Excerpt: 'The Financial Wisdom of Ebenezer Scrooge'

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.

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