The fourth and final category of Money Scripts in this series is Money Vigilance. Those with Money Vigilance scripts tend to be watchful and guarded about their finances. They will commonly have beliefs such as, “You should not tell others how much money you have or make,” “Money should be saved, not spent,” and “Everyone should have money saved for an emergency.”
For these folks, money is largely about security. They are very concerned about their money running out and ending up without. If there is one overwhelming emotion that they try to keep at bay, it’s anxiety. They also tend to be secretive about their money, reluctant to talk about it even with advisors.
Research has found that those with Money Vigilance scripts are negatively associated with compulsive buying, gambling, financial enabling, financial denial, and financial infidelity. They are less likely to have revolving credit card debt.
If you’ve been following this series on Money Script categories, you’ll notice that this is the only category where the behaviors and predictive factors are generally positive. Does that make this the “best” category?
Not necessarily. Like all the categories, Money Vigilance has a dark side. It can limit someone’s ability to enjoy relationships, leisure, and fun. While having financial comfort and security is critically important, extreme anxiety and wariness around money can cause serious emotional and physical stress that is bad for your relationships and health. The notorious miser Ebenezer Scrooge is a good example of Money Vigilance taken to damaging extremes. In spite of his wealth, he lived a meager and fearful existence that left him lonely and miserable.
If you have predominantly Money Vigilance scripts, one strategy is to specifically include fun spending in your budget. Dr. Brad Klontz suggests practicing spending on something ridiculous. He says, “Creating space in your budget to enjoy your hard work is valuable. It can pay dividends in feelings of gratitude and joy and in deeper connections with those you love most.”
Another recommendation from Dr. Klontz is to intentionally scale back the time you spend checking on investments or account balances. At the same time, actively and positively remind yourself that you are on track to meet your financial goals.
The tips above are designed to help those with Money Vigilance learn to wisely enjoy their resources. What if they don’t work? (My hunch is that, for many, they won’t.)
Then it becomes especially important to discover and explore the Money Scripts, stories, and trauma at the root of your anxiety around money. Working with a fiduciary financial planner who is comfortable helping clients address the emotional aspects of their relationship with money can be extremely helpful. An appointment with a financial therapist may be valuable as well. It is crucial that any professionals you consult help you set up a financial plan that balances your need for financial security with the need to enjoy what you have worked so hard to build.
A degree of Money Vigilance is excellent for your bank balance and financial security. Excessive vigilance, however, can actually damage your financial wellbeing. One negative consequence of extreme anxiety about money is being so afraid of risk that you avoid investing at all. In the long term, keeping your money so “safe” from any investment risk that it grows too slowly to keep up with inflation will cost you a great deal.
Similarly, being appropriately vigilant about money can provide a base of financial security and stability that supports your relationships and your emotional well-being. Being anxious about money, however, can prevent you from using it to support a rich and fulfilling life.