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The Wall Street Journal
Ebenezer Scrooge would seem an unlikely source from which to glean financial wisdom. However, Dickens' classic tale of how Scrooge left behind his miserly ways and transformed into a joyful, compassionate and generous man is a powerful model we all can benefit from today.
Unlike other financial planning books that focus narrowly on the 'dollar and cents' of money, The Financial Wisdom of Ebenezer Scrooge is an easy read. Written for the layperson, this book provides advice that is simple, transformational and timeless.
Through the process they've used successfully with their clients, the authors will show you how to recognize ways unconscious Money Scripts may keep you trapped; how to deal with the relationship between your net worth and your self-worth; how to discover your authentic goals and values; how to permanently change self-destructive money behaviors; and, through five principles of financial prosperity, how to leave a family legacy of financial wellness.
|Publisher:||Health Communications, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 7.50(h) x (d)|
About the Author
Brad Klontz, Psy.D., is the 2008 President of the Hawaii Psychological Association. He is a licensed clinical psychologist, speaker, researcher, consultant, columnist, and personal coach. The CEO of Klontz Coaching & Consulting (www.klontzcoaching.com), Brad has been published in numerous professional journals. He is a leading expert in the psychology of money whose work has been featured on NPR and in the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. He is the coauthor of Facilitating Financial Health and the creator of the Financial Health Scale.
Rick Kahler,CFP®, MS, ChFC, CCIM,launched his professional career in real estate at age eighteen and went on to earn a master's degree in personal financial planning. He founded Kahler Financial Group in 1981 and became South Dakota's first fee-only financial planner in 1983. Between 1998 and 2003, he served as a member and then chairman of the South Dakota Investment Council. He oversaw a six-billion-dollar portfolio and was widely recognized for making exemplary strides in a time of unprecedented market volatility.
Read an Excerpt
Beliefs Behind the Behaviors
If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.
The Gnostic Gospel of St. Thomas
As warped as Scrooge's behavior may seem, his actions make perfect sense when viewed in the context of his beliefs about money. Several hidden beliefs are at the root of Scrooge's misery. For example, Scrooge believed 'You can't trust anyone with your money.' He didn't even trust his loyal clerk, Bob Cratchit. We can see this clearly in the first chapter of A Christmas Carol:
'The door of Scrooge's counting house was open that he might keep his eye upon his clerk.'
Scrooge also believed that you 'Don't spend money on yourself or others.' He lived this belief to the extreme. He barely heated his office and lit his sparse apartment with a single candle:
'Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it.'
These and other similar behaviors certainly appear severe, but not when you look at his perspective of the world. In view of these underlying and mostly unconscious beliefs, Scrooge's actions are perfectly logical, at least from his perspective. In our work, we have come to believe that every financial behavior, no matter how seemingly illogical, makes perfect sense when we understand the underlying beliefs. Scrooge's excessive behaviors merely reflected what he believed to be true.
We call these powerful beliefs money scripts.
Very early in life, people begin to internalize messages about money's purposehow it works, what it promises, its overall significanceand develop their relationship to it. Since children can't fully grasp adult reality, they translate what they see and hear into unconscious rules about life, including any internalized messages about money. These messages about money, or money scripts, don't necessarily reflect reality from the adult perspective. Instead, they may represent only a distorted or partial truth as seen through the eyes of a child. As children grow into adulthood, they often behave as though these partial truths are absolute truths. They may find themselves unable to change destructive behaviors that, at a very basic level, somehow feel right and make perfect sense.
Think of a money script like the script for a play with several roles in it. The script is written by one person, and a specific role in the script is memorized by another personan actor who plays one character in that particular play. If the actor memorizes the script and executes his lines well, the result will be exactly what the playwright intended. However, if the actor attempts to use the same script for any other role, or in any other play, the results will be disastrous. It is the same with money scripts.
To learn their lines, actors must repeat them over and over. Few actors, no matter how talented, can read a script once and then deliver a flawless performance. They must practice frequently. In a similar way, the depth of any money script depends on the frequency and intensity of the original event or financial trauma. A child who hears his mother voice concern once about how the family business may fail and that they may not have money for food will probably not internalize a damaging money script. However, if the child hears his mother voice that fear monthly, weekly or daily, the result could be a deeply held belief that will influence the child's behavior well into adulthood. Our deepest, most ingrained money scripts are often formed by such examples of financial trauma.
For example, when Brenda was eight years old, she, unlike the rest of her siblings, saved her money. When the rest of the family needed money, they robbed her piggy bank.
Sounds sad but innocent enough, right? But little Brenda internalized the same message that Scrooge internalized: 'You can't trust anyone with your money.' This worked for both Scrooge and Brenda as children. However, as adults, the results of this money script didn't work for either of themalthough the results for Brenda were very different from Scrooge's.
As an adult, Brenda earns $250,000 a year. She needs only $100,000 to support her preferred lifestyle, but she spends the entire amount each year. She doesn't use many of the things she buys. She spends all of her money rather than saves or invests it because of an unconscious fear that others will take it away. This old belief is reinforced when her parents and siblings frequently call and want her to bail them out of some financial dilemma. By never having any money in the bank, she can say no when her siblings ask her for money. Unfortunately, spending money as quickly as she gets it makes her just like themalways broke.
Money scripts internalized in childhood can affect our beliefs and behaviors well into adulthood.
Why Money Scripts Are So Powerful
Brenda's belief, originating from a child's perspective of an experience, created a money script that is still affecting her today. Brenda's subconscious belief is keeping her from achieving success. She neglects to save for her future. So, while she is enjoying the fruits of her labors, her inability to say no to her family and her failure to save jeopardize her financial future. Worse, because it is mostly unconscious, Brenda isn't even aware that this money script is sabotaging her career goals and dreams for her own family. Instead, she feels a vague sense of dissatisfaction and failure because she knows she should be saving and investing for her future, but can't.
When we met Brenda, she thought the answer to saving money was to earn more; then she could save. The problem was that she had been saying the same thing to herself as she moved up the salary scale from $50,000 to $100,000 to $150,000 to $250,000. To us, it was obvious that the solution lay elsewhere, in her basic money script.
People are generally unaware of their money scripts and how their self-defeating behaviors are linked to them.
Often, these messages learned during childhood are buried so deeply that the individual doesn't know about or question the belief, even when acting on it causes him or her repeated problems.
It is important to understand that money scripts are not inherently good or bad, right or wrong. Certain money scripts can serve us well when applied to the appropriate financial circumstance. However, money scripts can become a problem, even become destructive, when they are applied to inappropriate financial circumstances.
For example, have you ever met anyone with this money script:
'I deserve to spend money on myself.'
Now, believing you deserve to spend money on yourself is not inherently bad. In fact, it can be very positive. We hope you believe this to be true. Many people do not share this belief, but we all deserve to take care of ourselves. Nevertheless, believing you deserve something extravagant for yourself today at the expense of saving for tomorrow can undermine your financial well-being.
Moreover, believing that you deserve to spend money on yourself to the point that you feel entitled to do so regardless of your circumstances can also be destructive. Professional credit counselors tell us that this is a typical money script among people with excessive debt. Some of their stories of money mismanagement are incredible.
Carl had serious credit problems. Quite unexpectedly, he received a windfall inheritance. He could have used it to pay off his debt. He could have saved it. He could have used it to rebuild his life. Instead, he bought a new car. He threw a big party, bought new clothes and gave money away. Within months, he was back in the same predicament. This is not an isolated example. Dave Ramsey, a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host, author and founder of Financial Peace University, has cited statistics showing that within seven years of coming into money, the average person, like Carl, will be living at the same economic level as they were before the windfall appeared.
This behavior seems incredibly destructive, yet it makes sense to the person whose money script is 'I deserve to spend money on myself.' Having that money script creates the same consequences that would have occurred if the person had made a conscious decision to be poor.
Money Scripts Are Generational
Frequently, our money scripts are passed down through the generations. When people carefully explore their family histories, clear and profound patterns of financial behaviors often emerge. With close examination of our multigenerational family stories, we are able to identify the money scripts driving the actions of our ancestors. Many of us live our financial lives unaware of how powerfully our beliefs around money are linked to the specific experiences of our ancestors. As such, they continue to affect us today, long after their adaptive and functional aspects have lost their benefit.
In our work with clients, we still see in today's forty- to sixty-year-olds the lessons their parents and grandparents learned during the Great Depression. Hiding money, hoarding money, not trusting banks or investment institutions, and poverty thinking are behaviors that still plague the children and grandchildren of family members traumatized by those economic and social experiences.
Younger clients suffer from other thinking distortions. One father told us of his uneasiness as he handed his eight-year-old daughter her twenty-dollar-a-week allowance. He sensed that the amount was too much, but he didn't want her to feel different from the other kids in the neighborhood whose parents gave their eight-year-olds that amount.
Another parent told of his distress in realizing that his seven-year-old had no idea where money comes from or what is involved in acquiring it. He learned this when he told her she could not have something she wanted because there was no money for it. Her response was, 'Daddy, just go to the wall and get some.' She had learned that money comes from 'the wall,' better known to adults as an ATM. In fact, we have worked with a number of clients who tell us that one of their beliefs is that 'Money is not real.' Since it is not real, then there is nothing to deal with.
Money scripts and their consequences, such as the ones we have mentioned, are much more of a potential problem than ever. Two generations ago, if you got a good job, worked hard and were a loyal employee, at the end of twenty-five, thirty or forty years of service, you received an adequate guaranteed retirement. That, along with Social Security, would pretty much guarantee you would have sufficient funds for the rest of your life. Now, however, both corporate America and the Social Security system have changed radically. Fewer companies offer defined benefits retirement plans. Fewer employees choose or even have the option of lifetime employment. And the Social Security system is bending and threatening to collapse under the weight of too many recipients, too few contributors and the extended life spans of the beneficiaries. Given this reality, old money scripts and their resulting behaviors can be disastrous.
Knowledge Is Power
The following sections examine the money scripts driving Scrooge, Cratchit and many people today. Armed with this knowledge, you'll be ready to begin recognizing at least some of your own money scripts. In some cases, awareness, along with a commitment to change, is enough to change behavior that is being driven by an unconscious belief and can help clear the way for conscious beliefs to move into the driver's seat.
Scrooge Chose to Be Poor
As we've mentioned, despite his great wealth, Ebenezer Scrooge unconsciously chose to be poor. Of course, if the definition of poor were measured solely by one's bank account, Scrooge would certainly not fit that definition. On the other hand, if you define poor as a measure of the quality of one's physical environment, emotional health, relationship quality and lifestyle, then Scrooge would certainly qualify as poor. Scrooge's excessive hoarding created an impoverishment as real as any caused by financial distress. Ironically, Scrooge's money scripts created the very poverty and isolation that Young Scrooge had so desperately tried to avoid.
• As an apprentice under Fezziwig, Young Scrooge had to sleep under a counter at the warehouse. As an adult, Scrooge lives in a dreary old apartment that was as cold and sparse as a warehouse.
• As a child, Scrooge spent the holidays alone at the warehouse. As an adult, Scrooge spends the holidays alone in his rooms.
• As a child, Scrooge was poor. As an adult, Scrooge lives a meager existence, eating sparingly and barely heating or lighting his tiny dwelling.
Scrooge lived in a poverty created by his own beliefs and behaviors around money.
Scrooge's Money Scripts
As we observe Scrooge's behaviors, we can begin to see the money scripts that drove them. These are just a few of Scrooge's money scripts:
• You can't trust anyone with your money.
• People only want you for your money.
• You must work hard for money.
• You can never have enough money.
• Don't spend money on yourself or others.
• Money will give you meaning in life.
• The more money you have, the happier you will be.
• You can never be happy if you are poor.
• Giving to the poor encourages laziness.
• If you had more money, things would be better.
Scrooge was living in harmony with what he believed to be true. Unfortunately, many of his beliefs about money were distorted half-truths. As a result, he was living a life full of pain and loneliness and devoid of love.
Your money scripts could be keeping you financially, emotionally or spiritually poor.
Similarly, your money scripts could be the reason you are in debt, facing bankruptcy and living in deprivation. Your money scripts could be sabotaging your quest for the American dream, your retirement, your children's education and your financial security. Even if you have significant wealth, your money scripts could be destroying your peace of mind, relationships, happiness and sense of fulfillment.
Cratchit Chose to Be Poor
One could argue that Bob Cratchit, Scrooge's loyal clerk and father of Tiny Tim, was a victim of circumstance. He was trapped in an abusive socioeconomic system that didn't allow the less fortunate individual to advance. On the other hand, we would argue that Cratchit's unconscious money scripts contributed to his poverty. He didn't truly appreciate his own talents and skills. He undersold himself. He spent impulsively when he could have bought medicine for his son. He didn't know what steps to take to plan for his own future. In effect, it's possible that Cratchit made an unconscious decision to be poor.
Cratchit's Money Scripts
Bob Cratchit is often characterized as the eternal optimist, always finding the silver lining in a bad situation. But careful analysis of his behavior reveals there's far more to his personality.
Bob Cratchit also has his share of money scripts. Although Dickens never tells us the nature of Tiny Tim's illness, we know that it is treatable. Yet Cratchit spends his money on a goose for Christmas dinner instead of buying medicine for Tiny Tima classic example of binge spending.
In today's dollars, Bob Cratchit's Christmas dinner would have cost about $500. His spending for Christmas dinner was considered so extravagant that in some early stage adaptations, the goose becomes a surprise gift from Scrooge's nephew, Fred.
©2008. Ted Klontz, Brad Klontz, Rick Kahler. All rights reserved. Reprinted from The Financial Wisdom of Ebenezer Scrooge. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442