By Abbey L. Henderson, CFP®, RLP®, CPCC®
All of us have a history with money that shapes our behavior and beliefs. As a financial advisor, I’ve seen time and time again that one of the biggest determiners of our future with money is the “lessons” that we’ve learned in the past which is why a money autobiography is so helpful.
When we start to talk about their financial future, without even realizing that they’re doing it, my clients start telling me their past money stories. Those stories are filled with all sorts of emotions: happiness, joy, guilt, anger and everything in between. They can be complicated because everyone’s relationship with money is intertwined with our relationships with family, friends, colleagues and ourselves.
One of the best ways to become more self-aware around money is by writing your money autobiography. Each person’s autobiography will look a little different, but here are three steps you can take to get started.
1. Interview Yourself — Answer Honestly
This self-interview only works if you’re honest. Remember there’s no good or bad, right or wrong. Take some time to reflect and think deeply about your memories and how you feel about them. I recommend that you write down your answers.
Here are a few questions to get you started, but you can include anything that you believe is relevant to your story. If you have a clear memory around money, especially if it is from your childhood, it should be in your autobiography.
What was your experience with money as a child and young adult?
This includes thinking about the attitude your parents had about money. What is your first memory involving money or finances? Did you feel poor or rich as a child? Did you worry about money?
What was your money experience as a teenager? How did you feel when you earned your first paycheck? What is the first thing you bought with your “own” money and how did it feel?
How did your perspective change as you got older?
Did you follow your parents’ example when it came to managing money? How has your attitude adjusted with new circumstances like getting married, having children, getting promoted? Think about the moments that had the most impact.
Finally, think about your present financial status.
What do you feel about your current financial situation? Satisfied? Or wanting something more? Are you a risk-taker or more conservative? Do you feel guilty or envious?
Does money bring you joy? How do you make decisions around money? If you are in a relationship, what is the dynamic between you and your partner around financial tasks and decisions?
2. Process Your Answers — Be Curious, Not Judgmental
Read through your money autobiography to see if there are any patterns that emerge. By looking for patterns, you will often be able to connect your current financial beliefs and decisions with your past. You may also realize that you’ve been on autopilot – letting those old money stories drive your decisions without much intention on your part.
Be curious, not overly critical. Treat yourself as you would a dear friend. Often, our relationship with money was established in childhood when we were too young to understand or choose differently. The power of this exercise is helping you to see that you do have the ability to make different choices now.
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3. Rewrite Your Story — Decide What You’d Like to Change
What aspects of your relationship to money would you like to change? Remember that once you are aware of past patterns, you can now choose to act differently and make different decisions. You can begin to truly make money work for you.
And now that you’re in a more powerful mindset around money, think through your current goals and see if they line up with what you really want.
4. Sharing Your Story
Sharing your money autobiography with a trusted partner can help you plan for the future and improve the present. Consider a financial advisor that has a life coaching perspective.
Schedule a complimentary Financial Life Plan Discovery Session with me to learn how we can work together to make your money story for the future a reality.