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Every year, people make New Year resolutions to save money, improve
their financial situations, get out of debt and pay all their bills on
time. However, by the end of January, some find that they're still
struggling, the bills are mounting up again and they lose confidence in
their ability to deal with their money worries. By February they've lost
the motivation to keep those resolutions, and the whole ghastly cycle of
living hand to mouth starts again.
Contrary to commonly held beliefs that financial problems are due to
wilful neglect and irresponsibility, psychologists believe that these
problems are frequently the outward symptoms of deeper issues that need
to be addressed.
In her article "Money Talks" (Monitor,
January 2008, Vol 39, No. 1, p.36), Sadie F. Dingfelder writes that many
financial advisers are now trained to help clients eliminate underlying
psychological obstacles, in order to help them work through their
financial problems and achieve long term security. She quotes Brad
Klontz, PsyD as saying, "Psychologists are really well-positioned to
treat problematic financial behaviour. We need to step up and offer this
service - it's much needed".
Suze Orman, an expert in personal finance, writes compassionately about
chaotic influences on children growing up that can include emotional
poverty, a lack of self-worth and a failure to develop the belief that
they can be successful or valuable. Such destructive emotional baggage
can lead them to sabotage, albeit unwittingly, their efforts to take
control of their personal finances or to believe that they deserve to
earn enough to live on when they reach adulthood.
In her book The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom (Crown Publishing,
1997) Orman presents useful strategies for disconnecting the destructive
emotional hardwiring. She believes that identifying the negative
influences that can become manifest in fear- and avoidance-driven
behaviours can enable people to make huge changes in their lives, and to
develop positive and confident attitudes towards personal solvency.
Unlearning those destructive strategies takes time, but in the same way
that any other habit can be formed, healthy and responsible habits in
dealing with personal finance can become as natural as breathing.
These new habits can be learned with cognitive techniques, either with a
psychologist or cognitive behavioural therapist. Alternatively, online
or book coursework can be very productive, with the additional help of a
GP who can monitor emotional health and can refer for professional help
if and when difficult issues need addressing.
Orman suggests that during the process of eliminating harmful
self-doubt, people can absorb new thoughts and attitudes that underpin a
new self-worth and confidence. Eventually they can acknowledge their
right to personal financial stability and self-fulfillment. She
recommends daily affirmations that begin with the words "I deserve", and
include such things as the right to a full and happy life, the right to
earn enough to be comfortable, and the right to be financially secure
for life. Such affirmations can consolidate the cognitive learning
taking place, celebrating the abandonment of old patterns of behaviour
as though draining and refilling a stale, brackish pond with fresh
Once new and healthy attitudes towards money are in place, financial
planning practices can be pressed into action, leading to financial
independence and security. Liberated from harmful self-doubts about ever
becoming debt-free and solvent, people discover that they know perfectly
well how to balance their budgets, save money and organise their
financial commitments and investments. They knew these things all along
from all those years of trying to apply the principles, but failing
because they were unable to stop sabotaging their efforts to use them.
It can be a very emotional experience for people taking their first
steps towards being in control of their money for the very first time.
Not only do they have a new sense of financial confidence, they're also
finally free of the emotional baggage that dragged them down for years
and prevented them from being financially secure. When people have lived
for years as prisoners in their own personal jails, freedom is a
beautiful thing. Online High School