What is Your Money Story?

Our money stories are rooted in our first experiences with money and continue throughout our adult life. This big-picture view of our experience is what Bari Tessler refers to as your Money Story (The Art of Money, 2016). Most of us have  personal events, habits, and stories that have informed our views on money and what it means to us.

With most clients, the response I often hear is that, “my family never talked about money.” However, as we know,  children are very perceptive, so whether money was discussed or not, the children have gathered an understanding of money from how their parents talk (or don’t talk), think, and act about money. Were there fights about money? Was there a lack of food in the cupboards? Was Mom or Dad   working all the time (and perhaps complaining about that)? There are a host of different issues that shape our perspectives of what money is and what it can do.


The following list includes some common sayings we may have heard and absorbed as children, which may  have laid the foundation to how we feel about money today:

  • Money doesn’t grow on trees
  • Money is the root of all evil
  • I’ve never been good with money
  • Too much week and not enough paycheck
  • Rich people are greedy
  • Budgeting means cutting back

When we acknowledge these early memories and bring them into clearer focus, we can then choose how we want to incorporate them into our lives. Our financial identity is fluid and subjective and it can be changed and updated and any time.

Many of these ideas  can appear in our Money Stories. While these  simple sayings seem harmless, most often they create a program in our head as a young child that can inform our adult financial outlook and behaviors,  and in some cases make our subconscious not even want money.


Everyone has a money story, and it’s time to learn more about it. Here’s a quick exercise I use with my clients to get them thinking about what values and ideas may have informed their adult financial situation.

1)      Visualize and write down your first experience with money

2)      Map your money story to patterns, emotions, and beliefs

3)      Share your story

4)      What parts of your money story would you like to change?

As we visualize our earliest memories of money and what it meant to us, we then want to connect the dots with the past and the present (mapping). How do these money stories show up in your self-talk, your relationships, and in your behaviors? And finally, what new money beliefs would you like to develop? What does your future look like with this new belief system?

As a financial coach we walk through this process, looking at how these beliefs can be limiting, and how we can free ourselves. This is important work that  dovetails some of the  core values exercises, to help us gain a clearer picture of what shapes our behaviors. Looking into the past can lay the foundation for our future goals and objectives.

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