Finding financial peace
I didn’t start to untangle my mess with money until I was willing to sit with my anxieties long enough to figure out my problems and how to address them. I can’t say it was fun, but some navel-gazing—mixed with a dose of realism and setting some tangible goals—definitely soothed my relationship with money and ultimately led to far fewer expletives come bill-paying time. To give your own financial turmoil a rest:
Explore your money patterns
What are you feeling when you buy that lipstick you don’t really need? Empty, ugly, wanting to be held? “You need to make the unconscious drivers of your money behavior conscious in order to have any chance of changing them,” says Kessel. Tessler-Linden asks her clients to look at their relationship to eight hot money topics: earning, spending, saving, giving, borrowing, loaning, investing and receiving money. For instance, when you explore earning, ask if your work is aligned with your values, if you enjoy it, if it’s easy or challenging. When you explore spending, ask if you have trouble spending, what you feel when you spend or don’t spend, how you make spending decisions, how you plan for spending. Such exploration is a form of financial therapy, says Tessler-Linden: “In order to decrease the charge, the secrecy, of our money stories, we have to understand our current relationship to money.” ID your spending urges Practice sitting through the impulses you feel right before you spend, almost as if it’s a spiritual practice, suggests Kessel: “What feelings come up right before you buy something? A sense of emptiness, a feeling of lonliness? There’s almost always a hidden desire behind spending.” Kessel suggests waiting through one of those desires every day, to let the feeling pass and notice how often it resurfaces. Do you really want the red cashmere sweater or simply for your boyfriend to say you look pretty? “There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look beautiful or wanting to be needed,” says Kessel. “But if you become aware of the impulse inside you and what you really want, you can then validate it without spending.” So go ahead and buy the sweater if you want—but at least now you have the ability to find other ways to get what you need.
Excavate your money history
Tessler-Linden suggests that you write about your childhood money environment, each parent’s role around finances, what money messages permeated the household and which ones still influence you. How did you perceive your “wealth” as a child? What did your culture, religion or ethnicity teach you about money? What have been your money failures and successes? How does your money past affect your relationship with money now? Forgive the past Once you’ve named the money environment in which you grew up, you can forgive whatever money lot you were born into, says Tessler-Linden. Maybe you need to forgive your parents for squandering your would-be inheritance, or forgive yourself for racking up debt. “We all have something to come to peace with, to understand and forgive, in order to move forward,” says Tessler-Linden. For a long time, I felt angry with my parents for not teaching me about money, for not helping me realize its connections to both values and goals. But I also held on to the childhood comfort that their deep pockets would always be there for me; I didn’t have to be realistic about money as long as I believed dad and mom would bail me out. It was only after my mother died and my father remarried that I realized I was on my own. If I wanted money, I’d have to go after it. Understanding that helped me grow up financially and recognize how generous my parents had been. I could forgive them and reboot my financial life with a shifted perspective: I was responsible for my financial future. Realizing that was actually a huge relief.