How to worry less about money

How to worry less about money
23 May 2013

Do you confuse money troubles with money worries? I used to but by trial and error I learned that they are fundamentally different.

Money troubles come from circumstances we have committed to, such as taking on too much debt, overspending against our salary. Money troubles require us to take immediate action, by seeking a way of earning extra income, renegotiating the debts, downsizing our home, selling off assets, etc.

Money worries on the other hand are not always rational. Money scripts are often at the root of money worries, and all of us have at one time or another specific money scripts. Scripts is a term often used by psychologists to refer to patterns of behaviors and thoughts that become so automatic that we frequently are not even aware of them on a conscious level. Money scripts refer to “the assumptions or beliefs about money.”

Worries defined

Financial therapists have identified four money scripts known as the Money Attitude Scale (MAS), which measures an individuals’ money personality: (a) power-prestige, (b) retention-time, (c) distrust, and (d) anxiety. The power-prestige factor is the use of money to influence others or show status. Retention-time is defined as being prepared for one’s financial future, distrust is said to measure a state of not wanting to spend money, and anxiety is defined as a state of worry about money as well as a desire to spend money.

Worries controlled

People with power prestige, distrust and anxiety money personalities live fearful of both ‘shadows and dreams’ but the truth is we are in control, in total control. A common theme in these three money beliefs is that people may hold very strong attitudes toward money that lead them to retain or dispose of money very rapidly.

The good news is money scripts and worries can be (and often should be) changed. However change is difficult because the human brain under stress is like a tilted table. With money, when we experience emotions such as anxiety, fear, and shame, it can cause us to feel off-balance so we compensate by acting in ways that help us feel rebalanced, even temporarily, such as shopping and/or hoarding.

Worry waiver

The key to change is first recognizing if we have money difficulties or money worries and what our money scripts are, and the second is taking proactive action. Worry typically freezes us and causes us to put off doing what we know we should do. Thankfully research indicates 90% of what we worry about never happens. So why worry about it? And certainly never let worries stand in your way of improving your relationship with money - you are in control.

What is your money script and what have you done to change it?


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Head of Behavioral Finance
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