Money Scripts

We learn most of our money scripts from our families growing up.

  • What did your family teach you directly about money?
  • How did they actually act around it?
  • What opinions did they express about those who are wealthy or poor?

Money scripts are often linked with our sense of survival, and have a great depth of emotion attached to them. They provide central themes and directions in many areas of our life, without us even being aware of them. Some examples are:

  • Rich People get that way by cheating others (Rich people are evil / money is the root of all evil)
  • I only feel rich when I am spending money
  • God takes care of the birds and the animals, so why should I worry?
  • Don’t spend, unless on necessities
  • If you are a good person and put in a good day’s work, the money will take care of itself
  • It isn’t polite to talk about money (in polite company / with the other sex / with children)
  • More money is better
  • Your self worth equals your net worth

A Complex Money Script

Burning Ben

Consider a person who with the best intentions and diligence, regularly puts aside money into a reserve saving fund. Then, whenever the reserve reaches a certain level he or she impulsively spends it on a new toy to share with friends.

  • Binge spending could derive from an unconscious rebellion toward a parent’s depression-era hoarding or stinginess.
  • Binge spending could also be motivated by unconscious feelings of powerlessness that come from growing up in the shadow of a more powerful sibling.
  • Binge spending could derive from feeling poor growing up, so that the only way to “feel rich” is to spend.
  • Binge spending on friends could derive from “survivor guilt” about achieving greater financial success than a family of origin or childhood peers.

Often several money scripts combine to have a powerful effect on behavior. You can see why achieving healthy attitudes and behaviors toward money can be a difficult task.