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What Does Money Mean to You?

Sara Glaz

We all like to believe we make financial decisions rationally, but more often than not, it’s our emotions controlling our wallets, not our bank accounts. A look at common money scripts, how they are written, and what we can do to alter them.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Standing at the store checkout with your cart, the rack of sweets and knickknacks — impulse buys — catches your eye. Do you grab whatever little Srulie would like, without so much as a glance at the price? Or do you keep your focus straight ahead — if it’s not on your list, it stays out of the cart? Maybe you consider the chocolates and spend the next five minutes anxiously deliberating whether or not you should buy them?

When it comes to financial decisions, our fiscal knowledge often takes a backseat to the meanings we attach to money. These meanings, which can be either beneficial or detrimental, usually develop in childhood. According to father-and-son psychologists and financial behavior gurus Drs. Ted and Brad Klontz, the way we understand money is our “money script”: a set of beliefs that guide how we relate to money and think about it as adults. Let’s take a look at how these mindsets originate and affect us later in adulthood.


Money Avoidance: Just Don’t Think About It

Tzivia’s father Chaim worked on commission in real estate. Every few months, Chaim would receive a windfall paycheck from a sale. Both he and his wife Hadassah had trouble with self-control and would spend the money within a few weeks — on new suits, seforim, restaurants, all sorts of luxuries. Tzivia and her brothers appreciated the new things, but the money ran out all too quickly.

Chaim and Hadassah would then spend the next few weeks — sometimes months — panicking about the negative bank balances, impending tuition payments, and the growing debt. After the next paycheck arrived, they would resolve to take control, even meet with a financial counselor, but never end up going. The situation would repeat itself, over and over again. While Chaim and Hadassah were eventually able to marry off their children, Tzivia was left with an unwelcome present — financial denial.


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