Instead of jumping right into the mechanics of how to be fiscally responsible – save for the future, learn about different investment tools – we first need to understand our relationship with money. I did a quick litmus test at a girlfriend’s patio party during Pride weekend with a great cross section of people: different ages, races, income levels and backgrounds. My ice breaker question: In 3 words, how would you describe your relationship with money? The responses came back wide-ranging and surprising in some cases:

Varying themes of burden, freedom, control and loathing. One friend with over a decade of wealth management experience cited “in and out” as his response. Another successful female entrepreneur exclaimed “let me go” –  a cry asking to be released from its clutches and expectations. Unexpectedly, the cover doesn’t match the contents.

Finances and money appear to be last on a long list of taboo topics in this modern day. Think about it… how many dinner conversations have you had about your kids, politics, sex, religion, the last restaurant you’ve been to… I’m pretty sure finances rarely breaks anyone’s top 10.  But it’s a topic that should be explored more openly as it affects everyone.  I believe a lot of how we view money comes from how we were raised, looking to our parents or guardians as role models.

Not only was I emotionally devastated, now I was up against the harsh reality of living on my own. Money (or the lack of) became a source of major anxiety. I was fighting for survival. I felt extremely vulnerable and vowed never to be in that place again.

If you grew up in a household where your family struggled to make ends meet, you may have grown up with a program around scarcity, worrying you’ll never have enough and counting every dollar. You could also react quite the opposite. I am a huge fan of Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock) – he’s completely charismatic and exudes authenticity and generosity. He and his family were evicted from their home at a young age because they couldn’t pay the rent. Fast forward to 2016, the Rock is the world’s highest paid actor and ranked #34 on the Hollywood Reporter’s Most Powerful People in Entertainment.  Hard work and perseverance can turn any negative situation into a powerful motivator.  

My personal story and attitude towards finances has evolved over the years. I was very fortunate growing up – my sisters and I grew up never wanting for anything. I didn’t have an allowance; if I needed money to go the movies or buy clothes, my parents would always provide. My parents instilled in me good work ethic, but I never had to earn my spending money like some of my friends. My relationship with money at that time could be described as carefree, oblivious and naïve.

It wasn’t until my early 20s that my attitude towards money changed. I moved to Hong Kong after high school to be with my boyfriend at the time. I was extremely dependent on him and his family for my livelihood. I didn’t have much of a life of my own, never mind any sense of financial independence. We split up a year after I graduated from University. I was 21 and on my own making a very meagre salary – my family was thousands of miles away in Toronto. Not only was I emotionally devastated, now I was up against the harsh reality of living on my own. Money (or the lack of) became a source of major anxiety. I was fighting for survival. I felt extremely vulnerable and vowed never to be in that place again.

Worrying about never having enough, feeling that we are unworthy or undeserving of wealth only perpetuates more of the same and keeps you stuck in that cycle. It’s important to be aware of our current thoughts on finances as it influences so many of our daily decisions. The lesson I’ve learned is that regardless of our beginnings, it’s within our power to choose the relationship we have with money. So choose healthy, choose happy – however that looks for you.

What does your story look like? I’d love to hear about your experiences and whether you think money mindset is inherited or a choice.

In my next post, I’ll explore the healthy habits needed to manage our finances effectively and how to gain control of your money mindset.

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