Money and shame

Money and Shame Pic

Money shame is real.

I had outlined this post when a dear friend sent me a text message. “Why do we go to the doctor when we’re sick, bring our car to the mechanic but we aren’t supposed to talk about money or ask for help when we have money questions?”

Money shame. Somewhere along the way, the notion that it is impolite to discuss finances has gone to an extreme where no one talks about money ever. Sure, it’s still impolite to ask someone how much money they make or how much something cost them, but what about the rest? What about those struggling with money? With budgeting? With debt? With savings? With retirement? Money is so complex and emotionally charged, it’s one of the top reasons for conflict in relationships and it causes stress in the lives of countless people. Its management is also critically important to your future and security. I’m going to talk money because I think financial literacy is important.

There are two MBAs living under our roof and neither of us had done a true written budget until last year. No matter how much education you have, there is very little exposure to managing your own personal finances. It’s not that we didn’t want to or that we weren’t smart enough, it was a combination of not knowing how, and for me, some shame. I read Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover” in three days while my husband was gone on a business trip. I opened my laptop, created our complete budget and when he came home, told him about our new plan. He was totally on board and excited (relieved?) that we had a path. I was so excited that I shared with a few close friends and family members. The responses were so interesting.

“Ohhhh, Jen. I’m so sorry. I thought you guys were doing okay . . . .”

FREEZE. Okay. This response, I will admit, sparked some shame. We WERE doing ok. We could pay all of our bills. We never worried about feeding our family. We were saving some. We were able to give gifts and have fun. We were fine. Why did a budget suddenly mean that we weren’t doing okay? Are budgets only for people who aren’t doing okay financially? “Doesn’t that feel too restrictive?” “Only poor people need to budget.” “Only people with a lot of money can budget.” “You work hard, you DESERVE to get whatever you want.” WOAH. No wonder we have money shame.

For a lot of people, money shame comes when you have to say no, when you limit, when you have to own up to your own financial behavior, when you spend money you know you don’t have, when you know you should be changing your behavior and don’t, or when you ask for help. It also prevents us from change. “I deserve,” “I earned,” “I want.” Disregarding our long-term for short-term gratification. Our focus culturally has shifted from being wise with money to materialism and the price is high. Any of this sound familiar?

I challenge you to let go of the shame. For so many reasons. The biggest is that shame weighs us down and gets in the way of happiness. It gets in the way of actually being able to help ourselves financially. Don’t let your shame rob your future. Saying no is hard, asking for help is hard, owning up to your behavior is hard, but once you do it, you’re free! You can go on the path. You can learn. You can grow. You can pay off debt, save and be financially secure. You can give. You can win.

The single best way to control your finances is to control what goes OUT. Get a written budget. “The Millionaire Next Door” teaches us that most millionaires become millionaires because they control what goes out. They don’t buy things they can’t afford. They save and invest. They are disciplined. They say no. And most of them did that from the ground up – not from inheritances or the lottery. Hard work and smart choices. They aren’t ashamed to limit themselves.

It’s something everyone can do…but you have to let go of the shame.

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