Why are we talking about this?
Oftentimes it’s framed this way: To be good with money, you need to put together a budget and track what’s coming in and what’s going out.
And if you just have the tools and systems, everything will be all right.
But that’s just not the case.
To say money is simply about the numbers leaves out what I would say is the biggest part of dealing with your finances: the personal side.
That includes the personal finance, all the money, beliefs, the stories, the scripts, what your relationship to money is. Beneath the surface, not the tools and systems, those are helpful. But if your foundation—your beliefs and scripts—isn’t solid, then no matter what tools you put on top of it, they won’t work as well as they could. That is important because so many people feel guilt and shame around not being good with money. They feel that because everyone else is good at it, or because I’m now an adult, I should be good at it.
Problem: Many of us were never taught to handle money
Or, our families never talked openly about how to manage money. Money isn’t something you naturally get good at with age. I never learned how to play basketball. I suck at basketball. But I’m not expected to be good at basketball simply because I’m an adult.
Money, on the other hand, is treated very differently. As soon as you are somewhat “adulting,” you’re expected to be good with it, which isn’t really fair.
We can help reduce the shame and guilt for people who are told they should be good at it, but don’t feel like they are.
You have to work hard to make money? That’s counterproductive for an entrepreneur
Growing up, I believed I had to work hard to make money or make good money.
My dad was a model for that belief. I think I internalized it knowing he would work some summers and also nights as a community college instructor. I felt that hard work was necessary to make enough money to live. When my mom was earning about $75 an hour as an editor, I actually made fun of her. And I feel like an asshole because I thought, “How could anyone ever earn that much money?” And to do editing? What is that? It doesn’t look that hard. And yet you’re earning that much money. So yes, I was kind of a dick as a child at times.
I’ve come a long way from when I was a shithead kid at 16 was saying that. Maybe I was as old as 19. Anyway, for entrepreneurs who run their own business, that idea of having to work hard to make enough money can be damaging. Because, yes, a correlation exists between how many hours you work and the amount of money that you make. At least in the early days of starting out in your business, it is helpful to put in long hours to get things off the ground.
But it’s not the case that if you just punch the clock, that money comes out the other end.
When I was in the first couple of years of “not broke,” I’d work 10 to 12 hour days. But I could have gotten everything I needed done in six, if not less.
What if I would have stepped away while working that extra four to six hours and said, “Is this stuff that really moves my business forward? Is this the smartest thing I can be doing?” But I had such an ingrained link between hard work and money that I just put my head down and kept doing what I was doing, even if it wasn’t really efficient. Or efficient, but not effective. So for entrepreneurs, it’s a challenging belief to get through, and it’s one I’ve been trying to dance with for a while.
“I always” or “I never”: There’s a story here
How can you define what your money stories or money scripts are? Think about when you use very declarative statements such as “I am this,” “I am stupid,” “I am all ways this way,” or “I am never this way.” To be more specific, “I’m never good with money.” That allows you to hear it, because nothing is ever true all of the time or none of the time. We’re talking about human behavior here. That can help you think, “Here’s this belief I have, and take a look under that.” If you say, “I always do X,” is that always true? Or “I always suck at money.” Is that always true? When is it true? When is it not true? Start thinking about where those thoughts might have come from.
Money is attached to so many different areas of our lives, our relationships with ourselves, relationships with others, and our sense of self worth. When you dig, some other stuff inevitably will come up. But it’s worth the work to do that.
We’ve all got baggage
We all struggle with certain beliefs around money. So you are not alone. As my mom says, “You’re special, but you’re not unique.” Thanks, mom.
So many of us endure our struggles, thinking that we’re alone, and we don’t understand that the outward image that other people present of themselves is not really what’s going on. If we can let down our guard a bit, be vulnerable where and when appropriate, and connect with others, we’ll be able to see that not everybody has their shit together. We can start to then integrate and repair the parts of ourselves that have been hurt or that have really struggled with money.
Once we heal those, you’ll be able to then put on top of that the tools, systems and structures that help you be really good and feel more confident when managing your money. In the comments, please tell me what you think, any questions you might have, or any ideas for future posts that you’d like to hear.
This post was adapted from an episode of the Fireside Financials series. If you’d like to check out the video, you can watch it here!