Quiet Your Inner Scrooge
The online discussions I host give me an opportunity to see the financial issues that trouble people the most. Often what I find are people racked with fear.
And the fear isn't just displayed by folks deeply in debt. Some worriers are people who are doing everything right -- saving, living within their means, investing.
For example, here's a note from one chat participant. She wrote: "My husband and I are federal employees who make a decent salary, about $140,000 combined per year. I save 15 percent of my salary in the Thrift Savings Plan (a government retirement plan), hubby saves 10 percent. We have about $15,000 set aside for our toddler son's education and contribute another $150 a month to a 529 plan for him."
This reader went on to say that she and her husband invest another $150 a month in a mutual fund they've designated for retirement. They have a townhouse with a small mortgage that they've been renting out while living overseas.
"We have no debts other than the mortgage and, while we've been overseas, we've been able to save an additional $30,000 a year," she said.
I can just imagine what some of you are thinking: What in the world does this woman have to be worry about?
"Even though I know that we are financially stable, I worry all the time about money because my parents poorly managed their money, and I worry that I'll end up like them," she wrote. "They have minimal savings, health problems and are likely to run out of money in their retirement. Hubby's family was also bad with money. Every purchase -- even a routine one -- makes me worry if I shouldn't save more. How do I stop viewing money as a ticking time bomb about to blow up in my face?"
The timing of this question gives me the chance to recommend again my selection for the Color of Money Book Club for December: "The Financial Wisdom of Ebenezer Scrooge." In this book the authors, two psychologists and a financial planner, talk about the "money scripts" we all have that are based on long-held beliefs typically planted during childhood.
Look at this woman's money script: "My parents were poor money managers, and I may be just like them" and "You can't ever save enough to feel secure."
She rehearses these lines so often it has become her reality, despite the obvious contradiction with her situation.
If you have a lifelong fear that you will never be financially secure even though you're saving and investing well, you've got to flip the script. You can change your lines. As an adult, it's time to let go of that fear and replace it with new information.