When I think of money. I stop. Well, I used to stop because the thought of money made me uncomfortable. Actually, it wasn’t the thought of money itself but the notion that I didn’t understand finances and that knowledge made me feel vulnerable so I avoided the topic. I was raised in a performance based home, therefore I strived to do my best in all areas. I was taught I didn’t need to know money and it was too confusing for girls to understand (yes, I cringe typing that but it’s true). Looking back, I see clearly the avoidance.
I avoided the topic because I was never taught it AND I believed the lie that I couldn’t learn and do it well. If you can’t master it – don’t even try.
Money isn’t something you are born understanding. Ok, maybe for some it’s very intuitive but for the majority of us women – understanding our relationship with money doesn’t come naturally and that’s partially because we aren’t ever explained money from a relational standpoint. Plus rhetoric and narratives around money are traditionally male-based and focused on finances and investments. It’s the truth.
Understanding money is a skill.
Once that lightbulb went off – I was like I can learn anything. If I learned how to fix a garbage disposal, if I learned how to assemble Ikea furniture, if I navigate trips via paper maps and not a GPS – I can get this money thing. So I took to learning it and I did. Now, I pause, smile, and talk it up. Let me explain.
As a little girl, I never heard money talk. All my needs were met and I had some gifts on holidays but we weren’t the family that went on vacations, out to eat and my parents rarely took me to a store to make a purchase. It felt like Christmas morning whenever I had a new outfit. My clothes arrived in black bags and were transported from the house across the street. I thought it was the coolest thing wearing her clothes. She was so cool. And it goes to show you…. my parents were really good at marketing messages as most parents are.
I didn’t see the exchange of money nor heard talk or tips on it. My parents didn’t talk about it. I knew we didn’t have a lot. I also knew I never went without the basics. Things seemed to work out.
I was “good” with my money but looking back was never taught how to develop a healthy relationship with it.
My mom would always say “Kids should never worry about money. When you grow up your husband will take care of everything” But what happens when that kid grows up or doesn’t get married?
I realize now I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
Well, when I grew up, graduated college, and entered grad school living on my own in an apartment paying my own way, I realized I did have to deal with money to afford my life.
If I’m being honest with myself, I took the save every penny approach and don’t buy what you don’t need. I didn’t want to be poor. I also had no interest in “having it all” or keeping up with the Jones. This is something I do appreciate from my parents – they never sought to have what others did.
I had no clue when it came to the world of finance and thought that managing money meant understanding the stock market. I was the first in my family to go to college. I didn’t just have a Bachelor’s degree, I was putting myself through graduate school. How could I not get finances? I was embarrassed to reach out for money help because I thought I should know. I also mistook money for finances/investing.
Still to this day, I don’t get the stock market and I don’t need to. I have my goals and a healthy relationship with money and goal planning.
To back up a bit and be fair my dad did teach me four things about money growing up.
- Pay cash for everything.
- Do not use a credit card unless absolutely necessary.
- Always know your checking balance.
- Never bounce a check.
- Find yourself a good man… he’ll handle the bills. A lady shouldn’t have to worry about that.
Looking back, I see the black and white thinking that permeated most of the talks I received. There was a clear “good” way to do things and a “bad” way. We were taught to be the “good” and avoid the “bad.”
I grew up holding opposing views in my mind. I did want to get married but didn’t want to have to get married to have my finances managed.
Messages about finding yourself a good husband to take care of stuff – didn’t sit well with me but it did settle into me.
All those messages were in me and when I was on my own paying my bills, I never worried about money but I did AVOID it. See, I was a saver. I was thrifty. I paid myself first and put money away yet when a bill came in the mail I would neatly put it on my desk and open it about one week prior to the due date, write the check, put it in an envelope, and mail it and never really think about it. It will all work out.
I had the money for my bills.
I paid my bills on time.
Yet I avoided it until the last minute. Thinking about money and finances made me sick.
Looking back, part of it was the money scripts I grew up with. Part of it was my personality. I have long since let go of perfection but for a long time, perfection was my paralysis.
Fast forward, I married out of grad school and we both slid into the traditional roles we saw our parents play with the exception of money. I paid the bills and he managed investments like 401Ks, 529 plans, Roth IRA contributions, and savings. We were aligned in terms of saving more than spending.
Then he left.
We divorced. I found myself a single mom of four under five and having to manage the home and the finances. I was committed to working with him and for our kids. Paying the bills was scary now because two houses were run with the same amount of money coming in.
I went back to my old ways. The bills would come. I would open right before they were due. Pay them on time. Breathe. Wait for the next month.
I hated the feeling but I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t like bill paying because I didn’t feel comfortable around the topic of money/finances.
I was offered emotional support throughout my divorce but no one asked about my finances. The “it will all work out” mentality guided the well wishes of family and friends.
I made good choices. Opened my own 529 plans for the kids – my ex received the original plans in the divorce. Paid our bills. Turned my crafts into a business for additional funds. Still my avoidance of a relationship with money was present.
Then something happened that I never expected.
I fell in love. We made the crazy decision to blend our six kids under 9 and get married. We talked a lot about money before we married. We are very much aligned. Not impulsive buyers. Big savers. We wanted to save for college. Save for us to retire early. We want to travel in our golden years. I shared with him that I handled the finances in my first marriage but would prefer he does it. He gladly took it on and he manages our money well, however, he wants me to be involved.
As our daughters grew I realized I was repeating what my parents did in this money space.
Remain silent. I was teaching them healthy life skills in all areas of their life except money.
We talked about everything – boys, periods, sex, self-worth, standing up for yourself – but not money. I taught them to save and to tithe but I neglected to teach them how to have a healthy relationship with money.
Then it happened. I saw two envelopes stacked on my daughter’s desk. “What’s that?” I asked. “Oh, I don’t know. They come every month. I think they are from a Drs apt but they said it should be free,” she responded. Oh my. Could it be? Is she avoiding money? Was she replicating what I did even though I never told her? I don’t want to pass on my struggles. I didn’t want to say anything that could heap shame on.
You can’t hear what someone has to say if you feel you are being judged.
We sat down that night and had a talk. She recognized she didn’t open because they told her the appt was covered and admitted she probably didn’t want to know if it wasn’t because then what would she do? What if it was a lot of money? She didn’t want to ask us to help. She also was saving for college expenses. She appreciated our talk. A few days later, she received an email bill, opened it and we talked about confirming her amount was in alignment with insurance. She listened and took a proactive approach. Victory!
I had to get my shit together for myself and for her.
For all my kids. I was already on a path of internal discovery. For years, I was peeling away the narratives I had lived into. Narratives formed by others.
Ironically, I’m a certified life coach and a family communication consultant. For over fifteen years, I have written books, spoken on healthy communication, and coached hundreds of women navigating divorce, co-parenting, and blending families YET I still didn’t have my money talk in place.
I wish I would have found enlightenHer 30 years ago. Now I can be that resource as a Money Mentor. Now I can talk about money all day. Now I get and open my mail each afternoon. Now, I know the why behind my money avoidance and choose not to avoid it. That reason may never go away completely but I named it so now I claim it and it doesn’t have a hold over me. Freedom.
My husband and I look forward to retirement and traveling the world to enjoy different cultures, cuisines, and each other. Planning ahead will allow this to come true.
If I can recognize and overcome my money scripts – you can too!
There is no shame, blame, or judgment of any money past. Just support and community to be healthy moving forward.
I am here to walk confidently and humbly with you. Every woman needs to know her worth both internally and financially.
Let’s get started!