Bari Tessler was practicing financial therapy before most of the rest of us had ever heard the term. A psychotherapist, Bari decided to go into the bookkeeping business, quickly saw the union of psychology and money, and in 2001 began calling her work financial therapy. I met her a few years later and have been a fan of her work ever since.
Last fall Bari posted two articles listing 21 “Things your financial therapist wants you to know.” I thought her points were excellent and worth repeating. Here is my take on ten of them.
- “Most of us never received an education in financial literacy or emotional literacy.” As the late financial philosopher, Dick Wagner, CFP, liked to say, “Money skills are 21st century survival skills.” The problem is that money and emotional skills are learned, not inherited. Unless we had the rare parents that were able to pass on this knowledge, most of us must make a conscious choice as adults to acquire both.
- “Money is an emotional subject.” When I describe money as having an emotional component, almost everyone instantly agrees. Researchers tell us we make 80% to 100% of all money decisions emotionally. It’s almost impossible to separate emotional wellbeing from financial wellbeing.
- “Tough love is not the answer.” Trying to strong-arm ourselves emotionally into overcoming harmful financial behaviors can work for a few days or weeks, but ultimately fails. We need to create a way to approach ourselves with compassion, gentleness, and patience if we want to bring about permanent behavior change around our money decisions.
- “Money shame is real.” Almost everyone carries significant shame around money, including people in the financial services business who often think they are exempt. Money shame often originates in childhood and is a significant driver of our money behaviors. When we can learn to spot our money shame and the stories of how that shame entered our life, we can begin to heal and allow new financial behaviors to emerge.
- “Give yourself the support you need.” It’s important to reach out to people that can guide you on your path to financial and emotional wellbeing. This includes financial therapists, planners, bookkeepers, accountants, and attorneys.
- “Your body has a lot to say about money.” It’s important to learn to notice your physical reactions and sensations—like shoulder tension or “gut feelings”— around financial decisions. Our bodies have much to say about our relationship with money.
- “Have compassion for your financial ‘mistakes.'” We can all look back on money experiences and wince at what we did wrong. Instead of shaming ourselves, we can have compassion for what we didn’t know and forgive ourselves for our missteps. This helps turn mistakes into learning experiences rather than keeping us stuck in patterns of behavior that do not serve us well.
- “Money can be deeply meaningful.” Money is an inanimate object, incapable of bringing meaning to us. But money is indispensable in bringing into our lives the people, things, and experiences that make life worthwhile.
- “Learn a bookkeeping system.” Becoming competent in the basic skills of managing your finances is both practical and empowering.
- “Your relationship with money has the power to transform your life—if you’ll let it.” Money touches everything in our life. How we use it can transform us and those around us.
You can find the rest of Bari’s 21 points on her website. If you want to do more on your healing journey, you might also check out her online course and book, The Art of Money: A Life-Changing Guide to Financial Happiness.