Excerpt: 'The Financial Wisdom of Ebenezer Scrooge'

It's easier to be a victim than to change one's behavior.

Money Scripts and the Truth

One reason that some money scripts are so difficult to change is that, like the broken clock that's accurate twice a day, a money script that is dysfunctional in one situation can be functional in another. The fact that most scripts are valid part of the time makes it harder for people to recognize that they may be applying the same money scripts inappropriately. In other words, sometimes "true" is not always true.

For example, if you were approached by a con artist promoting a get-rich-quick scheme, a money script of "trust no one" would prevent a disastrous money mistake. The problem arises when you apply that same script to a scrupulous financial planner, attorney, accountant or even your spouse. That's like an actor playing the same role, regardless of whether the movie is a comedy, drama or adventure. The role needs to change to fit the situation. It's the same with money scripts.

Paul, for example, believed that "being in debt is like being in prison." Understanding that debt is a significant obligation is important. Because this script was so entrenched within him, however, Paul was never able to buy a home for his family because he could never save enough to pay cash for it. As a result, he and his family had lived in a series of rented apartments and homes for over twenty years, actually spending more on rent payments than he would have on house payments if he had taken out a loan. Even when loan rates were the lowest they had been in over fifty years, Paul could not take advantage of this favorable financial opportunity because he "didn't want to go to prison."

Of the eighty or more money scripts Kate identified for herself, the one that was "absolutely true" was "the only thing a parent can give a child that can't be taken away is an ­education at a private school." The tuition to send Kate's children to private elementary and prep schools consumed over 20 percent of her family's income. Still, Kate was driven by this money script, although the public schools in her area were above average, her children said they would prefer to go to public school and her graduating son had received a full scholarship to a state university. Kate and her husband were spending so much on the children's education that there was no money left for them to save for their retirement or even pay the interest on their mortgage. Kate's dream of improving her employment situation by obtaining a much-needed master's degree was completely shelved.

While it appears obvious to you and me that Kate could not afford private schools and that Kate's children would probably not suffer significantly by attending public schools, she was unable to see it any other way.

Same Money Script, Different Manifestations

You'd think that the same money script held by two different people would lead to the same behaviors for each person. Interestingly, as we saw in Brenda's case, it does not. Behaviors can vary widely depending on how a money script manifests itself. For example, consider the money script "If only I had more money, I would be happy."

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