If you’re worrying about outliving your savings and investments or having to pay for long term care, then you’re most likely a baby boomer. According to the 20th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey of Workers, 45% of baby boomers fret about their money. Financial well-being extends beyond financial stability to include your belief that you can pay for your life. So someone who is wealthy but lives in fear of losing it all has a lower financial well-being than those who are poor and satisfied with their lives. Our sense of financial well-being may not be readily apparent because it lives in the shadows of our conscious awareness.
Our relationship with money is complicated and multifaceted. We sabotage our own goals and budgets with impulse spending or we fail to plan at all. In the 20th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey of Workers, only 10% of baby boomers based their financial retirement needs on information from a financial advisor.  Habits that support financial wellness are well researched but difficult to apply.
Money is more emotional than practical. While financial planning is a vital part of financial wellness, financial well-being can only be achieved with a clear understanding of an individual’s perception of their finances. This gets down to understanding how each person grapples with the emotional and thinking aspect of money that are largely subconscious.
1. What are Money Talk-Taboos?
Money is largely transactional between people. Because money is as old as ancient trade routes, it seems counter intuitive that money conversations are so uncomfortable. With so much time and energy going into making money, it seems practical to find easy ways to address financial needs. Unfortunately we have developed the habit of Money Talk-Taboo.
Try having a meaningful discussion about money at your next dinner party and you will most likely feel shut down with embarrassed looks, a cold shoulder, a slight, or even a direct reprimand. These hazing techniques have been used for centuries designed to incentivize you to change your ways or be frozen out of the group. With baby boomers considered the loneliest generation, this is a steep cost to pay.  You may have been so indoctrinated into money talk-taboo that the ramifications aren’t readily apparent. If you talk about money then you aren’t following the rules. If you want to belong to us, then money is a talk-taboo. And let’s face it, we need to talk about money because we’re herd animals. We’re much better off forming a habit of regular, real, and meaningful discussions.
2. Who is on your Lets Talk About Money List?
Do we really need to talk about money with each other? When you consider debt is crippling marriages  with 49% of couples failing to discuss money before they get married,  it is no surprise that money is a primary cause for marital conflict  and predictor for divorce. At least talking to your partner is a good idea. Fidelity Investments 2021 Couples & Money Study found that those who communicate well are more likely to expect live a comfortable lifestyle in retirement, rate their household’s financial health as excellent or very good, and say that money is not their greatest relationship challenge. Most couples with these benefits discuss financials together at least monthly.
Money shame even spreads into the family. Baby boomers will remember the bumper sticker, “Be nice to your kids. They will choose your nursing home.” Well that little bit of wisdom is coming home to roost! Estate planning and long-term care are just two of the reasons to overcome money talk-taboo with your children. Better to talk about your wishes. These conversation can be tricky because as parents we are accustomed to being in charge. The key here is to resist telling your children what to do. Begin with curiosity and genuine listening. Let them know that you want to start a series of conversation about your future and how it impacts them. A financial advisor who is also trained as a coach can be a helpful ally in these circumstances — especially if that education includes shadow stories!
The resistance to having these kinds of discussions is so deeply ingrained that we have to delve below the surface of our conscious awareness to even know what kinds of conversations we should have to overcome money talk-taboo with the significant people in our lives.
3. Who’s in charge?
You might think that you are in charge of your financial well-being; setting goals, creating budgets, and paying bills. If this is true, then how does crushing debt, out-of-control credit cards, and spending money you don’t have get a foothold in our society? Can you claim a temporary case of amnesia when you can’t resist picking up the tab for your friends? Or does the invitation to a weekend out of town with your besties trump your savings plan? These are Shadow Stories rising up out of your subconscious that are in conflict with your conscious goal-setting. So who is in charge of your bank account — your hero-self or your shadow?
4. What’s below the surface in your Shadow Story?
Your habits reside in your subconscious. You may be wondering how you’re going to get control of decision-making that occurs outside your awareness. This is a fair and important question because the shadow to your consciousness is extremely important to grapple with and integrate into your hero-self. There is no doubt that a subconscious story is always going to win.
Implicit money lessons begin very young and they’re numerous! Children learn a great deal about money through everyday experiences. The way your parents spend money cultivated certain preferences such as buying new versus used cars or eating fast food versus dining at expensive restaurants. You most likely felt experiences related to money like feeling safety, security, and order in your home or neighborhood. Then there were other behaviors you observed and here is a big one — did your parents talk about money? Did conflicts run red-hot and unresolved or were they peaceful and agreeable? The subconscious remembers.
5. How does your money serve you?
There are some great coaching techniques to get us started. To bring your Shadow Stories into your conscious awareness, a storytelling approach reduces defensiveness and opens up your heart to make genuine change.
Step 1: Identify your shadow story
Begin with identifying your most closely held values. Values are the standards by which we judge ourselves and others. So here is a storytelling tip. Words have a denotative (dictionary definition) and connotative meanings. The connotative meaning carries a feeling. The feeling you have attached to a word can carry a positive or a negative story with it. The emotion piggybacking on the word charges up your motivation. Some examples of value words might be family, adventure, healthy lifestyle, independence, friendship, or philanthropy. Try making a list of your own. Gather about 20 value words, and then narrow it to 4 or 5.
Step 2. Assign a ratio to your words
After you have a list of value words, ask yourself what story do they tell about you? Based on this vision, how would you choose to invest your money to enable it to come to fruition? Then just for fun, put a percentage on each spending category or word associated with your vision that represents how you would like to invest your income to make this vision come true. This becomes an ideal that can be adjusted and broken down into goals.
Step 3. Play a game of percentages
Take a look at your current cash flow. This is a perfect time of year to examine how you use your credit cards. Many companies send an annual review of your spending categories. They may even have percentages broken out for you. Add in your “nut” or monthly commitment of regular bills like rent/house payment, utilities, car and gas, food etc. Then as close as you can, figure out by percentage how you are actually spending your money.
Step 4. Shift Your Money Story
Evaluate your ideal spending compared to your actual spending. What does the comparison tell you?
What changes do you want to make in your spending to align it with your vision and your values? If you made these changes how would your life change? Write it out along with a plan. Identify small achievable and measurable steps you’re willing to do to manifest the life you want. Now ask yourself, has your story shifted? Do you have a plan for how your money will serve you? Fortifying your plan with purpose and meaning fires up your motivation for goal achievement.
Julie Elledge, PhD., LMFT, PCC, NBC-HWC, BCC is the CEO of Mentor Agility, a training and education company she founded as the culmination of her passion for and career in education, curriculum development, therapy, and Coaching. Her goal to create advanced Coach training programs for the evolving coaching profession, Mentor Agility programs integrate multi-disciplinary instructors, her experience in multi-media production of educational materials and proprietary curriculum like the Hero’s Journey® Change Model, Financial Well-Being, Nature Coaching, and other specializations steeped in the art and science of Storytelling. “Our goal is creating and advancing Coaching training not found anywhere else. Our programs are vetted by the the highest credentialing organizations in the world.”