Money Psychology- What Is Your Money Story?

Psychoanalysts have studied the field of “money psychology”, and the consensus of many surveys and studies is that ultimately money symbolizes security, power, love and freedom.  These are positive feelings, but the money associations many people have with these feelings are not.  This book is focused on helping all of you move past your own psychological relationship to money, and develop a healthier attitude and stewardship of your finances.  In order to build positive attitudes towards money, we need to be able to recognize unhealthy behaviors that are associated with money.  Within each of the above categories, there are money associations that are unhealthy and destructive.  Many of us exhibit parts of these behaviors at different points, and some of us relate wholeheartedly to specific descriptions of “money disorders”.  As they say, the first step is admitting you have a problem.  

Money Equals Security:

As we’ve talked about, money equates security for most people.  This can be a very positive association, as there is truth in this belief.  Having money and our finances in order does provide us a higher level of security.  It is healthy to take pride in the security you have created for yourself and your family through your economic efforts.  There are other behaviors, however, that is very unhealthy and need to be identified among those that associate money with Security.  They include:

  • The Compulsive Saver: This individual feels that saving is it’s own reward.  No amount of money saved is sufficient to provide enough security.  There is a constant fear of not having enough.  In extreme circumstances, these individuals may deprive themselves heat, lighting or healthy food.
  • The Self-Denier: Self-deniers are also Savers, but actually enjoy the self-sacrificial nature of it.  Poverty is self-imposed, and they take pride in “going without”.  Sometimes, they may spend on others as an act of martyrdom, therefore usually have many strings attached to their generosity.
  • The Compulsive Bargain Hunter: You all know one of these ladies.  For them, they squirrel their money until they find the “perfect” thing.  The thrill is in out-smarting others, both those selling the product and those paying full price.  Sometimes these bargain hunters get out-smarted themselves, as they buy solely on price and not on quality, and end up with faulty goods.

 

Money Equals Power:

Money buys us what we need.  It provides groceries, gas, clothing, vacations, home ownership, you name it.  Without money, we cannot get the things we need, and without enough money, we can’t get the things we want.  Many people associate power with money, and feel that if they have lots of money that are more powerful.  The opposite is also true, in which those who have little feel less powerful, and less worthy than their wealthier peers.  When money falls in unscrupulous hands, it can be used to compromise enemies and clear the path for you.  Individuals with lots of money can adopt a self-image of importance, domination and control, solely as a result of their financial net worth.  Yes, money is powerful.  It can give us the power to change the world, financial wealth allows philanthropy, scholarships and grants.  These are positive usages of the power associated with money.  As always, the inverse can be true and the following personality types can be identified within the relationship of power and money:

  • The Manipulator: These people use money to exploit others.  Understanding the power their wealth brings them, they take advantage of others.  They may lead exciting lives, but ultimately their world is empty of integrity.
  • The Empire Builder: Many self-made men and women, from the Barons of Industry of yesteryear to the dot.com millionaires today, have an overriding sense of independence and self-reliance.  They hunger for the dependence this creates in others, and bask in their place at the top.  
  • The Godfather: Money is to be used for manipulation, bribes and control among these people.  Generally, there is a great need for social respect among this group, and often attract weak and insecure people to surround them, demanding complete loyalty.

One thing I find interesting in the studies of “power mongers”, like those listed above, was that it was discovered that many of these people had felt “anger” as children, rather than “fear” about their family’s financial life.  

Money Equals Love:

Money is used for many wonderful purposes.  It is donated to worthy cause, it is saved for a child’s education, it is the final payment on a mortgage you’ve had for a long time.  We might be in the position to help our parents or our siblings financially.  I would love to be able to help my children with the down payment on their first home purchase.  There are so many positive ways that money can be spent, though there are also dysfunctional attitudes in using money to express love.  While spending money out of love should be an experience of pride, many spend out of love in a sick way, attempting to manipulate those around them.

 

  • The Love Buyer: There are those who go so far to try and buy love they employ the services of a prostitute.  While this is extreme, these people feel unloved if they are not giving.  When they spoil their children, give to a charity, help a friend with a loan, they are expecting love in return.  Deep down, they feel unlovable and will do anything to avoid feelings of rejection and worthlessness.  
  • The Love Seller: There are those that promise their affection, devotion and loyalty to those who will buy them things.  This is not as unusual as it sounds.  These individuals are adept at sensing other people’s ego needs, and can relate to almost anyone.  They strive to fit into the inner circle, and are a perfect fit for the “love buyer”.  Being a Love Seller doesn’t make you a bad person, it can be the catalyst for one to become a therapist or a nurse, they are exchanging their empathy and loving nature for money.  
  • The Love Stealer: Those who steal, who are actually thieves, can have a compulsive need to steal known as kleptomania.  These individuals feel a compulsive need to steal objects of symbolic value to them.  They are so hungry for love but feel unworthy to having it.  

 

The Buying, Selling, Trading and Stealing of Love are the more esoteric psychological attachments to money.  They are harder to identify, and often difficult to change.  The most accepted and universal human relationship to money is Freedom.  

Money Equals Freedom:

Almost everyone I talk to relates to the concept of money equaling Freedom.  How could it not?  Money buys time to pursue our hobbies and passions.  Money frees one from the daily grind, gives one the ability to pursue work solely for their own love of it, without the need for monetary gain.  There is enormous autonomy that money provides, and this emotional relationship to money is very prevalent among entrepreneurs.  The Freedom that comes with money can be a delicious thing; and the desire for complete financial freedom is a desire almost universally held.  However, there are traps even in this school of thought.

  • The Freedom Buyer: For these types, money buys escape from the everyday.  These individuals despise commands and instructions, and strive for complete autonomy in their financial lives.  They crave independence more than anything.  They often fantasize about being a “free spirit”; enjoying the gypsy lifestyle, casting the status quo to the wind.  
  • The Freedom Fighters: This interesting group rejects many and materialism as the cause of the enslavement of many.  The power that comes with money is odious to them, and they often see money as the root of all evil, which gives it quite a lot of power indeed.  These people are deeply idealistic, and if they do have wealth, feel obligated to give it away and distance themselves from it, as it represents the Establishment they so despise.  

 

Create a Positive Money Story

As you have seen, the field of Psychology and Money is a deep and fascinating one.  We don’t need a PhD in Psychology to see some basic trends in our behaviors, our internal stories from our family of origin, and the attitudes we have towards money today.  We all recognize ourselves at some point in the descriptions above.  Now that we’ve begun to identify some of our self-destructive behavior in relationship to money, it is time to turn those dynamics around 180 degrees, and create a loving, healthy relationship with our money, as with a loving partner.

Your “money story” is the foundation of every financial decision you make.  Write a positive money story now, and learn about Creating Financial Freedom, Stock Market Basics, Life Insurance, Socially Responsible Investing, Raising Money Wise Kids, Budgeting and more on The Psychology of Money.