Our relationship with money is shaped from a very early age. Growing up in a home with all the material comforts may lead to us take money for granted. Conversely, growing up where there is a lack can be the basis for a negative relationship with money. Whatever our upbringing, in adulthood, most poor financial decisions indeed come from how we think about money.
“To transform our financial fortunes, we first have to transform our thinking about money,” says Dr Khosi Jiyani, a clinical psychologist whose work focuses on transformative learning, accountability and change.
The beginning of a new year is a time for new resolutions when we are easily convinced that we need to change our diet, or review our fitness regime, but rethinking our finances comes low down on our list of priorities and December overspending follows us into January and beyond, without being checked.
“Financial depletion and the financial anxiety that follows says as much about the time of year as it does about who we are as a person,” says Dr Jiyani. “Humans are social, emotional and relational beings and are programmed to seek pleasure but avoid pain,” she says.
“The December holidays are a time for earned pleasure, and we postpone any thought of the financial consequences,” she says. “We look for instant gratification, delaying the subsequent pain, but we need to find a balance in life,” she says. “We cannot live for the moment at the financial expense of tomorrow,” she warns.
If we do this, we run the risk of getting stuck on a financial treadmill and losing ourselves in debt. So how do we find the balance and separate money from our emotions?
Dr Jiyani suggests finding small, inexpensive joys and rewards in life so that you reach the end of the month, or the year, both energised and solvent. “We cannot make our self-value about our net worth – the two are not the same and trying to keep up financially with friends can quickly lead down a path of financial depletion.”
Rapule Mahlangu, financial advisor with Metropolitan says, “If you sense that the year is already running away with you, look for help. Metropolitan has the tools to equip people with psychological and practical support when it comes to managing finances. Working with a financial planner to map out a corrective course of action helps to keep us on track, preventing the kind of self-sabotage that results from an unhealthy attitude to money.”
When it comes to our relationship with family and explaining a lack of money, Dr Jiyani advises telling a truth that is age-appropriate for children. “They don’t need to know all the details, just that as a parent, you are committed to providing them with everything they need, even if that’s not the same as everything they want. Learning the difference between the two from an early age encourages a healthy attitude to spending later in life.”
“It’s important that we learn to live with our reality and not with dreams that are beyond our financial reach,” she says. “Instead of seeing yourself as a victim of life, see yourself as a creator of opportunities, if not today, then in the future.”
Starting the year strong and getting on top of your finances now will help you end the year emotionally and financially stronger,” adds Mahlangu.