By Rebecca A. Watson
“The importance of money flows from it being a link between the present and the future.”—John Maynard Keynes
A while back, my husband and I took a vacation into the southwest deserts of the United States. We were driving through a particularly affluent area when my husband made a sarcastic remark about how much money everything cost.
I was quick to join in, but then I realized that one of our goals was to create wealth like that for ourselves. I asked him, “How can we ridicule something we desire? How will we ever attain something like that when we shun it now?”
It was a big question that stunned us both into silence. Since then, we’ve been working hard to understand our money stories and how we relate to wealth. It’s brought us into some emotional places, but throughout it all, we’ve felt our relationship with our money improve.
One thing I’ve discovered: You and your cash have a relationship. It starts when you’re young and continues from there. Some people, like myself, don’t realize this until much later in life. And just like any other relationship that is neglected, it becomes strained and uncomfortable.
I’d like to share a few things that have helped me change how I work with my assets. There are all sorts of great financial advice out there, but most of it has to do with numbers.
Save X% of your salary. Have $Y set aside for an emergency. And those things are important, but the energy you devote to a project is almost as important as the other resources you have, and that’s where I want to focus.
1. Talk About It
When I was in my mid-twenties, I had loads of student load debt, my credit card balance was climbing each month, and still I continued to make big purchases with no thought to how I would pay them off. I was living in a state of denial.
But that all changed when I met a friend who started asking me about it. She had a degree in economics and wanted to help me start investing. The thought was ludicrous to me. How could I invest when every penny I earned goes to paying debt, with no end in sight? I was embarrassed and didn’t want to tell her. But she kept pushing, and it finally all came out.
This was sort of like an alcoholic admitting he had a problem. Now I could get help. I slowly eliminated my debt and started saving—even investing. It felt really good.
Letting go of our deep secrets brings them into the sunshine, where we can deal with them in an appropriate way. We can even get help. Leaving them to rot in the dark does nothing but cause despair.
Since then, I’ve been really open with my close friends about money. Because of that, more of them have gotten out of debt. Now we talk about budgets, saving for vacations and even what mutual funds are performing well.
Many of us were raised to think it’s rude to talk about money, but I disagree. It’s absolutely necessary. Of course, choosing the right people to discuss it with is important, but to refuse to discuss it at all is ridiculous and dangerous because that perpetuates poor judgments, alienation, and depression.
2. Start With a Clean Slate
I can’t tell you how many times I wished I could go back and change the choices I made with my money. Why did I go out to that expensive meal? Did I really need that jacket? I never even wore it! I was continually punishing myself, embarrassed for my choices.
But wishing I could change my past was keeping me in a constant state of agony. I needed to forgive myself and stop blaming myself for things I could not change. What I could do, however, was understand that I can control the choices I make from now into my future.
This resonated with me because I’d made plenty of bad choices in other areas of my life that I was able to move past. Why were financial decisions any different? I couldn’t erase the effects years of smoking had on my lungs, but I could stop today and slowly my lungs would heal. I couldn’t ignore the debt from years of irresponsible spending, but I could change my habits and slowly my bank accounts would grow.
Give yourself permission to forgive yourself for past transgressions with money. Frame them as learning experiences.
Now when I see a coat I like, I look at the price tag and think how much nicer those numbers would look in my savings account than on my credit card bill. I’m not embarrassed about my old mistakes. I’m proud that I learned from them.
3. Educate Yourself
Knowledge is power, as they say, and there’s nothing more exhilarating than knowing how you spend, manage, and invest your money. Well, OK. Maybe there are a few things that are more exciting, but it doesn’t have to be dull. Many people don’t learn because they think it’s boring or time consuming.
I know I did, until I realized this: Money will help me get to the things I most want to do in this world. I consider that time learning a road to fueling my passions. It’s as much an investment into my future as that deposit in the bank. And once you start seeing that your dreams are possible? That, my friends, is exhilarating.
When I got my first 401(k), I had no idea what I was doing. I chose funds and stocks based on their names. I’m not joking. I also had bank accounts that charged me monthly rates, credit cards that tacked on annual fees and all the aforementioned debt.
Once I started to understand how money worked and how to make it work for me, I felt really empowered. But not only that, I started to appreciate money. That was a big change from how I previously felt—a combination of jealousy and hatred.
Understanding your money and how it works can greatly change how you relate to it. Think of it like you would a good friend or a partner. Things aren’t going to go well in your relationship if you don’t learn about each other. So read up, ask questions, check in often and go deep exploring all the nuances money has. It will change your life.
Since our epiphany in the desert, my husband and I have made even more of an effort to improve our relationship with money. And it’s paying off. Just recently we visited the home of wealthy friends. When we left, we had nothing to say but good things about how lovely their home was and what a nice time it was. I’m proud to say that there was not one snarky comment.
I really want to encourage every person to consider how they view cash; if it’s one-sided, angry, or resentful at all, try these tips. You might be surprised how differently your perspective can change, even in a few months.
Rebecca Watson is a Truth Advocate and Soul Connection Coach who supports women who’ve dealt with trauma and abuse to find and express their truth in harmony with their soul. A recovering journalist, Rebecca uses journaling and writing as a tool to teach women who feel unheard, broken, and misunderstood to listen to their own truth, trust their instincts, and connect with the divine part of themselves. You can read more of her work and learn more about her coaching programs at sunnysanguinity.com.