For the third in this series of columns on money script categories, let’s look at Money Status. This differs from the Money Worship category in having its focus on social acceptance. People in this category generally equate net worth with their self-worth. They may hold beliefs such as “The higher your earnings, the more successful you are,” “If something is not considered ‘the best,’ it’s not worth buying,” or “Looking successful is part of being successful.” If these statements resonate with you, then you may struggle with Money Status.
For those in this category, money is about being liked, accepted, and respected by others. It’s also about liking and accepting oneself, a belief that “the more money I have, the better I feel about myself.” They see earning and accumulating money and the things it can buy as a sign of success, believing that “The more money you have, the more respect you will have.” At the core of this belief, we often find a significant amount of shame and a deep fear of rejection.
Research has found that Money Status scripts are associated with youth, being single, lower education, lower income, and a greater likelihood of having grown up in a lower socioeconomic class. Interestingly, those in the top tiers of wealth and income score significantly higher in the Money Status category than do those who might be described as affluent but not mega-rich.
The range of self-defeating money behaviors predicted by Money Status scripts includes overspending, compulsive buying disorder, gambling disorder, financial dependence, and financial infidelity. These disorders make sense, in that this person typically uses their money to purchase the trappings of what they see as status. Gambling at upscale casinos certainly has a status factor. Hiding excessive spending and debt from a spouse or partner (financial infidelity) also makes sense.
It’s normal to want to be successful, liked, and respected. It is also normal to want things and to be attracted to what is new. Those wants are exaggerated by many aspects of our popular culture. The attention given to wealthy celebrities and the immersive marketing of the latest and greatest products, for example, encourage us to associate success and social standing with financial status.
These thoughts and feelings are normal, but when left unexamined they can lead to detrimental financial outcomes. You are not your net worth. Your net worth is an aspect of your life, but it need not define you. Here are some tips to keep Money Status scripts in check.
If your dominant Money Script category is Money Status, one strategy suggested by Dr. Brad Klontz is to slow down. Before making a purchase, pause and ask yourself the following questions:
- “Why am I buying this?”
- What does buying this do for me emotionally?”
- “How long is that feeling likely to last?”
- “How will I pay for this?”
- “How will I feel about this purchase next week?”
Then dig a little deeper to be sure your answers are really honest. Ask yourself, “Is this true?” Then ask again, “Is this really true?” It’s not unusual to answer the second question with, “No, not really.”
I would also suggest learning more about people who might be called the “ordinary wealthy.” One resource is the somewhat dated but still informative book The Millionaire Next Door, by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko.
The tendency of those with Money Status scripts to feel less successful than others who appear to have more is what some therapists call comparing your own insides to someone else’s outsides. The reality is that “looking rich” and “being rich”—whether financially or emotionally—are often not the same.