense of ease while trusting ourselves and feeling safer for it.

And it isn’t easy. Feeling safe in an environment where people are literally taking advantage of a person’s felt sense of calm through advertising to make money, happens all the time. But if we take the time to confront our fears and build trust in ourselves, rather than piling up mountains of cash, we will feel safer for it. Also just know, you got this :] Be well, and peace.

Image Credits: “Money” by aresauburn™ is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Edited: 5/28/22

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