Women - Put Your Big Girl Money Pants On!

Do you stick your head in the sand when it comes to your money problems? It's a common tendency. We think we can make something go away if we don't think about it. This is magical thinking which is how children operate. It's sad to say that sometimes we grown ups are so afraid of our financial circumstanceswe treat our money like a child would.  I get it - I have been there done that. But, it's time to put your big girl money pants on and look at exactly what's happening with your financial situation.

First, face the fact that your money problems will not get any better until you start dealing with them. Second, look at exactly what your bills are and your income. Then define your options. For example, a woman I spoke with this week has overwhelming credit card debt - not unusual these days.  I advised her to see a bankruptcy attorney to get advice about whether filing is in her best interest.  Another women I spoke with is just barely putting food on the table and she has teenagers that want new clothes. Understandable, but.... Teenagers can be part of their own solution. Don't give them all the gory financial details but let them know there isn't money for extras and if they want new clothes they can babysit, (I printed out flyers and distributed them in my neighborhood when I was 15), or yes, even work at a fast food restaurant. 

Women are smart, creative and full of incredible potential. If you know of a woman that's really good with her money, ask her to give you some mentoring help or support. Read to increase your awareness about how you feel about money, what your behavior patterns and beliefs are that support or limit you, and to know how to manage your money. Books I recommend include Suze Orman's Women & Money, Lynne Twist's, The Soul of Money, Deborah Price's Money Magic and Chellie Campbell's The Wealthy Spirit.  We women have got to take care of ourselves and taking control of our money is an important way to put those big girl pants on!!

Unfinished Money Business: If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes

If you struggle with money problems you're not alone. Don't just blame yourself, your spouse or your parents though, do something proactive. Because if you don't, you'll find yourself in the same place in a year or 5 or 10. If you're having the same issues with money you've been having for years it's time to look within. What do I mean by that? "Inner work" consists of taking the time to be introspective, ask yourself questions and listen for the answers. The old saying, "All the answers lie inside you," means that in order to access your inner wisdom you'll need  to give yourself time to explore. There is no right or wrong way to do so. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

Unfinished money business are the patterns, habits and convictions that get in the way of our financial health and well-being. We all want to have financial peace of mind, but we don't necessarily know how to get there. As a therapist and Certified Money Coach who struggled with money for years with my own money issues I love sharing what's helped me to develop a healthier relationship with money.

"The Apple Tree Exercise"  (From Mind Over Matter by Brad & Ted Klontz). Bring to mind an image of your mother or most important mother figure. On a piece of paper list 3 or more adjectives that describe your mother's behaviors around money: generous, impulsive, stingy, for example. Then list 3 or more things you can remember hearing her say about money and how it worked: "Nothing's too good for you," It's only money," etc. Write any beliefs she had about money. As you think about her background and money beliefs see if you can pull out the "money scripts" she lived by. For example:  "Money can be used to show love and to exert control." "Money's less important than having fun and enjoying life."  Do the same for your father or father figures.

Then go back to the adjectives that describe your mother/father and circle any words or phrases you believe are true about you. If you're up for it, ask someone that knows you well to check the lists and words circled for feedback.  As you can imagine, this "Apple Tree" exercise is designed to help you see how your money beliefs, patterns or habits didn't necessarily fall far from the parental tree. As you gain true inner awareness of your relationship with money when you make changes such as starting a retirement account, developing an emergency savings account, these behavior changes will "stick" better

Money Lessons 101

What kind of financial education did you get as a child or young adult? For most of us, it's the school of hard knocks and we make lots of money mistakes by the time we're thirty or fifty. Those of us that are smart take a class or read a few books about money. But, reading a book or taking a class doesn't get at those unconscious or below the surface memories, that fuel our money problems. 

When we're children we observe what's happening in our families around money and make up stories to understand and make sense of what is going on around us. Unfortunately, this is not the best way to comprehend the world of money. The Iceberg theory states that 10% of our mind is conscious and the rest is subconscious or under the surface. When your money buttons get pushed and you react instantly - for example, when your wife comes home with a shopping bag from the mall, but hasn't paid the bills yet, that may plug into a childhood memory.

To understand more deeply your current relationship with money takes some exploration. Deborah Price, in her book Money Magic, describes the Mother/Father Mirror Exercise. She suggests you get into a relaxed, "stream of consciousness" state (sit quietly, take a few slow breaths, relax) and allow pictures or images to form of your parents or guardians. Start with your mother and as you get a clear image of her make a list of characterstics, energies or attitudes you attribute to her around money. Then do the same with your father.

Now, gently ask these questions:  Which parent do I most mirror in my relationship with money? What aspects do I consider positive or negative? Which characteristics do I embrace or appreciate?  The negative characteristics are often the unconscious money aspects we either deny or avoid. They're also the ones we tend to most react to in our partner. How can you allow this new awareness to help you in your current money situation? As we gain new insight it can soothe financial stress and lead us into transforming our patterns, habits and beliefs with money.