10 things a financial therapist wants you to know

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Bari Tessler practiced financial therapy before most of us had ever heard of the term. A psychotherapist, Bari decided to go into accounting, quickly saw the union of psychology and money, and in 2001 began to call his work financial therapy. I met her a few years later and have been a fan of her work ever since.

Last fall, Bari published two articles listing 21 “things your financial therapist wants you to know.” I thought his points were excellent and worth repeating. Here is my opinion on 10 of them.

  1. “Most of us have never had an education in financial literacy or emotional literacy.” As financial philosopher Dick Wagner, CFP, was fond of saying, “Financial skills are 21st century survival skills.” The problem is that money and emotional skills are learned, not inherited. Unless we have the few parents who can pass on this knowledge, most of us must make a conscious choice as adults to acquire both.
  2. “Money is an emotional subject.” When I describe money as having an emotional component, almost everyone instantly agrees. Researchers tell us that we make 80% to 100% of all financial decisions with emotion. It is almost impossible to separate emotional well-being from financial well-being.
  3. “Tough love is not the answer.” Trying to emotionally arm ourselves to overcome 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 are to bring about permanent behavior change around our financial decisions.
  4. “The shame of money is real.” Almost everyone carries significant money shame, including people in the financial services industry who often think they are exempt. Money shame often originates in childhood and is an important driver of our money-related behaviors. When we can learn to spot our financial shame and the stories of how that shame entered our lives, we can begin to heal and allow new financial behaviors to emerge.
  5. “Give yourself the support you need.” It’s important to reach out to people who can guide you on your path to financial and emotional well-being. This includes financial therapists, planners, bookkeepers, bookkeepers and lawyers.
  6. “Your body has a lot to say about money.” It’s important to learn to notice your physical reactions and sensations, such as shoulder tension or “gut feelings,” around financial decisions. Our body has a lot to say about our relationship with money.
  7. “Have compassion for your financial ‘mistakes’.” We can all look back on our financial experiences and wince at our mistakes. Instead of shaming ourselves, we can have compassion for what we didn’t know and forgive ourselves for our missteps. It helps turn mistakes into learning experiences rather than keeping us stuck in behavioral patterns that don’t serve us well.
  8. “Money can be deeply meaningful.” Money is an inanimate object, incapable of giving us meaning. But money is essential for bringing into our lives the people, things and experiences that make life worthwhile.
  9. Learn an accounting system. Becoming proficient in the basic skills of managing your finances is both practical and challenging.
  10. “Your relationship with money has the power to transform your life, if you 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 his website. If you want to do more on your healing journey, you can also check out his online course and book, The Art of Money: A Life-Changing Guide to Financial Happiness.

Rick Kahler is president and owner of Kahler Financial of Rapid City.

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