Excerpt: 'The Financial Wisdom of Ebenezer Scrooge'

To obtain money, and thus happiness, some people might turn into workaholics. Others might become obsessive underspenders or hoarders. Some might turn to unethical or illegal actions. Some might turn to gambling. Others might take excessive risks with their money, chasing get-rich-quick schemes. Others, sensing they will never be able to have enough, may become chronically underemployed and feel hopeless and depressed. Whatever is desired—fulfillment, happiness or security—will always remain just out of reach.

On the other hand—and only up to a point—having more money can open up more opportunities and create more happiness and fulfillment in someone's life. Research has shown that there is a direct correlation between income and happiness until a person reaches an income of $50,000 annually. Above that threshold, however, there is no significant increase in happiness as earnings rise.

Common Money Scripts

Unconscious money scripts and the behaviors they engender are sabotaging the goals and dreams of many.

Walk through a mall on any weekend. You'll see people buying things they really don't need and they probably can't afford. Others stay in jobs they hate because they convince themselves "It can't get any better than this for me." Consider Charles.

Charles has worked in public education for thirty-five years and complains about the lack of personal challenge and mistreatment by the system. Though he grumbles constantly, he resists all opportunities to understand his options and alter his fate. This resistance is unconscious on Charles's part. He cannot see how the skills he's developed over his thirty-five-year career are transferable to other careers. He thinks others can make such a transition, but he cannot. When we suggested that such a change would be possible, and that, in fact, one of us had done so coming out of the same profession, his response was "Maybe you can, but not me."

Nor is wealth an inoculation against destructive money scripts. We consistently see wealthy people who are trapped by their money scripts. One common mistake they make is trying to buy fulfillment, whether by buying the newest luxury car or fashion, or by giving too much to friends, relatives or children. Another of the wealthy's self-destructive money scripts involves guilt over having wealth when others don't. One of our client couples told us that they feel shame when they are around peers who are wealthier, because they haven't done well enough, and they feel guilt around people who have less than they do. The only people that they feel comfortable with are those who have about the same amount as they do, giving them a relatively small and limited number of choices.

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