Could you be in denial about money? An article by the APA(1) has identified the warning signs if you are. They begin with the concept that, “money is stressful.” This was the result of an annual survey asking people their top source of stress. Of course, it’s natural to try to avoid stress especially if it’s painful in some way. That’s where we get into trouble because avoiding financial issues only tends to worsen them.
Here are the warning signs they mention:
a. You try to put money and finances out of your mind
b. You avoid talking about money
c. You avoid opening bank or credit card statements
d. You don’t know what your credit score is
e. You don’t know your net worth.
We all have these behaviors to some extent and some of them keep changing like d and e. But, as anything in psychology, it’s the degree or severity of these behaviors that make it significant. I’m a psychotherapist and prior stockbroker, so I understand that your relationship with money is often a result of past experiences and future expectations.
When I say relationship with money, I mean your individual perception of its importance and what emotions come with that perception. For example, many people who lost money in the crash of 1929, never invested in the stock market the rest of their lives. This past experience created anxiety and distrust of the markets and clouded their future expectations. This generation had a distrustful relationship with money as a result of being traumatized with sudden and unpredictable losses. The emotional memory of this trauma was never forgotten.
Women also have a different relationship with money. Women don’t view money as an end result, but as a means to get somewhere. Women also do not discuss finance and business in their personal relationships as much as men. Thats because their priorities are different. However, that is different than consciously avoiding talking about money which is a form of denial.
If you feel the warning signs pertain to you, they recommend a few steps like keeping track of your income and spending or make a budget. Establish a spending plan of your priorities. Set up automatic saving like a 401k or IRA. Use software programs to assist you with the above.
Of course, everyone should have a budget with priorities and it’s easy to find a template on the internet if you are just getting started. Automatic savings are set up at your work. They do not suggest any specific software. In addition, I would certainly add, 1. Get more financial education-read and take classes. 2. Consult a financial pro before investing 3. Consider using cash vis-a-vis credit cards to reduce spending. 4. Understand your personal relationship with money especially your past traumas and risk tolerance 5. Join an investment club or start one of your own 6. Consider downsizing your lifestyle 7. Consider occupational re-training to increase your income. 8. Assess you social security to determined future income 9. Be willing to work into retirement if necessary. In other words, make learning about money and investing an essential and fun priority. L. Johnson
AmericanPsychological Assoc., Feb 2015. ‘Face the numbers: Moving beyond financial denial.’ Retrieved on 4-22-2015 from: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/financial-avoidance.aspx