Recently a financial professional asked me, “Rick, what is your money script?” I was a bit baffled and responded, “I have well over 100, not just one.” He said, “No, there are only four, and I was wondering which one is yours.”
He misunderstood the concept of money scripts. In the almost 20 years since Brad Klontz, Ted Klontz, and I first coined the term, I’ve never found anyone who had just one money script. Or five, ten, or twenty. Money scripts are multiple.
The concept of money scripts has become widely embraced by the financial therapy, financial life planning, and financial media since we originated it in 2004 and it was first published in Conscious Finance in 2005. The work Dr. Ted Klontz and I did at Onsite Workshops between 2005 and 2009 found the average person had 50 to 200 money scripts, not just one.
In 2011, The Journal of Financial Therapy published an article titled “Money Beliefs and Financial Behaviors: Development of the Klontz Money Script Inventory,” co-authored by Brad Klontz, Sonya L. Britt, Jennifer Mentzer, and Ted Klontz. The authors introduced research that identified four distinct money belief patterns or categories: money avoidance, money worship, money status, and money vigilance. The research found that all money scripts fit into one of these four broad categories.
Based on an original list of 72 commonly identified money scripts, they developed a 72-question evaluation, the Klontz Money Script Inventory. This evaluation helps someone determine the ranking of their most dominant to least problematic money script categories.
The KMSI was refined and reduced to 32 questions in 2011. This revised evaluation, referred to as the KMSI-R, is the one I currently use with financial planning and financial therapy clients.
All this background is necessary to correct the misunderstanding about money scripts that has appeared in many articles. The misconception is that there are four money scripts—which is what they incorrectly call the four categories of money scripts. From my research, this mistaken interpretation of the four money script categories first appeared in Psychology Today in 2011 in an article written by Ken Eisold, PhD. Dr. Eisold describes money avoidance, money worship, money status, and money vigilance as “basic attitudes to money” and writes, in an obvious misunderstanding, that Brad Klontz, “…calls them “money scripts….” This is clearly incorrect, as Brad refers to them as four belief patterns, subscales, and, in the second edition of Facilitating Financial Health (co-authored by Brad, Ted Klontz, and I), as categories.
Since then, various articles have parroted this misunderstanding. Two recent examples are “Money Scripts: Understanding Your Relationship With Money” by Adina Lazar, updated on Oct 5, 2022, in Finmasters, and “What are money scripts? What’s yours?” by Shawn Maslyk, March 31, 2023, in MoneySense. Both of them say there are four money scripts and that the term money scripts was created in 2011.
Even ChatGPT erroneously says that most individuals have four to ten money scripts and the term first appeared in Facilitating Financial Health. Chapter 6 of the second edition of that book describes the four money script categories and the ten most popular money scripts.
In reality, there are not four, ten, or even 72 money scripts. A money script can be very personal, and a person can have literally hundreds of them. Those can be sorted into four broad categories. The term was conceptualized in 2004 and the categories were first created in 2011.
Changing your relationship with money begins with identifying your multitude of money scripts, exploring their origins, and understanding how they affect your behavior in a variety of contexts. It is much more complicated than identifying “your money script.”