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How to Explore Your Relationship With Money

Most of us would probably agree that money skills are 21st Century survival skills. The late financial futurist, Dick Wagner, CFP, contended that money is the most powerful secular force on the planet. Yet, even with all the importance we put on money, most of us know darn little about what we personally believe about money and the relationship we have with it.

Exploring our relationship with money—and learning to resolve the problematic areas in that relationship—can make a significant improvement in our financial well-being. Yet, just as we often do with other vital financial actions like drafting wills, we tend to avoid looking at our beliefs about money.

One reason for this avoidance is simply not knowing where or how to start. Fortunately, there are resources available to help. One of them is a book called From Here to Financial Happiness, by Jonathan Clements, author of the HumbleDollar blog and longtime personal finance columnist for The Wall Street Journal. In it, he takes readers on a journey to explore their relationship with money.

In his September 15, 2018 blog post, “My Favorite Questions,” he listed 31 questions from his book that begin a deeper exploration into raising your money awareness. Not long ago I went through these questions. Some of them were easy to answer, while others required me to do some homework. Even with all the exploration I have done around my own relationship with money, I was surprised at a few of the things I learned.

Here are just a few of Clements’s questions to get you started thinking about your relationship with money.

1. If money were no object, what would you change about your life? Some of the possibilities might include getting more education, relocating, switching careers, retiring early, or following a dream that you have set aside.

2. What are your top financial worries? These may be fears that have very little to do with the reality of your financial circumstances.

3. What are the three smartest financial moves you’ve ever made? We often revisit our financial mistakes or failures. Sadly, we’re much less likely to acknowledge and give ourselves credit for the things we have done well.

4. What do you consider your three biggest financial mistakes? You might also consider thinking about what you may have learned from those mistakes.

5. When in your life were you happiest, what made it a happy time—and what role, if any, did money play? The saying that “money can’t buy happiness” is familiar to the point of being a cliché. It can be useful to consciously consider the ways that money may relate to the activities and circumstances that foster your happiness and fulfillment.

6. What’s the minimum amount of money you need each month to keep your financial life afloat? You may be surprised at the total you come up with. As you compile this information, I’d suggest noticing any feelings that arise.

7. What did you learn about money from your parents—and which of these beliefs have you adopted as your own? In childhood, all of us develop deep beliefs about money. Even though we are often unaware of these money scripts, they have a profound impact on our adult relationships with money.

If you found it enlightening to answer these questions, I would challenge you to check out Clements’s complete list. Spend 30 minutes or so answering as many of the questions as possible. You might find it a useful way to identify the problem areas in your financial life and begin building a stronger relationship with money.

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